Monday, 22 February 2010

Gorillaz and Banksy make for moist March

Just a quick fumble today. Some would say that's all I ever manage, but the imminent return of Gorillaz on their third album Plastic Beach is tremendously exciting. The first tune to surface from the album is the terrific 'Stylo'.

This sterling track has already been raved about everywhere from Tooting to Tokyo. On a personal level, I've been banging on about this track to everyone myself since it surfaced a while back. To paraphrase The White Stripes' 'Fell In Love With A Girl' - I said it once before but it bears repeating.

Even if 'Stylo' featured just the Damon Albarn vocal and the simple, minimal Danger Mouse bass and synth workout it would be a brilliant tune. However, the cunning street corner Mos Def rap and extraordinary, agitated, even frenzied Bobby Womack vocal ensure this tune is nothing less than outstanding. This can only be proper, really. The man behind Across 110th Street wouldn't just pop out of retirement after two decades to work on any old toot.

Londoners will also be salivating upon reading the latest from 'Murdoc', (Almost certainly Albarn's animated alter-ego at the heart of Gorillaz).

Murdoc/Albarn told NME: "Gorillaz were always influenced by The Clash. They were always my favourite band, I loved how they took the heart and soul of punk and reggae smeared it in London graffiti and paint and then sailed it round the world."

He added:"I don’t think that’s a million miles from what Gorillaz do now."

Rather excitingly, the title track includes former Clash guitarist Mick Jones (a hero London Liked was lucky enough to meet at a Primal Scream gig in 2006) and bassist Paul Simonon, the latter of whom worked with Albarn on The Good, The Bad and The Queen's debut (and probably only) album.

There'll be a full rundown on the Gorillaz album and any other Gorillaz news here soon.

STOP PRESS: Thurs 25/02.10: It has been announced this afternoon London station Xfm will be playing the whole of Plastic Beach on Tuesday March 2nd...

Just time to mention Banksy. The anonymous Bristolian grafitti artist has been a fascinating figure in the (street) art world for years. His pieces have been seen in locations across the world and particularly in London. One big question, perhaps the only one which really matters, is this: Can Banksy do anything more meaningful than paint clever pictures, with the odd joke in, on public walls?

The answer will be here on Monday when there'll be a review of his directorial debut, Exit Through The Gift Shop.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Plasticines throw some killer shapes

*Photo: Plasticines @ The Borderline, February 8 - courtesy of Talia Kranes

At the beginning of an exciting week of new music for London Liked, Plasticines rocked The Borderline in stylish, punky fashion. Last Monday (February 8) Katty Besnard led the terrific young French female quartet with raw AC/DC attitude and tambourine shakes that certainly kicked the efforts of former Oasis warbler Liam Gallagher into touch.

Four women from just outside Paris sporting an unashamed swagger and who met at a Libertines gig. Can this only mean impressionable teens down the front and trying-to-pretend-they’re-not-perving men filling the rest of the small, but lively Borderline? Partly. It would be easy to write off Plasticines as Long Blondes via Ladyhawke with a Gallic twist at first listen but that is to undersell their charm. Parisians seem to be stereotyped as cold, stylish and irascible, but Besnard and her bandmates (guitarist Marine Neuilly, bassist Louise Besillien and drummer Anais Vandevyvere) charm the tough, disconcertingly quiet school night crowd effortlessly, but with the obsequiousness that makes, say, Robbie Williams or Mika such a grating live prospect.

Now on their second album Plasticines have the confidence and tightness that mostly only comes with experience, specifically experience up on stage. From the recently released About Love album, former single Bitch shines in lean, snake-hipped fashion. It’s got drive and with a title like that, sassiness is almost a given. Besnard sings like PJ Harvey, even if the riffs and rhythms recall Gossip. Saucy. *Runnaway meanwhile sounds like The Go-Gos whilr Another Kiss is extraordinarily good fun, almost as though The Ting Tings returned and decided every song they wrote would match the quality of Be The One.

A brief word about their covers to end. You’re No Good, originally performed by Betty Clark in 1963 but covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to Van Halen, has the righteous party feel of The Knack’s unassailable My Sharona. Almost as good was the mademoiselles version of These Boots Were Made For Walkin’. Not quite as seductive as the Nancy Sinatra take, but what is? And no, “Geri Halliwell’s cover,” is not an appropriate answer.
By Wednesday (February 10) a change in direction was needed. So? London Liked has always kept dubstep at a distance. It’s been around in various forms for half a decade on pirate radio stations across London, sounding to casual listeners like dark garage gone dub-minimal or jungle with slower beats. Crude terminology to the afficiandos of the scene maybe, but the big question on many a ravers’ lips is simple. How do you dance to something with difficult, often slow time signatures?

