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Primavera Sound 2009 review

This year's Primavera Sound was one of my favourites yet. Although our friends from impoverished Hackney couldn't make it, I know they were there in spirit. I also behaved myself and resolutely refused to kick any chaps in the balls, a major improvement on last year.

Partly as a result of better behaviour, and partly because Gemma and I found it easier to strike out on our own, we saw more bands this year and certainly enjoyed more of what we saw. The new system for drinks tickets, which involved buying them drink by drink at vending machines was disatrous at the beginning of the festival, but ended up being simpler and more efficient. In contrast with Summercase (which won't happen this year), the Rock Delux stage faced the stepped amphitheatre it occupies, so while sat we didn't have to crane our necks to see the bands.

Anyway, here's my breakdown of the bands we saw – graded according to my patented binary review system.

Thursday

Spectrum – 1

The Vaselines – 1

Joe Crepusculo y los Destructores – 1 (a surprisingly good Spanish band)

My Bloody Valentine – 1

Yo La Tengo – 1

The Bug – 1 (an early highlight)

Aphex Twin – 1

Friday

Tokyo Sex Destruction feat. Gregg Foreman – 1

Spiritualized – 1

Carsick Cars – 1

Art Brut – 1

Sun O))) – 1

Throwing Muses – 1

The Mae Shi – 0

Jarvis Cocker – 1

Saint Etienne – 0

Saturday

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – 1

Plants & Animals – 0

Herman Dune – 1

Neil Young – 0

Oneida – 0

Deerhunter – 0

Ghostface Killah – 1

Sonic Youth – 1

Black Lips – 1

You'll notice very few 0s in this review. I can't say why that is, but my hunch is that I had fewer must-sees on my list than in previous years, meaning I was free to enjoy plenty of bands I'd never heard much from. My main disagreement with how the festival was organised was the way Neil Young was billed. When he started, there was a block of over an hour when no one else played on any stage, meaning that we were effectively forced to watch his show. By all that's sane, I should probably be a bigger fan of Neil Young than I am. But the truth is that he leaves me just a little cold, and this episode of dedicating the entire early part of Saturday night to him (I suspect it was a contractual obligation), pissed me off. Plus, there was a terrible artist on stage all through his set, 'creating' a two-dimensional representation of the concert as Young and his band played. Half the time, it looked like nothing more than a turd.

Despite that, Primavera Sound 2009 was, for me, a great festival. We caught up with loads of old friends, made some new ones, and enjoyed some excellent concerts. Roll on Primavera 2010!

FC Barcelona, the penya and Primavera

So here we are. Unless things go on for much more than 90 minutes tomorrow evening, in 24 hours we'll know the outcome of the Champions League final. F.C. Barcelona face Manchester United in what should be a mega-clasico of a match. We're going to watch the game at the Penya Barcelonista de Cerdanyola del Vallès, the same bar where we saw Barça win three years ago, and where we saw them knock Chelsea out just three weeks ago.

If you've never been to an official penya (they exist for most football clubs but around here they're predominantly F.C. Barcelona-affiliated), these official supporters' clubs are often the finest places to watch a good football match, provided you back the penya's team. You need to make sure you get there early, though. For the second semi-final, I got there over an hour before kick-off and barely managed to snag a couple of stools in the non-smoking area (shock, horror!). For tomorrow's game, I've booked a table in the smoking area – three years ago, I did the same thing, and when I offered my name, the owner simply shook her head and said 'Els estrangers', 'the foreigners'. This time, she at least admitted she knew me and allowed 'Tom' to go on her bit of paper. We'll see how well this works out around 8 tomorrow evening.

I'll avoid predicting the outcome of the game because my hope that Barça will win is far greater than any knowledge I'd ever profess to having of the game. Suffice to say: I reckon it'll be hard for both clubs, and while Man U may be favourites, I do think that Barça can win it.

And if they do, it'll set off a great long weekend of celebrations. Because while I'll be in the office the next day, whatever happens, Thursday night sees the start of Primavera Sound – Barcelona's pop festival and officially the first party of the summer (well, that's what I always say). The lineup is pretty good, and this year I'll probably be aiming to take in a few newer bands I don't know so much about (any recommendations are welcomed). The festival runs until Saturday, but even better news is that Monday is 'second Easter', meaning we get another day off! Skill!

