Friday, May 6, 2011

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes

I was a little girl when Frankie said Relax. I was a little girl when I saw Frankie's video to 'Two Tribes'. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. What does a 7 or 8 year old know about the world? The Cold War? World Leaders? Apparently enough to be fascinated by the video. I remember being captured by the television when they showed the video and still the song stands the age of time (sadly). The biting off the ear. The bizar nature of the video and how this was reality. I knew this, I must have known that the world was a weird place to be with world leaders battling each other over idiot issues. Politics was something that hit me at an early age, apparently.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bevrijdingsdag 2011, a Dutch celebration

Today, the Netherlands are celebrating Bevrijdingsdag. Independence Day, Liberation Day, not sure how to translate it. On May 5 1945, the WWII ended for the Netherlands. The South, under the main rivers, had already been freed from the occupation by the Germans but the North had to go through one long, cold winter of cruelty, possession and what not by the German army. This winter in known as Hongerwinter, the winter of hunger, where people walked days on end hoping to find something to eat for them and their families.

This is no history class, today is Bevrijdingsdag. It's a national holiday but not a so-called bank holiday. For most people it's a working day. Schools are off during this period, most clerks are having the day off and there's a reasonable amount of people taking this day off. Because regardless, it's celebrated. There's 14 Bevrijdingsfestivals across the country, in every capital of the provinces one plus one in Amsterdam, with popular music, markets, speeches and what not and the theme is Freedom on the Streets.

It's been 66 years since the Germans left the Netherlands and by now most people have learned that the Germans who live in Germany today aren't such bad people after all (the hatred lies deep, personally not for me, my parents are both born and raised in Germany and my father has felt the cruelties of war as a little boy in Berlin. Mostly you really feel this in football). The day is very symbolic, it's a day to realise that freedom as we know it isn't a natural fact, as much as we like to think that. It should be, it just isn't. Since WWII, there hasn't been a day on this planet without a war at some place on Earth. Isn't that sad? There are places in the world where you can't say what you think, where you can't do what you want, where every day a bomb could explode in your neighbourhood, where you wonder while going home if your house is still standing and if your family is still alive. Unthinkable, but reality in the Netherlands also 70 years ago. It's nearly 71 years ago that my hometown of Rotterdam was bombed. Something to think about of you ever visit this city and awe the amazing modern architecture.

Freedom is respecting each other for what they do, think and who they are. Freedom is one of the most precious gifts in life. Are we free? Can we really do and say what we want? It's something to celebrate, year after year after year. I think it's important, to realise it's importance and that it's not a given. I'm really glad the Netherlands keeps doing this every year and that once again the question is raised whether this day to be a bank holiday again, not just once every 5 years, every year. So that every citizen can go out on the streets, celebrate with each other, is able to go to the (free) festivals in their own province (state).

I took the day off. I'm going to one of the festivals today. Granted, I chose to do that only because Kate Nash is coming, but it made me realise I probably should do this every year. Celebrating freedom. A life without fear. I wish we all could.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: The Bangles - Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)

Well. The Bangles are once again back with an EP for now, only available in certain clothing shops in America. I never even heard of that shop so the name is irrelevant. This would have annoyed me if the Bangles, and Vicki Peterson in particular, hadn't been so stupid (there's no other word) about the departure of Michael Steele out if the band in 2005. They're still talking weirdly about it. It made me turn my back to the modern day Bangles and gave Michael Steele even more of a cult status. But, I'm going off track and I've tried to not take this in consideration while listening to the new song on the EP, it's only 1 new song, the flip side are merely acoustic versions of old classics and the new song, called "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)" will feature on their new CD to be released this summer. I was able to listen to this song because one kind person made a video to the song and placed it on youtube. So, is this something to look forward to?

I've listened to this song a few times now. The start is promising, very promising, a raw electric guitar playing some great riffs. Then the acoustic guitar kicks in, the cow bell and the sugary sweet vocals of the remaining 3 Bangles. They all sing together in harmony on this track, with Susanna Hoffs still to be heard the best but she can't help it with her voice. How can a song starting so strong fall back so dramatically? It's in essential not even a that bad of a song, but they lost the last edge they had. It's a nice track to play in the car with windows wide open on an American highway in the sun but that's about it. You can't argue with it, it's very Bangles and then it isn't.

I guess I'm just disappointed and will stick to the sound I prefer which is the garage sound from the early eighties and the rock sound the brought back in the 80s. To compare, here's the new track back to back to 'Everything I wanted', the single that went with their Greatest Hits album in 1990 and was dropped last minute from their 1988 smash 'Everything' which featured, yes indeed, 'Eternal Flame'. I guess the producers thought it was too rough but I say this is the Bangles most fans preferred. Shame, such a bloody shame.

The Bangles 2011 - Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)

The Bangles 1988 - Everything I wanted

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I gave up #skirtathon2011

I started with a lot of faith and energy, the skirtathon 2011, I heard about it the day it started and was actually wearing a skirt that day. The skirtathon is an online 'run' where the contesters wear a skirt or dress every weekday during the month of April. What a good way to finally not just wear my skirts and dresses, but feel comfortable with it. I started enthusiastic and where I still think it's such a great idea, I had to give up. And it's not even because I ran out of dresses and skirts, which I first thought could happen.

The thing is, I'm working in an office at the harbour. I'm going there on my bicycle which takes about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the weather conditions. It started out nicely but after a while it did start to bother me that I had to keep my skirt down, also the long one. I live in a coastal place, there's always a wind. After a real short night I decided it was enough, I could not get myself to once again hold my skirt down while on my bicycle, trying to ignore the blokes looking at me. Skirts and bicycles simply don't go together.

Is that saying I'll never wear a skirt or dress to work ever again? No it's not because every once in a while holding the skirt or dress down, fine. But every freaking day... Plus I missed my jeans, I'm sorry, I did. Maybe I'm weak but I'm out. It was fun doing it and I managed 14 days which for my standards is a massive accomplishment. Thank you all for this!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: The Coathangers and The Thermals, Trouw Amsterdam 21-04-2011

The Thermals played in a basement in Amsterdam and if you think that it sounds underground and rough, you're right. The crowd went mental for the Thermals, 60% of the crowd was the moshpit and the Thermals themselves played a pretty tight set as well. With a stage so low and so so close to the audience, I stood eye to eye with bassist Kathy Foster, it was a very intimate setting. Despite the Thermals playing really good, I can't help but feel that I wished I saw someone else instead, in the same setting, with the same reaction from the crowd. I love the Thermals, but there's bands I love more who I would grant this venue and a crowd mental like that too. The only crowd I saw more mental than this is a Cribs crowd, you can't top that. All gigs should be like this one though.

The highlight of that night, for me, were the Coathangers. Before the Thermals took them on tour I never heard of them and as some kind of research I went looking on the net for them. The first picture I saw of them, all four girls drinking, didn't exactly appeal to me but reading more about them I got curious. I got their album 'Scramble' and it's a fantastic piece of punk rock. Short vicious songs. Sometimes catchy, sometimes a lot of screaming. I saw the appeal and after seeing them live even more so.

These four friends, you can see they're friends, loving playing together. They switch instruments, lead vocals, position. Their drummer is the wildest out of the bunch who went into the crowd with two microphones raging the lyrics of her song, no idea what she sang but it sounded amazing and gave such a vibe. I was pretty much taken by their bassist who is quite cute which lead me to thank her afterwards for an incredible show. She thanked me for liking her incredible show. What a girl! What a band! Just let the Coathangers do their job and let it come over you. It might not all sound clear, it might not all have rhythm, it might sometimes be a bunch of noise, it's fun and you feel that.

So, great show by the Thermals, new band added to the 'great bands to keep seeing' collection. And wishing that the Cribs and Wild Flag will ever come to play at Trouw at some point. Oh, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks too, while we're making demands. Why not? Apparently the Thermals are big in the Netherlands and they played there too.

pictures taken by me

The ballad of Michael Steele

One of the first musicians I admired for who they were was Michael Steele, the red-haired bassist from the Bangles. I don't think I saw it like that at the time but looking back she may be very well the first famous woman I had a crush on. I was a big fan of the Bangles, also after they split (I'm not so after 2005 when Michael left/got kicked out of the Bangles) buying all their records, all versions of the singles, etc. As far as Michael was concerned, I wanted her hair, I so wanted her hair. My mother tried to help me with it ('That's henna red' she said so I tried that, it's disgusting and had little result) but I never got it red so I settled for a Vicki Peterson blond string of hair in my dark brown hair (as where lay the key for not getting that red hair from the drug store). At art class in high school we once had to make an advertisement poster using a certain technique, advertising a product carrying your name. I made a concert poster, advertising myself 'and my bass guitar' drawing a gigantic bass guitar. The teacher had no idea how to deal with a concert poster and gave me a 6/10. But still, Michael Steele ruled!

