Thursday, 25 November 2010

All Day, All Night

The master of mash-ups is back. In the two years since Feed The Animals, Girl Talk has continued to absorb yet more musicians into his encyclopaedic mega-brain and his gift to humanity is another hour-long mix of rap, rock, pop, metal and electronica, all set to bouncing hip-hop beats.

Opening with a blend of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' and Ludacris' 'Move Bitch' (an unconventional mix, to say the least) and including within its 372 samples Lady Gaga, Madness, Aphex Twin, T-Pain, Rhianna, U2 and even John Lennon, Girl Talk's choice of songs - or expert mixing skills - never fails to delight. You'd be hard pressed to find someone whose favourite band - or rapper - is missing from the selection (my favourite band is in there twice!).

The album, like all of Girl Talk's back catalogue, essentially consists of one giant song divided fairly arbitrarily into individual tracks. It works best in a single listen, and Girl Talk's notoriously short attention span means that whenever you might feel even a little bit tempted to turn it off, he'll chuck in some Daft Punk. Or some Supergrass. Or 'Paint It Black'. It's difficult to stop, honestly.

Considering Girl Talk's heavy emphasis on hip-hop (the entire thing is, after all, just one giant hip-hop track) it comes as no surprise that this is as sublime a selection of the genre as you could ask for. I'll admit here that it's not quite my area of expertise; however, my housemate informs me that B.O.B pops up no less than six times throughout All Day as a leitmotif of sorts, similar to Lil Wayne in the previous Girl Talk record.

Look further though, and you'll see Girls Talk's work is so much more just than a demonstration of the breadth of his iTunes library. Somehow he combines these tracks in a way that complements both to the extent that they sound even better than the original. Whether this is achieved by matching up similar rhythms ('Teach Me How To Dougie' and 'Jane Says'), similar themes (Rye Rye's 'Bang' and Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name Of'), or simply by supernatural powers attained in a mysterious storm is unknown to me.

(A side note: is there maybe a theme to the album? It's difficult to tell, with so many different, sometimes obscure, tracks (wikipedia users are already on it, of course), but starting with 'War Pigs' and ending with John Lennon's 'Imagine' seems more than just a coincidence.)

It may essentially be more of the same - and if you know Girl Talk already you'll know what to expect - but for the uninitiated it's a wonderful pop music 'best of'. Maybe his appeal will wear thin in the future, but for now Girl Talk has undoubtedly himself found a glorious little niche to carve out. The most mind-blowing feature of All Day is the fact that, despite the fact that his records are made entirely from samples of other people's songs, they retain a distinctive Girl Talk sound - celebrating the universal joy of music itself.

Ps. Did I mention the entire album is being given away for free? Oh yes. Now you have no excuse.

Live Review/Introducing... Titus Andronicus

In a Quiff Pro ‘Fro first, we have a crossover post! Is it a live review? Is it an introduction? Who knows! Who cares? I presume very few of you.

The thing is, Titus Andronicus are probably too big to have an ‘Introducing’ feature written about them, but in my period of pre-gig over excitement, the majority of people responded to said excitement with a “Who are they?”

So, here goes: Titus Andronicus, named after an apparently violent Shakespeare play (who knows? I’m hardly an English student. Oh wait…) hail from New Jersey in America and make quite an almighty racket, blending lo-fi punk, covertly brilliant singalong melodies with an unmistakable ‘NJ’ sound, and a sense of the epic. Imagine if Springsteen got into a bar-brawl, and then wrote a totally awesome soundtrack for it. Now you’re probably about halfway there.

Currently Titus Andronicus are two albums into their music career – the first, 2008’s The Airing of Grievances, was almost a statement of their intent; simply to be a wholly passionate and thrilling rock and roll band. It also deservedly won them a dedicated fanbase through tracks such as ‘Titus Andronicus’ and ‘Upon Viewing Brueghel’s “Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus”’. Before long, they were making a name for themselves as one of the best new live bands on the circuit.

