Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buzzcocks at the Paradise, 17th May.

Let me put it plainly: the Buzzcocks invented UK Punk.

You will excuse me then, if I am a little tongue-tied trying to talk about this band.

Perhaps I can contain myself by beginning with the obvious: Coming out of Manchester UK in the mid ‘70s, the Buzzcocks booked the Sex Pistols’ first show in the North, now immortalized at the start of 24hr Party People. Their furiously blasted music pretty much invented the pacing of the punk track.

Not so politically motivated as The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks most famous tracks, like “Ever Fallen in Love?” and "What do I get?" are love-songs. It may seem like a strange way to present a love-song I suppose, but theirs is the energy of teenage love, and sex. As we all know (more or less recently!) that passion is an unstoppable force.

It is 35 years later of course. Perhaps they can’t manage that pace – that vigor. I saw them at Axis a couple of year ago, and I remember having those kinds of doubts before the show. Surely they would be a decrepit version of past greatness – fragile now, and to be treated with reverence, but not quite respect…

That night they came out and played six songs, at about 150bpm, back-to-back, without a pause for breath. You would be wrong to count them out.

This could be quite simply the most important show you’ll see this year. Don’t miss a chance to see some history, and to dance your arse off.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Titus Andronicus’s “The Monitor”

I don’t want to overstate this, but there is something a little self-destructive about Titus Andronicus’s “The Monitor.”

The album is not short of great tracks. It’s not lacking in a voice all it’s own either, as the band lead us into a really beguiling world of working-class lives writ-large. Many of the songs on “The Monitor” move very subtly between contradictions. There is, for example, a lot of clever word-play that smacks of real thinkers behind the scenes. Most of the songs though, seem born of a bleary-eyed state of keg-stands, basement parties, and cigarettes chain-smoked veraciously, so you wonder how they can get their heads straight enough to pull the tracks together.

The answer is that it’s a persona of course (One give-away: No-one can be that obsessed with New Jersey!). But Titus are nurturing their characters all the time and it is a fascinating world that they are propagating: Working-class kids without much hope, but with each other; Americans through and through, appropriating all the right-wing shit, and letting the rest of us have some pride in the country. This surely is why the songs on “The Monitor” are dressed in Lincoln speeches.

Then again, I could be wrong. Like the massive reverb swells that overwhelmed Titus’s first album, “The Airing of Grievances,” “The Monitor” is in many ways obscure – even obscured. The obfuscation often becomes frustrating. The band didn’t need to hide their great tunes behind cloudy effects the first time around, and I would dare to say they don’t need the gimmicks of political rhetoric to block our access to their own statements about living their lives in these times. That’s the self-destructive thing I worry about with this band. Perhaps their stories, which deserve to be told, will be lost in all the confusion.