And she still does.

After the Bangles split new music game into my life and with that punk and grunge. I do see, and try to convince people, that the Bangles very well could have fitted into the riot grrrl scene if they had started in the early 90s rather than early 80s. They were very garage before Prince decided to step in and write them a very sweet Manic Monday. The Bangles have been marketed by their record company and the women all regret not having stepped up more for themselves. It didn't all went the way they wanted it too go which in the end was the reason for disbanding the band.

But, like I said, other music game into my life and the Bangles moved a little bit to the background with me occasionally picking up their records again, mostly their older records, rarely 'Different Light', their pop-album featuring 'Manic Monday' and 'Walk like an Egyptian' (their break-through album). I have always loved Michael's songs the best. Her voice is raw and still very warm. She has written the best songs in my opinion as well. Michael Steele always stood out with the Bangles, it wasn't just her hair, but it was also her attitude. The more internet came to live, the more I was able to look up and the more it became clear. Michael somehow was the black sheep of the Bangles. None surprising she was the one with the least media attention after the split, she kept a low profile with underground bands, taking care of dogs she had rescued from the shelter, with her garden and her painting. She's mysterious, hence her quite cult-like following. And none-surprising, she was the last Bangle to re-join the band issuing concerns about the band still being taken seriously. She left 5 years and 1 year later, feeling that the others in the band didn't take it as seriously as she did. The others quite blamed her for not being understanding. I think it went down pretty ugly.

Due to Michael, I can't get into the Runaways. The oh so cool it hurts Runaways. She was a member of that band, has recorded 1 album that's only been released as a demo-re-release in 1993, and she was the bassist and main vocalist for the time that it lasted. She never wanted to be reminded of that time, called some song ideas retarted and couldn't conform to the sexist wishes of their management. The Runaways were a pretty marketed concept, young girls with guitars exploited for being young girls with guitars. Something young women with guitars 15 years later would rebel against. I do believe that the film made a few years back gives you a wrong picture of the band, Michael not being the only ex-member not wanting to be involved, hence you have a fictional band member in that film.

Michael Steele, she's a hero. She's a true musician. She's such a special lady and still looks amazing after all these years. You could say that unknowingly to myself, she's been an inspiration to me all my life. She still is. She still is in my top 5 musicians list (which only include bassists and drummers, I'm a sucker for the rhythm section, it started with her!). The Bangles can do whatever they want right now, I do not care. Michael Steele rocks. She got class and attitude and you better believe it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's good to plan ahead sometimes

I'm thinking about starting a series of blog posts about why exactly the bands that mean so much to me mean that much to me. It's not just about the music. The music alone is inspiring, amazing, exciting and just plain kick ass good, but some bands have a little extra. That band member or members who inspires you just a little bit more. Those lyrics you find inspiring enough to write down on pieces of paper and stick on your bedroom wall (I did that yes). That band which concerts are mind blowing and life changing and maybe a little bit of both. That band who taught you a different language, don't underestimate that power.

I'm currently thinking of a good title for that and then you will most likely read aboyt why it is why I love The Cribs, Quasi, Wild Flag, Kent, Sleater-Kinney, Michael Steele, Marina & the Diamonds, Ernst Jansz and maybe even more. I will write straight from my heart. Expect long posts, irrational feelings and lots of love for music. Ah, I like how I put that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The thrill of finding a record or why every day is records store day

So, yesterday was Record Store Day. The one day in the year we call ourselves proud to be buying from an independent record store. Because on that day a bunch of artists release special editions of their work or release their new work or a re-release specifically on that day. Which causes fans all over the globe getting nervous about getting that special release. For instance, only 38 records of the special Nirvana LP specifically for this day were issued in the Netherlands. Finding one must have been a true sport. And so on.

Last year I went out on a Record Store Day stroll. I visited all the independent record stores in Amsterdam. Not to get my hands on all the Good Stuff, but merely to see how the Netherlands were doing Record Store Day. The only queue that day I saw was for the Anna Frank Museum. Some stores had some balloons up. And all the Special Editions were still there in the afternoon. You can still buy them in most stores. At Fame Record Store, not even knowing that this big three storey commercialised record store at the Dam Square was an independent record store, I caught a live performance by the young Tim Knol. I'm not into Dutch singer-songwriters but it was actually nice sitting there on the floor enjoying some unexpected music. In all though, Record Store Day 2010 has been a big let-down. For most it was simply business as usual. The only item I was interested in that year was the Cribs' first album issued on LP for the first time, pressed in limited numbers (1000) which was also to pre-order at the record company and the split 7" between the Thermals and The Cribs which also was to pre-order at KRS.

This year I let it all pass. Maybe because the releases weren't exciting to me. Maybe because it's ridiculous to draw the fans to the store only once a year for a limited edition. I understand the concept, and well, if that is what it takes to have a peak in sales that one day, so be it. But it made me feeling rather annoyed that the first release of my New Favourite Band would only be released in the USA in record shops. The (limited?) 7" was also to be bought during their tour, which is a good deal, annoying when you can't make it, but I like it when bands sell their work at tours and not just t-shirts. And a really kind and friendly person from Texas got me that 7" too. So, that was my Record Store Day.

What I meant to say, shouldn't every day be record store day? A week ago I've been at a Record Store Fair and I spent a sunny spring Saturday from 10 to 16:30 inside. I flicked through 7" hoping to find that one, through CDs hoping to find a missing piece, through LP records hoping to find that one record that made the angels sing and shine a light on that specific record (this last one happened). It was a really good day. So many records, the smell of old records, other people looking for that one record, talking about special editions (I spent at a stand longer than intended admiring a record I didn't want to have in order to listen to a conversation about the special editions of Appetite For Destruction and why you should want all of them). That's a class day out!

I too think it's sad people rather download than buy a copy they can hold in their hands (even though, let's face it, an MP3 is a lot more convenient). That people rather order online than buy in a store (where's the thrill people? don't you want angels sing down on you when you found that record and hold it up in the light shining down?). I too download, I order online sometimes, but nothing beats finding something in a record store. This should be any day in the year, not just on that one day when heaps of artists release special editions in other to please both record stores and the fans. Do this a few times a year! Surprise us! By now we actually expect bands to do something for Record Store Day. Isn't that the wrong way round?

Record Store day, I salute you, the stores, the artists and the fans, but we should do this every day, not once a year.

Picture taken on RSD2010 by me, it features record store Concerto Phantasio

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stay classy, dance on harpsichords!

It's the day after. The day after the Cribs have shed the light on their side of the story of why Johnny Marr has left the Cribs. Which, logically, brings reactions from the fans. And as much as the Cribs' facebook statement oozes 'Thank god he's gone' (to put it a harshly), I can only frown upon most of the fans reactions posted as a comment to that statement and as an @-reply on twitter. The majority of the reactions so far are of the same nature. 'Hip hop hurrah for old-school Cribs, we won't miss Johnny for one bit, he never suited you anyway. Yeah lo-fi anthems!'. Like a parade of how much you love the 'old stuff', how hardcore and much of a real fan you are and always have been. And mostly it's quite unfriendly towards Marr. On public places where everyone including the Band and Johnny Marr, can read this? Are you serious?

I'm not going to be all two-faced and pretend to be sad about this news. I too like the fact that they're gone back to their roots. There's nothing more sincere than a band staying true to their roots. I may throw a massive Johnny's Gone party on the Dam Square in Amsterdam, releasing doves and balloons and blasting out pre-first-album demos while dancing round naked around the National Monument (for the record, I won't), but that's something i'd do privately. Not in the band and Johnny's faces. If I am happy painting myself purple and dancing naked on top of a harpsichord, singing 'Fuck yeah Johnny's gone again', that's my subtle way in my living room. My business. They really don't need to know. And no, I won't do that either, it's just a lame excuse to use my favourite Blackadder quote again.

