But Mary you are with me now, all around me in the waves

My cherished iRiver H120 is broken and I am rather depressed about it. Its last will and testament was a frustratingly obscure Kurtz-like “ata error -32” My efforts to revive it have been rather cack-handed and have only made things worse – can’t even coax anything out of it now. Indeed if I was a surgeon, I get the feeling I’d be followed gleefully around by Lionel Hutz…

Anyway, I’ve replaced it with a rather cute plastic-y Zen V plus, which you can cram shedloads of music into but which won’t allow me to use my microphone – the jack won’t fit into it. So anyway, I ventured off to Bristol last night with Josie, to see Albuquerque’s most dysfunctional, armed only with the Zen’s built-in mic.

The Handsome Family

I like St George’s – there’s something defiantly middle-aged and middle-class about it, which obviously suits me fine these days. And what could be more middle-aged and middle-class than a picnic and champagne tent in the grounds of the old church. We didn’t get ourselves organised for that part, I’m afraid, which was just as well because predictably the weather didn’t play along (really windy and later rainy).

Brett and Rennie Sparks are The Handsome Family, a husband and wife team who augment their rather sparse sound as they feel they need it (but you know all this). Last night they employed a guitar/fiddle player and a drummer for their selection, and also played two sets with an interval in-between (during which the Champagne was rather forlornly declared closed “due to adverse weather conditions”).

I enjoyed their songs, full as they were with skulls and snakes, grizzlies and airports, and I liked the way they switched around the instrumentation a little – a pedal steel here, a melodica there.

They’re also known for their between-song banter, which was genuinely charming and witty. On the subject of their upcoming twentieth weeding anniversary, Rennie informed us that she’d been sold to Brett by her family when she was six. “They told me she could sew” was the response from the other side of the stage…

All in all, it was a really good show, and ironically (given that there had been lengthy discussion from the front about ionisation, lightning rods and UFOs) our ride home was accompanied all the way by a suitably Night of the Hunter-ish freak storm.

I made a few recordings. To be honest, they’re not as good as I’d like, but they’re kind of OK. Unfortunately, the spoken intros and chat are not really audible, which was a shame.

After we Shot the Grizzly (Live, at St George’s)

Amelia Earhart vs the Dancing Bear (Live, at St George’s)

Weightless Again (Live, at St George’s)

There are a few downloads available, none from their site, I’m afraid, (“Sometimes I can’t even dress myself”), but the site does direct you here, where you can fill your boots…

Owls are different here

You may remember I wrote about a band called The Double U from Portland, about a month ago… Still listening to that record and still finding it intriguing and moreish. Well, they were good enough to answer a few questions for me and allow me to post a new track up from their album. Here we go…

The Double U Interview

I gather there is at least one other artist known as “Double U” – I came across some sort of rapper on Emusic. Have your attorneys been informed? Can we look forward to a long and tortuous Jarndyce Vs Jarndyce sort of legal case?

Matt: Yes, we have our extensive, worldwide legal team working on it. They have been preparing our case for six years now and assure me they are getting close to making a complaint. It’s getting a little expensive I must say, but if Metallica can shell out $40,000 a month for a psychologist, surely we can afford the same for a world-class team of international lawyers protecting our good name. I did ask about Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce; our lead attorney, Hugo Armbuckle, just sort of grinned.

So what’s the name actually about?

Matt: unusual unicorns, ugly uniks, uvular urges, that sort of thing. It’s sort of a bland, lousy name. We’re surprised other bands have used it, too. Then again, there are probably 114 bands named “The Shoes.”

And while I’m at it, Hibou? Unless, Google translator is letting me down, that doesn’t look like an owl on the cover of the record…

Matt: Owls are different here.

I’ve just created a Wikipedia account for myself and desperate to use it. What should your entry say?

Matt: Yes, you can write it. Here’s some background info–I think some of these bands are well known and you can find out about them online

Alex: I’m not sure what you want to say, but our website http://www.thedoubleu.com and http://cdbaby.com/cd/doubleu and have information about us. Matt, Geoff, and I have been in a lot of bands. Geoff’s currently in at least three. Matt and Geoff also have a side project (very loose) called Freedom Eagle (improv guitar/drums). There’s one MP3 recording from a radio show.Matt’s been in Stiff Legged Sheep (Iowa City) & Glorious Din (San Francisco) — both had releases. Alex has been in Heavenly Ten Stems (a couple of singles) and Job’s Daughters (a couple of singles) — both of those cover bands had members in bigger San Francisco bands — esp. Mark Davies of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Alex played bass on some tracks on Caroliner Rainbow’s LP “Rise of the Common Wood-pile.”Matt and I were the “backing band” of John Davis (Folk Implosion) and Cynthia Dall. We toured w/ both of them for very brief tours.Matt’s currently playing w/ Elizabeth Venable’s band. He toured and recorded w/ his cousin Virgil Shaw. (They both have websites.)Geoff is in Fuck, Sad Horse, and Staff, and he recently toured w/ Tara Jane O’Neill in Japan.

I’m a bit confused about your lyrics – they are in French aren’t they? I can’t really pick anything out with my schoolboy French – in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve made a dreadful hash of the lyrics for “Great Deceiver” in my post about the band…

Matt: Well, the lyrics are French-like.

Why is that? I’ve looked up Portland on the maps, and you’re not too far from the Canadian border, is that it? Why “fourteen songs about the French and their fucking Frenchy ways”?

