Thursday, 30 November 2006

Scan of Disneyland monorail operator's manual

Posted on the Stuff From The Park blog.


Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Leicester Square gets wi-fi

Disgusting tourist trap, Leicester Square, is to get free wi-fi 24/7.

Nearly it makes it worth going there.


Monday, 13 November 2006

Anti News published at

Featuring limited, unfunny discussion of Mike Newell, Abel Xavier and Matthew Bates.


Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Album Review: Nightclub Version Of The Eternal

With their largest (and longest) tour to date over and done with, The Howling Hex have maintained their record of an album every six months by funneling their experiences into the golden hour of rock and roll that is Nightclub Version Of The Eternal.

While their previous albums - All Night Fox, 1-2-3 and the audio-visual extravaganza that was You Can't Beat Tomorrow - explored frontier sounds and sampled local cultures, Nightclub Version Of The Eternal's approach is far broader.

Socially conscious slogans are chanted on How Many Steps Now, Good Things Are Easy and Six Pack Days, backed by Rolling Stones-style riffs and rattling percussion. The New Border Sound, which chief Hex-man Neil Michael Hagerty forged while recording with Royal Trux, has been fine-tuned; Hammer And Bluebird and Lips Begin To Move are amongst his the band's greatest moments, with simple melodies and rhythms fuelled by African mantra-style patterns.

Nightclub Version Of The Eternal is both challenging and accessible, and exactly the kind of pioneering epic that The Howling Hex have always threatened to make.

Album Review: Hold Yer Horses

While her debut, Peakabokaboo, was an electro treat, former member of Vic 20, London-based Piney Gir (real name, Angela Penhaligon), has returned to her Kansas roots for the new album.

It's a move that means her second album, Hold Yer Horses, is an unadulterated country album. It's a move, she claims, inspired not only by Piney's hometown, but also a spate of performances at Working Men's Clubs, where her electro jazz pop wasn't such a neat fit.

Hold Yer Horses features reworkings of a number of tracks from Peakabokaboo, offering a cheeky cowboy-punk version of Girl ("when I grow up I want to be President, when I grow up, I want to affluent") and a breezy south-western take on Boston. Greetings, Salutatations, Goodbye; Que Sera Sera and Nightsong are also all included.

Thanks to Piney's incorrigibly captivating voice (think June Carter Cash as portrayed by Reese Witherspoon) the new material proves just as exciting. Find The Time is a rollicking Texan workout, while Big Apple Stomp combines no small amount of sass with a degree of coquettishness.

Even the subject matter is enthralling. Great Divide uses Jack Kerouac's tale of being stranded in the Rocky Mountains as its basis, while Trouble is about an illustration Piney saw in a children's cowboy annual.

Witty, entrancing and frisky, Hold Yer Horses is pulled off with fearless brio and enviable energy that suggests that Piney's talent may know no bounds.

Album Review: Too Close

"Bishop" Joe Perry Tillis first attracted attention as a migratory blues musician while roaming the south of the United States more than 60 years ago. He is a relatively unknown genius who played a style of blues that kept alive the traditions that inspired the likes of The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. He died in November 2004, but not before his unique approach to gospel blues had been preserved on record for the first time.

Tillis, who was one of the final performers of rural African-American music, was born in 1919 in Elba, Alabama. In the 1940s, Tillis played the Chicago blues circuit alongside all-time greats like Muddy Waters, Furry Lewis, Blind Willie Johnson and John Lee Hooker. The reason Tillis has never received the recognition garnered by many of his contemporaries is that he refused to record his music, explaining that he made more money playing live than he ever would by making records.

When a revelation convinced him blues was the devil's music, Tillis moved back home and began preaching the gospel, before once again picking up his guitar and forging his unique brand of gospel blues. Tillis continued playing his version of the blues, signing gospel and preaching - despite going blind in the 1950s - up until his death in November 2004. Never ordained, he adopted the title Bishop because of his work at Our Saviour Jesus Holiness Pentecostal Church in Samson, Alabama.

In 1972, Swedish music archivist Begnt Olsson tracked down Tillis at his church in Samson, Alabama, and recorded the tracks that comprise Too Close over three sessions. Tillis was frail, but played guitar, both electric and acoustic, with a trembling fragility and world-weariness that is truly transcendent.

Combining testimonies and extended hymns, Tillis' sound is musically similar to the blues, but his lyrics are totally in praise of the Lord and entirely without the dark overtones that usually proliferate in the blues.

