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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Concert Picks: End of May, Early June

Animal Collective (NYC)
Almost impossible to classify, psych-folk or synth-pop, sometimes danceable, other times just ponderable, this New-York based group of musicians are nothing if not playfully experimental. Strange, strange, unpredictable sounds come out of their speakers. Is it African tribal dance, Woody Guthrie, and bubble gum pop meets electronica? I don't know, but it's sure as hell captivating.
24 May, Theatre de l’Alhambra

Often discussed as part of the folktronica movement that true to its name uses electronic stuff to complement traditional folk sounds/instruments, this UK band pushes the envelope still farther by incorporating "instruments" little known in Western indie circles: sea shells, for example. Their brand has not gone unnoticed, as their music was featured on the American teen TV drama the O.C. Who says musical styles are doomed to repeat? For those who'd like to see Animal Collective smoke more weed.
Tues 27 May, Le Trabendo

The Fratellis
Hot glam-injected pop-rock from Glasgow, though their sound can change from chamber harmonies to driving rock within the same song. Great citations of T-Rex (indeed, they do a fantastic cover of "Solid Gold Easy Action" from the Hot Fuzz soundtrack). Their debut album set the UK charts aflame, and their much awaited sophomore effort, Here We Stand, hits the UK next month. Strech your neck before the show, as the music is irresistibly head-bobble-able. Shame about the overlap with MGMT.
28 May, Point Ephemere

This Brooklyn psychadelic-tinged synth-rock group is getting huge. And why shouldn't they? Their January release, Oracular Spectacular, lives up to its title's pretensions. Produced by the venerable Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips), the album boasts beaming keyboards and poppish off-beats that gained him entry to the pantheon of indie producers. And hear the critics purr. These guys have been writing witty songs, and producing great electroclash since their college days at Wesleyan, but this album is a landmark. A welcome end to a stellar musical month in Paris.
28 May, Cigale

Chan Marshall is a prima donna, but a sufferable one. Her odd voice, equal parts of grit and velvet, like a high-end high alcohol-content whiskey, gave us stellar albums like Moonpix, The Covers Record, and The Greatest; and songs like "Nude as the News," "Hate," and reprises like Uncle Tupelo's "Moonshiner." She recently came out with another impressive covers album, Jukebox in January. She was long the troubled artiste maudite, marked by the Vh1-worthy bouts with booze and drugs that brought her to what she called a "psychotic breakdown" in 2006. She claims to have taken the sober road these days. Still, some say her live performance is as Cat Powerful as ever.
1 June, Olympia

Festival Villette Sonique
An electro-pop festival at Parc de la Villette. Excellent line up. See full program by clicking here.

3-8 June, La Villette

DEVO (Festival Vilette Sonique):
The great anti-rock, electro-pop pioneers of the 80s are back. Synth-soaked hits like "Whip It" and "Girl U Want" put them at the spear's head for American New Wave sounds, while their critique of "classic rock" masculinity and its cultural context (see their 1978 debut Q:Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo) has been important to a whole generation of global post-punk artists and fans.
With Marvin (expensive, but could be once in a lifetime).
Tues 3 June, 8pm Grand Halle, Parc de la Villette

The Futureheads
While their last album was not, in my opinion, thoroughly dazzling, their cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" packed a surfeit of dazzle-itude. This is great post-punk power pop, reminiscent of The Only Ones.
5 June, Le Trabendo

Mission of Burma and Shellac
Yes, Belinda Carlisle, heaven really is a place on earth. This show brings one of (THE, according to many) the most influential post-punk bands in the world (Mission of Burma) together with one of the most influential experimental noisy guitar acts and legendary producers of the 90s (Shellac and Steve Albini).

The Boston band Mission of Burma no doubt influenced their showmates with their at the time new jagged guitars and rhythms in classics like "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" (as Hermann Goering used to say), "Max Ernst, and "Class War." They openly committed themselves to building additions onto the purposely basic punk edifice, with a kind of choppy guitar style reminiscent of Leeds post-punk trailblazers The Gang of Four but with more complicated time signatures, chord progressions, and overall noisiness (in some songs more than others, to be sure). Forming in 1979 and disbanding in 1983, MoB reunited in 2002 and toured to big American and European audiences with Bob Weston of Shellac on the mixing boards. Since then they've been lauded with critical praise and have produced two studio albums.

