Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Sing in idiom of disgrace" - The Shondes

Do you miss Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill? Give this Queercore feminist punk-slash-Jewish traditional music a spin! It's Riot Grrrl with violins! And it's a band I've really been meaning to write about for some time!

In the beginning, there was no shame. And that was, well, a shame. Brooklyn's radical Jewish, genderqueer, post- Riot Grrrl-cum-classical quartet The Shondes (a name that comes from the Yiddish for "shame" or "disgrace") released their debut album, The Red Sea, in January 2008. Which this plebeian's gladsome ears think is really rather smashing.

Carrie Brownstein vocals meet soaring violins, complex arrangements, political lyrics, a good bit of angst and we wind up with something epic, stirring, mosh-inducing, and definitely worth your investment.


Temim Fruchter - drums/vocals

aka 'The Rebbe'

Louisa Solomon - bass/vocals

aka 'The Mischling Menace'

Ian Brannigan - guitar

aka 'The Shiksa'

Elijah Oberman - violin/vocals

aka 'The Farfoilt Fiddler'

The Shondes have already shared a stage with the likes of Erase Errata, Mecca Normal, Electralane and Lesbians On Ecstasy - musical sensibilities, check. They are activists with such groups as Jews Against the Occupation and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, as well as co-founding (Temim and Elijah) the Reverb Conspiracy, a series of monthly radical readings - political sensibilities, check.

I can confirm that one should feel absolutely no shame for listening to this!


...to a streaming of The Red Sea

  • DOWNLOAD: (Free and legal mp3s)

Don't Look Down - The Shondes

Let's Go - The Shondes

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow - The Shondes

  • VISIT:



The Shondes at Wikipedia

  • BUY:

mp3 downloads at CD Baby

CD at Insound

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Make mine a 99!

My last post on Mavis Staples was my 99th post here at Blogger (yes, I know, there are more than 99 posts in my archive...some 'followed' me across from MySpace). Does that earn me some kind of gold star? I'm guessing not, but I thought I would mark the occasion with some songs with titles containing the number '99'; there are tonnes out there, so this is just a selection. In fact, I whittled it down from 40-something. There are 19 songs here (not quite an arbitrary number...think nineteen-ine! Ha!) and where better to start than with Mavis Staples herself...

(A great mashup featuring The Dap Kings!)

Ninety-Nine Ways - Tab Hunter

99 Years - Smiley Bates

Bonus points to you if you can tell me why I used the image I did above...and where the title of this post comes from! Oh, and why not stop by and have a look at my very first Blogger post on smoking advertising?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mavis Staples - not down in Gateshead, apparently

As you will see from the above sign, Ms Staples did not quite make it to her performance at the Sage the other night (nor to Basingstoke Anvil four nights later, according to my dad). Disappointing as this was, it was handled brilliantly by the Sage who, not having chance to warn us as the cancellation had only happened that afternoon, offered everyone a full refund and yet still ploughed on with the support act, Jhelisa (talented, but SO not my thing) and The Mavis Staples Band (just sans Mavis Staples).
The stoicism and 'we're all in this together' spirit of 'the show must go on' was commendable and Staples' band were all very skilled musicians. They shared the duties out amongst themselves, the guitarist taking the lead for the majority, the bassist taking lead vocals on a couple of songs, and the backing singers (two of them) stepping up for a song each. The latter, Donny and Siobhan, were excellent...he did The Band's The Weight, she Turn Me Around (from Staples' 2007 album We'll Never Turn Back).
A bit of a letdown, then, not getting to see Mavis, but a laudable evening's entertainment given the circumstances.
Here are a few for Mavis and her band:

The Show Must Go On - Queen

And the Band Played On - Saxon (Hell yeah! Rock out with your cock out!)