With any serious consideration this question falls down like an obese man drooling in front of Greggs. Drum ‘n’ bass is hard to dance to if you don’t pick one beat to follow, say a snare a bar. With dubstep, like d ‘n’ b, is all about picking a drum sound or bassline you can follow and sticking to it. If the tune’s too slow, make like Marley and get skankin’. Easy when you know how.


Deviation was the dubstep destination last week and it the scene finally made sense. The brooding, minimal stuff Mercury-nominated Putney producer Burial became respected for was at a minimum in favour of basslines Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry would weep over and acid synth meltdowns electro DJs would cheerfully steal. Gramaphone in Commercial Road was as lively on a Wednesday as could be expected on a Friday night. DJ Zinc, who heard his ace Ms Dynamite-featuring single Wile Out dropped enjoyed himself, while even superstar producer Mark Ronson got his crunk on. All that speaker pressure surely made a difference from producing soul-pop classics for Amy Winehouse, at least. Deviation happens once a month, but it’s worth feeling ropey at work the next day to attend.


Lowlife is another big underground name that’s been around for donkeys in The Big Smoke. Yes, it’s the name of a series of venerable underground parties rather than a sub-genre of urban music, but hey - start your own blog if you don’t like tenuous linking**. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, a pair known as much for their formidable DJing skills and sterling club culture books as they are for their superior knowledge of dance music, set up Lowlife in 1995. It’s a word-of-mouth event, which always sells out despite the dearth of advertising.

Anyway, again London Liked was virginal before the night.*** But in brief, the warehouse party feel, ragged but atmospheric venue, friendly punters, complete absence of bad attitude (even among security) and uniformly excellent music made Lowlife a winning night.

There’s bound to be more about the night, its two founders and the fantastic house music on here in future. Especially as the next Lowlife is the 15th anniversary…

*though the double ‘n’ is unlikely in use to distinguish it from the excellent Del Shannon song.

**Actually that’s a great name for a blog.

***OK, it’s not cool to be a Londoner and admit to never having been to a dubstep night or Lowlife, but in my defence, I have done a few cool things in my life, some would say many, considering my social, intellectual and financial handicaps. By that I obviously mean my ability to say and do idiotic things with unerring frequency, my ability to squander money stupidly and my seeming inability to regularly earn what most people would consider to be a decent income.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Soho and swearing

Both Soho and swearing are endlessly exciting, naughty, ridiculous and often unfairly maligned.

Considering their parallels it’s quite fitting that the card above is available in a branch of Scribbler on Wardour St, the longest street in Westminster’s delightfully seedy-yet-glam party district and arguably most fun area of central London. Chain stores of any kind are rarely centres of design excellence, originality or intellectual rigour but this one, which has 10 branches in London, is something of a rarity. It’s a card shop that sells cards which make you laugh out loud and doesn't leave you full of hate the second you cross the threshold.

When asked about the absence of the harshest of all swear words the polite assistant could not offer an explanation, but could recommend wrapping paper adorned with, as he put it, the “C word”. No, not Cameron - although many use the Tory leader as a synonym for the real missing word.

Back once again to the opening par. The key is in the adjectives. Exciting, naughty, ridiculous. Apart from funny, clever and attractive, there may not be three as complimentary words in the English language to describe a place, person or thing.

As for Soho, the usually reliable Irvine Welsh wrote in his 2002 Trainspotting sequel Porno, “It’s Soho but it could be anywhere that has no character any more.” Admittedly, this line is both brilliantly bitter and depressingly empty; the kind of thing Camus or Palahniuk would get off on, regardless of the statement’s veracity. It should also be mentioned that Welsh may not hold this view, of course, as it is part of Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson’s interior monologue.

Critics of London’s central sex shop and edit suite wonderland complain that it is both childish and silly, while accepting it is a place meant for adults. This conflict of image can be applied to swearing. There’s as much joy to be had at the silly end of curse words, as there is at the dangerous, violent end. South Park’s Terrance and Philip are great but the dark, extreme profanity uttered by Malcolm Tucker could make the weak or just timid cry in real life.

A person’s love of swearing does not necessarily mean a limited vocabulary or a failure to articulate oneself with clarity. Swearing is often just a quick way to be unequivocal. What’s wrong? It’s fucked. OK. Let’s fix it. Who’s he? He’s a prick. Is he? Let’s leave. Beyond all that, swearing may be lazy and offensive, but it’s fun. Especially when trying out new or unusual expressions. Try some out today. But not around kids. They’ll get around to it soon enough and to encourage them to swear is irresponsible and could cause a lot of trouble, especially if they’re not your children.

So bollocks to that.

*At the time of publication Clinton’s do not stock the wrapping paper.