God Don't Like It and Nobody's Fault But Mine sum up Tillis' reasons for turning toward the Church and abandoning his past lifestyle, whilst Kennedy Moan and Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt both highlight Tillis' political and social concerns. His slide guitar on the final track, Do You Know The Man, is stunning and his voice is fuelled with an enlightenment all but unseen in the 21st Century.

Tillis' unique gospel-blues style needed to be preserved and, for capturing a now largely extinct form of rural blues, Too Close is an essential document. The only shame is that this will be the virtuoso's only ever album.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Album Review: Awoo

The title alone tells you almost everything you need to know about The Hidden Cameras' third album. It's a contagious celebration that's playfully puerile and totally bereft of pretension.

The first single, also titled Awoo, captures this exuberance perfectly. Kinetic guitar chords give birth to jittery glockenspiel and a Pet Sounds-esque bassline, before the chorus lets loose strings and harmonies. The song is reprised at the end of the album as the WAning mOOn (check the not-so-subtle capitalisation) and despite different lyrics, melody and arrangement the song progresses in exactly the same way. The two songs explore two distinct sides of the album (celebratory pop vs. mid-tempo folk balladry) and they reveal just how much The Hidden Cameras can accomplish, even when just rejigging a few chords.

Elsewhere, Death Of A Tune is irresistible country-rock and Lollipop offers relentless stattaco verses, not entirely removed from REM's It's End Of The World As We Know It. For Fun, at just over five minutes, is uncharacteristically epic, but the serene instrumental breakdowns and emphatic choruses maintain the album's momentum. The eerie, distorted violin that creeps into She's Gone is further indication of the Cameras' willingness to tinker; likewise the triangle-like chime that brings each of Fee Fie's verses to a conclusion

Lyrically, The Hidden Cameras remain deceptively clever. Most critics dismissed the explicit sexual imagery of their debut album as an unnecessary gimmick, misconstruing the fact that I Want Another Enema concerned itself with the politics of how people perceive their bodies and Golden Streams was about journeying to heaven. Awoo still contains the same unique take on sex, love and politics of the body - if you're willing to scratch the surface - but Joel Gibbs has laced his sentiments in language less likely to be misinterpreted.

While Awoo doesn't necessarily mark a huge musical departure from The Hidden Cameras' previous two albums, with the mask of juvenility removed, Awoo makes it clear that band leader Joel Gibbs is one of indie's finest songwriters. Repeated listening of his latest attempt at guiding his band mates through forty-minutes of affecting and fun pop music is likely to remain one of the year's highlights.

Latest Anti News up at

Fans of Toby Higgins shed a tear, Anti News is back in the hands of its rightful owner this week.


Sunday, 5 November 2006

Album Review: Someone To Drive You Home

It seems like an age since The Long Blondes began staking their claim to become the indie world's current cause célèbre. So, after quitting their jobs as librarians, releasing four supreme singles and performing a raft of electrifying live shows, the Sheffield five-piece arrive with one of the most cocksure and bolshy debut albums imaginable.

Lust In The Movies opens with a crashing guitar shriek, while previous single, Once And Never Again - transformed from its comparatively meek original - thankfully retains its outstanding opening line ("you're only nineteen for God's sake / you don't need a boyfriend"). Elsewhere, the re-recorded Giddy Stratosphere has an assured strut that was absent from the already excellent original.

Kate Jackson's lusty vocals propel Only Lovers Left Alive and In The Company Of Women well beyond the inevitable Slits comparisons. Later, Heaven Help The New Girl is delicate and minimal, while You Can Have It Both Ways, with the dueling vocals, is the best song Pulp never recorded.

Someone To Drive You Home is stacked with tales of paranoia, mistreatment and self-harm ("you said you cut yourself doing the dishes"), but masked by such infectious and riotous indie pop that it's an irresistible proposition from a band with a dazzling future ahead of them.

Album Review: In My Own Time

Recorded over a six-month period in 1970/71 at Woodstock, In My Own Time was Karen Dalton's only fully planned and realised studio album. It was released on the tiny Just Sunshine label in 1971, and consequently only ever received the most limited attention.

Dalton's first release, It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best, was recorded spontaneously one night at a Fred Neil session. Harvey Brooks - the bass player at the It's So Hard To Tell session (who also played with Bob Dylan and on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew) - produced In My Own Time and managed to persuade the reticent Dalton to share her enormous talent with the world.

The delivery of the first line of album opener Something On Your Mind makes clear the presence of a singer with a rare gift. Vocally, Billie Holiday is the closest comparison, but there's something more cracked, more grainy and more pained about Dalton's delivery as it emerges out of the Eastern-tinged intro.

