Righteo, time to start farming the posts out. First, this is going to be a bit of a catch up on some records I've enjoyed over the past few weeks, a book or two I've read, and other lil things I've enjoyed. Let's start with Deerhunter's new album, Halcyon Digest.
The cover art comes first, as is usual on 'the heap. I am very fascinated by it and I have been unable to find out who took the photograph. It looks a lot like one of Diane Arbus's freak show images, but I am probably wrong. It also reminds me of an old interview with Bradford Cox that went up on Pitchfork when he was talking about how important certain iconic album sleeves were to him as a teenager, and how they added something quite specific to the allure of albums he loved. Of course, him being Bradford - and obsessed with sickness and all - he picked out David Bowie's big papery, yellow, sick head on the cover of 'Low' as his favourite cover, and, if I remember rightly, he said something along the lines of "I just connected with how fucking sick he looks on the cover of that record, like he has nuclear poisoning or something". 'Station to Station' got a look in too. Bradford, as we have seen from this and Atlas Sound's 'Logos' (a photograph of blistering light shining out of his concave chest - a side effect of his syndrome) is all about throwing sickness and disability out there as part of his aesthetic. And this is a good key to what early Deerhunter are about.
They are about illness and disease, desperation, unrequited love, and all 'round feverish stuff. I said early Deerhunter, because 'Halcyon Digest', in spite of its arresting cover image, is not so much about these obsessions. Indeed, I think the album is less the invention of Bradford, and more the work of guitarist Lockett Pundt who has a syrupy, shoegazey bent - check out his Lotus Plaza stuff - and who generally writes songs that are innocent and awestruck as opposed to ill and clammy.
I'm not sure if it is Deerhunter's best album, but Halcyon Digest is definitely their most accessible. It also has, in Helicopter, the single most beautiful song they ever wrote (narrowly pipping 'Strange Lights'). The song is a love letter of sorts to all their influences - shoegaze, the Velvets, '60s girl groups, Bowie, Animal Collective and on and on. They are musician's musicians, and never moreso than on this album.
Is your jury in or out when it comes to Ham Sandwich? If it is out, I suggest you should go to see them play live before making a final judgement. I have a complex and involved relationship with this band considering that Podge is my old school chum and has been, at so many times, a hero. Yet I would like to think, that regardless of all that, in some alternative universe I would love the band as much as I do had I never met any of them. It's hard to pin down what it is about them that is appealing at the atomic level, but I think Hardcorefornerds was in nail on the head territory describing Podge's lyrics in 'Animals'..."even if it is nonsense, it's beautiful nonsense"
“we could wake up the city, with pearls and waterfalls, and roll around on the carpet. And if it feels like I’ve left you, you could make a paper doll, and leave it lying there, or whatever makes you emotional.”
The bottom line with this lyric is that there isn't an inverted comma in sight. And so much of new Irish indie is framed by massive, neon, screaming inverted commas. Irony is all well and good in its place, but we are in the midst of an irony onslaught these days - and it is hard to listen to some (not all) of the popical island stuff, for example, without feeling a bit 'sheesh' this is just a bit too sickly sweet. Now, in saying that, I love a hot lot of Popical Island, such as Squarehead, No Monster Club, and So Cow, but the Yeah Deadlies? That's toothache inducing. The new Ham Sandwich record, White Fox, is a flat out joy...it's all receding, minor-key, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah melodies and cathartic emotional release. It has its heart on its sleeve, and it deserves every success. Beautiful nonsense. Which isn't really nonsense if you give it a bit of thought. Like Noel and Liam Gallagher's early, iconic lyrics before the coke kicked in. "You and I are gonna live forever.."
Some techno...I always have to youtube the techno, because there is a ferocious code of honour at work in the world of techno where you get shot down as 'a leech' if you post an MP3. Admirable, isn't it? Anyway, the track I am sharing is a remix of Walt J's 'Reborn' that's hung around the top of the Resident Advisor DJs' top tens for a while now, and for good reason. Ignore the utilitarian voice intoning "this is a preview" and listen to a properly pulsating slab of music that plumbs the sort of depths Chilean miners would be familiar with.
Books. I am really enjoying two books at the moment. The first is Jonathan Frantzen's 'Freedom' which lives up to the hype and then some. A social realist masterpiece full of characters that are so real you can smell their breakfasts off them. The other is a children's book called 'The Iron Giant' by Ted Hughes, which is spell-binding. It works perfectly for adults, but if you get the chance to do it, buy it, and read it to a child.
Other lil things I've enjoyed - there is a new shop at the front of O'Connell Street called 'The Candy Shop'. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Sweet factory overdrive