So Just Cause 2 Is Quite Pretty, Then.

(More pics after the jump…)

Ham Sammich – Whelan’s 15/5/09

So I’ve reviewed last night’s Ham Sandwich gig on ZME if you want to direct your peepers that-a-way. It contains words like these:

One of the most striking things about Ham Sandwich is that there’s never any doubt where your attention should be be directed: if Niamh’s and Podge’s singing doesn’t draw your focus, their choice of attire will fix that oversight. (Even moreso last night, since energetic bassist/songwriter Johnny Moore has lately taken his leave of the group, replaced by the quietly stationary David McEnroe.) Last night’s outlandish garb included a dress made of shininess (that was Niamh, natch), and a colourful suit reminiscent of that worn by Rupert The Bear (Podge (the Rupert The Bear likeness was something of a running joke throughout the night. Ham Sandwich: the kind of band who have a running joke throughout a gig. Excellent.))

What I didn’t mention in the review were the memorably awful support band, Kid Karate, who shoutingly failed to be interesting in anything but the most grimly fascinating of ways (and yet still managed to be slimly preferable to previous support band, the possibly secretly ironic tuneless grief-makers, The Funeral Suits). Kid Karate’s singer seemed to blow out both of his own lungs in the process of attempting to sing, before closing their set with the damningly mutual epithet “I don’t give a (furtive look – Ed) about you!” Their set was not a pleasant experience, and I’m in the process of attempting to expunge the memory through a combination of wilfull repression and heroic rum consumption.

The Hold Steady – “Heaven Is Whenever”

Sometimes I write short reviews and pad them out with strange and irrelevant movie scripts or concepts or some such. Sometimes, I write reviews that are far too long without any such nonsense. This is one of those second sometimes. The Hold Steady’s Heaven Is Whenever: ffffaaaannnnttttaaaaaassssttttiiiiccc.

So with guitarist Tad Kubler more front and centre than he’s been since, perhaps, Almost Killed Me, the band’s oft-underrated debut album, The Hold Steady deliver us what they promise is a “less anthemic” record, with nods to more cinematic musical stylings. But since this is The Hold Steady we’re talking about, that basically just means that the anthemic choruses are present and correct, but there are slightly more bits that aren’t choruses. There might also be 40% less “whoa-whoas” than usual, but I’ve yet to do the proper maths on that.

I enjoy music when it is this music.

Mark Lanegan: The Academy, 29/4/10

So this review was written for a very particular format – ie. a magazine review that will remain unpublished – and so contains very little in the way of colour or funnies, and it’s pretty damn short. But no sense in it going completely unused, eh? For an increased quotient of giggles, point your peepers over at all the stuff I’ve been writing on ZME recently.

After being unfairly ignored throughout the 90’s, Mark Lanegan made it almost impossible to avoid hearing his voice for much of the last decade. His world-weary baritone graced albums from acts as diametrically opposed as Isobel Campbell and Queens of the Stone Age (nabbing a Mercury nomination for the former, natch). So it’s unusual that while forgotten bland-rockers Idlewild play the Academy, Lanegan casts his imposing shadow across the tiny Academy 2.

Not that the smaller setting is a drawback. This show sees Lanegan stripping his act down to the bare essentials: Gutter Twins cohort Dave Rosser’s percussive acoustic guitar work, and that voice. That broken, perfect voice. The setlist is splendid, ranging from obscure Screaming Trees treats all the way through to the delicate Can’t Catch The Train from Lanegan’s work with the Soulsavers.

Highlights are many: the swirling melodies of No Easy Action that fade into the bluesy Miracle; the menacing call-and-response of Resurrection Song; and best of all, an astonishingly raw performance of On Jesus’ Program that draws two separate rounds of applause from the mesmerised crowd.

Then a brief encore, a barely-whispered goodbye, and he stalked off again. I’m not sure he opened his eyes once.

Sugar Army – “The Parallels Amongst Ourselves”

I have written something, and labelled it a review of Sugar Army’s The Parallels Amongst Ourselves album. It looks, at times, like this:

Look – there’s clearly a talented band in here. And there’s certainly room for an impressively anthemic chorus or two in everyone’s iTunes library, especially when they’re as layered and pleasingly formed as these. If you’re making a playlist filled with Muse and Sigur Ros, they’ll fit right in. A song or two could be huge on college radio, or whatever the post-millennial equivalent is. The internet, I suppose. The guys at Pitchfork might love this like they undoubtedly love their second cousins at every other family gathering. But they wouldn’t have an excellent alt-text for the album art like I do.

And the rest of it looks nothing like that. But that’s the important bit.