The now somewhat hoary When A Man Loves A Woman is turned inside out by Dalton's fractured croon and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) receives much the same treatment. Elsewhere, George Jones's Take Me and The Band's In A Station are both transformed well beyond their soul and country roots. It's the traditional blues number, Katie Cruel, with its haunting banjo and violin backdrop, where Dalton sounds most at home, recalling a host of lost Appalachian generations.

Dalton died in 1993, following struggles with homelessness and drugs. Remastered, with liner notes from Nick Cave, Lenny Kaye and Devendra Banhart, In My Own Time is made available on CD for the first time by Light In The Attic. It is, perhaps, the most perfect legacy she could hope to have left.

Album Review: Show Me How The Spectres Dance

Aged only 22, Manchester singer-songwriter Liam Frost has undergone a barrage of hype that would've made Nine Black Alps blush. Described by Elbow's Guy Garvey as "the most talented young songwriter Manchester has produced for years"; a quote that could easily come back to a songwriter at such an embryonic stage of their career. That is until you realise that Show Me How The Spectres Dance is one of the best debut albums to come out of Manchester for many years.

Anyone who caught Frost's performances a year or so ago will have noted that, sans band, the songs were intimate and melancholic, but perhaps lacked the weight to propel Frost over the most limited of cult status. The very presence of The Slowdown Family not only helps bring Frost's songs to life, but afford them the bigger, fuller arrangements that they deserve.

Album opener, The City Is At Standstill, with its sweeping violins, glorious piano and enjoyable handclaps offers a perpetual urgency the likes of which Arcade Fire mastered on their debut album. Later, the atmospheric, harmonica-driven Shall We Dance has the feel of classic Bruce Springsteen in its step, Try, Try, Try is a tear-stained country shuffle and the mandolin accompaniment to debut single, She Painted Pictures, absolutely glistens.

However, despite the instrumental swagger, Frost's lyrical preoccupations weigh heavy on the album. Haunted by loss, several of the songs (notably Is This Love?) seem to trap grief in their melodies and release them with a sense of hopefulness, while Paperboats and This Is Love both capture the album's instinctive escapism.

Despite little homages to What A Wonderful World and The Smiths' William, It Was Really Nothing, Show Me How The Spectres Dance is a sui generis work and a tremendous curtain raiser for Liam Frost's burgeoning career.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Album Review: Ys

The Milk-Eyed Mender - Joanna Newsom's outstanding debut album - suggested a gulf between her and almost any other artist working today. The follow-up, Ys, widens that gulf to an ocean.

Spectacular on its own merits, little in The Milk-Eyed Mender suggested what would follow. The cover - a Holbein-esque depiction of Joanna Newsom as a Druid priestess - is backed by a distinctly medieval flavour to the lyrics. Newsom's voice, the major stumbling block for many listeners on her debut album, has traded in its somewhat child-like leanings for an entirely ageless tone.

While her voice and harp remain in the foreground, Ys frames them with a thirty-strong orchestra featuring strings, French horns, trumpets and oboe, courtesy of famed Brian Wilson collaborator, Van Dyke Parks. The way Newsom takes command of such grandiose arrangements, embossing her unusual African-influenced, staccato harp-playing with her distinctive and exceptional voice, is perhaps her most spectacular achievement.

Also highlighted are Newsom's peerless abilities as a story-teller. The pacing, mystery, drama and wonder of opener Emily (a dedication to her sister, who provides vocal harmonies) are only matched by the ingenuous breathlessness of Monkey & Bear. While the tales are undoubtedly peculiar - they are, at first, seemingly impenetrable - Newsom's cadence ensures repeated listens afford fresh discoveries.

Only for one solitary passage of the extraordinary, 17-minute long, Only Skin does Newsom take to the shadows and allow the misty murmur of boyfriend Bill Callahan to take centre stage. Newsom's voice soon returns, lifted upon theatrical trumpets and dramatic oboes.

Callahan and Van Dyke Parks aren't the only two famous names that helped Newsom piece this vast musical tapestry together; the album was mixed by Jim O'Rourke and recorded by Steve Albini.

Unpredictable, magical, challenging and beautiful, Ys is a startlingly original and utterly magnificent achievement. With unparalleled vision and courage, Newsom has produced an extraordinary work of art.

Album Review: Fur And Gold

Halfway through Fur And Gold's opener, Horse & I, you can't help but consider that the time Natasha Khan (the astonishing voice behind Bat For Lashes) spent as a nursery school teacher has given her the inspiration and ability to nurture childhood fantasies as a source of creativity. Dark and initially foreboding, Horse & I - like the rest of this stunning debut album - is the perfect construction of haunting storytelling and deceptively sweet melodies.

