Sunday, March 29, 2009

Animal Collective - Kentish Town Forum

Written from

On record, it's a real joy to pay attention to the subtleties of Animal Collective's carefully constructed work.

The quieter moments, those indistinct lyrics; these are the elements that are best appreciated when it's just you and your earphones.

But on stage at the Forum, below a weather balloon displaying projections of swirling, and aptly psychedelic colour, such intricacies were pushed to one side in favour of a beefed-up sound, strobe lighting, and even Orbital-style head torches. There was nothing low-key about this gig, and it was all the better for it.
How this little troupe - collective is perhaps too grand a term when there are only three people on stage - create such a magnificent cacophony is truly a wonder. Layer upon layer of vocals and instrumentation make tracks from the newest album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, real highlights of the set; Lion In A Coma stands out, and My Girls, with its thunderous timpani, and that joyous "wooooh!" (which is just crying out for a nice bit of audience participation, to which the fans happily assented) is another high point.

Despite the brilliant musicianship on show here, though - and the wall of sound they manage to produce really is hard to get over - there are a few negatives. You don't get much banter from Animal Collective (apart from a chocolate rabbit being thrown into the crowd, which is perhaps a surreal kind of banter), and while admittedly we haven't paid to hear them deliver a stand-up routine, the gig could do with some punctuation.

There is a tendency for the ambient soundscapes to become, just on occasion, a little self-indulgent and as such the gig certainly lost energy in the middle. Taking the odd breather rather than flowing from song to song, or slipping in the odd shorter - dare it be said, poppier - track would have made the night more dynamic. The quirkily beautiful, Zombies-esque Bluish from Merriweather, for example, could have been a perfect way to break things up.

It was great, then, to have Brother Sport finish the main part of the set. The new album's closer is gloriously uplifting. Driven by a vaguely African beat, it provided the gig with a shot of vitality. It was the climax the night was needing and deserved.

Then, when the momentum of Brother Sport was carried through into the encore - Merriweather Post Pavilion's opening track, In The Flowers - any previous transgressions started to fade into insignificance. The gig was imperfect, and sure, the lyrics in this track may sometimes approach the clichéd end of '60s psychedelia ("Feeling envy for the kid who'll dance despite anything / I walk out in the flowers and feel better") but when the drums kicked in at "If I could just leave my body for the night" the euphoria created was hard to resist.

Monday, March 23, 2009

TV Review - Brave Young Men

from TV Scoop...

brave-young-men.jpgDo you remember a while back we told you about a sitcom being produced by Steve Coogan, or, at least, his production company Baby Cow? Well you'd think that perhaps the BBC might give us a little warning as to when it was being broadcast... but apparently not. In fact, the first episode - presumably a pilot as there are no other episodes listed to be broadcast at the moment - was sneaked into the schedules at 11.15pm last night without any fanfare whatsoever. Not one measly trumpet.

Now, there's a couple of possibilities here. One, the BBC think the show stinks, and have tried to hide it in the graveyard shift. Two, they're just trying it out before showing the whole thing, and are looking to create a bit of buzz. Having just watched it on iPlayer thanks to a tip-off from a lovely Twitterer, I'd like to hope it's the second option, because I really rather liked it.

The sitcom stars Marc Wootton and Tom Basden, the first of whom I've generally disliked and the second of whom I've generally loved a bit too much thanks to the sketch show Cowards and his own live stand-up both with fellow Coward Tim Key and on his own. Marc is Owen Malloy, a rather hapless but kind-hearted school caretaker who within the first few seconds of the show is instructed by a man from the future that he must from now on be caretaker of the whole world, too. And Tom Basden is his cynical, rather vain best friend Jamie who spends his time looking achingly cool in a Marty McFly-esque high school bomber jacket, and who agrees to be Owen's partner (not sidekick) to get his scooter.

Yes, it's the old odd couple/buddy flick set-up but dammit I fall for it every time. The plot, such as it is, is paper thin - they're trying to stop some beer getting contaminated sometime in the future by a deadly disease... and that's it - but the enjoyment here comes from some delightful writing ("If you can time travel, how can you be late?" "He's starting to sound like my wife!"), Basden's really engaging performance, a great cameo from Johnny Sweet as his jobsworth-y boss, and yes even Marc Wootton grew on me.

