Do I Know You? Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade

I was listening to the new Sunset Rubdown album “Dragonslayer” the other day, and a thought struck me. And that thought was: “This sounds like those weird, angular Wolf Parade songs with the chappie yelping theatrically over the top”. A few songs later and my mind was made up – this must be the yelpie Wolf Parade chappie. Then a little voice starts up in the back of my head, going, “You knew this, you know. You’re getting old”.

And so I am. Tell you what, it’s terrible getting old. When you have conversations, read, watch TV, listen to music, about 50% of it just goes flying off into the ether as though it never happened. And I’ve not even 40 yet. God knows what I’ll be like as a pensioner. And my memory was always selective at the best of times. Sigh.

Sorry, seem to have taken a bit of a detour there. Age, you know. Anyway, Sunset Rubdown are indeed the spinoff band of Mr Yelpie, Spencer Krug (that’s a top name). Hailing from Penticton, BC, Canadyland1, he’s a prolific fella, not only recording as Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade, but also playing with Frog Eyes, Fifths of Seven, and Swan Lake. As I might have already mentioned, he’s got quite the idiosyncratic style, and whilst this is largely held in check in Wolf Parade, contrasting nicely with Dan Boeckner’s more measured approach, in Sunset Rubdown it’s given full rein.

It’s not a bad record, you know, but you do wish Mr Krug would hold in some of his more dramatic touches, as on some songs, it just sounds like someone’s thrown a bunch of musicians together and told them to play the first thing that pops into their heads. Now, it takes a great deal of skill to do this trick, as TV On The Radio demonstrate, and it doesn’t always pay off here. But some tracks, like “Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!”2 do work, and rather well too.

But compare and contrast with “Grounds For Divorce” from Wolf Parade’s debut “Apologies To The Queen Mary”. When he’s reined in a bit, he produces far more listenable records. Let’s hope the next Wolf Parade album isn’t too far away. Not that I don’t like Sunset Rubdown, you know, but sometimes too much is too much.

1 Which, I was pleased to discover, is not too far from Kamloops, where I once spent a hugely amusing and drunken long weekend back in 2004.

2 Crazy title, crazy band.

MP3: Apollo And The Buffalo And Anna Anna Anna Oh! by Sunset Rubdown

MP3: Grounds For Divorce by Wolf Parade

Buy “Dragonslayer” (CD/MP3)

Buy Wolf Parade’s “Apologies to the Queen Mary” (CD)

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The Pitchfork 500 Alt Rock 101 Part 1 – Sonic Youth to Meat Puppets

The next two Pitchfork articles feature the flowering of US Alt-Rock; these are the bands that your favourite bands love. From early ’90’s staples like The Pixies and Nirvana, to more recent bands like The Hold Steady and even the likes of Fleet Foxes, they were hugely influenced by the next six bands. I’ve split this article in two, so that you don’t have a 2,000 word behemoth to trawl through1.

Sonic Youth – Death Valley ‘69
Hüsker Dü – Pink Turns to Blue
Meat Puppets – Plateau

Of the next six bands, I only own records by three of them, and had hardly heard any songs by the rest. Which, funnily enough, was one of the reasons why I started off doing this whole Pitchfork 500 thing. I remember looking through the list, and when I got to this bit, thought “Hey, I don’t know any Replacements or Minutemen songs but I’ve always wanted to, so this is my chance”. And whilst both REM and Sonic Youth’s later records (Out Of Time/Automatic For The People and Sister/Daydream Nation respectively) were staples of my teenage years, I didn’t know much about their earlier songs, making it doubly worthwhile.

Would it be a disappointing experience, discovering that these bands really aren’t all that? Hell no. Would I wish I’d bought the likes of “Let It Be” and “Zen Arcade” 25 years ago? Hell yes.

First off are Sonic Youth. I’ve not heard “Death Valley ‘69” in years. I mean, years and years and years. From one of their earliest records, it’s got that whole chaotic Sonic Youth vibe but doesn’t quite have the pop sharpness of later classics like “White Kross” or the evergreen “Teenage Riot”. Noisy, yes, groundbreaking, to a point, but do I like it more than their later stuff? Nope, sorry.

Hüsker Dü (love the umlauts) were one of the most influential rock bands of the ’80’s. Taking hardcore punk and adding a huge slab of melody, they turned it into something approaching a angst-ridden version of power-pop. Whilst I loved Sugar and some of Bob Mould’s solo stuff, I never got any of the Hüsker Dü back catalogue. I guess it’s all about worrying that the record I get will be the wrong one and I’ll end up disappointed. Yeah, it’s daft.

