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Malcolm Middlteon, King's College, London

by Shunter

Strange venue this 4 stories up inside
the College building, ticket office being a trestle table as you enter,
you pass loads of student types heading for the Library and shit, whilst
you navigate the seeming 5000 steps to the hall. Once inside though it
proved a decent little place housing 500 odds and thus was an intimate
setting for Falkirk's own Leonard Cohen.  One half of Arab Strap,
Malcolm MIddelton, who makes Joy Division sound like a happy clappy Gospel
outift. First song for instance being We're All Going To Die (all alone).
What's not to like? He then runs through such dities as Devastation and
My Loneliness Shines (both from 2005's critically revered Into The Woods
album) and the best Christmas song in years Burst Noel, Santa Claus Is
Coming to Down it ain't. It's fair to say Mr Middleton is not full of the
joys of life but like Morrissey before him his melancholic lyrics are shot
through with a sharp wit that make them work on many levels. I find them
hysterical anyway but then I'm a Caledonian miserablist also. Must be the
joyless Calvinist in us, that and the drink, drugs and deep fried Mars
Bars clogging the blood supply to the brain. Break My Heart for instance
starts out as his usual pessimistic take on the start of a new relationship
but is filled with irony in the realisation that an improvement in his
love-life will actually be detrimental to his career 'singing shit songs'
and thus misery is the only way to go for an ambitious tortured artiste.
His new album A Brighter Beat, which he featured heavily unsurprisngly,
continues where the last left off and is almost as good in my opinion.
Death Love Depression Love Death sums it up really. Anyway the guffy students
lapped it all up. But don't let that put you off.



Cherry Ghost at Liverpool Carling Academy 

What with the traditional music press being made increasingly redundant by the speed and relative freedoms of the internet, many music fans rely on a thin portfolio of advisors for their news. Zane Lowe perhaps. MySpace perchance. Toilet doors inscribed with the words Holocaust Breakfast R the Future of rock possibly.


Herein lies a problem, as with the explosion of new music content comes a reduction in reliability, and accountability. Previously, any print journalist extolling the virtues of a band could be humiliated by the non-performance of their Next Big Thing. Bets were not hedged, colours to the mast were not pinned unless an act was so startling good and so cruelly forgotten that to not shout their praises from the rooftops would make the infant Jesus cry with horror. Now, print journalists are few, and web journalists are many. Web journalists are largely unaccountable. As Kirsty Walker I can proclaim that a band I quite like are the most amazing musical happening since Og the caveman banged on a stretched animal skin. Tomorrow, as Lulu DeBournville-Smythley  I can proclaim that they are, in fact, shit and everyone has jumped the gun. Whoah, whoah, everyone back in their own beds, they are not the Messiahs, they are The Ordinary Boys.


I may have jumped the gun with Cherry Ghost. But so did Zane Lowe. So ner.


Close to six months ago I was telling everyone I knew that Cherry Ghost, AKA Simon Aldred of Salford, was the Next Big Thing. I had found him through MySpace, where the four songs on their meagre profile were enough to send me reeling into ecstasies. The multi-layered, wonderfully over-produced ballads swelled with fat xylophone notes and swirling prickling strings. Aldreds voice was raw and brilliant, like a tramp in a doorway singing Handels Messiah with full accompaniment. Its a whiskey voice, a smoke filled battle cry of a voice, which lends every lyric a kind of drunken truth. Its gorgeous, and its a pleasure to listen to.


What was on offer at Liverpool Academy was so diluted, so understated that it smacked of embarrassment. The Big Sound of the produced tracks offered up on the Cherry Ghost MySpace profile was gone. It was replaced by a bloodless strumming and dreary bass lines performed by a band who looked like they were kicked out of Towers Of London for being too scruffy. Aldred himself looked grateful for the attention, and his voice was as moving as ever, but the songs which made people sit up and pay attention to Cherry Ghost in the first place were abandoned for a setlist which was prosaic and well, average. In an hours set, only the new single Mathematics and a strutting mid-tempo number called Here Come The Romans stood out. The problem was they stuck out too much, like two Monets in a gallery full of wallpaper samples.


A quick glance at the front row of the audience spoke volumes. Polo shirts and Timberland as far as the eye could see, all checking their watches to see if they could still make last orders in the Dog and Duck. It was your typical Supporters Club. The story was a little different a few rows back where interested parties had assembled to hear more of what they had been treated to from free downloads and the first single from the album, played to death on Zane Lowe. It didnt happen, and some wandered off before time.