So it could be a brilliant few days or just a very good few days. And you can't say fairer than that.

Força Barça!

Neil Hagerty, Ian Svenonius: Two pop music heroes you may not know but, like, should

Pop music can be a difficult terrain to navigate: just what do you feel okay listening to, and can you admit to it? This issue is at the heart of dozens of websites (like myspace.com and last.fm) and grips millions of young people searching for their Pan.

Myself, I pretty much decided that I'd stick with Royal Trux about seven years ago. For me, their blend of free jazz, 70's opiate-rock, RnB, boogie-woogie and smart, personal, witty, political lyrics was enough. Despite my liking for bands such as The Fall, I am still certain that Royal Trux sum up what it is I want pop music to be: cool, sexy, angry, bored, wasted, wise.

Neil Hagerty, one half of Royal Trux is my first pop music hero. He was a guitarist in Pussy Galore, a band now confined to the 'most mental album I own' category (a bit like Royal Trux?!)… and while I'm unsure as to how much influence he had on the values of that group, I'm aware that he was behind their covering the entire Exile On Main Street album. A declaration of intent, perhaps.

Through their albums, Royal Trux have covered enough material for a complete website or two (see the links in my sidebar). Suffice to say, I drank a bottle of vodka the night they broke up. Stupid of me. It should have been juice. Since then, Neil Hagerty has released a series of albums (firstly solo, now with The Howling Hex), all of which I've found to be entertaining, challenging and good pop records. My favourites are probably the two solo/band crossover records, Niel Michael Hagerty – The Howling Hex and The Howling Hex – All Night Fox. Continue reading

Albums and their covers

In celebration of the exhibition coming to the MACBA this month, here's a selection of album covers which I find to be, in turn, thrilling, sickening and indie-cool-self-affirming.

That is to say, here are the covers of some albums I like and love. Not all of the covers are great works of art, but many are. Royal Trux, being my favourite pop-group, dominate the field somewhat. I've always enjoyed their album art, given that it combines a variety of rock clichés, fan-art, corporate-style logos and blocked toilets.

Elliott Smith's epnoymous album has an evocative image of bodies 'falling' or 'floating' between buildings in an American city. The design represents a haunting pre-shadowing of the 'falling man' photograph taken on September 11th 2001 in New York City.

The Flaming Lips' 'The Soft Bulletin' album features an awesome photograph taken outside an 'Acid Test' party in San Francisco in the late sixties. I love the way it captures a young man's intoxicaton, no doubt due to some of the acid he'd been testing.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's 'Master and Everyone' has a simple cover photo which needs little explanation: his face, with its idiosyncratic beard fills the sleeve… his eye seems abnormally deep and reflective, as if it's been 'photoshopped'.

After these, the Rolling Stones' explicitly erectile cover for 'Sticky Fingers', Basement Jaxx's homage to Copito de Nieve, the albino gorilla late of Barcelona's city zoo, Super Furry Animals' collage of a famous drug dealer's various passports' photos and Primal Scream's stunningly primal 'Screamadelica' cover are all firm favourites.

Album art is a special form which combines the necessities of commercial success and hip styling with an interesting glimpse of how the pop-group (or their record label) view the music contained within the packaging. A good album cover should give a clear idea of the feeling and agenda (I wanted to write 'philosophy', but that seems too much) that the album espouses. Either that, or it should have nothing to do with anything. An album cover is, therefore, both an advertisement for the product, and a part of the product itself. As to the design included on CDs or vinyl records themselves – and the other design elements in on an album's packaging, that's a different matter. But Royal Trux's highly suggestive hypodermic skyscrapers which feature in one of their EPs, (though I can't remember which one), represent to me a pinnacle in album art by virtue of their combination of drug imagery and the New York City skyline.


In a brief note which didn't deserve a whole post: here's a great article about the most important website in the world. GYAC: it's Popbitch.