This is one of those tunes I didn’t know and it’s been stuck in my head for the last few weeks. One of Grant Hart’s songs, it’s a swirling maelstrom of a song about a drug overdose, and has a nauseous, nightmarish feel to it. It’s also hopelessly catchy in a way that hardcore hadn’t been before. If anything it’s got as much “Don’t Fear The Reaper” as it does “Minor Threat”. Which was exactly what the band intended, having never wanted to be put in a straightjacket and told what to play. That bloodymindedness would end up tearing the band apart acrimoniously. That, and the huge amount of drugs they were all doing.

Meat Puppets came to most people’s attention thanks to Nirvana playing three of their songs in MTV’s Unplugged. Yeah, I know some of you hipsters had heard of them before, but the rest of us hadn’t, so ner. Anyway, anyone buying their “Classic Puppets” compilation expecting some lonesome country-rock might have got a right shock for the first few songs. I certainly did. But then “Plateau” comes along, with its weird country-acid-punk, and Kurt Cobain’s love for the band suddenly starts to make sense. It really doesn’t sound like anything else, except maybe Gun Club, and is quite marvellous.

The song has a woozy, half-awake quality, like one of those dreams you have that when you drift back into conciousness, you’re not quite sure if you actually experienced it in real life, or whether it was just a bit of your imagination going bonkers again. It also sounds better than the Nirvana cover, funnily enough. And I just love the beautifully restrained guitar solo – a lesser band would have gone haywire at that point, but Curt Kirkwood, with his hardcore punk background, understood exactly how much noise you need to make the maximum impact.

Sadly, Meat Puppet’s obstreperousness took them to recording entire albums with the singing out of key, and despite the fame brought to them by that Unplugged show, they ended up breaking up. That, and the huge amount of drugs they were all doing.

Don’t do drugs, mmmkay? 2

Three down, three to go. Next time it’s The Replacements, The Minutemen, and REM.

1 And I haven’t written the second half yet. Ahem.

2 Please see the below video for more information on the subject. Any implication that I may agree with Mr Hicks is purely coincidental, and stating this would make you a liar and a communist.

MP3: Pink Turns To Blue by Husker Du

MP3: Plateau by The Meat Puppets

Buy “Death Valley ’69” (MP3)

Buy Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade” (MP3)

Buy “Classic Puppets” (MP3)

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Growl Growl Growl – Live Review, Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli

“He looks like David Mitchell” says Mrs Loft and Lost.
“You go and tell him that” say I.
“Actually, he looks like the lovechild of David Mitchell and Stephen Fry”
“Are you trying to get us killed?”

Mrs Loft and Lost is right though. Greg Dulli doesn’t really look like the sex-and-drugs obsessed rock demon of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers fame. He really does look like he could be David Mitchell’s taller, stroppier older brother. Not that I would tell him to his face, as he’d likely take me into the concrete wilderness of the South Bank and give me a good shoeing. On our way into the Royal Festival Hall I asked the lovely lady on the door if we could bring drinks in, and she replied “Of course, as long as it’s in plastic”. Yes, because I’m actually feeling suicidal right now, and I’d like to end it all by chucking a wine glass at the two grumpiest men in rock – Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, otherwise known as The Gutter Twins. And playing acoustic, too.

I’ve seen Mark Lanegan live about six or seven times now, both with his band and with Queens Of The Stone Age, and I don’t recall him saying anything more than a couple of sentences each time1. Tonight, he managed a couple of jokey lines, but that was about the end of it, leaving his somewhat more forthcoming2 partner Mr Dulli to talk to the crowd, lead us in handclapping, introducing the (fantastic) guitarist (Dave Rosser, as both Martyn and Goonerandy have let me know – thanks chaps!), and exhorting us to “live life to the full”. Even sitting down, on a huge stage, with the usual huge amp stacks and drummer and the rest of the trappings of heavy rock replaced by a couple of acoustic guitars and a piano, he’s still a force of nature. On the third song in, whilst Greg and the guitarist are singing in harmony, a low, low growl comes through the speakers. I thought, “What the hell’s that?”. It took me a couple of seconds to realise it was Mark singing. He sounds like a particularly disgruntled tiger.