Making the Best of a Bad Situation - Millie Jackson

Get Well Soon - The Empty Orchestra
And a couple of tracks from the good woman herself:

Down In Mississippi - Mavis Staples

Turn Me Around - Mavis Staples
And, finally, an extremely disturbing, but beautifully thought-provoking video to Mavis Staples' Eyes On the Prize:
(Note: Most viewers will find the scenes in the video offensive...so they should, and it does not mean it should not be seen!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Breeders - Mountain Battles

Regular readers can just ignore this one...Hype Machine (which brings me a lot of readers) failed to pick up the tracks from my most recent post on The Breeders.
Hype peeps...welcome to Ceci N'est Pas un Blog. Read the full post on The Breeders when you stop by, or read more about them at:

And here's the mp3s (again!):

Bang On - The Breeders

We're Gonna Rise - The Breeders

Walk It Off - The Breeders

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Live Music Review: THE BREEDERS (!!!) at Leeds Metropolitan University 09/04/08

What can I say?! I have seen The Breeders! Kim Deal (pictured above) is one of my heroines...and now I have seen her in the flesh and, possibly, breathed the same air as her (it was quite a large room!).
This was, without doubt, my gig highlight of the year so far. The nearest that they were coming to where I live was Leeds (which is about 100 miles away...and it was on a school night!), but I just could not miss out on this, their first tour since 2002 and the first time Kim and Kelley Deal have been in the band together since the album Last Splash in 1993 (for more about The Breeders and the Deal sisters, as well as some other awesome bands, see this 4AD Family Tree). As you can tell by the multitude of exclamation marks, I was like a teenage girl at a Take That concert!
I managed to rope in a colleague to join me for the post-work drive down for the evening's revelries; this colleague had never heard of The Breeders, nor even Pixies (what??). My blatherings about the seminal importance of Pixies (possibly my favourite band ever) and Deal as a massively influential woman in rock, simply because, waaaay back in 1986, she was in such a male-orientated domain just doing her job well...and she happened to be a woman, had little impact. Said colleague was music maestro for the trip, some 6500 tunes at her disposal, and the majority she chose came from The Best 80s Album In the World...Ever! (which I have been meaning to remove as it is taking up valuable space on my iPod!).

Kim and Kelley Deal (identical twins, if you did not already know this...although Kim was always the hot one, both due to being in Pixies and being generally a bit less fucked up on smack!) look totally different (from each other) now...Kim has put on some weight (bring it on...see here), whilst Kelley, although on top form and very obviously having cleaned up her act, was wiry and lithe.

All the old faves went down a storm, with the harmonies on Divine Hammer sounding particularly good. And the new tracks sounded great too. In fact, Mountain Battles is a stonking good album...about which I am very relieved, as I was worried about being disappointed after all these years (their last album, Title TK, was released back in 2002). I was elated to hear the live runs of the new material only days after I had heard it on the album (save for a few tracks which had been leaked).

The band were tight, Kim and Kelley bouncing off each other as only people who know each other this well can do. Kim sported a beaming smile throughout, and it really looked like everyone was thoroughly enjoying playing together again (with the addition of a young, female, Newton Faulkner lookalike), their voices spot on and the guitars suitably raucous (thank goodness!).

A brief review, this one, but I was just far too hyperactive on the night to even begin to think about what I might write! The Breeders will reign again!

Below are the best of the photographs I was able to take...no really! Why do you think I headed up this post with a press photo? (I thought I'd include them to perhaps get a giggle...well, and to prove I was there...who would look for such rubbish shots?).

Oh, and I also found this online, which was fitting, and made me laugh:

Visit the Breeder's Digest for up-to-date tour info and other fun stuff.

Unofficial (but jolly good) Breeders website.

The Breeders on MySpace.

Download some sample tracks from Mountain Battles (and then buy the album, because it's a corker):

Bang On - The Breeders

We're Gonna Rise - The Breeders

Walk It Off - The Breeders

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Van Morrison / Randy Newman: Meming courtesy of the old man

This post comes courtesy of Dad of Divinyl...he wanted to try his hand at the music meme (follow that link if you want/need to check out what it's all about, or indeed if you want to see my own efforts) and, in fact, was so enthusiastic about this task that he did it twice!
His answers come from Van Morrison (or as my dad put it "His Surliness the Governor of Grump, Van the Man". VM below...erm, obviously!) and Randy Newman (RN). He's a good sort, is Dad of Divinyl, and he's taught me a helluva lot about music...his record collection is his pride and joy...and my greatest envy!