My point simply is, be happy all you want, throw parties and confetti. But stay classy and respectful to the people involved. For once in your bloody lives. I think I just remembered why I don't like fans and the side effects of open social media. You want lo-fi and old-school? Try refraining yourself throwing your thoughts into the band's faces. Back in the days you weren't able to. Back in the days, the word friend had more meaning, too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I think I just dropped my jaw

Band statements are usually a bunch of official yadda yadda with no actual contents whatsoever or leaving a lot of question marks. They rarely leave me with my mouth wide open. Excuse me while I relocate my chin. Here's the statement the Cribs left on their facebook (I still hate facebook despite using it) regarding Johnny Marr being no longer a member of the band. Honesty and purity don't come in these shapes that often anymore.

Hey guys,
So, as some of you may know by now The Cribs are gonna be a 3-piece again. That is a slightly less dramatic way of saying that Johnny Marr is no longer in the band. We don't want it to be seen as a split, that just has so many negative connotations and really doesn't represent the way everyone is feeling right now.

The truth... is that, as Johnny said, we did more than we ever set out to do together really - we were initially just playing together as friends, and decided it might be fun to do a trademark Cribs 'surprise one-off seven inch' or something of that ilk, but as we went along we just kept writing. First it was a single, then an EP, we just happened to really enjoy playing together and ended up writing a full album. We were/are all really proud of the work we did together and we did mean it in our assertions that Johnny was very much a full-time member of the band. There were definite intentions of continuing on together and making another record - we even went into the studio with Edwyn Collins again last spring and started recording some stuff, but it just wasn't really working. We were all pretty burnt at that point and that is why we decided that after 8 years (I know, crazy!) and 4 records we should take some time off.

During that time we all intended on working on other projects (Ryan started producing and writing with Edwyn, Gary contributing to All Smiles etc) and at some point late last year, we just casually got together out in Portland as a 3-piece and it was so much fun. Johnny had started working on a solo record in the time off, and it just seemed like the right time to go our separate ways. It's not like "JOHNNY LEAVES!", or "BAND SPLIT!", or any of that drama - just a good time to do something else really.

No one is down about this in our camp. It's actually the start of a really exciting phase for everyone. Johnny has gone back to The Healers and is writing a new record, and we are really honestly loving being back together as just 3 brothers literally playing in the basement/garage again. Right now we are in Portland and demoing in Gary's basement and it feels so liberating. We have a bunch of new songs and are embracing the lo-fi again. It never was about fancy studios and LA and all that. We are back in our usual environment and feeling good about it. We've got everything we need.

We are also really looking forward to the shows we have coming up. We miss you guys.

Best regards - your friends Gary, Ryan and Ross (THE CRIBS)

It's a Rockabilly Party! By Quasi, of course

It took me a while to see the light, so to speak, but ever since I 'got it', Quasi very much grew to be one of my favourite bands rapidly. The anticipation for their 2010 album was huge. When I heard 'Repulsion' early 2010 I instantly bombarded 'American Gong', the album they would release a few months later, to be the best album of 2010. To say something like that in the first two weeks of a year is of course insane. It was the first new music I heard that year. I know good stuff when I hear it though, 'American Gong' remained the best release of 2010 and it's one of the albums I would take to the deserted island.

I grew to love their entire discography. Dear God or whoever is in charge, they have some amazing tunes. I just purchased 'Featuring Birds' on LP on a record fair and to hear 1m22s of bird sounds coming from vinyl is amazing. Never mind the lyrics, Sam Coomes is certainly one of the best lyricists of our time. Unless you're a party-head with no sense of what happens in the world and the concequences of that.

I saw them live in a tiny venue in Amsterdam. One of the best shows I've visited that year, possibly the best even. Not just the performance was spot-on, the band brought an unique energy. It sounds overly dramatic but I left the show a changed person. I often sit and think back of that show, the energy, meeting Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes, cursing myself not addressing Joanna Bolme after all (she was breaking down the equipment, thus working and it just felt inappropriate. Now I have a signed setlist with her autograph missing which is inappropriate as well) and about the amazing music I heard. The setting wasn't anything special, it simply was a huge contrast to all the hyped indie bands I deeply disliked so much and held a grudge against. The grudge made room for don't bother. Furthermore, I haven't felt old and out of place at any gig attented any more. I'm not too old mind, I'm just not 20 anymore and who cares.

The video I posted at the top (with a reason, if you don't like reading, JUST WATCH THE VIDEO) is recorded the same day I saw them perform in Amsterdam, it's taken on a roof top nearby the venue. It makes the footage the more special. For me anyway. Thanks guys.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Who's Johnny? (she says and tried to look the other way )

Oh dear Johnny Marr, where to start? I started out as someone who liked the Smiths. Who then really liked the Smiths and really, sincerely, loved 'You are the quarry', the 2004 solo record by Morrissey that was actually good. I even wore my Morrissey shirt with pride, bought a poster of him - and Johnny Marr. You know, the hugging one with the flowers? Morrissey God? Sure why not. But that little fella with the shades and the guitar and you only saw him with the shades and the guitar, he was the true genius. You can have ongoing discussions with Smiths fans about this, there's the Moz side and the Marr side and they won't agree. I'm sure there's an Andy and Mike side too, not sure if they're big fans of Morrissey and Marr.

Anyway, Morrissey Smorrissey, 'Boomslang' (2003) by Johnny Marr & the Healers is one of these very underrated records. I had to really look for that one but haven't regretted that. It's mellow, it's rough around the edges sometimes and Johnny sings. As a person who has spent 20 years or more only playing behind other great people with great voices it's a little strange and his voice almost sounds alien like. There is in fact a second solo record on the shelves. It only needs finishing and by now dusting off. He never released that one. Because something else came on his path. And he jumped on that bus.

Marr had discovered the fine Pacific North West and spent some time in Portland when he read an ad for a 'Johnny Marr-esque' guitarist. The band who put that ad in was not a small band, not at all. Modest Mouse was looking for a guitarist for their new album and got more than they asked for. The Johnny Marr-esque guitarist was very much Johnny Marr himself. Recording became becoming a member of the band and in 2007 Modest Mouse released one of the best albums of that year with Marr, 'We were dead before the ship even sank'. The leading single 'Dashboard' wouldn't leave my head whenever I heard it (and the video is brilliant too), and I heard it almost every morning and in 2007 I wanted to see Modest Mouse on tour, in Amsterdam. Due to being in the middle of the process of buying my first house around the time they came over I wasn't able to make it. I was gutted. That would have been my first and only chance ever to see Johnny Marr. That would never happen again. I sincerely mourned. Finding a picture of Johnny with my favourite band, the Cribs, on the Modest Mouse blog did cheer me up a little. My favourite guitarist and my favourite band together, what a combination.

With the Cribs bassist Gary Jarman also living in Portland and the Cribs in late 2007 making vague comments about another band member, Johnny Marr was pretty much the first and only name I had in my mind. Only a few songs, a single. Maybe an EP. It was Johnny and when in February I went to see the Cribs on the NME tour (thank you mortgage) Johnny actually stepped on stage to play 'Panic' with the band. There he was! Johnny Marr! Only a few meters away from me. Oh my god was an understatement on how I felt. He played one or two songs more with the band and the following night he did the same. I saw Johnny Marr! With my favourite band!

I was there when Johnny played his first full gig with the Cribs outside the UK, which he then had only done a few times, in Utrecht at the Beschaving Festival. The festival cleverly used him as an advertisement to get people to this brand new festival. We have Johnny Marr! It was a more certain factor than Pete Doherty who was also on the bill and played a different stage around the same time. Maybe not so clever. The tent was packed. But what the organization maybe hadn't realised that the people would have been there anyway even without the presence of Johnny Marr. Nonetheless, one of the finest performances I've seen, even with a migraine.

Johnny became a full pledged member of the Cribs. Of course there was scepticism. He wasn't going to polish off the rough sides of the Cribs, was he? I was getting used to seeing Johnny Fucking Marr on stage (sad how that novelty wore off so quickly) and started to wish he would just NOT play 'Men's Needs'. I think he might be the reason why I started to dislike the band playing that song live. Everyone gets mental when they do (and it's a great song), but Marr, I have no idea what he's doing, but it's not good. Some pretentious sounds coming from his guitar which are actually irritating. Maybe I shouldn't have paid attention to it in the first place and just jump like the rest of the audience. But whatever he did, and whatever the critics said, I actually believed that he wouldn't treat the Cribs like he treated Modest Mouse. He would not just do one album and see another band and play with them and say 'sorry dudes, I'm with them now'. No, even though he had done that to a fair amount of other bands before Modest Mouse, not with the Cribs. There was something very sincere between them. He was one of them, the older brother. And to be one of the Cribs them being brothers and very close as well, it's an accomplishment.