Seen as central to the "math rock" and "noise rock" movements of the 90s, which reacted against "straight up" punk-influenced guitar rock of the late 80s and early 90s, Shellac went for minimalist but loud crackling guitars, bass and drums, in odd time signatures, with repetitive measures lending themselves to head-banging or sharp body-lunging dancing in place, and heavily sarcastic lyrics often delivered in speak-sing (try "Squirrel Song" on myspace).
Sat 7 May, 8pm, Parc de la Villette, 25€ (FNAC or Parc dlV)

Radio who? Anybody heard of these guys? I heard they're okay.
9-10 Jun, Bercy

4 July, Parc des Princes

Another no-namer this month. I hear he's a good dancer, better than average folk singer, and excellent karokist of Prince. Could be worth your coup, as they are wont to say in these parts.
July, Olympia

Well, this beautifully noisy act was as name-droppable as Pavement and Sonic Youth in indie rock circles of the 90s. Do they hold up? Have they reached their Zenith or should they rename the club Nadir? Only one way to find out.
9 July, Zenith

Rock en Seine: August 28-29 (Boulogne): I'm not a big fan of the rock festivals these days, but some of you may be interested in some of the artists playing. See their link.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Djay INdie Eclectique, tous les jeudis en juin!

That's right, friends and neighbors, indie Vespa honeys, nudists, and commies. Parisnormale and's DJay Indie Eclectique is going to be spinnin' yous round every thursday in June at the fabulous bar L'Orange Mecanique in beautiful Oberkampf/Menilmontant (plus Friday night June 27). The exact address is 72 J.P. Timbaud, just off rue St. Maur, a couple of blocks from either Metro Parmentier or Metro St. Maur. From 9pm to 1:30am. Come hear live all the good stuff we discuss on this blog and a whole lot more. Enjoy the flyers, spread the word, and mark your calendars.Get there early if you want a seat.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy May in Paris Video+May Calendar Additions

As heard in the recent Wes Anderson film...
Please check the May calendar for trusty new previews for the second-half of the month and early June warnings.
p.s. If you find posts or articles useful (any of you 200+ subscribers, for example), you're encouraged to comment and/or digg/reddit them.

Happy listening!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Forward, Russia Paris Concert

¡Forward, Russia! play the Nouveau Casino next week. I highly recommend their live show, and read on to see what I said about their last show in Paris...
(from fall 2006)
Many bands are not “live” bands; they concentrate on studio recordings, often laying down meticulously produced tracks in a beautifully crafted overall work. Others have something else going in stage presence, charisma, rapport with an audience, raw energy, seduction, which is lost in the alienated form of consumption that is the CD or Mp3. A few rare bands seem to be able to pull off both. I’d count Leeds’s ¡Forward, Russia! among the latter. That was clear in the show I witnessed Thursday night at La Maroquinerie in Paris.

In my minimalist, satirical reviews of music consumption and criticism, “Indie Reviews for the Attention Deficient,” I hyperbolically doted on the resemblances ¡FR! shares with the Gang of Four. After seeing them live, and now writing in a different commentary setting, I would have to slightly revise my description.

Thanks to the nimble picking of Whiskas, their aptly named red-chopped guitarist, they do play with the pointy, repetitive guitar riffs that branded the Gang of Four. Likewise do they play with lefty symbols and figures (as their name and song titles scream) and hail from Leeds, but it would be unfair to either band to push the comparison much further. ¡FR! has created their own style and identity by reassembling others' and pushing them further.

Let’s begin with the vocals and stage presence of talented singer Tom Woodhead. Woodhead has the rare vocal ability to jump scale from falsetto down an octave in short bursts, which will remind some of D. Byrne’s copyrighted yawps. But Woodhead doesn’t just yelp about maniacally from one octave to another. He also gets a repetitive momentum going and brakes it with sustained, almost baneful falsetto notes and wails. There are moments of resemblance in this area between Woodhead, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and Morrissey. But Woodhead’s fellow choirboys lack his energy, his momentum.

