I’ve not been updating a huge amount this summer, as our wonderful baby daughter arrived in May and has very much been my focus ever since, but I’ve recently been contributing more lists for the Guardian’s regular 10 Of The Best feature, compiling the ten greatest moments in the Supremes’ recording career, and ditching all semblance of ‘cool’ in order to distill Genesis’ decades of progular activity down to ten tunes. These lists were an awful lot of fun to write, I hope they’re as much fun to read. If not, you could always submit a load of abuse in the Guardian comments’ sections, I believe that’s what they’re there for.
I’ve also managed to see a couple of gigs since parenthood descended upon us; please enjoy reviews of Mary J Blige at the Camden Roundhouse, and Jerry Dammers’ remarkable Spatial AKA Arkestra at the Barbican.
More Loose Lips updates coming very soon.
Hello! I interviewed the fantastic Mugstar, Liverpool-based architects of squalling, hypnotic space-rock, for Loose Lips Sink Ships, and you can read it here, alongside some typically marvelous photography from Steve Gullick.
And if you’re a fan of Steve’s work [if you're not, I'm assuming you must be blind, and if so then how are you reading this, eh?], you might be interested to learn that his book of Nirvana-era photography, Nirvana Diary, is soon to be available – more info here. Get up close and personal to Steve’s actual photographs at Rough Trade East from August 4th, and get up close and personal with Steve himself – in the company on the ever-awesome Keith Cameron – at this event on August 20th.
I’ve done a couple of these 10 Of The Bests for The Guardian this year, but none presented quite such a challenge as distilling the genius of Madness into only 10 choice tracks. Madness were the first pop band I ever loved – a perfect first pop band, I think, given their joyous lunacy, but also the weird twists and subtle politics of their later work. They were the first pop band I ever saw live – Southampton Gaumont, Mad Not Mad tour; they hurled ten-foot-tall blue balloons into the audience for the encore, which is how you win over a nine-year-old. This was personal.
Selecting ten songs that encompassed the breadth of their vision, their ever-changing-moods, their unique Nutty THING was tough as nails, but I enjoyed every spin and respin of their entire catalogue under the guise of “research”. Disagree with my choices? Then get thee to the Guardian comments section…
Other 10 Of The Bests you are invited to digest and tarry with:
“It’s like compartmentalisation. Once I get it out, it’s in a box, a drawer, and away from me. I’m not perfect. I’m still figuring out how to deal with my own shit. But I’m learning how to deal with my emotions in a positive way.”
Things have been a little quiet on this front lately, mostly because, you know, babies. But my interview with the marvelous Sharon Van Etten just went up on the Loose Lips Sink Ships website, accompanying wonderful photographs by the godlike – and indeed, sometimes Modlike – Steve Gullick. I hope you enjoy it – Sharon’s new album is one of the year’s best. Expect further Loose Lips news in the very near future.
“God, they were so pissed… I’ve never seen so many fucking middle-aged white dudes lose their minds like that, like someone had come up and spit in their mother’s face. Like, middle fingers, the entire time. Spitting at me, throwing food, everything in the fucking house. It was like a rain of trash. We get offstage and some guy gets in my face and starts laying into me, like, tall, drunk and pissed, and his wife’s right next to him, like, ‘Fuck you, you faggot!’ And I look down, and he’s got a police badge on. He’s an off-duty cop. Then more of them start piling up. Next thing you know there’s like fifteen or twenty drunk, psychotic white people who like smell like fucking rotten gumbo, screaming at me in the House Of Blues parking lot. I hadn’t been that scared in a while, to be honest. Like, I’m gonna get lynched at the House Of Blues. How perfect.”
Late last year, Steve Gullick and I met up once again with Joe Cardamone, frontman of The Icarus Line, probably the greatest group we covered during the lifespan of our Zine, Loose Lips Sink Ships. As Loose Lips is once again a going concern, and as The Icarus Line recently cut the most potent, snarling, electrifying album of their career, Slave Vows, there was no way we were going to ditch the chance to tell the story of Cardamone’s remarkable, cockroach-like survival through a shit-rain of drugs, violence, insanity, burnout, poverty and despair, to come out the other side stronger, saner and as spitefully brilliant as ever.
This is that story.
So, 2013. Some amazing music was made, and heard. Here’s ten of the best, below. See you in 2014.
10. Dobie, We Will Not Harm You
9. Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin
8. QOTSA, Like Clockwork
7. Goodie Mob, Age Against The Machine
6. Factory Floor, Factory Floor
5. The Stepkids, Troubadour
4. Mikal Cronin, II
3. Deerhunter, Monomania
2. Bosnian Rainbows, Bosnian Rainbows
1. The Icarus Line, Slave Vows
Read my feature on Los Angeles psych-garage visionary Tim Presley and his White Fence project in Loose Lips Sink Ships, with excellent photos from Steve Gullick.