Johnny recorded the album with the Cribs. What would it sound like? Pretentious jinglejangle? Polished? Mature? 'Ignore the ignorant' was released in 2009 and very much sounding like the Cribs. It didn't sound like their debut album from 2004 but progress is a friend my dear, not the enemy. It was the logic progression to the 2007 'Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever' album. And they toured, and they toured and they released another song in 2010 which shock oh horror (with me being probably the only person in that state) synthesizers. Then they played the London Garage as part of their label's ten year anniversary, their first two albums and first two albums only. It would be an old-skool Cribs gig. Without Johnny. Because Johnny was in LA to support the film 'Inception' to which he worked on the soundtrack. It was an old-skool gig. It was hot, sweaty, mental. Johnny wasn't missed for a single second. God, this show was good. So good. August came and the band announced they'd go on a two year break. Say what?

Johnny kept busy and tweeted fondly on his twitter. One (me) might wish he didn't so much. Johnny, are you really that cool or are you just showing off? Meeting and hugging Johnny Marr is still one the highlights of my gigging career, in person he's a lot more down to earth and just a really nice and warm person, other than you'd think when seeing the God on stage or, well, on twitter. Johnny went to Moscow for whatever reason, the Cribs brothers got together in Wakefield, and started recording. Say what? They also announced a handful UK festival appearances because well, they need to eat too. And so the question surfaced. Will Johnny still be part of the Cribs? He wouldn't pull a Modest Mouse on them right?

"Touring and recording with Ryan, Gary and Ross has been fantastic and Ignore The Ignorant is something I'm really proud of. We ended up doing much more than we originally set out to, and I've made three good friends." So there you have it. He will be putting out two solo records the next year, which is probably the one on the shelves since 2006. Johnny is still Johnny. Doing a million things at once and doing a damn good job at it too. He's a genius guitar player. But staying faithful to a band? I guess he can't and won't. He left the Smiths with a very good reason at the time, it might put him off of steady band life for the rest of his life. Bye bye Johnny and welcome back Johnny Marr. Welcome back old-skool Cribs, didn't they say they'd go back to the old days? Maybe we all win this time but damn you Johnny, I'm glad I've witnessed your brilliance on stage, I'm happy we met, talked and hugged (and I hope you enjoyed the tiny biscuits too), but you did disappoint me by pulling a Modest Mouse!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hyped in the UK, loved in the NL?

I often think I live in the wrong part of the world. The more I read about the nineties and the North West of the USA, the more I wished I lived there. But, I don't. I live in the Netherlands and got to do with what there is right here. Is there an exciting music scene in the Netherlands? Are the Dutch, generally, keen on punk and alternative and the indie? I often say no. The Dutch are known to be jolly and openminded but that openmindness is something of the past anyway. But taste in music? I wouldn't say they generally have. But it's an interesting thing to investigate.

All the hypes and trends from the UK are of course also heard here. The Dutch alternative press hears the praises coming from the UK. I always wonder whether these shabby guitar bands or the newest wave of New Wave bands are something for the Dutch market. Racing through the second hand department of the no. 1 indie record store in Amsterdam (Concerto) could probably have taught me that they probably aren't. As press you can hype a band so much, but I found most of these CDs in the second hand department. Bought buy a cool kid hoping to be cool and ahead of his or her friends but disappointed by the music from that album. The average Dutch kid doesn't understand. Why do you sound so bored? So cold? And I don't understand a single word you are saying.

I'm not trying to generalize here. There are of course the people who do love these bands. But to find most of the Hyped in the UK bands dumped at the second hand section is telling me something. I don't like them either, don't get me wrong, but I'm not buying it in the first place. Will the cool kids ever learn? But what does the Dutch hipster like? I agree that it isn't important, like what you want and enjoy it to the fullest, but I can't help but being curious.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's up with wearing a short dress?

Not that short!I wore a mini dress yesterday. Nothing sexy though. Just a pencil shaped (is that the word? I'm clueless) mini dress with Alice in Wonderland inspired prints. There's a big grinning cat on it. It's anything but a little black dress. There was no cleavage whatsoever. I wore legging under it and you could clearly see it were leggings and not tights. It was a working day. I was perfectly decent dressed, fully covered up. I'm far from model material.

But what happens when you are wearing a skirt or dress? Some women will give you dirty looks. What for? And men? They honk with their cars! What's up with that? Do they only see 'short dress' and nothing else? Don't they see my hideous knees which look like they're floating around there where I'm bending my legs (this is true)? My mahoosive upper legs (I'm a cyclist)? My highly unflattering Dr Marten's boots? My lack of showing any skin? Are men idiots?

What I'm trying to say is, with reactions like this, women looking dirty at you if you're wearing anything that isn't in their closets and men reacting like apes it's not really surprising that people would not feel comfortable wearing what they like. Just be safe, follow the masses, don't stand out. Standing out will make you noticed and you will get reactions. Maybe not verbally, but you will. Better safe than anything else. Follow the gray masses. This is what the Dutch are good at. The majority is dressed the same dull way. With this skirtathon I'm forcing myself to wear anything else than jeans and t-shirts. I must say, it's great. Good on me! I should keep it up, also after the skirtathon is finished. You want to look? You want to honk? I might sigh but won't respond to you. I think anyway. I'm blogging about it after all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A small (belated) question to Mister Dylan

Bob Dylan (1987 in Rolling Stone): "I hate to see chicks perform. Hate it... Because they whore themselves. Especially the ones that don't wear anything. They fucking whore themselves."

Then what exactly are men doing when performing?

With statements like this it's not really a surprise that women in music still aren't always fully taken for real. It's a little insane, to put that mildly.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Skirtathon 2011 and why I'm in

I'm doing something I've never done before. I'm doing the skirtathon. What the flicking heck is a skirtathon you say? I had no idea and I have also thought it might be an April Fool's joke. But, it's not. A skirtathon is actually quite simple. You wear a skirt (or dress, whatever) every weekday during the month of April. You can't wear the same thing twice though. Is it a fashion thing? A really girly thing? I'm doing it for one reason and one reason only: to finally get to wear all these skirts and dresses I have in my closet!

I'm one of these people who loves buying new stuff, funky dresses, funky skirts, not your average thing. Actually, I love looking for it, holding it and thinking 'wow, that's a cool thing' and then most of the time hanging it back because I'm not going to wear it anyway. The few times I do buy something 'out of the box' it's because I think that if I don't buy it I certainly will never wear it. Sadly the reality is that I often wear the same thing over and over again. Safety I guess. It's easy. And it's a shame. I own (don't think wrong of me now!) a pink latex jumpsuit with flared legs. WEAR THAT THING! But uhm, when right? I'm not exactly Kate Nash. I'm not a fierce singer.

Back to the skirts and dresses. I own quite a few dresses. But don't wear them that much. The only person complaining that I don't is me. So. Here's the skirtathon. Participate! It will MAKE me wear my skirts and my dresses. For a whole month. This should teach me. And it's a bit of online fun with a few other people around the globe.

More info:
Skirtathon on tumblr
Skirtathon on blogger (has all the 'rules')
Skirtathon on twitter

Friday, April 1, 2011

Video: Forbidden Friends - Tiny hands

I feel like posting another video. No particular reason for this one other than it being a really nice song by Thermals' front man Hutch Harris and his little project Forbidden Friends.

The Thermals are currently touring Europe together with The Coathangers. Don't miss!

Out of reaches (soundcheck)

I don't do April Fool's Day, so here's just a nice little video. (if you happen to see a black box, try refreshing your browser (IE) a few times and sent Microsoft an angry email.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why won't you play in Timbuktu? Or why that's kind of annoying

It's something that happens over and over and over again. A band announces a tour, a festival, a gig. They give the place, the town, the places, the towns. Great of course. But what's the most frequent reaction? Wrong. It's not 'how cool' or 'I'll be there'. It's 'Please play/come to whereveritisimliving!'. Actually, scratch the please, most people are quite demanding and forcing.