Also like Morrissey, Woodhead has a peculiar stage presence and choreography. He turns his body in slow rotisserie style, somewhat in tandem with his vocals, in an interpretive dance marked by his fetish for self-wrapping in the micro-phone cord and slowly moving his hands and elbows from one-arm akimbo to elbow held high and palms upturned, as if carrying a waiter’s serving tray. He accelerates, then brakes. The movements are smooth. They’re mesmerizing. In a word, they’re memorable. Here’s a man with the suppleness of talent and confidence of sexuality that could take him from a jazz-handed role in Cats to the pogo and punk mosh pit.

Woodhead is certainly the star, but this band works well together. They seem to enjoy one another, which no doubt adds to their tightness. Drummer Katie Nicholls gives a strong, energetic percussion backbone and occasional vocals to the band, and bassist Rob Canning, a late Cobain look alike from a distance, helps Nicholls with that crucial structuring role.

A few of their songs were especially pleasurable for their change of pace and ability to build from a snail’s pace of slow chords and riffs while Woodhead warbled, to their wild, choppy guitars and vocals that are perhaps their signature.

This is also a conceptually playful band. There was something liberating, something very, well—anti- about hearing Woodhead’s announcements of songs: “This one’s called “Seven!” It shifts the listener’s attention from easy pneumonic anchors in titles to the songs as a collection. In fact, I didn’t know what Woodhead was singing most of the time. Today, when I went scouring the internet to find the lyrics, I noticed that ¡FR! have a penchant for modern verse, which produces lyrics that quickly dispel any misconceptions that this is some sort of nostalgic Soviet realist art project. Take, for instance, “Eighteen,” a song off their recent album Give Me a Wall.

It's hard to save a life
When the dreams you enter fracture through
A million and one reflections
But tonight
I'm saving a life
Through the hissing of watches and the ticking of clocks
I'll show the hours my open palm
I'll protect your sense of right
I'll dissect your senses till you find me.

But I didn’t know their lyrics well enough the other night to sing along with them.

I just found myself enchanted by what I was witnessing. Their love of performance, solidarity with each other and their audience, energy, as well as their conceptual traits reminded me a bit of the Poster Children, though they sound nothing alike. Perhaps more than many bands, ¡Forward, Russia! is a sound, a vision, an encounter, and not, like a lot out there today and yesterday, an ad, a sexual appeal, a story, or even a particular commentary on everyday social, personal, or political life (even if their total identity that precedes and succeeds their performances has all sorts of things to say about spectacular packaging, routine rock choreography and trends).

The indie-Parisian (yes, oxymoronic) and expat audience was not disappointed. But it would surprise me if audiences of this genre could react otherwise. ¡FR! is a minor religious experience, which I would gladly pay for every week had I the chance.

(See a YouTube video snippet of this concert by clicking below)

David Lynch @ Divan Du Monde, May 5

by Jayson Harsin and Karine Lalechere
(also published at gogoparis blog)

Warning, if you are irritated by NewAge-speak, do not read on. You'll never respect David Lynch again. Those who had never read an interview with Lynch before learned how deeply (some would say "cornily") New Age he indeed is.

The gifted oddball Lynch made a special appearance at the hip little Pigalle club Divan Du Monde Monday May 5. As an upstanding "nightlife journalist" for and your beloved Parisnormale, I was on the elite list of bratty invitees.

Lynch's autobiography, MON HISTOIRE VRAIE, les Editions Sonatine, translated by Nicolas Richard, hit the French bookstores this week, and the evening focused on the book's promotion.

First, the audience and Lynch were treated to an orchestral treatment of the Twin Peaks series music, conducted by Jean-Philippe Audin. The music then became a kind of spoken-word accompaniment to Lynch's Q&A session (giving the event a bit of a beat poetry slam flavor).

