Freelance Friday #9

Despite having been on holiday all week from my Proper Job, the freelance stuff keeps on rolling, regardless of such irrelevant concepts as annual leave entitlements. This week’s bunch includes:

1. A review of last night’s Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at Rock City, which I attended along with Sarah and SwissToni (also running into Rullsenberg and Cloud inside the venue, so it was a right old Nottingham Bloggers’ Convention). Having raved about R&G the first two times I saw them, it was perhaps inevitable that last night’s show didn’t grab me in the same way – a situation which wasn’t helped by K’s feeling too unwell to attend, almost at the last minute. Hence a rather jaded gig review – which is thankfully balanced by SwissToni’s much more upbeat assessment.

2. A review of the new Marc Almond album, Stardom Road, which is released on Monday. Never a massive fan, I’ve really been enjoying this collection of covers from the 1950s to the 1970s over the past few weeks – although I do have to be in the right mood for it, which generally means making sure that K is well out of earshot. (It’s all a bit emotionally overwrought for his austere sensibilities.) I interviewed Marc earlier today, for a short piece in next Friday’s Nottingham Evening Post – but a longer version of our conversation will be appearing here next week (even if it takes me all week to transcribe; let’s just say I caught him in a “chatty” mood).

3. An interview with the comedian Caroline Reid, best known for her trolley-dolly-from-hell creation Pam Ann. A review of Pam’s live show will also be appearing here next week.

4. I’ve also done a spot of reviewing for The Art Of Noise, where I was asked to listen to five songs by supposedly “hot” unsigned bands, without knowing any further details. Had I known that my favourite song of the five was by a band called – oh, dear Lord – Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, would my judgement have been a harsher one? I rather fear that it might.

1) The Ting Tings – Great DJ

It’s a little bit CSS, it’s a little bit New Young Pony Club – it’s yer standard issue dance-punk, basically. I’m seeing studied ‘anti-cool’ cool, artfully dishevelled ‘anti-fashion’ fashion, plastic sunglasses, day-glo backdrops, and directional haircuts. What I’m not (yet) seeing is much evidence of creative thought outside of the usual template, but presumably it’s early days, and this does its job efficiently enough. I like the chiming guitar lines during the chorus, the New York New Wave yelping, and the over-extended faux-dumb repetition of “the drums, the drums, the drums, the drums…”

2) The Teenagers – Sunset Beach

You could beat-mix into this quite easily from Track One, with which it shares a certain rhythmic similarity – at least for the relatively sparse first minute, before the meat of the track kicks in, and those all too familiar and somewhat tired sounding ‘angular post-punk’ stylings take over. Then, just as you’re thinking that it’s really too soon for a Spring 2005 revival, you catch the lyrics “this fucking bitch deserves to die”, casually mumbled rather than vituperatively snarled, and before you know it, you’re into a weird film noir monologue, delivered in what sounds like a London indie kid’s best approximation of Schwarzenegger-esque menace. The bass/drum breakdown needs more work, and the ending’s a touch too abrupt and inconclusive, but this has its moments of interest.

3) Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong – Lonely Buoy

“I need to watch the sparks made by the trains as they rattle on the deadbeat tracks” might be an unlikely choice of wording for a crowd-pleasing chant-along, but that would seem to be the intention here, and so one has to applaud its ambition. Fey yet muscular indie-pop, not a million miles removed from Los Campesinos!, with distinct signs of intelligence and personality. It twists and turns hither and thither, with hooky bits and riffy bits, and pleasing displays of intricate, focused musicianship. That drummer of theirs is definitely one to watch; he’s a showy bugger, of the John Maher/Clem Burke more-is-more school, and as such deserves our full encouragement.

4) Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Weird Science

Hot new undiscovered Myspace act my arse – this is just Daft Punk trying to claw back lost ground after that bloody awful album from two years ago, isn’t it? Or if it isn’t, then maybe this is just The Continuation Of Daft Punk By Other Means, in which case, I applaud it for improving on the fatally tarnished original article. A chunky, propulsive, vocoder-driven robot-rock riff is cut up and interspersed with the usual array of squiddly, squelchy noises, with sufficient variations on the theme to sustain interest throughout. It does its job, and I’m not complaining.

5) Laura Marling – New Romantic

I could have done without the de rigueur post-Lily Allen/sub-Kate Nash middle-class-girl-goes-Mockney conversationalism, as it dulls the individuality of what sounds like a promising and talented singer, who would be better served by not trying to fit into the prevailing musical climate in such an already over-familiar, wearing way. That aside, the sparse acoustic arrangement, the double-tracked harmonies and the overall air of wry frailty serve the song well.

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