It's always hard to judge a comedy from the first episode alone, but I watched this with a huge grin on my face and while it won't win any awards for innovation there's real promise. Let's just hope the rest of the series sees the light of day...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Comedy in an office, a church, and other similarly unusual venues

Last year I went to the Union Chapel in Islington (a working chapel, and a rather lovely one at that) to see an impressive line-up of comedy - you might remember, there was the sublime Tony Law and I met Tim Minchin and the like. Anyway, that night, 'Live At The Chapel', was promoted by Zoo Logic, and that company has since morphed in ways I don't really understand into 'The Invisible Dot'.

As I can gather, this comprises one enthusiastic and ridiculously well-connected man, Simon Pearce, who is now promoting fascinating, often site-specific comedy nights in the capital - and his gigs would be becoming quite a drain on my resources were they not such great value for money. Take the first Invisible Dot night, held at Proud in Camden last month. The bill included Minchin, Arthur Smith, Daniel Kitson, Pippa Evans and Kevin Eldon which when added to MC Simon Munnery is a pretty heavyweight bill to say the least. That was a tenner.

Then there was this week's gig from Freeze! AKA half of the sketch group Cowards AKA Tim Key and Tom Basden, held in the Invisible Dot office. It's quite a nice office, to be fair, in Camden Stables Market, but an office nonetheless. They did an hour of material - "some new, and some tired" as Key put it, and then showed their Bafta-nominated short film. That was £6.

And it was a great gig - they have a classic odd couple chemistry, with Tim Key playing the suited, self-important, poet and Basden as his down-trodden, nervous (and as a result, utterly heroic) partner. The 'Smoke Me A Kipper I'll Be Back For Breakfast' t-shirt was a particularly nice touch I thought. Their comedy is 90% delivery, and if you're not charmed by them then it might be not be for you but somehow Key especially always manages to pluck the most brilliant turn of phrase out the air to make me laugh a little too much. And their film, The One And Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island, really is something quite special - sweet, funny and a big-hearted celebration of fandom.

The office was the perfect venue, in fact, for the latest Invisible Dot venture, a play-come-sketch called The Meeting. Written by and starring Simon Bird, Johnny Sweet and Joe Thomas under the collective name The House Of Windsor, it starts as a wonderfully astute take on the minutiae of company meetings, from rampant passive aggression to naughty notes being passed around the staff/audience -but becomes increasingly surreal as time goes on. It wasn't wall-to-wall laughs, but wins points for inventiveness and three hugely talented performers.

So there we have it, a short biography of the Invisible Dot to date. Now I'm looking forward to the next Live At The Chapel with Phil Nichol, We Are Klang (whom I'm yet to form any real opinion on), Key, Basden, Hans Teeuwen and an as yet unannounced MC. With comics now thinking ahead to Edinburgh, I think there may be a fair few exciting work-in-progress gigs to attend over the next few months... yay!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul Fuzz on the 60s/70s Jesus Movement

Interesting stuff as always...
I've always dug The Bible, ever since I was a kid. I like the language, and the iconography, and most of all I dig all the obscure minor characters and their relationships, and all the weird inter-connecting sub-plots. The Bible is a nerd's paradise. It's better than Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings put together. You think it's hip to know the name of the band that plays at the Mos Eisley Cantina? How about knowing the names of the musicians that accompanied the Ark Of The Covenant back to Jerusalem (I Chronicles 15:16-24)?


I guess there is an element of what I'm gonna call Christploitation to all of this. There is a kitch, camp value to record sleeves, badges and psychedelic posters containing Christian iconography. Jesus looks like a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival anyway, so his image in the late 60s was about as perfectly sell-able as it could be.
Go have a look...

Paddy and Keith AKA this week's Robert Webb!

The reason this rendition of Dirty Dancing from Paddy McGuiness and Keith Lemon works, of course, is that they played it straight and put a bit of effort into it - that's what Robert Webb did, and that's what we want. Good stuff gentlemen.