Then Lynch basked in the Parisian adoration, his graying pate practically pompadoured, his deep black suit and bright white shirt giving him a vaguely clerical aura in conjunction with his animated gestures.

He took questions from the small crowd of invitees, touching on transcendental meditation, creativity, his preferred artistic medium, the meanings of his films, the concept of plot, and internet rumors.

Apparently his new book has a lot to say about his appreciation for and practice of transcendental meditation, which he said he practices twice a day. According to Lynch, TM is "a way to get rid of all the 'negative' to 'expand your bowl of consciousness.' Ideas are 'bubbling' deep inside us. Meditation helps them to come up to the surface. You don't make ideas, you catch them, like fish, and the bigger are the deeper."

Someone asks, “Doesn't getting rid of the negativity kill the creativity?"

DL laughs: "That's a good question and a very French question, because here the myth of the 'artiste maudit' in his attic is very strong. But it's just a trick to attract the girls who will come in the attic to cook meals for the poor guy and maybe spend the night with him to comfort him. But bad feelings, negative feelings do not help to create. On the contrary, meditation makes space inside you for ideas to develop."

An odd question follows: "Do you need to be dead to film a death scene?"

Lynch's response: "No, and in the same way,you don't have to suffer to film sufferings."

Thankfully that mystery is finally solved.

One of the most predictable but necessary questions followed: on the meaning of his films.

Lynch insists that his films do have a meaning. They "grow from ideas." Though sometimes he doesn't know what they mean straight away, he waits and the meanings come. However, all interpretations are valid to him.

Some people leave the movie theater, saying they don't have a clue about his film, and then they go and have a drink with friends, and everybody has his own version of the film. “Then suddenly the guy who didn't have a clue says ,’No, that's something else and he realizes he's got his interpretation too.’”

About the "plot"…

“Some people in Hollywood make recipes, but when there is a rule there are always some people who want to break it.”

"I am one of them," Lynch proudly proclaims.

DL is a very multidisciplinary artist (music, painting, film...). Which medium does he prefer? Someone asks.

"They're all very deep really. Some people like to say that this or that form of art is finished, but there are always some people who come with new ideas." He wonders if maybe cinema is more interesting to him because it combines different arts.

The questions turn to coffee, and one sees a glimmer of his marvelous Twin Peaks character agent "Coop" Cooper, connoisseur of diner coffee.

"Is it true you created a brand of coffee 'David Lynch's signature cup'?"

DL:"Yes, and it's great stuff." He said he blind-tested a lot of brands, and his own is always the one he prefers

Finally, someone asks about an internet rumor: Is a new Twin Peaks coming out?

"Totally false."

That was all he had time for. When meditation calls...

Video of Book-signing, audience reactions, excerpts of Lynch's answers :

--Thanks to Karine Lalechere for photos and help with notes on Lynch's answers
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Friday, May 09, 2008

Looking for a good show tonight? Black Acid


If you're still looking for a raucous show tonight, Black Acid to the rescue. Richard Fearless, of Death in Vegas fame, has a new group. The New York quartet also includes Doug Marvin, a member of Dirty on Purpose and Olivier Ackermann, a member of A Place to Bury Strangers. They come to unleash the psychedelic, garage sound of their first album on Paris. For fans of the Stooges and VU (if you could meld them).

Black Acid est le nouveau projet de Richard Fearless de Death In Vegas. Le quatuor est composé de Matty McDermott, Olivier Ackermann (Place To Bury Strangers), Doug Marvin (Dirty On Purpose) et Ryan Hamilton (Coyote). Ils viennent nous présenter les titres de leur premier album. Psychédélique, rock, garage : sueur garantie !

Fri 9 May, 7.30pm (they'll go on about 9pm), 16.70€.
Nouveau Casino, 109 rue Oberkampf,
11th. M°Parmentier.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

DJay This Wednesday, May 7

Celebrate the arrival of Spring this wednesday with Parisnormale's/'s DJay. Holiday the day after, so no excuses not to drop by,shake your butt and/or do a body shot.--JH
Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"