In my life I've asked a band twice. But never as a responds to a tour announcement. The last time I asked was rather carefully whether the band would consider playing in Europe as well at some point. It took me days to get myself to ask this. Because I think it's rude. "Tonight we're playing in Bristol!" the band posts happily on twitter or facebook. "Play Istanbul!" "When you're coming to Vancouver" "CHICAGOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" "What about Berlin?" "Come to Ahmedabad*!" "Newcastle!!" are the most frequent type of responses. Never mind the played Newcastle two days ago. It's just rude. The band is happy to play somewhere, the people who are in fact going are happy they play there, so why go nag and whine?

It's not that I don't understand. Despite living in the big city of Amsterdam, it's not that my favourite bands are filling the venues every weekend. Or every month even. And yes I do think 'Man, if you play in that shithole, why can't you play in Amsterdam too' as well. But the difference is, I don't go whine and moan about it to the band on a public and unpersonal place such as facebook and twitter. And if you really love the band so much, try and make a nice roadtrip around it. Yes, it costs money, then you don't drink yourself silly at the gig, you might actually enjoy the show (or not, it's a gamble).

It's utterly and utterly annoying when your favourite band doesn't play the shithole you live in or isn't big enough to tour across the ocean. But nagging under a happy blogpost about a show by the band? That should be a not-done.

* Ahmedabad is a city in India

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Perfect sound forever by Bob Jovanovic

"It's sick the amount of stuff people know about those in the public eye, when they probably don't know the first thing about their next door neighbor." This quote by Stephen Malkmus (about the song 'Silence kid') probably suits well with the biography phenomenon. Why is it we want to know about the bands we love? Aren't the great albums they produce and the fantastic concerts they give enough? Some people do want to know all the dirt, some want to know who the people in the band are in order to understand where the songs are coming from and to relate more to the music and the band. In the case of Pavement, this book goes in the understanding and relating better department.

This biography is made in agreement and with help of all the band members, they all tell about their time in the band and how they thought about it. From the very beginnings of the band when Malkmus and Kannberg met and became friends, met Gary Young, how they met the others, how everything worked, it's all told here in a very readable way. The layout of the book is in its finest Pavement tradition, no page is quite the same, sometimes the page numbers are written down rather than just numbered, there's nice photo collages and it reads like friends are telling you about their band.

The book contains the highs and the lows and is honest and pure. It makes you understand more how the band worked while the members lived in various parts of the country, every album has a short description of the songs and how the album came together, it shows you about the special friendship they had and still have, plus the complexity of being and being with Stephen Malkmus in Pavement. It also gives a wonderful insight of the alternative rock scene in the nineties.

I would recommend this book to every Pavement fan and everyone who loves nineties alternative rock music. The book however is published in 2004 and a smile does appear on ones face when reading about a possible reunion in the future ("It is possible!") but it also gives a double feeling reading Kannberg's girlfriend/wife look on things and how she has been involved with the band from the very beginning knowing they're now divorced (resulting in Spiral Stair's fantastic 2009 album 'The Real Feel'). The book isn't old or outdated though, it's a wonderful read.

Originally written in July 2010 for a different blog

Could this have been a useful arguement?

I think life sometimes gives us small hints. It's up to us to recognize them. I might just have.

Today was the day I started questioning whether I'm really that lucky to have a steady job that isn't really terrible, funny colleagues, rock music blasting all day long and the freedom to wear whatever I want. It pays well too. Then there is this friend who went from a good paying but boring job to a none-paying job but that job is taking care of horses and that's something she's passionate about. There's this other friend who couldn't find a job so she started her own translating business, which she loves and while she just started, it looks very promising already. My sister can't find a job either which allows her to look across the border and writing the book she always wanted.

I get up at 06:45, go to work, go home, make dinner, watch Top Chef, do some internet business and go to bed. Five days a week. Sure, I own my own flat and everything. But, as I questioned today, wouldn't it be fun to do something I'm actually passionate about?

Just as I was in that mood I got in a little arguement with my boss. We're three people in the office, I don't see him as my boss, but I suppose technically he is. I'm sure he makes loads more money than I do anyway. The arguement was about work. He thinks we should chase the things we need to do harder, I say, without being laid back (as he claims we are), we're running hard enough. Long story short, he believes we really should have our things done and ready and collected before 11am. Now, we were too late. He had a point. This arguement that we're too late with our things now, took place at 10:25am. This time announcement is the last thing I said to him.

I'm working at the same place for almost 4 years. Worse, I haven't changed jobs ever since I live in Amsterdam. I've changed jobs more often than I moved house. I moved about 8 times in my life. I've never been a steady person. I thought I found my place and I still believe that's true, I wouldn't want to move house. But a different job, something I'm passionate about...

Last Saturday at the Kaizers Orchestra show I tapped a photographer on his shoulder. I've seen him more often at shows so I asked for who he was taking pictures. Not only did we end up talking about great, smaller bands and what a pity it is bands change once they get HMH-big (like Kaiser Chiefs, they just weren't fun shooting anymore because they lost their spark in a big venue, aren't I saying that for years myself?), I recommended to him to shoot pictures of The Boxer Rebellion which he would as he liked the band and we started talking about the Cribs and how they'll never get their break-through in the Netherlands and why that is and why perhaps it's best that way. I alsi asked him how he got this job. He just started it and loved it. I don't know if he has a job on the side but right now, I'm quite jealous of him.

I'm not complaining about my job. It pays for the things that I do, for the roof over my head and makes sure I don't have to eat rice with butter every day (for instance). It makes sure I can go to gigs, make weekend trips to England, buy records, buy cameras, films and develop them as well, it feeds the pets. Guess I do miss some kind of spark. But is it worth losing security for?

Monday, March 28, 2011

A real girl's opinion about the Real Girls Show

There's a new TV show in the Netherlands with the sole purpose of entertaining the public with the stupidity of the people participating. They put a bunch of so-called bimbos, girls who have been on TV before in shows where they transform from misbehaved bitches into ladies, contestors of ridiculous dating show Take me Out and other shows where you question the sanity of mankind. The show puts these girls in the jungle of Suriname. Oh jolly good fun.

The trailer of the show shows the 'babes' arriving with loads of suitcases, sexy bikinis, nail polish, earrings and whatever 'babes' bring to a summer vacation. These girls need to survive in the jungle. One of the girls defends her suitcase and belongings. "Oh come on, it's the jungle, not the bush-bush." To give you another idea of the people in this show. "Famous people from Suriname? Nelson Mandela is one, right?" says another contestor with a face as if she really had to think long and hard about that. These girls are portrait as dumb as donkey shit, only caring about appearances and without any skills whatsoever. Oh, and they screech so nicely and a lot. Of course. Top class entertainment right? Dumb blond bimbos without a clue in the jungle of Suriname. And what do you call a show like that? Well, of course:

Real Girls in the Jungle

Real girls? Real girls?? So real girls are dumb, screech when they see a tweak looking like a snake, only caring about how they look and think boys will take care of everything for them?? And it's fun? Did my grandmother burn her bra for this?

The Animals Protection Agency put out a complain against the show as they had to kill a chicken with a stick and a blunt knife. Much to hysterical reactions obviously. That's no way to kill a chicken, let alone the stress the chicken had to go through with the girls. I can agree with Animal Protection.

But I feel that we women should step up and complain as well. Calling this Real Girls is displaying all women as being weak and dumb and dependend. I would even question if the girls in the shows really are as big of bimbos as they are displayed at. A girl who takes the lead and makes a decent camp isn't in one way entertaining of course. Then we'd watch Expedition Robinson. Shows like these keep women down. Have them displayed as fun objects. I mean, really, 40 years of feminism, why do we keep putting up with this? Why do women still allow this to happen? To them. To us. I'm going to write a complaint to RTL5 regarding this show. Give me time to find the right words. But what Animal Protection can do, so can I, as a woman.

To be continued? (and shame on Quintis Ristie for participating as well)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Kaizers are back in town (review Kaizers Orchestra, Paradiso 26-03-2011)

Kaizers Orchestra are a 6-piece band from Norway, singing their not every day rock songs about not every day events in Norwegian. I first heard them in a record store that no longer exists and my curiosity was awoken. Long story short, I bought the albums, went to see them live, and live they are one hell of a party. It's not for everyone. You either frown and think they're a bunch of posers or you'll love them. For that reason I stopped recommending them to people. If you decide to check them out after reading this review, great! If not, that's okay too.