Super Saturday

We're off to see some old friends. Super Furry Animals were the first band I ever really got into (thanks to Joe!), and back in my teenage years they were a strong source of ideas for me. Topics including politics, selling out and drug use (as well as blim holes, alien abduction, Albert Einstein and mobile phones) were set and discussed with great wisdom… but they did push me to the harder stuff (Royal Trux).

So they're playing tonight… it will be about the tenth time I've seen them live in just over ten years. While I'm not a fan of their new material, I love the older stuff enough to wait for it. It'll be a good evening.

The Howling Hex

Just got the seemingly ancient Neil Michael Hagerty album The Howling Hex. Oh believe the hype, boys and girls. It's great. Even the wacky violin tracks. EVEN the bit that sounds a tiny amount like Manu Chao. This is an album I can enjoy summer to. So this morning, I only went and placed an order for the apparently even better All-Night Fox.

I feel all the anti-Transmaniacon emotion now. Cos while Jennifer has come up with some passably decent spoof-metal songs, and she has the skulls to prove it, The Howling Hex continues The Royal Trux better than anything Jennifer has come up with. I guess I could put on Transmaniacon and we'd sit round and sort of giggle at the OTT guitar and autotuning… the killer riffs and the ripped-off lyrics (from two great Trux songs, Shockwave rider and Sweet Sixteen no less). Maybe it's got to do with the way I only really listen to Cats and Dogs these days, but the Howling Hex manage to continue the jazzy, rock'n'roll free music feel, the lyrics are good, and sadly I don't even miss Jenn's singing. Maybe her next work will be a bit more honest and less posture. She said all this shit recently in an interview about listening to the Rocky IV soundtrack for two months or something. "I like winners" she said. Well the Howling Hex is a fuck's sight better than RTX.

So summer evenings aren't far away… they get into your blood and lift up your soul. Girls in skirts, warm mornings, sultry evenings, beers on the terrace, tending my roses, late night sessions at Plaça Reial and the chiringuitos… Here we go……….

Franz Ferdinand and the Spanish Festival

I love Franz Ferdinand, but they're no Libertines.

They're kind of a cool Muse. The riffs sometimes sound the same. I can't possibly be the only person who thinks that.

Benicassim Festival 2004 has announced the first confirmed bands: (for your benefit, I have put an asterisk by the bands I plan to watch – let's meet there?

fiberfib

Grupos Confirmados
[29.04.04]

AIR
ARMAND VAN HELDEN
ASH *
BELLE & SEBASTIAN *
BRIAN WILSON *
CLEM SNIDE
COOPER
CROSSOVER
EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN
ELECTRELANE
FC KAHUNA *
FELIX DA HOUSECAT *
FRANZ FERDINAND *
GRUPO SALVAJE
HER SPACE HOLIDAY
KEVIN YOST
KINGS OF LEON *
KRAFTWERK *
LALI PUNA
LAMBCHOP *
LE HAMMOND INFERNO
LOU REED *
LOVE with ARTHUR LEE **
LUCIANO
MARTINI BRÖS
NORTHERN LITE
ORGANIC AUDIO
PATRICK WOLF
PAUL WELLER
PET SHOP BOYS *
PLEASURE
SCISSOR SISTERS *
SNOW PATROL *
SPIRITUALIZED *
THE CHARLATANS *
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS *
THE DANDY WARHOLS
THE SHINS *
THE SUNDAY DRIVERS
THOMAS MORR
TIGA
TINDERSTICKS
TOBIAS THOMAS
WIRE
YANN TIERSEN

OUTPUT LABEL NIGHT
TREVOR JACKSON
COLDER
BLACKSTROBE
DEAD COMBO

MEGO LABEL NIGHT
TUJIKO NORIKO
SLUTA LETA
PITA & TINA FRANK
COH

CITY CENTRE OFFICES LABEL NIGHT
STATIC
DICTAPHONE
XELA
SHLOM SUIRI
THADDI HERRMANN
MILES WHITAKER

B-PITCH LABEL NIGHT
PAUL KALKBRENNER
SMASH TV
SASCHA FUNKE
ELLEN ALLIEN
KIKI