Cherry Ghosts music has been compared to Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. I pray that Simon Aldred sees the distinction between their live performances, and his. He may feel more comfortable returning to the working mens clubs after his performance at the Academy, but if it takes glitter, a light show and forty piece orchestra to translate his recorded material to the stage, he should do it, and Heavenly should pay for it. Buy the album, it will be wonderful, but give Simon Aldred a few more coins and a few more months before his live performances live up to the hype.


Kirsty Walker


The Fall, Hammersmith Palais, April 1st 2007:

This was the last ever gig at the iconic venue, which has been closed previously when used as a nightclub due to patrons firing pistols into the ceiling when their favourite tracks were played, Joe Strummer would have approved no doubt as I doubt that was for The Four Tops!
Anyhow as far removed from that as you can possibly get would be Mark E. Smith and his latest incarnation of The Fall, some young American band he picked up in LA, after the last lot predictably walked out on him, yet again. Man management skills not being his forte. But that's why we love him. Cantakerous bastard that he is. Several of his new charges looked like a cross between Grinderman and ZZ Topp but were a good a back drop to his incoherent rants as any other as they belted out songs from his new album Reformation Post TLC (reviewed right here on Swine last month). They started out with Pacifying Joint a favoured track of his live repertoire from Fall Heads Roll and then were soon bashing out a good version of Fall Sound one of the latest record's highlights. Herr Smith seemed even more 'idiosyncratic' then usual, in fact to be blunt, he seemed plastered to me. It's difficult to tell though isn't it? As usual he threw in a bizarre cover, not the expected Merle Haggard penned White Line Fever, Country and Northern style, but even less likely the Mothers of Invention's Hungry Freaks Daddy, took me a while to figure it out, but was not a bad stab at it, in trademark Mark E Smith-esque style. He even threw in the crowd favourite Mr Pharmacist which is the only older tune he seems to bother with which is no bad thing really. An hour and a bit and it was all over. The Fall march on into their 30 year alas the Palais does not.


Shunter's Playlist:

Baby Stop Cryin' - Bob Dylan
Pacifying Joint - The Fall
Chuck E's In Love - Ricky Lee Jones
North American Scum - LCD Soundsystem
Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars) - Grinderman
Don't Call Me Red - Ry Cooder
We're All Going To Die - Malcolm Middleton
Ell Ess Two - Pavement
Joe's Garage - Frank Zappa
Going, Going, Gone - Richard Hell
Hound Dog - Big Mama Thornton
Bottom of the World - Tom Waits



Shack Royal Albert Hall

by Alan Metcalfe

Where do you begin to deconstruct this band?  The history is, of course,
well documented.  From forming The Pale Fountains in 1981, Mick Head's
musical career has been a combination of critical acclaim, scintillating
albums (albeit, on average, one every five or so years)and a raft of
'issues' that I choose not to detail here.

Kensington's (the Liverpool version) finest son (along with his god-like
genius brother, and Shack guitarist, John), was described by the NME as
'the greatest songwriter you've never heard of', and even a cursory listen
to his reasonably extensive 26-year back catalogue will comfortably
confirm this.  So why is nobody - apart from the hard-core (see
www.shacknet.co.uk) - getting it?  Well, that's not strictly true.  Shack
uber-fans include Pete Townshend (hence Shack support slot on the
forthcoming Who tour), Paul Weller, and Noel Gallagher.  Indeed, it is
because of the latter that Shack are here tonight; the elder Gallagher
having paid for Shack's most recent album, and releasing it on his
Sourmash label, and inviting them to do a short set at this benefit for
Teenage Cancer.

Although opening the bill, Shack played to a sizeable and appreciative
crowd, strumming their way through 'Wanda', 'Butterfly', X Hits the Spot',
'Miles Apart', 'Meant to Be' and 'Miles Away'.  What now, though?  Is
this, yet again, going to be their time?  Or are they happy to be a niche
market, for those of us who still exist in a world in which Nick Drake,
Brian Wilson, Roddy Frame and Arthur Lee will always be King?  Who can
tell? But going by their previous outputs, we can expect a new LP in about
2009 or thereabouts.  Don't worry, though, lads.  We've learnt how to be

Ten 'Kenny' Things

1. Bert Jackson Barber
2. Mick Head
3. Boxer Noel Quarless
4. Ex-Everton centre half Eddie Youds
5. My mother-in-law
6. Tony Barrett of The Echo
7. The Holt boozer
8. A boss library
9. Capital of heroin in the 80's
10. John Head
















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