They're released their latest album Violeta Violeta volume 1 little over a month ago. The last time they played Paradiso, almost exactly 3 years ago, not many people turned up. It looked like people had seen the Orchestra and the novelty had worn off. This Saturday it wasn't sold out either, but it was packed and this time they also opened the balcony section, opposed to last time. A good sign. Also, it being a weekend, a lot of Norwegians decided to take a weekend break to Amsterdam. The band quickly was aware of that. And would use it, maybe not entirely in favour of the Dutch audience.

With a new album in their pocket, the band started with the classics, the oil-barrel oompa sound with songs about civil wars that never have been, the mob, betrayal, friendships and the doom and gloom of life. The sound of the band may appear happy on the outside, the songs are anything but. With the old songs, mainly from their first two albums (they got 6 under their belts, plus 2 live albums) they really pleased the audience. Especially singer Janove Ottesen knows how to play his audience and the audience lets him. Whether this is because we want to or to please him, it doesn't matter. This was an old-school Kaizers party with singing, clapping, dancing and jumping. And loads of it.

'Why are you Norwegians here?' Ottesen asked already early in the near 2-hour set. 'There's a football match on!' Norway played Denmark in the qualification round for the European Champions football cup. Leading 2-0 that called for a celebrations. The Norwegians were happy, the Dutch were happy - up until Ottesen challenged the Dutch by sincerely believing that Norway would then have to beat the Dutch and would in fact beat the Dutch. To do this once, that's fun. Even for the Dutch. But he took it a little to far, even when Denmark equalized. But luckily for them, Norway won 3-2 and would beat the Dutch in the final European Cup in 2012 as they now had qualified. In reality, after reading the newspaper today, Norway never lead by 2-0 but were down 0-1 for a very long time and had a lucky escape by equalizing in the final minutes. We could have known when Ottesen started calling out the names of Dutch football players of course. Van Basten, Gullit, Cruyff. What century was he living in when saying that?

This was the only negative side to the concert, it really was a big party. Not just on stage with the guitarists Geir Zahl and Terje Winterstø frequently coming to the middle of the stage, oil-barrels were smashed in front of our eyes, Rune Solheim stood on his drums frequently, double-bassist Øyvind Storesund really was the most modest of them all and organist Helge Risa wasn't always wearing the trademark gas mask but of course he did when smashing a rim at the stage centre. And Ottesen danced like a madman, conducted the audience, controlled the audience and tap danced until the rest of the band dragged him away.

The new album had a relatively small place in the show, only playing a handful of them. This was of course a bit odd, especially leaving out the leading single 'Hjerteknuser' but Violeta Violeta is a 3-album affair, we might get more of that when the other albums are released as well. The main focus were really the older songs but no one who really mourned that.

The crowd was most of all loud. And knowing that the last time they were here it turned out great, the set ended with 'Min kvite russer', a slow song, played only with the organ and Ottesen sitting on an oil barrel (the rest of the band joined the stage later for the vocal harmonies). The song ended in a beautiful sing along of the audience (!) impressing the band big time.

Going to a Kaizers Orchestra concert is entertainment. Without losing grip of what the band is about in the first place, the music. They're all very professional musicians, but they like to turn their shows into a dancing and singing party. Mission accomplished.

pictures taken by me, click for bigger size

Friday, March 25, 2011

That's the way it is - remembering Mel Appleby

When Dutch ska/punk/pop band Doe Maar split I was in shock. I was about 8 years old but I was devastated, as I've written numerous times before in this blog. I also mentioned that there's a hole in my music-memory after they split, not knowing all the popular bands that were round at that time. Duran Duran? Wham? Dolly Dots? Spandau Ballet? I had no idea. Up until I found a new band I loved.

This band, or duo more likely, was Mel & Kim. They were two sisters from London who had their first hit in 1986/1987, depending on where you lived. They were discovered by Stock Aitken & Waterman who would be the ones to launch Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Big Fun, Sinita, The Reynold Girls and many more upon us. Mel & Kim have released one album, four singles and released a total of 11 songs all together.

I loved this band so much. My barbies (I was about 10) were dressed like them, I bought the magazines they were in, I bought every version of their album (I own 3), every single I found, every 12". Same track listing but different cover? The item was mine. You could say that Mel & Kim were the first band I got record collecting about. With Doe Maar I depended on my parents buying me the albums, but now I devoted my pocket money to Mel & Kim. I even dared to amateuristic do my hair like them. I played their album, a 9-track affair, constantly. It was pop, dancable pop with a r'n'b basis. I was massively into Mel & Kim.

Mel fell down the stairs. She was down with a serious back injury. This was a set back but she would return right? It was only a back injury. Right?

They hadn't actually lied, she was down with metastatic paraganglioma, cancer. It was denied for a long time but when pictures emerged of a very swollen Melanie trying her first steps again, they confirmed that she had in fact cancer. It wasn't the first time she had suffered from cancer, she had liver cancer at the age of 18. She would be okay. And she wasn't thinking of dying. In a German magazine they spoke about death but I cut it out of the article prior to sticking it into my scrap book.

They released a new single in 1988. Things would be okay. They had to be. It became quiet about the girls again. Until January 1990. It rained that morning. I met with a friend at the traffic light, like every morning, as we drove to school together. She told me Mel had died. Liar, I said at first but then I cried. I cried on my bicycle in the rain all the way to school. At school people came to me telling me they were sorry for me. Back home I sat under my desk unable to look at my posters, looking at Mel smiling on these images. She had died of pneumonia, she was weakened by the chemotherapy. It was said she had beat cancer.

Mel was only 23 when she died. It's nor her birthday today either, but I had to think of her today, as I do every now and then. She was such a bright spirit, her laughter features in their UK number 1 'Respectable'. She was the first musician who died while I was being a fan. I hope other people remember her as well. Even if it's as part of 'that annoying Stock Aitken & Waterman production'. For this 11-year-old, she was cool. And, as questionable as it may seem now, a fashion icon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Boxer Rebellion Experience (review Melkweg 23-03-2011)

The Boxer Rebellion. First seen as a support act by a good friend around 2004, quickly picked up by my sister after that and me tagging along most of the times ever since. I kept tagging along because despite the band being dropped by their label, playing in shoeboxes in England, support slots for The Editors, remaining unsigned and doing everything, and I mean everything DIY, releasing through their own label and working in shoe stores to finance their gigs, this band is really good. Their sound is massive, strong. Filled with melody, rhythm and angsty themes. I've always enjoyed their live shows, always solid, always strong. They sound GOOD and that's good with four capitals. They're currently touring their new album, 'The Cold Still', which is received by good reviews and praise. At last! The band is, in 2011, getting the praise and attention they deserve. And it's nice to see. Really nice to see.

The band played De Melkweg on Thursday 23d of March in Amsterdam, the first show of their current European tour, it wasn't sold out but it was packed. It was the biggest stage I've seen them play as headliners, according to the band it was their second biggest gig ever. Which was met by cheer from the audience. The band was clearly in good spirits, smiling, using the space they had on stage, walking around and enjoying what they were doing. Playing their 3 album reportoire.

The sound of The Boxer Rebellion is massive. Strong bass, heavy drums. Amazing guitar skills. It's hypnotizing if you like. A song by the Boxer Rebellion, and this especially live, gets you, grabs you. You get into it, you rock out to it and as explosively the song starts and remains, as explosively it ends. You wake up, wondered what happens before they take you on another journey. There's no words to really fully describe it, it's an experience and the experience is massive and GOOD. You rarely see a band sounding as clear on stage than they do. Time after time after time. They even get better!

After the shows there was a run after the albums. The merchandise table was a battle field. I've rarely seen anything like that ever before and now for the Boxer Rebellion. People were pushing and shoving and actually nervous because what if they sold out. The band still does their own merche sales and were clearly surprised by the run on their CDs and t-shirts. They had no idea what was happening to them. It really was like they were handing out rice to the starving. But despite that my sister was able to give her request for their next tour. They're still the guys they were back then, only getting bigger as a band now. It's fully, fully deserved. I strongly advice to go see them, they're touring intensely these coming months in Europe, America and the UK (if I'm not mistaken) - the website doesn't list the European tour in May yet, but they're playing 5 shows in the Netherlands for sure. You might fully understand then what I've been trying to tell up here.

picture taken from flickr

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My year in music so far

Almost a quarter of a year has passed already, so what has this year brought so far and which new promises did it bring? Here's some of my personal high (and low) lights of the year in music so far. 2011 is still looking fingerlicking good!