1. Are you a male or female?
VM: A New Kind of Man
RN: Northern Boy

2. Describe yourself.
VM: Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
RN: I'm Dead But I Don't Know It

3. Describe your day.
VM: I've Been Working
RN: Roll With the Punches

4. Describe where you currently live.
VM: Bright Side of the Road
RN: Underneath the Harlem Moon

5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
VM: A Town Called Paradise (or Haunts of Ancient Peace or Naked In the Jungle!)
RN: Birmingham [really??] (or Christmas in Capetown)

6. Your best friend is...
VM: Someone Like You
RN: Davy the Fat Boy

7. Your favourite colour is...
VM: Blue Money
RN: Pants [Yup, it seems the sense of humour is hereditary too!]

8. You know that...
VM: You Gotta Make It Through This World (or It's All In the Game)
RN: I'm Different (or My Life Is Good)

9. What's the weather like?
VM: Full Force Gale
RN: I Think It's Gonna Rain Today

10. If your life was a television show, what would it be called?
VM: Wonderful Remark (or A Sense of Wonder)
RN: Mama Told Me (Not To Come)

11. What is life to you?
VM: The Great Deception
RN: Something Special

12. What is the best advice you have to give?
VM: Don't Look Back [Divinyl - spooky...that's one I almost had in my Elvis Costello list!]
RN: You Can't Fool the Fat Man (or I Want You To Hurt Like I Do)

13. Describe your ex.
VM: Listen To the Lion (or I'm Not Feeling It Any More)
RN: Guilty

14. Your current relationship status?
VM: I Got A Woman (or Not Supposed To Break Down)
RN: Love Story

15. What's your favourite hobby?
VM: Melancholia
RN: It's Money That I Love

16. When you think of your friends...
VM: Ordinary People
RN: Short People

17. What do your friends think of you?
VM: So Complicated
RN: Four Eyes

18. What does your current love interest think of you?
VM: Village Idiot (or Perfect Fit)
RN: Naked Man

19. You always travel with?
VM: Astral Weeks ("my favourite airline"!)
RN: Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear [some of these answers crack me up!]

20. The best way to end a long day?
VM: Twilight Zone (or Call Me Up In Dreamland or Try For Sleep or Some Piece of Mind)
RN: Happy Ending (or Relax, Enjoy Yourself)

21. Your occupation is?
VM: Russian Roulette (or All Work and No Play)
RN: The Man

22. When you grow up, you want to?
VM: Moondance [Nice one pa!]
RN: Burn On

23. What does your family think of you?
VM: Ancient of Days (or Why Must I Always Explain?)
RN: Old Man (or So Long Dad)

24. Your favourite food is?
VM: Tupelo Honey
RN: Half A Man (or Kingfish)

25. You want to be remembered as?
VM: Who Drove the Red Sports Car (or Who Was That Masked Man?)
RN: The One You Love

A round of applause is deserved methinks! All lovely, supportive, squishy comments welcome...this is my dad's very first foray into the world of blogging (although I typed it up here for him!)...he'll be stoked to see his name 'up in lights'!

mp3: Moondance - Van Morrison

mp3: Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison

mp3: Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear - Randy Newman

mp3: Birmingham - Randy Newman

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

14 tracks for the 14th...only it has taken me until the 15th to put them up!

As we've had gig review after gig review lately (and there are more yet to come), I thought that I would break things up a little with a bit of Random Rules. As it was the 14th of the month when I decided to do this, below are 14 consecutive songs courtesy of my iTunes shuffle. Instead of the whole 'what this song means to me' business, I thought I would, instead, share with you my favourite lyrics from each. A couple of these tracks have already featured on my blog previously, but as this was, indeed, random that was unavoidable...just Sod's Law that, out of over 8000 songs, they should come up again here!

Oh, and this post has absolutely nothing to do with Stereolab (as per the picture above)...I just thought the title was fitting!

1. Photograph - Weezer

"If you want it, you can have it / But you've got to learn to reach out there and grab it"

2. Redwinelips - Jomi Massage

"I will stay awake until daylight breaks my face"

This one previously featured in this music review.