This year saw the release of new album The Monitor, a different beast to their first. Whilst Grievances… hinted at the scope the group aimed for in their songwriting, this was truly realised in their second LP. A concept album about the American Civil War, the average track length is six and a half minutes, and ranges from anthemic choruses, furious punk riffs and incredible guitar solos. The Springsteen influence is more pronounced with gorgeously played piano, there are quotes from Abraham Lincoln, and even Craig Finn from The Hold Steady reads a Walt Whitman poem. Oh, and in the ambitious fourteen minute closing track ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’, there’s a bagpipe solo.

I highly recommend you check out The Monitor – it’s certainly one of the best albums this year, and particularly in the past few weeks has utterly captured me in a way that albums with predominantly seven minute-plus songs rarely do. The lyrics, once you tune into lead singer Patrick Stickles’ voice, are also utterly brilliant, such as in the Boss-riffing ‘A More Perfect Union’ (I never wanted to change the world/But I’m looking for a new New Jersey/’Cos tramps like us, baby they were born to die!) and the incredible ‘Four Score and Seven’ (Humans treat humans like humans treat hogs/They get used up, carved up and fried in a pan/But I wasn’t born to die like a dog/I was born to die just like a man/I WAS BORN TO DIE JUST LIKE A MAN!).

On Tuesday 23rd November, Titus Andronicus came to Newcastle’s Cluny2, a wonderfully intimate venue perfect for their reputation of raucous live shows. Starting with The Monitor’s astonishing opener ‘A More Perfect Union’, it was less than five minutes into the set before both guitarists were in the crowd, playing with a thrillingly reckless energy. The Cluny2’s sound was perfect – the twisting solo that takes over the centrepiece of the track was crystal clear and amazing as on record. But what about the crowd?

As the song drew to a close, with little movement from the majority of audience members, the atmosphere seemed only seconds away from really kicking off. A rolling drumbeat commenced another Monitor highlight, the jaunty ‘Richard II’, by which point I wasn’t going to stay still just because everyone else was. So I danced in my own space.

The set progressed, taking in old favourites ‘Titus Andronicus’, with a fantastically frenetic harmonica opening and repetition of "Your life is over!/Your life is over!" , and ‘Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ’. The group played with an incredible energy and passion, and sounded totally brilliant. There was nothing more they could have done to get the crowd moving, and despite much in the way of cheering and clapping at the end of songs, while the group played nary a head bobbed or a foot tapped.

Thank god, then, that three songs from the end, a few enthusiastic fans at the front obviously couldn’t take the lack of movement anymore, and within minutes were surrounded by more people who were obviously also waiting for an opportunity to dance. The last twenty minutes of the set were an absolute sweaty knockout – the joy and enthusiasm emanating from the band finally found its way into the audience, with ‘Titus Andronicus Forever’’s refrain of "The enemy is everywhere!" being chanted excitedly. After pleas for an extra track persuaded the band to break their 11pm curfew, they closed the set with an astonishing, epic rendition of ‘Four Score and Seven’ that meant the evening moved from being highly impressive to unforgettable – I’m still buzzing from it now.

So please, Titus Andronicus – if you read this, please come back to the UK soon. We promise to dance this time.

Titus Andronicus’ second album The Monitor is out now – click here to listen on Spotify, or here to buy from Amazon.

Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union by jasonfharper

  Titus Andronicus - Four Score and Seven by ObscureSound  

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dinosaur Pile-Up Interview

Their debut album is full of awesome riffs, amazingly catchy melodies and a wonderful sense of 90's nostalgia. Turns out Dinosaur Pile-Up are also really nice, chatty and funny guys. Want to know what their favourite dinosaurs are? Keep reading!

“This tour has been a long time coming.”