Wild Flag
Last year I knew the band existed and who was in. Now I've heard a studio recording and have watched them live per live stream at SXSW. I've heard and seen the women in action now. Verdict? This is what rock music needs. This is what punk needs. This is what women need. This is what I need. Wild Flag is a great rock band who enjoy what they're doing. Something that's actually refreshing. The album will be out this Autumn on Merge Records. This one is candidate for Record of the Year, based on the songs live so far. High expectations can easily lead to high disappointments but this time I don't think that will happen.

So.... Radiohead suddenly released an album and had the entire population of music geeks in extacy. For me it's been a load of shit that's been released. Seriously, how many obscure bleeps, whacky piano loops and annoying vocals can you squeeze into one song? And this 8 times! I congratulate Radiohead with the surprise the release was but I officially won't call myself a fan of the band anymore. Yeah, I'm a stuck-up bitch who claims that they used to be better in their early days. Fuck that, it's true!

The Splinters
Didn't know them last year but these Brooklyn women have stole my music heart by storm. They also have a tambourine player. Yes, a sole tambourine player. I think that's class. And the songs are great too. They're one to watch.

The Cribs
Played their last show at the end of August at Leeds festival last year. Announced a two year break. Fast forward 7 months and they're back together in Wakefield recording songs in the drummer's garage. The return of lo-fi they're calling it themselves. Sounds promising. Johnny Marr is on his way to Moscow for one thing or another. Fine. Not sure if he'll return to the band but as great as it's been, I wouldn't really miss him. The punk male counter part to Wild Flag? This is a huge compliment I'm making to the Cribs who I rate extremely high and to Wild Flag. This is no offence. This means that I'm really happy with the Cribs' quick return. Bring it on!

The Boxer Rebellion
Following that band since (roughly) 2004 thanks to my sister. 2011 seems to be the year the rest of the world wakes up and seems to embrace them. They fully deserve that. But it's still weird. Why now? Why not three years ago? These guys had to work in shoe stores to keep their dream alive. They're really independent, releasing everything on their own label, everything independent for real. It's hard work. It's paying of. It's almost surreal to witness. But fully deserving.

Images from:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interesting quote by Carrie Brownstein

"Janet hates slow songs. She hates listening to them and hates playing them, so if Mary or I bring in something too slow or sensitive, Janet will just bang the shit out of the drums until our sensitivity is obliterated."

Carrie Brownstein on Janet Weiss

Knowing this, bring on that Jicks album!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

After Friday comes Saturday

I've been one of these people who went 'Who is this Rebecca Black and why is she trending' for an entire week. I read some apparently lyrics from her song (she's a singer, I got that much), they were said to be ridiculous. Friends I followed questioned whether the release of this track was something serious. I caved. Went on to youtube on a Saturday, checked out her track 'Friday'. This pun is so bad I apologise for it.

I expected the absolute worst. What I got was a simple popsong-by-numbers. Very American High-school, very bubblegum, very teenager and it even had a gansta-dude rapping the bridge. Yes, her voice is auto-tuned. Yes, her lyrics are kind of dumb (but very simple, she tells her day routine). Yes, she looks made. I don't like the song. But then, I don't like bubble gum pop music. I don't like Justin Bieber either. I think the entire circus about him is ridiculous. Why market that kid so much? Yet, it's impressive. And in a good few decades we have a new case of Charlie Sheen but that's another story.

Back to Rebecca Black. Why attack her? This is kiddie music. Hate it all you like but face the truth. There's a market for that and if you're not the market, don't bother. For the specific genre and target group this song is made for, there's nothing wrong with either her or the song 'Friday'. I think the song is rubbish, I wish I hadn't given in to what the bonkers people were talking about, but in end effect, is it really worth talking about? There are so many artists and songs like that, again, I don't want to be bothered with it, but it's there. Let it be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So, you have a twitter account.

There's a time and a place for everything. Often this place is not Twitter.

Twitter is a place where you can post little blurbs of what you are doing, where you are, where you're going. A place to say something about things and to people if you must. You can chit chat on twitter.

Keep in mind that whatever you write on twitter will possibly be read by your following. That following could form an opinion not just about that particular tweet but also about you. It's fine that you don't care about that. But take the concequences.

To keep it short and simple: Enjoy tweeting, but tweet responsible.

My own bootleg revolution

Bootlegs. They used to be valuable. Kids would record shows, copy them on tapes and pass them on. Some more advanced kids would even press them on vinyl and sell them in shabby record stores. Later on they got copied on CD and spread/sold amng fans and sometimes you'd find them in second hand record stores. Pearl Jam would release every show they did on CD and sell them all over the world in record stores. If you were lucky the sound would have been good, filtered so you wouldn't only get the 'yeah yeah woohoo yeah' from the person who stood next to the person who recorded the show. Along came the internet and the MP3, file sharing sites and youtube. No longer we'd pass on cassettes of a show. We go on youtube, ask in forums if people had recorded the show and mock if no one wants to upload it. We're spoiled aren't we?

I'm not really a big fan of listening to live recordings, it's met with a lot of misunderstanding but it doesn't really appeal to me. I rather be at the show myself or listen to the studio recording. I don't mind the recordings itself, but I don't really like listening to it, that's more like it. I get iritated when the radio isn't tuned properly and you'll hear a minor rustle or other disturbances. This might seem like I'm overreacting but it makes me turn off the radio and rather sit in silence. Knowing this you might understand why I'm not the biggest fan of listening to live recordings, whether you agree or not.

I own live recordings. I have a few Kent bootlegs at home, but I never listened to them. I have the Kaizers Orchestra live album. Listened to it once. I have a live CD of the Cribs that came with the Roses Edition of their latest album. Never listened to it. I own the live CD that came with a special edition of the New Fellas. No, never. I'm a record collecting nerd though. So these are albums that have a place in my collection. I wouldn't necessarily download them from the internet if that would have been the only place I could get these. Unless I was at that show. In that case I'd consider.

However. I do own two bootleg recording of the Bangles on cassette. These shows are from 1983 and 1986. I love them, the 1983 show more than the 1986 show, which mostly is becuase the 1983 is more garage than 1986. In 1983 there were no walking Egyptians and manic Mondays. I've played these tapes a lot and I still occasionally do. I love some old school Bangles and these are live recordings I can listen to. The mysteries of life.

So, with my history of letting digital bootlegs pass me by, why am I being so excited about the few Wild Flag bootlegs I found? I haven't been in the position to listen to them yet but I intend to. Heck, I even intend to copy them on a disc! Could it be, considering that the Bangles bootlegs are the only ones I listen to on a relatively frequent basis, that I only like women's bootlegs? That's nonsense. I think with Wild Flag it's a totally different story and it might relate to the tape sharing from the early punk days.

Chances are that you don't understand why I'm so much into Wild Flag in the way that I am. I'm at the wrong side of the ocean for one to really participate in this start of the young punk/garage/nugget band. But there's sincerely a revolution going on. Think Riot Grrrl. Think Nirvana. (think that this was all around the same time and these girls were musically active themselves around that time). Something's going on. And despite living on the wrong side of the ocean, it's possible thanks to the band being relatively active on both twitter and facebook, to be part of it anyway. It's because of Wild Flag I got myself a facebook in the first place, I was highly anti-facebook. Even if you'd think Wild Flag are nothing less than a bunch of middle-aged women who are living a midlife crisis (shame on you!) then so be it. Maybe that's exactly what I am then. I know of course that this is not the case. Wild Flag is a little music revolution. They're loving it. A bunch of other people are loving it. I'm loving it. And if that means consuming bootlegs before the first album hits the stores, it's all part of the game. I love this game.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If only I liked radio friendly rock huh?

I think we all know these people. Those who are out there to name the most obscure and unknown bands as their favourite bands. I'm not sure if I ever fell into that group, and don't answer me, but I know one thing. I might be doing it right now but I'm not doing it on purpose. Damn you internet for letting me know about all these awsome bands who strangely enough aren't found by other people I know. I love listening to great music. It's even better if you can share the joy.

I'm sorry, I don't like radio-friendly indie, it's not because I'm a snob but I just really don't like (most) of it. I'm sorry that most of the music I like seem to origine from Portland. It just happens. I'm sorry that the current breeze of true rock and punk is an all-girl-band whose band-members are each and one respected musicians already and I'm sorry they do what one would expect them to do. I'm sorry for the internet because without it I wouldn't have known about all this and perhaps life would have been easier. I'm not saying nicer or better, but easier.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hello, Kill Rock Stars!