3. Backstairs Down - Po'Girl

"If there's one thing that I need / It's to find a place where I can breathe / And a little time just to think" (hear hear!)

4. You Don't - Tricky

Hmmm...not really one I would praise for its lyrics...good song though.

5. Excuse Me Mr. - Ben Harper

"So, excuse me Mr. / But I'm a mister too / And you're givin' Mr. a bad name / Mr. like you"

6. Take - Throwing Muses

"If you don't think I'm pretty / I understand"

(my favourite ever Kristin Hersh lyrics come from her song Teeth: "This hair-do's truly evil / I'm not sure it's mine"!)

7. Hallelujah - KD Lang

Obviously not as great as Leonard Cohen's original, or indeed, in my opinion, Rufus Wainwright's version...but a good cover (of a wonderful song) nonetheless.

"Love is not a victory march / It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah" or

"Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you"

8. March of the Pigs - Nine Inch Nails

"Take the skin and peel it back / Now doesn't that make you feel better?"

9. Willy - Joni Mitchell

"But you're bound to lose / If you let the blues get you scared to feel"

10. Avalanche - Heather Nova

"And you, you look like freedom" or

"Security's the whore in me that never lets me fly"

11. You Win Again - Hank Williams

"I love you still / You win again" (well, the lyrics to this one are pretty simple!)

12. Sylvia Plath - Ryan Adams

"She'd ash on the carpets / And slip me a pill / Then she'd get pretty loaded on gin / And maybe she'd give me a bath / How I wish I had a Sylvia Plath"

13. Back When I Was 4 - Jeffrey Lewis

Where to start when it comes to Jeff Lewis lyrics?? Probably best you just read the lot here.

This one was previously featured in this music review.

14. Waiting In Vain - Bob Marley and The Wailers

"From the very first time I rest my eyes on you, girl / My heart says follow through / But I know now that I'm way down on your line"

Monday, April 14, 2008

"This one's about having sex on Mars": Zombina and The Skeletones live at Trillians Rock Bar, Newcastle 07/04/08

Earlier this week I trolled off to the local rock bar to catch a bit of Zombina and The Skeletones. I couldn't believe that they were playing there for free and was stoked to get the chance to see them! Their music is great fun, so if you haven't heard of them, then I recommend that you familiarise yourself.
The name, the venue, the make-up (I shall get to this) may mean that you think you are not interested if you're not someone who overdoes it with the eyeliner...but hold on just one cotton pickin' minute there! Despite the 'rock kid' following their sound is, essentially, pop music...just with horror/B-movie stylings. Like The Ramones were pop music (and the influence of The Ramones is not difficult to see in ZATS' song titles). You can definitely hear the punk music that i have absolutely no doubt the band members have in their personal collections but, more than anything, this is rockabilly (or perhaps more accurately psychobilly).
Add to that a few shots of surf rock, the 50s/60s girl group influence in the vocals, a heaped spoonful of Joan Jett and you are left with something that is just a whole mess of entertaining!
A friend of mine, when I told her who I was heading off to see, said that their name made her think of the bands that appear at 'discos' on Scooby Doo...and they sound a bit like that too.
As for the make-up...
...each band member had part of their face painted, making up a complete bloodied skeleton between them. I think that I may be just a bit too old to appreciate face paint; although bonus points to them for effort. I guess I'm just not 'down with' the gimmick...although thankfully the war paint, in this case, is not applied with the same earnest spirit of bands like Slipknot and their entirely ridiculous masks. Zombina and The Skeletones, fortunately, do not take themselves too seriously (there was even, at one point, a dance competition, initiated with a shout of "Contenders...ready. Skeletones...ready!").
Numerous audience members were also bedecked in full Zombina garb of face paint, fake blood and tattered zombie clothes...a veritable plethora of undead. We also had a Johnny Ramone-alikey and, naturally, several mandatory overweight, aging rock dudes.
I had kind of forgotten how fond I am of rock bars (the majority of my friends being gayboys who prefer to listen to Kylie and such!), having been a bit of a teenage (werewolf?) rock kid myself (thank heavens the whole emo thing came about after my time - there was no such collective then, but I was indeed one to mix Hello Kitty and Metallica!). Rock bars are a great place to people-watch, and people are friendly too...the cute psychobilly chicks, the beer (or snakebite?) guts and the fellas whose hair means simply everything to them!
The band arrived late as their car had broken down...as had the replacement car! Zombina (her parents didn't name her that, but she forbade me to write her real name, and I promised) changed from Cramps t-shirt to blue dress and we were off! I was surprised by her Scouse accent; although I have quite a bit of their music, it has never occurred to me to look up any information about them, so I had no idea where the band were from. She was softly spoken and her accent was really rather endearing.
In fact, when I had a bit of a natter with her afterwards, she was a thoroughly nice woman. I asked her my standard favourite album (although it's rather more long-winded than that...if you click the link you will hopefully see what I mean) question and she seemed more than happy to sit and mull it over with me.
Zombina toyed, for some time, between Ramones albums, struggling to decide what would be her ultimate, or definitive choice. When I shared with her my own choice (Sam Cooke FYI - again, see the link above) she finally settled on a Roy Orbison best of. Good call I say! She suggested that I also ask the same question of Doc Horror - actually referring to him as 'Doc Horror', as opposed to Dave, or Steve, or whatever he may really be called - as he is the chief songwriter for the group. His choice would be the (I think purposefully) obscure Charlie and The Hamster Sing The Ten Commandments. Yes, that old party favourite! I did check with him several times that this was definitely his final choice if, as per the proffered question, he could never hear any other music ever again!
I haven't even got to the performance itself, but I think that I have blathered enough for now! Suffice to say that the band were spot on performing together and I would unequivocally go and see them again. Oh, and they did a great cover of Angel Eyes too!