But by the sweet Mary mother of Jebus, does he have a voice. Quite frankly, it’s astonishing. He sounds like he’s spent an eternity sitting in run-down bars, drinking cheap whiskey and rueing the day he met that cheap no-good low-down woman and how she broke his heart. You can just as well picture him hunched over a glass of gutrot bourbon in a one-horse frontier town in 1874, as in a tavern by the docks in Plymouth in 1534, or drinking fermented woolly mammoth milk in an ostentatiously shabby cave about 5000 years BC, muttering something about how the dark days are going to come, and how that cheap no-good low-down woman has run off with Zog from the next cave along, and he’s going to have some of that there cactus juice tonight. There’s thousands of years of pain and heartache in that voice, and hearing him sing accompanied with just an acoustic guitar is a pleasure beyond mere words.

Don’t think that it’s just the tone of his voice that is special though. Mark’s actually got a better vocal range than you’d first expect; not just the bass growl that makes Barry White sound like he’s on helium. During “Sworn And Broken”, he actually sings, properly, and it’s a fair old treat. Ok, so he’s hardly Jeff Buckley, but the contrast with his usual rumblings makes the times he does venture above low C all the more effective. Oh, and thankfully the dreadful keyboard solo has gone (almost as bad as Sugar’s “Hoover Dam”), replaced with a marvellous guitar solo from Mr Rosser.

“Creeping Coastline Of Lights”, the sole track from Mark’s covers album “I’ll Take Care Of You”, was lovely, and was followed by “Resurrection Song”. In all honesty, the Lanegan material worked better acoustically than Dulli’s; partly because Dulli’s best songs have been balls-out, drink-sodden rage-filled soul-inflected numbers about doing all the wrong things in life (see “Teenage Wristband” or “Uptown Again”), so he had to fall back on either the quieter numbers, or try and make as loud a sound with two acoustics (or an acoustic and a piano). Some worked pretty well, like “Martin Eden” and the old Whigs number “If I Were Going”, but others don’t quite click as well as the Lanegan numbers do. But that’s harsh criticism, in fairness – there wasn’t a single moment that I got bored or wished a song was over. If anything, from the stage, they probably saw looked at me sitting in the front row wondering who that galoot was with the dumb grin on his face.



The last song before the encore was Bukka White’s “I Am In The Heavenly Way”. As both of them sang “Moving, joy, joy, joy\Wonderful joy, I’m movin’ on ”, we all thought “You know, you guys can stick about a bit longer if you want to”. So they did, and finished off with another cover, this time of Nick Drake’s “Three Hours”, with Dulli and Lanegan’s voices about as far from Drake’s fragile soprano as you can imagine. They sent us off into the South Bank night, happy as songs of misery, pain and addiction can make you.

Which, as it turns out, is pretty happy indeed.

(MP3’s courtesy of Mundo Eleven)

MP3: I Am In The Heavenly Way by The Gutter Twins (Live in Glasgow 2009)

MP3: Creeping Coastline Of Lights by The Gutter Twins (Live Glasgow 2009)

1 Andy, who’d originally told me about this show, said that when he first saw QOTSA live, he saw Mark shambling onto the stage and thought to himself “What the hell is that roadie doing?”. I can see exactly where he’s coming from there.

2 That’s not saying much. Lichen is more forthcoming.

Buy Mark Lanegan’s “I’ll Take Care of You” (Please, please do, it’s utterly fantastic)

Buy Gutter Twins “Saturnalia” (CD)

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Live Review – TV On The Radio at Brixton Academy

Thunder! Bash! Squawk!

TV On The Radio make complicated music. It’s challenging, multi-textured, frenetic stuff, taking influences from pretty much anyone you can think of. Prince? Check. Roxy Music? Check. Obscure ‘80’s industrial-funk band Slab!? Check. U2? Check. Tackhead? Check. Go on, add some random names into that list and see how you get on. It makes for a fascinating, if not exactly relaxing, listen on record. But how do they sound live?

By and large, they do really well. It helps that the two front-men – Tunde Adepimbe and Kyp Malone – are engaging performers, Tunde taking time out to dance backwards round the stage at regular intervals, Kyp more relaxed in his superb beard and hair combo. Even from the heights of the balcony1 here in the Brixton Academy you feel this lot really want to entertain you. They’re not just here to trudge through the numbers and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus.

The rest of the band know what they are doing too. Dave Sitek (good Polish name, that), Tunde’s writing partner and co-founder, swaps between guitar and the keyboards that add so much to the sound. Saxophonist Martin Perna does his Roxy Music thang. Drummer Jaleel Bunton channels the spirit of Tackhead/Sugarhill Gang stickman Keith LeBlanc to superb effect, mixing live drums with a drum machine and lord knows what else.

