Thursday, April 17, 2008


Live review from the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, LA WEEKLY

Portishead at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, 4.12.08

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08
Photos by Rena Kosnett

Claiming that I just happened to catch a Portishead concert during my recent visit to the UK would fashion me a liar. The trip was pretty much planned AROUND the Portishead show in Edinburgh. I probably wouldn't have gone up to Scotland at all if not for the concert; so for that reason, I thank Geoff and Beth and their booking agent. Scotland was gorgeous and friendly and aside from one little incident involving a chemical plant and my camera, which, through no fault of my own, almost got me branded a terrorist, everything there is glorious. Even the policemen are foxy and nice.

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

Portishead’s album Dummy was very significant for me 10 years ago (typical for many girls). Every single track is a fantastic duality of the glasslike, pristine vocals of Beth Gibbons and the ultra-styled programming, sampling, and string arrangements of Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley; therefore, I was somewhat fanatical in the days leading up to the show—I refused to listen to any of their new material online (as my laptop wouldn’t be able to effectively present the songs), or watch any grainy digicam videos. I wanted to see them in a pure state, overzealous as that seems.

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

The New York Times calls the new material “propulsive” and “harsher.” Those are good words. I would also include "melodramatic."

I almost hesitate to write anything along the lines of a critique for this band because they are getting truckloads of skyscraper press. The buzz is deafening. We all remember loving them so much and now they’ve finally come out with new material and we’re all so excited and Coachella Coachella Coachella.

This attention is not undeserved, as Third reaches the outer limits of creative admittance and has a far more diverse make-up than either of their two previous studio albums. As I walked outside the Corn Exchange, though, there was a young man smoking a cigarette who approached me with the following words: “Did you just come from the concert? I’ve never been more depressed in my life.”

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

I wouldn’t go that far, but my main critique is that the band takes itself too seriously, which manifested in their performance (as well as the title and certainly the very delayed release of Third). It doesn’t seem like they’re having fun. I know that life can’t be all teacups and moonbeams and Apples In Stereo, but there were reels of what looked like old home movies of the band members as frolicking children projected on the back wall during quieter, serious numbers, without irony.

Beth performed “Wandering Star,” which is actually a lighter, moderately bouncy track off of Dummy, without accompaniment, seated, in a white spotlight, with the rest of the stage black, totally bereft of the stellar musical breaks that Geoff arranged for that song originally. Funnily enough, the audience started clapping at a faster pace during this song, seemingly to encourage the band to pick it up a little.

In early April, Pitchfork compared Beth Gibbons to Ian Curtis, and basically asked Geoff and Adrian if they had to be on suicide watch during the making of Third (“Third is sometimes incredibly bleak, lyrically. Did you ever feel the need to check if Beth was all right?"). It’s easy to understand why.

But Beth’s voice is otherworldly, and her powerful delivery during “Machine Gun” and “Glory Box” pushed my heart rate into greyhound pace and started the pounding in my chest. The “Numb" vocal solo was effortlessly monumental, as Beth stretched out the closing phrase “A lady of war” to its crystalline shattering point. Being able to hear that song alone made the entire trip decidedly worthwhile.

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

Portishead@The Edinburgh Corn Exchange 4.12.08

THE DODOS record review

Review of The Dodos new full length, Visiter, LA WEEKLY

The Dodos |Visiter | French Kiss

The magic and the intelligence behind the Dodos’ newest release lies in the clear faith Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have in their audience. Several tracks off Visiter follow a pattern: They begin with a deceptively simple guitar strum and graceful lyric, then build in momentum and percussive elaboration to end up overwhelmingly, powerfully, mind-fuck gorgeous, administered in the realm of S.F. Sorrow’s storytelling operatics and effected with the trademark grace of Liege and Lief. I wasn’t sure that the Dodos’ studio recordings could come close to matching the power of their live performance, the way 2006’s Beware of the Maniacs has a few great tunes but tended to lose steam from time to time. But Visiter tracks “Joe’s Waltz” and “Jodi” are relentless epics, as is “Paint the Rust,” a work that solidifies Long’s compositional genius. The one loose link comes with “Park Song.” Stuck between more intricate tunes, seemingly for filler, it’s definitely unnecessary. But the one track aside, Visiter has already been cleared, stamped and filed in the “Why I’m so damn proud of my generation’s musical accomplishments” archive — a truly special work that demands analysis and attention. (Rena Kosnett)

