Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer Live Action: Summercase Festival (Madrid, 18-19/7/2008)

Our last report from the summer festival front for 2008 (and the last post for a while as we are going on a proper summer holiday, the sort that you relax by the beach instead of running from one stage to the other trying not to miss the next big thing) comes from Spain's Summercase. It's a new festival (started in 2006) that takes place simultaneously in Barcelona and Madrid for two days, across four stages. Cool Music Central's fearless team decided to brave the hot spanish sun (it's actually just as hot in Athens, to tell you the truth) and take the trip to Boadilla Del Monte, a suburb of Madrid, to see the likes of Interpol, Kings Of Leon, Grinderman, The Breeders, Primal Scream, The Verve, Sex Pistols, Blondie, CSS, Mystery Jets, Glasvegas, Whitey, Shout Out Louds, Maximo Park, Mogwai and several others.

Before we proceed with the music, here's a small list of the pros and cons of this particular festival, for your consideration: Pros = No rain and no mud, no curfew (the music starts around 5 in the afternoon and continues until 5 the next morning), reasonably priced beer (3 euro). Cons = Scorching heat, dust and gravel (the only place with grass to lie down and relax was in a crowded tend - unless of course you happened to have some other kind of grass on you, in which case you don't really care where you sit), unreasonably priced water (2,5 euro). Oh well, you can't have it all I guess.

And now, the Top 5 performances of the event in pictures (taking of course into consideration only the bands that we managed to see across the four stages):

1. Interpol (19/7)

Seeing Interpol was one of the main reasons for visiting Madrid and they certainly didn't let us down. Sure, the sound could have been better (in my opinion the vocals were low in the mix) and they certainly deserved a higher place in the line up (they played below The Verve and Primal Scream but they had at least as many fans in the crowd), but the hour-long set was utterly enjoyable and packed with hits from all three albums (Obstacle 1, PDA, Evil, Slow Hands, C'mere, Pioneer To The Falls, The Heinrich Maneuver, Mammoth). Top marks also for showing up in suits in this heat. Now, that's what I call dedication!

2. Grinderman (19/7)

Nick Cave is certainly the number one Star of the Summer 2008 Live Action for me. After a magnificent performance with The Bad Seeds in Athens last month, here he is again, in fiendishly good form, with the lean mean rocking machine that is The Grinderman. They play last year's astonishing debut, an album that is already a classic in my mind. Can't wait for album number two, that's due for next year.

3. Kings Of Leon (18/7)

Kings Of Leon are steadily growing and by now they are at the best point of their career so far. Album number three, the rocking "Because Of The Times", is their biggest commercial and artistic success to date and naturally had the leon's share (pun intended) in the hour-long set (Knocked Up, Charmer, On Call), which also included a selection from their old hits (breakout single Molly's Chambers, The Bucket, Four Kicks).

4. The Breeders (18/7)

The Breeders' latest album, "Mountain Battles", is certainly not their best effort and they seem to know it. Their glorious 45-minute set included only a handful of new songs and the majority came from the three previous albums, as well as 1995's "Pacer", that Kim Deal recorded with The Amps (Empty Glasses, Tipp City). Other highlights included Iris, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Cannonball, Divine Hammer. Magnifico!

5. CSS (18/7)

Primal Scream could have taken the number 5 spot but thanks to the stage presence of Lovefoxxx, and her colourful cat-suit, CSS beat them to the punch. The new songs (from the just released "Donkey") sounded fine but it's the old hits off their excellent debut that did the job on this night. (By the way, Primal Scream are well aware of the lack of a Lovefoxxx amongst their ranks and that's the reason they invited her to sing on "I love to hurt (you love to be hurt)" on their fine new album "Beautiful Future".