While Bat For Lashes is the spooky brainchild of Natasha Khan, her bandmates prove just as adept at creating portentous panoramas. Despite Khan's enchanted voice and theatrical presence, it is the vivid strings on Bat's Mouth create perhaps the album's outstanding poetic dreamscape, and the harpsichord highs of Sad Eyes are as potent an apothecary as any of Khan's vocals.

Debut single, The Wizard, is rife with distant thunderclaps and swirling foggy electonics, while there are elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor! chaos on Seal Jubilee and some bubblegum pop handclaps on Prescilla.

While the numerous eccentricies force comparison with Bjork, Kate Bush and Portishead, Fur And Gold is an altogether unique album. Moreover, shadowy, cobweb-draped and not a little bit spooky, it's an album that is not entirely of this world.

Album Review: Orphans

Three discs, fifty-four songs, thirty new and previously unheard recordings sounds like pretty standard fare for an artist box set, and yet, Orphans has as much in common with a simple career retrospective as Tom Waits does with the average singer songwriter.

The three discs are divided by genre: Brawlers is chock full of raucous blues and full-throated juke-joint stomps, Bawlers contains a selection of Celtic and country ballads, waltzes, lullabies, piano, and classic lyrical Waits' songs, while Bastards is filled with experimental music, stories and jokes.

The first disc, Brawlers, sees Waits channel The Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters and T-Rex. The first of the new songs, LowDown, is in pure garage rock mode, with his 20-year-old son, Casey, on drums and San Francisco's blues icon, Ron Hacker, on guitar. A cover of The Ramones's The Return Of Jackie And Judy rubs shoulders with more traditional numbers like Bottom Of The World and Rains On Me.

Stealing the show, however, is Road To Peace, Waits's staggering condemnation of the Bush government and a companion piece to Day After Tomorrow from his previous album, Real Gone. It is, without question, one of the finest anti war songs ever penned.

The lonesome ballads and tender songs of innocence and hope on Bawlers come in sharp contrast to the other two discs and showcase Waits at his most romantic. The plaintive laments of Tell It To Me and Fannin Street meld poignantly with saloon songs of betrayal and despair like The World Keeps Turning. The bitter cabaret of Little Drop Of Poison (originally from the soundtrack to End Of Violence and, later, Shrek 2) explores what the heart gives and what it takes away.

It's the indefinable diversions into Waits's experimental side that are the hallmark of Bastards. The disturbing bedtime fable that is Children's Story, precedes a maniacal version of Heigh Ho, from Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarves and a cackling take on Daniel Johnston's King Kong. The poignant reminiscence of car ownership on The Pontiac and the spoken word Army Ants ensures that Bastards is anything but predictable.

Ever the stylistic nomad, Waits takes on the roles of inventive vocalist, literary lyricist, barking preacher, rabid poet, romantic melodist, innovative arranger and pioneer of sonic worlds as he scats, wheezes, blurts, rages, weeps, whispers and chugs through the three discs. Orphans will move the heart, shake the body and expand the soul.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Album Review: The Amazing Adventures Of DJ Yoda

After forging a reputation for turntable tomfoolery with his now-legendary How To Cut And Paste mix tapes, DJ Yoda has finally decided to move into the world of proper recording artists.

Two years in the making and highly anticipated, Yoda has teamed up with guest vocalists such as The Jungle Brothers, Biz Markie, Sway, Princess Superstar, Ugly Duckling, MC Paul Barman and Aspects to create an album that retains all the humour and entertainment of his regular DJ mixes.

Of the instrumentals, Wheels, the first single to be released from the album, stands out as insanely catchy, and as vibrant and colourful as the sleeve that houses it. Elsewhere, Tiptoe is a bizarre blend of old-English hippy-folk music, an ancient exercise video and scratching. It sits just on the right side of the line marked `annoying'.

As enjoyable as the instrumentals are, it's as a backing for other artists' rhymes that Yoda really excels. Biz Markie turns up and spits a couple of tuneless but ultimately charming verses on Breakfast Cereal and Haunted House. As the forefather of humorous hip hop, the marriage of the Biz and DJ Yoda is one made in heaven. Later, Bristol-based rap concern, Aspects, turn up on The Brush-Off and Ugly Duckling's Andy Cooper takes the mic on Holdin' Down The Block. Sway clearly relishes his opportunity to rap on Chatterbox.

Showcasing Yoda's colossal skills as a DJ and as a producer, without losing the sense of humour that has brought him such acclaim, The Amazing Adventures can only be considered a triumph.