The night started off a little slowly with “Love Dog”, then “The Wrong Way” started to liven things up a bit, before “Golden Age” exploded at its chorus, filling space with its ecstatic sound. “Wolf Like Me” was simply furious, with two guitarists facing their amps, generating a wall of noise.

But TVOTR live work better on the quieter numbers. Straight after “Wolf” came a few of the gentler songs, “Dirtywhirl” and “Province”, and the additional space allowed the songs to breathe without being suffocated by the huge mass of overlapping tunes and rhythms that tends to happen in the livelier numbers. A predictable, if hugely welcome highlight came with first encore “Family Tree”, probably TVOTR’s most human and emotional song, where the layers of sound get peeled away to show the heart underneath it all. Yeah, it might feel a little mawkish, and is their most stadium moment, but after everything that comes before it’s a delight to the aural palate.

The night ended with “Staring At The Sun”. The lights came on, everyone looking somewhat shellshocked. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence for a good ten minutes after2.
If anything, TVOTR remind me of Heston Blumenthal. Like the famous chef, they take influences from all around the world, mix them together in unexpected, bizarre ways, and with incomparable technical skill, to make something utterly unique and hugely compelling. But after a while, all you want is a nice slice of toast.

1 I hate watching gigs from balconies. I especially hate it when people around me start talking during the quieter numbers. Can’t you please stop talking, just for an hour? Thank you.

2 Ok, so I don’t often make coherent sentences, but you know what I mean.

A couple of live tracks here, courtesy of Anyone’s Guess:

MP3: Golden Age (Live) by TV On The Radio

MP3: Wolf Like Me (Live) by TV On The Radio

Buy “Dear Science” (CD/MP3)

Buy “Return to Cookie Mountain” (CD/MP3)

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EEEEEEEEEE – Live Review – The Twilight Sad, ICA, London


The Twilight Sad are LOUD. About 25 years ago, Swans played the ICA in London, a gig which has gone down in London gig folkore as the loudest ever. Apparently, people were being sick and in all sorts of trouble. Having seen Swans the following year, when apparently they’d calmed down, and not being able to hear at all after, I know what loud is. And Twilight Sad are loud.

Not quite that loud though. But loud enough to make my ears go EEEEEEEEEEEE. They’re doing it now. Getting to sleep tonight’s going to be fun.

This being a showcase of a couple of record labels – One Little Indian and Fat Cat – we were meant to be treated to three bands tonight. Sadly, Kill It Kid were unable to play thanks to “a case of th’ no’wells”. Shame, as Martyn has been singing their praises and since he’s a man who knows his stuff, I was rather looking forward to seeing them. Ah well, next time. EEEEEEEE.

So it was up to We Were Promised Jetpacks to be the only support act. And they did what every good support act should do – be good, but not so good as to upstage the main act. Noisy and bouncy, like a really good C86 band. Christ, first Swans, now C86, I’m really showing my age here.

I don’t know much about The Twilight Sad. I know they are from the edge of Glasgow, that singer James Graham obviously hasn’t got over his teenage years, and that they have a great line in song titles, but I’d no idea what they look like. What do they look like? A bunch of Glaswegian lads, pretty much. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to meet James in a dark alley, with his shaven head and air of coiled intensity. EEEEEEEEE.

Mine's A Guinness

Mine's A Guinness

Saying that, a few songs in, he looked at the crowd and said “We’re amazed you’re all here. We thought no-one cared about us”. We do, of course, because you’re a damned fine band.

What a noise they make. It’s glorious. A wall of sheer fury comes from Andy McFarlane’s guitar (a white Fender Jaguar with a Tortoiseshell pickguard, I’ll have you know – the guitar of all the best alt-rockers). Much of the time you can’t hear the lyrics, especially on the tracks from the new album, but when they fall back to stuff from “Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters”, James’s voice shines through. EEEEEEEEE.

“That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy” was absolutely fantastic, with just enough noise to make it special without drowning out the shining glory of the song. Or rather, it’s called “Hit Single”. Ah, irony. In fact, I’m not even going to bother listing the new songs. Just look at the set list:

Set List.  These Aren't The Proper Names.

Set List. These Aren't The Proper Names.

See? “Mooth”?

The new tracks, as ever when you hear new songs live for the first time, weren’t quite as convincing as the older ones, but they’re definitely expanding their repertoire, rather than making “Fifteen Autumns and Sixteen Winters”. Looking forward to hearing what it sounds like on record rather than through a big bunch of speakers. EEEEEEEEE.