Monday, April 14, 2008

BILLY CHILDISH live review from LONDON

Billy Childish and The Musicians of the British Empire, live review from London's Dirty Water Club, LA Weekly

Billy Childish at London's Dirty Water Club, 4.11.2008
by Rena Kosnett
April 11, 2008 8:08 PM

Billy Childish @ London's Dirty Water Club
Photos by Rena Kosnett

Taking 4 late night buses from Camden down to Brockley, yelling at one stranger who sneezed into my hair, standing for 45 minutes in the rain with a sore throat, and staring helplessly at one of the worst public (drunken) fights I’ve ever seen, are all the unpleasantries I had to endure in order to get home after seeing Billy Childish play tonight. And I'd do it again..... well, I would pay £40 for a cab if I had to do it again, but I would definitely want to see Childish play a second time if given the opportunity.

Billy Childish @ London's Dirty Water Club

I’ve been loving my trip to London, but the emphasis on pixilated music here has been drying my eardrums out; so bouncing around at this rough and tumble 60s garage rock palace in North Camden, the Boston Music Room’s Dirty Water Club, made me feel a little homesick. And when Childish and his new band, the Musicians of the British Empire, played the opening chords for The Who’s “A Quick One While He's Away,” I really teared up. Never mind that Childish was in the wrong key and had to start again. I actually enjoyed hearing the beginning exclamations “Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” more than once.

Nurse Julie @ London's Dirty Water Club

Childish led his bass player Nurse Julie and his drummer Wolf Howard through garage rock classics (“Lie Detector”), as well as newer material (Nurse Julie sang a tune off their upcoming album that concerns her boyfriend’s adulterous mix tape making, aptly titled “He’s Making A Tape”), but what amazed me the most was Childish’s not one, but TWO a capella performances: Leadbetter’s version of “In The Pines” and Son House’s arrangement of “John the Revelator.” I was told, before making the trek up to Camden, that Childish’s live show has the tendency to disappoint—but I can’t imagine this to be true. After his 100 albums and perhaps as many artistic manifestos, Childish seems to be clearly at home while performing, heckling drunker members of the audience, muttering self-deprecating references to his guitar tuning, and offering a dose of dirty Thee Headcoats brand grit to offset the rest of London’s drum and bass campaign.

Billy Childish @ London's Dirty Water Club

Lily Marlene @ London's Dirty Water Club
Los Angeles' Lily Marlene diggin Billy Childish at the Dirty Water Club
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There are 3 comments posted for this article.

Nurse Julie is actually Billy's wife, seems like the person who wrote this may not have known that. Whoever said that Billy's live shows are disappointing was talking out of their arse.

Posted on April 13, 2008 1:30 PM by Jesse

You're absolutely right, as it clearly states on the Damaged Goods band bio. They keep up a convincing act. The person who made that comment is a Brit, so perhaps he's accustomed to seeing Billy play... I, on the other hand, was ecstatic...and relieved. Cheers.

Posted on April 13, 2008 2:39 PM by Rena

Well, there's no accounting for taste. I'm a brit too, and have seen Billy about a billion times now, I'm always at Dirty Water every month for my fix of Mr Childish and his band. I never get tired of seeing him though. The only reason I wasn't there on Friday was because I had no money. Good to see him still getting good reviews from different parts of the world.

Posted on April 13, 2008 2:48 PM by Jesse

Thursday, April 10, 2008

thoughts: Hello from London..

This is what I've been dealing with in England.. Snowy flu weather, lovely warm sunniness on the Brighton shore...

I'll upload photos and have stories as soon as I get a moment. xo.