The Best of the Rest

Primal Scream and The Verve were the headliners on Saturday and did a great job of mixing the old classics with new material from their coming albums ("Beautiful Future" and "Forth" respectively). Sex Pistols and Blondie tried to relive their 70s glory and had some success, thanks to the strength of the material. Still, I prefer to listen to their old albums and appreciate the enormous influence they have on modern music instead of seeing them live in 2008. Mogwai played "Mogwai Young Team" in its entirety and, among the young guns making waves in Summercase 2008, I'd like to give a shout out to Mystery Jets, Glasvegas, Whitey, Shout Out Louds, Los Campesinos! and Maximo Park. For the record Foals, The Raveonettes, Kaiser Chiefs, Edwyn Collins and Ian Brown were some of the other artists on the festival's bill, but unfortunately we didn't get to see much of their performances so we can't make any comments. If you were there, feel free to tell us your opinion.

Interpol - Obstacle 1 (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 19th 2008)

Grinderman - No Pussy Blues (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 19th 2008)

Kings Of Leon - On Call (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 18th 2008)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Live Action: Fly Beeyond Festival (July 15th, 2008)

The first day of Fly Beeyond Festival took place on July 15 at a football stadium in Athens. The line up included hyperactive gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello, trip-hop superstars Massive Attack playing several new songs along with their classics (Safe from harm, Unfinished sympathy, Teardrop, Angel, Inertia creeps) and, my personal favorite, The National playing songs mostly from last year's superb album "The Boxer" (Fake empire, Mistaken for strangers, Brainy, Squalor Victoria). Here's a taste from their performance, the explosive "Abel" from "Alligator":

The National - Abel (Fly Beeyond, July 15th 2008)

The National @ Fly Beeyond 2008

Gogol Bordello @ Fly Beeyond 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Live Action: Rockwave Festival @ Terra Vibe (July 8th, 2008)

Rockwave Festival started out as a promising event in the Athenian rock agenda in the 90s and in its heyday bands such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Afghan Whigs, Portishead, Pulp, Blur and more recently Pixies, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Franz Ferdinand and Editors have graced its stage. Despite the festival finding a good permanent location (Terra Vibe) in the countryside, just a few kms outside of Athens, the quality of the event has been in a steady decline in recent years, hitting rock bottom last year, with only metal and hard rock bands in its line up (although, I know that thousands of Robert Plant and Metallica fans will disagree with this statement). So, the fact that there actually was an "indie rock" day in the offering this year was a slight improvement. On the other hand, considering that only one of the bands here represents the new breed (The Gossip) and all others rely heavily on their past glories, means that Rockwave is still lacking in relevance and fans of vital new music better have their passports ready.

Beth Ditto of The Gossip among the Rockwave crowd

Unsuprisingly, Beth Ditto, who spent most of her performance among the crowd, and her well oiled soul-punk-funk band, The Gossip, gave the most exciting and frantic performance of the sweltering hot day. "Standing in the way of control" and "Jealousy" were the big hits for me, as well as an a capella rendition of "Smells like teen spirit". Unfortunately, the early afternoon time slot meant that just a few hundred people got to see them. The majority of the crowd came for The Offspring and their past-expiration date bubblegum "punk". Original punk icon Siouxsie preceeded them with a set full of Banshees classics ("Israel", "Arabian Knights", "Happy House", "Christine", "Hong Kong Garden", "Nightshift"). Siouxsie was in top form and managed to give a great performance despite sound problems and clueless Offspring fans gathering in the front rows. "Into a swan" was one of the highlight of the evening and you can watch it below:

Siouxsie - Into a Swan (Rockwave, July 8th 2008)

Siouxsie @ Rockwave 2008

Visit C.M.C. TV for more clips from the day which also included the return of Rockwave veterans dEUS, with a set mixing efficiently new material with old favourites ("Suds and Soda", "Instant Street", "Theme from Turnpike"), Ramones survivor Marky Ramone and Flogging Molly.

dEUS @ Rockwave 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Best of 2008 (part 2): Top 40 tracks