Early in the first song, “Doonstairs”, in the middle of a frenzy of feedback, Andy kneeled down and changed a setting on one of his many guitar pedals. Just a little bit, you know, to get the wall of sound just so. Attention to detail is where it’s at, you know. Not just any noise for these boys.

Pride of place, of course, went to “Cold Days From The Birdhouse”, first half sung pretty much unaccompanied, second halves’ “Where Are Your Manners?” drowned beneath that squall of sound. The night ended with a wall of feedback, detuned guitars and basses, with James standing in the centre of it all, eyes squeezed shut. He seemed happy. We certainly were.

You have to admire their ability to create a definitive sound – part Mogwai, part Arab Strap, part Proclaimers-after-doing-acid-and-primal-scream-therapy-and-no-sleep-for-9-days. There’s more than a bit of Mew and Joy Division in there too. But it sounds all them. I love bands that just seem to fall together, and sound like they couldn’t do anything else even if they tried. EEEEEEEE.

And one last point – I love it when a band makes an effort with their record covers. Just check out the cover of “Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did”:

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

Brilliant, isn’t it? The whole website follows the same design. See, you don’t get that with an MP3 download.

Anyway, it’s late, my ears are ringing, and I need sleep. Enjoy these tracks from The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks from the Fat Cat sampler. I suggest you go and see both bands when you get a chance. Take earplugs. EEEEEEEEEE.

MP3: That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did (Live) by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Tiny Little Voices by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Buy “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” (CD/MP3)

Buy We Were Promised Jetpacks “These Four Walls” (CD/MP3)

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More Live Shows – Pixies and Flaming Lips

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Ah, the joys of buying tickets online. Last Friday at 9am, tickets for Flaming Lips and more importantly, The Pixies Playing Doolittle went on sale, as well as a bunch of other bands. Why do promoters decide to all release tickets at the same time, so you end up spending half an hour a sweaty, nervous wreck trying to get tickets to see two of the most exciting, thrilling, revolutionary and downright fantastic bands of the last few decades? One put on a live show filled with the spectacle of the lead singer in a huge inflatable rubber ball, fireworks, people dressed as animals, all sorts of stuff; and the other are a spectacle just because they are there.

For seeing The Pixies live is still a huge event. They turned up in the late ’80’s, blew us away, then self-immolated amongst rancour and confusion. I only saw them live for a few songs back in 1990 at the Reading Festival, before the girl I was seeing at the time had to be rushed back to London as she’d eaten some dodgy food earlier in the day. “I’ll take you to see them next time they tour” she said. They never came back. *sniff* Thanks Charlotte.

So seeing them, live at the Brixton Academy on their first reunion tour was as close to a religious experience as I’ll probably ever get. And I’d reckon that most of the 30- to 40- something crowd would agree. There was a five or six song section where they went through their Spanish numbers, and it was furious and frenetic and damned angry, and probably the best live experience I’ve ever had.

Going back to the Brixton Academy to see them play one of the best albums ever is just the bestest thing ever, if you ask me. Which you haven’t, but as you’re here reading this, I guess you’ve got some interest in them too. Am I right, or what?

And then it’s The Flaming Lips. Another fantastic band, if not quite as influential. But also capable of being utterly transcendent live. I’ve seen them before too, and having had the pleasure of meeting the band (in Dallas airport of all places), I can happily say that they are gentlemen of the highest order, and Wayne Coyne is like the best mad uncle you never had.

There are all sorts of YouTube videos of them doing their stuff live, so it’s hard to pick just one. Here’s a good one from the crowd that shows a little of what they are like:

Please, please go and watch loads more, and if you haven’t seen them live, do. And if you have, go and see them again. Oh here’s another one.

So here’s two songs. First off is Mr Grieves, because it’s just so representative of what The Pixies do best. About four styles of song, hugely ominous lyrics “You can cry, you can mope/But can you swing from a good rope?”, and the fact it’s sheer brilliance. And not bloody Monkey goes to Bloody Heaven.

And secondly, Flaming Lips’s “Do You Realize???” really shouldn’t need any introduction. We played it at our wedding, you know. Wonderful song, wonderful band.

MP3: Mr. Grieves by The Pixies

MP3: Do You Realize??? by Flaming Lips

Buy “Doolittle”. Buy it. Buy it. BUY IT!!!