Matt: OK, it’s not actually in French or any particular language that I know of. A fellow at one of our shows kept saying, “I like those French songs,” even after I assured him it was gibberish. I used to write lyrics, but the more I wrote, the farther I got from what I was trying to say.

What’s Portland like? What’s the weather like? Tell us what you’ve been up to today?

Matt: eating as many Little Debbie snack treats as fast as I can, while dipping my feet in some cold water. The weather for May is windy and gray (say 3X fast).

Matt has a pretty distinctive vocal delivery, you could say! It sounds a bit Tom Waits-y, a bit Beefheart-y, who are your favourite singers?

Matt: These are not influences, per se, but these are some of my favorite singers: Jessie Mae Hemphill, Huun Huur Tu musicians, Desmond Dekker. Also, my tonsils are messed up. That probably has as much to do with my vocals as anything.

And I promise not to mention the vocals again, but you sing in French, the songs are delivered in this gruff, way-down-in-the-mix way, and many of your songs are instrumentals. Do you have a bit of an, … um…, “issue” with lyrics? I’d love to see a lyric sheet…

Matt: see above. (Yes, I guess I have an issue.)

Who plays what in the band? I got the basic, keyboards, drums, bass, guitars line-up, but there’s all sorts of other sounds I can hear too – do you have a resident Brian Jones, who can pick up anything and get a tune from it?

Currently this is what’s going on –Matt: vocals, guitar, standup bass; Alex: electric bass, organ, keyboards, piano; Geoff: drums, percussion, bird sounds

I really like the title track of your record – there’s something rather chilling and gothic about it. What is a mechanical owl?

Alex: Our son was obsessed with owls at the time, and we like robotic toys, so that’s probably how it came about. I’m sure it was something spontaneous that occurred in practice. We liked the sound of the words. We also liked this place in San Francisco that had turn-of-the-century (1900s) penny-arcade games and novelties. It was called Musee Mecanique — we probably were influenced by that, too. (see http://www.museemechanique.org/)

I reckon I can hear what sounds to me like a bit of nightclub cabaret, some UK post punk and a pinch of European Klezmer in your music. What did you grow up listening to? What are you listening to now? Is there anyone I should be listening to?

Matt: you’re right that all those influences can be found in our music. I started with punk rock, but I was into the weirder edges of it, like Pere Ubu and the Birthday Party. I also liked the first Latin Playboys CD. Alex and I have some classical background too, oddly enough. Alex plays classical piano currently and I studied classical bass in high school and college. We also like blues, jazz, Indian classical music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ethiopiques series, metal, etc.

Alex: The most recent stuff I’ve bought is Eat Skull (friends), Jessie Mae Hemphill, Cat Power. I’m Sad Horse’s number two fan. Hmmm… I like Deerhoof, Omar Souleyman (!!!), tons of stuff.

I’m guessing the chances of me seeing you in the UK are a little slim. If I was ever to come over the pond, what would your gigs be like? I’m imagining a fairly eclectic affair…

Alex: Gigs: people standing far back and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. A couple of very happy people up front, laughing at my dumb jokes. We play all our songs, no matter how peaceful or confusing. If the sound guy likes us, we’re happy; if he doesn’t, we’re sad. If you see us play, we’ll buy you a shot of whiskey. We’d like to play in the UK. Can you get us a gig?

Believe me, I’d love to… Here’s the new track I’m posting, the title track from Hibou Mechanique, my favourite song on the record…

Hibou Mechanique

Look who’s back with a brand new style, a brand new look and a brand new smile.

This is, I’m afraid, a grossly misleading title, suggesting as it does that I have in some way made a revamp of this site. I haven’t. It’s more of the same really…

I’m getting a bit lazy, these days.

I don’t mean the old “it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted” apology, which is pretty much standard fare amongst bloggers (certainly this one). I’m more talking about the way I get my music fixes of recent. I’m usually a bit of a beachcomber, lifting up rocks and poking sticks at things that move, working my way up the shoreline, bucket brimful of dubious treasures.

But like I say, I’m getting lazy these days and doing my shopping by more conventional means (I’m tempted at this point to try to tease out my seaside fishing metaphor a little further, but I shall hold strong). Basically, I’m saying I’ve not got anything to put up which is actually genuinely new (as in, you’ve never heard this before), but I have got hold of some cracking new records at Emusic in the past few weeks, particularly from the wonderful Nacional Records, based in California but specializing in Latin American beats.

The Pinker Tones

One of the “new” albums I’ve heard recently is by this lot. The Pinker Tones are from Barcelona and are the plaything of a pair of inspired Catalan DJs called Professor Manso and Mr Furia. They have a sound that is quite deliriously exotic at times, based in dance music, which is not really my cup of tea normally, although there’s enough general oddness going on in there as well that I can live with a few iffy break beats. The album I’ve got is “The Million Colour Revolution” which is now a couple of years old, although it still sounds really fresh to these jaded old ears, and I’ve played it to death this fortnight.

I really like the Karma Hunters track from this album, as it’s just impossible to listen to it without smiling (haven’t got a clue what it’s about, mind), and the whole album’s a lot like it. They kind of remind me of Of Montreal, with their cutesy cleverness. Watch this…

Anyway, the Pinker Tones have a new record just out (last week, I think) called Wild Animals out on Nacional Records.

I’m posting a track from the new record “Happy Everywhere”. The other tracks are both from Million Colour Revolution.

Karma Hunters (mp3)

Happy Everywhere (mp3)

Sonido Total (mp3)

More On This Album