mp3: Nobody Likes You When You're Dead - Zombina and The Skeletones

mp3: I Was A Human Bomb For The F.B.I. - Zombina and The Skeletones

mp3: Zombie Crush - Zombina and The Skeletones (Groovie Ghoulies cover)


www.myspace.com/zombinaarmy (where you can download some mp3s)

and Zombina herself... www.myspace.com/therealzombina


Their albums/EPs can be difficult to find, so you are probably best off doing a Google shopping search. Failing that, it's all available through iTunes, certainly in the UK store:

Taste The Blood Of...
Mondo Zombina!
Staci Stasis
Death Valley High

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Live music review: Billy Joe Shaver (plus Emily Barker) at Little Theatre, Gateshead 05/04/08

Despite the fact that it is just around the corner from where I live, I have never before been to the Little Theatre in Gateshead. To my knowledge, it is only recently that they have started to host gigs there, as opposed to am dram type stuff. But what a cute wee place! I would estimate that it has a capacity of about 120, and it is intimate, comfortable and beautifully lit. I was very impressed indeed. And what a novelty going to a small, yet seated, gig!

I am going to write this particular review in a backwards sort of fashion...for reasons that will become apparent. The main act, Billy Joe Shaver, took to the stage after a very brief interval, stood there waiting to be adored and beamed an award-winning smile at his audience. Discernably wearing the stories of his life (and there are plenty) on his face, he looked every bit of his 68 years.
If you are not familiar with Billy Joe Shaver then the basics of what you need to know are that he is one of country music's most esteemed songwriters - although he has never quite made it to household name as a singer - whose songs have been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings (whose 1973 album Honky Tonk Angels was comprised almost entirely of Shaver-penned tracks), Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash...who apparently went so far as to refer to him as "my favourite songwriter". With a true country music background of hard drinking (with buddies such as Willie Nelson), gambling and missing fingers, this is a fella that is held in very high regard (and, yep, he's in the Country Music Hall of Fame).
He was joined on stage by a guitarist and a slide guitarist, both much younger than he...all three of them stetsonned up to the nines. I shall cut to the chase. Shaver's singing and guitar playing were just not up to much; I don't know whether this results from his age or simply a lack of natural performing ability. The 'showmanship' was over-practised and ersatz and he barely spoke to, or even acknowledged, his fellow musicians. He very clearly had a 'don't cross me...I'm in charge of this one' thing going on and to me everything felt a little uncomfortable. Certainly I got the impression that any audience interaction would be frowned upon. He did, at a couple of points during the show, throw t-shirts into the audience, but there was no energy or enthusiasm there...this was obviously just behaviour he had been repeating forever and ever anon and, in all honesty, felt a bit 'needy'...like he was trying to win friends and influence people.
Whenever Shaver picked up his guitar (a guitar that sounded very out of tune), his guitarist would play along (identically) in the background, holding him up...in fact, the two non-Shavers really held this gig together, despite the seemingly awkward onstage relationship (Shaver as the 'big star', they his silent subordinates).