Buy Flaming Lips “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (CD)

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Live Review – M Ward at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire

There’s something odd about M Ward. Whilst I’ve listened to three of his albums – Transfiguration of Vincent, Transistor Radio and Post-War – more than pretty much anything else over the past four or five years, I still haven’t really got a grasp of the man behind croaky voice, obscure lyrical themes, and that guitar playing. Would finally seeing him live crack open that mystery?


First things first. Gig-goers in London – please take note. That nice, if somewhat kooky, lady up on the stage is trying to perform. Please don’t talk loudly all the way through her performance. It’s not nice. Bless Lavender Diamond though, she did try and get everyone singing, and nearly succeeded.

Lavender Diamond and her Flowery Guitar Tuner

Lavender Diamond and her Flowery Guitar Tuner

It was a fantastic gig. M is a compelling performer, the band around him were excellent, and you can’t help but be astonished at what this man can do on a guitar. Opening with “Chinese Translation”, we were treated to the marvellous warm sound of his fingerstyle playing, bursting into a three-or-so minute solo. Some stomping tunes from the disappointing “Hold Time” followed, which sound a little better live than they do on the album, before he settled into playing some of his rather enviously huge back catalogue.

Really, a man this untouched by mainstream success shouldn’t have such a fantastic set of songs. “Poison Cup” was simply astonishing; coming after his acoustic set (which I shall return to, don’t you worry), the song burst to life, almost exploding from the tension. “To Save Me”, one of the few highlights of “Hold Time”, had M hunched over the piano looking like an even more deranged Jerry Lee Lewis. “Post War”, the first moment of calm in the set, was gorgeous, and showed M’s unexpected vocal range.

And then there’s the acoustic part. “Fuel for Fire” featured that rarest of things – a good harmonica solo. The medley which featured “Duet for Guitars #3” was absolutely jaw-dropping. This YouTube video gives some indication of what he can do:

Frankly, when you see it live, you just can’t believe your eyes. What this man can do with an acoustic guitar is beyond belief. I don’t think I’ve been that amazed by one man’s guitar playing since seeing Durutti Column years ago. I urge you to go to the man’s show, just to see what he can do. Jaw-dropping dexterity. And a lovely guitar too. I quite fancy one of them. It’s a Gibson Johnny A Signature. No, me neither.

One Of These In Black Please, Dear Santa Claus

One Of These In Black Please, Dear Santa Claus

On a side note, what the hell is going on at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire? Two guys behind us were dragged out of the crowd for taking photos, and the roadie point blank refused to give me and another chap the set list. Very odd.

Sorry, going off-topic a bit there.

But all through the night I was thinking “There’s something odd about him”. The first clue to his odd behaviour came during a re-wording of “Magic Trick”, by singing “I’ve got one magic trick……I disappear”.

M Ward Himself

M Ward Himself

Then the night’s finisher “To Go Home”, a song not even his own, which provides the biggest clue. It’s that line “I’ll be true to you\Oh yeah, you know I will\I’ll be true to you forever or until\I go home”. That’s it with M. You know he’s only there to play his songs, and he plays them fantastically, with energy and dexterity, but there’s also a look in his eyes that tells us he doesn’t need us. When he goes home, he’s got his music, his 45’s to play at night.

You can see it in the strange gleam in his eye as he plays the piano, lost inside his own world filled with the rapture of the sound he can make. You can see it in the half-smile as he turns sideways, away from the audience. You can see it in the way he hardly acknowledges his band. It’s not that he’s unhappy up there, far from it, but you sense he’d be just as happy playing to an empty theatre.

What’s odder is that he’s probably the most prolific collaborator around at the moment, what with Jim James and Zooey Deschanel and Jenny Lewis and whoever else passes his way. What an odd fellow. But also a great talent, and someone definitely not to be missed.

“God, it’s great to be alive\Takes the skin right off my hide\To think I’ll have to give it all up someday”. Those words have been coming back to me for the past two days, as sung by a man close to genius, who we need more than he needs us.

MP3: To Go Home by M Ward

MP3: To Save Me by M Ward

Postscript: Our friend D, who had previously taken us to see the Stereophonics, came along as we had a spare. Having never heard of M Ward before, she loved it (who wouldn’t?) and asked what albums she should get. I said, “Transfiguration of Vincent, Transistor Radio and Post-War”. Sadly Post-War doesn’t seem to be on Amazon at the moment, so here are the rest:

Buy “Transfiguration of Vincent” (CD)

Buy “Transistor Radio” (CD/MP3)

Buy “Hold Time” (CD/MP3)

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