It's International Women Day today. You can think about it what you want, sadly a lot of people think it's something like giving your girlfriend some roses or something. It's not Valentine's Day! It's a day to think about how women all over the world still aren't treated equal to men. Women are being stoned to death because she was raped. A baby girl in China is often abandoned. Women should walk a few step behind their men. Women are married off. In less extreme cases and in our modern world women are paid less for work, still looked at as sex symbols and lust objects. Girls don't rock, men do.

This entry isn't about this actually, but it's an introduction to why Women's Day is there. It's emancipation women (and men!) have fought for and are still fighting for. Men too, yes. Because not all men are acting like they rule the world (aka remote control) simply because they are men. No, this entry is a big Shout Out to the record label Kill Rock Stars which started in 1991 by Slim Moon who ran the label till 2006. This label kicks some asses and then some. Why exactly they tell perfectly well on their website so I quote:

KRS's mission is to continue putting out exceptional records by important artists, and our tradition of being queer-positive, feminist, and artist-friendly continues as well. We are now distinguished by being one of the few female-run indie labels in the US, which we are proud of, but all that really means is get out there and start your record labels, ladies! (Check out our FAQ page (...) for a great guide to starting your own label). At KRS we believe in doing it yourself, and we see our job as helping bands to realize their visions. In a culture that rewards making mediocre music with a quick buck, we feel lucky that we get to work with artists who challenge mediocrity on a regular basis. Plus we love the music. Enjoy!

It is exactly therefore I want to post a few clips from recent KRS artists. And they also have men on their label of course. Please take a moment and enjoy at least a clip or two. You won't regret it. Happy International Women Day y'all!

Quasi - Little white horse, from the best album from 2010 'American Gong'.

The Thermals - I don't believe you, from the 2010 album 'Personal Life'. Get a song from Hutch Harris' 'solo' project Forbidden Friends here, for free!

Grass Widow - 11 of Diamonds, from the 2010 album 'Past Time'.

The Raincoats - Fairytale in the Supermarket. Their debut album has been re-released on KRS in 2009.

The Decemberists - Down by the water (live), from their 2011 release 'The king is dead'.

The Corin Tucker Band - Riley, from the 2010 album '1,000 years'.

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - Cool yourself, from the 2009 album 'Know better learn faster'.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My first Wild Flag review based on actual sound!

Ever since I know about the band Wild Flag I'm a little obsessed with that band. It started when I only knew who was in the band and they hadn't even recorded a single song, nor had they ever performed. Who's in the band? Janet Weiss. Carrie Brownstein. Mary Timony. Rebecca Cole. Four rock goddesses. This could only end well. This could only kick ass. As soon as they started performing youtube films emerged. I'm not a big fan of other people's recordings because no matter how hard you try, it's wobbly and the sound's rarely good. I watched a few clips because I needed to know if these women were really as good as they should be. It was confirmed, they were. They kicked ass. Pure rock n roll. Dirty, raw and pretty amazing. They rocked. They just rocked. I know my chances to ever see them live are slim but it didn't stop me loving this band more.

The band will release a 7" for Record Store Day. This annoys me. Because considering the band is worshipped by a certain group, that group isn't very big, I don't think the European press even knows this band exist or they don't understand what the Big Deal is. It's American Alternative Rock I suppose and that doesn't do well in Europe. (Kings of Leon is NOT American alternative rock). So the chance that I will ever get my hands on that record are about zero. But since Friday 04-03-2011 at least one song is streamed online. 'Glass Tambourine' is the first studio recording we ever hear from Wild Flag. Are they worth the obsession? The adoration? The anticipation? Well, Hell Yeah!

'Glass Tambourine' starts with nice vocal harmonies, almost sweet (yet raw) guitar, a tambourine and has a bit of a nice 60s pop feel to it. Then after a few minutes the song breaks. There's an a-capela bit (supported by an interesting bass-line) which leads into a mean guitar outburst with killer drums and other great sounds. It gets dark and psychedelic. It roars, it rocks and it kills. Roll over Jimi Hendrix, what a guitar sound! This is how rock was intended to sound. The band did everything except disappoint and with the high expectations, that's quite an accomplishment.

I love Wild Flag. I've played this track over and over again. I also admit to pretty much crappy record it from the internet, the quality of my recording is pretty lousy but at least it's on my walkman now. The album is to be expected in September and the waiting will be long. I will get that album. Wild Flag has managed to become one of my favourite bands and now with actual audio proof. I trust these girls. They absolutely rock. They are an inspiration as well. Thank you for being Wild Flag.

I ran for women's rights

My highschool was close to a athletics track, really just around the corner. Therefore it often happened that our gym class took place there, to much moan and complain of course but in hindsight it wasn't that bad. We did sports such as hockey and handball. We distant-jumped and we jumped high. I wasn't, considering my lack of height, bad in high-jumping. We also played softball which introduced me to the highschool law that when you're good at sports you're in the running of being popular. I was good at softball to everyone's surprise, mine included. I'm a mean batter, I ran a lot of homeruns. This made me like softball. It didn't really make me popular, but at least a bit more. And of course, there was a lot of running. The track was famous for Nelli Cooman running a few world records on the 60 meters. I wasn't very good at sprints. I'm really not an athlete. But I was surprisingly doing well on long distances. I remember very well running a 1000 meters and being in front the entire time. I was winning. A teacher who was running with us wasn't very keen on being outrun by one of the school's classic outsiders and overtook me in the last 100 meters. He did that on purpose, what's the point in a teacher winning from a student at 1km running during gym class? He became my history teacher later on and we never got along, he even told me in the first week of that year that I should consider myself lucky that he wasn't my mentor that year or else I would have had a tough year. Ah, highschool...

Fast forward a good 17 years ago (take or leave a few years). I haven't participated in any sports since. I do a fair share of cycling. My home-work distant is over 10km long and I'm doing that every day on my bicycle, no matter the weather condition (if it's truly awful one of my colleagues do take me home). I've stopped running for public transport unless I need to catch a connecting train or whatever ever since I squashed both my knees in order to catch a subway that leaves every 5 minutes. I caught the subway. Ever squashed a knee? It hurts, it's blue and you can't bend your knee for a good week at least. Now take that condition for two knees and try sitting on a toilet. Not worth catching that subway for.

So much for my sporting life. It's pretty much none existing though the thought of take on running has crossed my mind a few times. Never seriously. What made me decide taking on the Mokumse Vrouwen Loop is still a little mystery. Mokum = Amsterdam in old-Amsterdamsh, Vrouwen = women and Loop = run. I think it was the cause, the profits went entirely to MamaCash, the oldest international women's fund, which helps women all over the world in their fight against violence, discrimination and poverty. And, I quote, "They strive for equal rights, economic justice and a safe environment for themselves and their communities - often with little financial means and with admirable dedication. Mama Cash supports these women because she believes that everybody - women, men, and children - benefits from investments in women's rights and bettering the position of women. In other words: Mama Cash believes in the power and ability of women to change the world." This foundation was established in the Netherlands in 1983. I read it in a local newsletter and thought "Hey, I'm going to do that." There was a choice of running 2,5 km, 5 km and 7,5 km which could also be taking as a walking course.

In the end I was sensible and chose 2,5km. Again, I have no walking training. The weather was lovely today and I signed up, got my number and a chip that would track your time. When I got there I started to get intimidated. Those women looked like they're running every day. Good running gear and everything. I looked at the track. You had to run a bit on the track before going into the park. I decided to at least make it to the park. I approached another woman who would walk the 2,5km and she told me she wasn't trained either and nor was her friend. I felt better until they both mentioned they did use to run and this was a catching up thing. Oh dear. Nonetheless I decided to stay close to these two women, to at least know how fast I should start running. What's the worst that could happen? Taking part in this was already a good thing and that is true.

I will not review my run, that'll be boring. But I didn't stop once to catch my breath or anything, I kept running. I didn't crash down after finishing. I didn't need medical attention. Not that I would have been able to run another 2,5km at that point but I felt reasonably fit. My side only hurt the last 200 meters. I actually ran 2,5km! I did it! I amazed myself. I ended 6th or something with a time slightly under 12 minutes. The pain will come later I suppose.

Will I take on running on a daily basis? No. On a weekly basis? Probably not. But just to know I can do it is a nice feeling altogether. And I got a nice little bag to remind me of this day filled with a bit of beauty products samples and a night cream. Which came in hand as mine is almost finished. It's a women's walk after all.