Billy's patter was, also, obviously very well trodden. On three separate occasions he proclaimed to the audience "If you don't love Jesus, you can go to Hell!"; this is even listed as a quote on his Wikipedia page! As the evening progressed I became ever more irritated with his preaching, as it began to feel like I had paid good money to go to some kind of Gospel church (only without the great singing!). His Jesus banter was constant and became very tedious indeed. Don't get me wrong, I am all for people having different beliefs and points of view, but I would very much rather they did not try to thrust them on me. Particularly when, as in this case, it was coming from a man who shot someone in the face only last year (apparently he was overheard saying "Where do you want it?")!
Perhaps that was it...he feels he needs Jesus on side a lot more than I do!
Aside from the lay preaching (and there was very little aside from the lay preaching!), it was all just a bit too earnest. For the duration of one song, he flapped his arms like an eagle...without so much as a trace of a smirk on his face. Again the atmosphere felt like 'wo betide anyone who should be unable to muffle their sniggers'.
So irked was I by the end that when, as I was making my way through the foyer when everything was done and dusted, Billy put his hand on my shoulder and asked me a polite 'How are you?' kind of question, I didn't really want to engage and gave the briefest of replies before making a swift exit. And so, although it is very out of character for me to be so unflinchingly critical, this is one I would really rather I had missed out on...very disappointing all round.
Perhaps I am just curmudgeonly, however, as the man next to me loved it! I do sometimes think that people often don't even consider being critical of their heroes, or even just someone they've paid to see. But a shite gig's a shite gig, right?

Except, that is, for the support act, who was bloody marvellous! Now do you see why I've written this review backwards?

Emily Barker, whose music I have not before had the pleasure of encountering, is from Western Australia and her sound reminded me a lot of her fellow Western Australians The Waifs...a one-woman Waifs if you like. She is due to be supporting them in May, so if you live in Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield or London (check her MySpace for dates) I would highly recommend that you get yourself along.
If you are not familiar with The Waifs (if not, then you blummin' well should be!), then Emily Barker sounds gently folk-pop (yeurch...that sounds so generic, bland and nondescript, doesn't it?) tinged with Americana...a smidge Gillian Welch, a modicum Cat Power, a dash Cowboy Junkies...that kind of shebang.
Her (original) songs were beautifully written, with intelligent lyrics, she played the guitar very well and also treated us to some harmonica. Emily seemed to be a little uncomfortable on stage, only because the venue was very silent and I think she is used to a bit more to-and-fro from her audiences, but this did not affect her performance and she was entirely charming throughout.
I wanted to buy a CD of hers at the end, however by this point Billy Joe Shaver was at the merch stand flogging his wares and, disgruntled as I was as a result of all his preaching, I was still too embarrassed to ask that he sell me a CD of the warm-up act when I had no desire to purchase any of his own! You can get that self-same CD at Smart Choice Music and I reckon it should be a good'un...I've ordered mine! (Emily assures me that it is a secure and trustworthy site).
Since Saturday I have barely been able to get her song This Is How It's Meant To Be out of my head...bearing in mind the fact that I had never heard it before. She also did an incredibly touching (I nearly messed my eye make-up!) song for her grandfather (Lord I Want An Exit - from the catalogue of her band The Low Country) and one about the ambivalence of leaving England to return home to Australia. Fields of June, which you can hear on her MySpace page, and on which she duets with Steve Adams of The Broken Family Band, is also a corker. Gorgeous stuff.

Lord I Want An Exit - The Low Country

Just as a reminder:
Visit Emily Barker at MySpace
Buy her album Photos Fires Fables