A selection of some of the best singles and album tracks released in the first half of the year:
  1. The step and the walk - THE DUKE SPIRIT
  2. Swords of truth - THESE NEW PURITANS
  3. Courtship dating - CRYSTAL CASTLES
  4. To fix the gash in your head - A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
  5. Idle hands - THE GUTTER TWINS
  6. Lie down here (& be my girl) - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
  7. You bring me down - BLOOD RED SHOES
  8. Cassius - FOALS
  9. Cheap and cheerful - THE KILLS
  10. Machine gun - PORTISHEAD
  11. Time to pretend - MGMT
  12. Salute your solution - THE RACONTEURS
  13. Black cat - LADYTRON
  14. I gotta fire - SPIRITUALIZED
  15. Hang them all - TAPES 'N TAPES
  16. Senior twilight stock replacer - THE FALL
  17. I'm now - MUDHONEY
  18. Living well is the best revenge - R.E.M.
  19. Wucan - BLACK MOUNTAIN
  20. I will possess your heart - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
  23. I sent away - BLACK FRANCIS
  24. Walk it off - THE BREEDERS
  25. The nest - SONS AND DAUGHTERS
  26. Ready for the floor - HOT CHIP
  27. Paper planes - M.I.A.
  28. Lovely Allen - HOLY FUCK
  29. Hallelujah - THE HELIO SEQUENCE
  30. Half in love with Elizabeth - MYSTERY JETS
  31. It ain’t easy - ROBERT FORSTER
  32. You remind me of something (the glory goes) - BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
  33. The age of the understatement - THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS
  34. The witch (made to measure) - CLINIC
  35. Black hole - BE YOUR OWN PET
  36. Bad kids - THE BLACK LIPS
  37. Stupid now - BOB MOULD
  38. Windows on the world - AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB
  39. New York - CAT POWER
  40. The devil - PJ HARVEY
In the Killer Tracks series we have already featured three of the top 5 songs here. Now it's a good time to add the videos for the other two: "The step and the walk", one of the highlights of The Duke Spirit's excellent second album "Neptune" and "Idle hands", the grunge epic off "Saturnalia", the product of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli's collaboration as The Gutter Twins. Now, I'm not sure what esteemed video commentators Beavis and Butthead would make of the Duke Spirit's effort but I'm sure they would have loved the explosion heavy "Idle hands"! Fire is cool!

The Duke Spirit - The step and the walk

The Gutter Twins - Idle hands

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 (part 1)

The first half of 2008 is over and it's time to round up our favourite albums of the year so far. I don't feel that we have a clear leader in the race for "Album of the Year" just yet, but there are three albums that I set apart at this early stage and I believe that, come December, will be very close to the top. Foals with the angsty, angular supercharged funk-punk sounds of "Antidotes" have presented us with the best debut album of 2008 so far, plus they are responsible for one of the best gigs we've seen this year. The Duke Spirit have the advantage of featuring one of my favourite singers in recent years, Liela Moss, and with the desert rock sounds of "Neptune" manage to pass the difficult second album test with flying colours. As for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, they just seem to be untouchable at the moment, going from strength to strength. The fact that Cave is lately delivering some of the best songs of his illustrious thirty-year career is just phenomenal, leading us to the suspicion that some kind of shady deal with the Lord of the Flies must be in place here. So, without further ado, the Top 30 albums of the first half of 2008 (in a somewhat particular order) are the following:

Top 30
Antidotes - FOALS
Dig, Lazarus, dig!!! - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
Consolers of the lonely - THE RACONTEURS
Midnight boom - THE KILLS
Crystal Castles - CRYSTAL CASTLES
Box of secrets - BLOOD RED SHOES
Imperial wax solvent - THE FALL
Narrow stairs - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
In the future - BLACK MOUNTAIN
Vampire Weekend - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
Oracular spectacular - MGMT
Elephant shell - TOKYO POLICE CLUB
Walk it off - TAPES 'N TAPES
Accelerate - R.E.M.
The lucky ones - MUDHONEY
Get awkward - BE YOUR OWN PET
Real emotional trash - STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
Keep your eyes ahead - THE HELIO SEQUENCE
Directions to see a ghost - THE BLACK ANGELS
Jukebox - CAT POWER
Lie down in the light - BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
The golden age - AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB
This is not the world - THE FUTUREHEADS
Made in the dark - HOT CHIP
Nick Cave, caught on camera bargaining with The Lord of the Flies (not pictured) on top of Lycabettus Hill in Athens