So says Matt Bigland, frontman of Leeds’ rock trio Dinosaur Pile-Up. In the year the group have had off touring, Matt has recorded an album, recruited a new bassist and drummer, released two BBC Radio 1 playlisted singles and kept Pitzacano takeaway in business.“It’s rad to be out – especially as for us three as a band this is our first time. We’ve been practising the album for six months, going out of our minds,” he says. “There were some dark days, we were going nuts!”

“That’s my favourite thing about this tour,” adds bassist Harry. “It’s training.”

Released last month to murmured excitement and whispers of big things to come, the group’s debut Growing Pains is a set of straight-up Foos-esque no-nonsense rock’n’roll.
“It was rad to eventually get that out – again, it was a long time coming. It’s nice for people to hear the songs that we’ve been hearing for God knows how long,” explains Matt of the release. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

After receiving heaps of praise from those who heard it, the band’s debut E.P. The Most Powerful E.P. In The Universe!! certainly gave Matt a pretty lofty bar to surpass, particularly as he went on to write and record the album solo.

“I put myself under a lot of pressure to make a rad record that I was happy with. If we’d put it out there and I wasn’t happy with any aspect of it, I’d have been heartbroken.”

“It’s a really unfashionable record,” Harry notes. “We weren’t going to change that to fit any kind of fashion, but we were very aware that we were going to release this record that’s a like a black sheep in a world of indie.”

Whilst recording was something Matt could achieve on his own, it still left the problem of finding two new musicians to join the band.

“I rang up Harry, and I said ‘Do you know anyone who can sing and play guitar?’ Harry was like ‘Well, I know one obvious person’, obviously meaning himself. But we were so freaking emotionally weird about it because we were mates,” laughs Matt.
“It was like when you’re friends with a girl and you sleep together and it gets weird. And there was a real weird tension about it,” grins Harry.
“We promised that it wouldn’t get weird, and I was like ‘OK, I’ll speak to you later’. Then for the next week we kept texting each other like ‘I know this is weird, but… I can’t stop thinking about it!” continues a now hysterical Matt.

After the challenges of recording alone and finding new band mates came a whole new set of trials – notably teaching Harry and new drummer Mike how to play the songs.
“I’d go to Matt’s, listen to the album, then play it, then go to work listening to it, come home from work, play it, eat pizza,” Harry recalls.
“I was stoked when I first heard the album, it was just like my drumming style. It was great – I really liked the record, otherwise I wouldn’t be here!” says Mike.

Between the three of them, how do they aim to recreate the absolutely huge sound present on the album recordings? Simple.

“We just use loads of massive amps!” Matt says. Like the one Doc Brown has in his flat at the start of Back To The Future?
“That’s what we were going for,” he laughs. “We watched that in the van the other day,” he says. “We got in the van and forgot all our DVDs, and when we opened the DVD player the only one we had was Back To The Future! It’s definitely one of the best films ever.”

Before leaving, I make sure to ask – which is each band members’ favourite dinosaur?
“I’m gonna throw this out there, try and be a bit alternative,” says Matt. “Either a brontosaurus-“
“There’s one bigger than that, a brachiosaurus,” Harry interjects as Mike adds “The herbivore”
“The fucking nightmare massive monster one!” Harry continues.
“And there’s the Triceratops,” remembers Matt.
“I didn’t used to like those as much,” Harry claims. “But when I grew up I realised they’re just fucking vicious!”
“Yeah, just like, ‘I’ll fuck you up’! I’m going with brachiosaurus,” Matt decides.
And Harry?
“My favourite’s the stegosaurus. When you think about stegosauruses, you think about the spines on its back, but you forget about that nightmare tail situation! That’s gonna fuck shit up!”
“It’s like a mace!” laughs Harry
And finally, Mike’s favourite?
“Definitely the velociraptor!”

Dinosaur Pile-Up’s debut album 'Growing Pains' is out now. Listen to it here on Spotify, or buy it here on Amazon. It is most definitely worth it!