Cat Power Covers Dylan’s 1966 “Albert Hall” Concert

When Bob Dylan per­formed for the third time at the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val in the Sum­mer of 1965, he was a man on a mis­sion. He’d arrived there in ’63 and had been greet­ed as a prophet, and had been wel­comed there the fol­low­ing year as the sec­ond coming. 

But over the course of 11 famous months, that is to say in less than a year, he’d deci­sive­ly moved on and had pro­duced three of the most impor­tant albums in mod­ern music, with Bring­ing It All Back Home, High­way 61 Revis­it­ed, and Blonde on Blonde. One of which had pro­duced his first num­ber one hit sin­gle, Like a Rolling Stone

So it’s not as if he’d been hid­ing what he’d been up to under a bushel. When then he got to New­port in ’65 he was deter­mined to spread the good news. And he and his full band went out on stage and per­formed 3 songs with every bit as much noise, ener­gy and ampli­fi­ca­tion as they’d done in the stu­dio. But they were uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly booed off stage. 

When, even­tu­al­ly, they were able to per­suade a shell-shocked and furi­ous Dylan to go back out on stage, he returned to per­form anoth­er three songs with just his acoustic guitar. 

And for the next cou­ple of years, they toured the rest of the US, Aus­tralia and even­tu­al­ly Europe in that same way. Dylan would go out with his gui­tar and per­form the first half of his set acousti­cal­ly, before return­ing with the rest of the band to blow them all off stage with a rau­cous elec­tric sec­ond half set. 

And duti­ful­ly, the crowd would polite­ly applaud that first half, their appre­ci­a­tion being tem­pered by what they knew was com­ing. And then, once the amps were plugged in, they mechan­i­cal­ly booed the rest of their performance. 

(By the bye, I will per­son­al­ly spon­sor any PhD stu­dent who agrees as part of their doc­tor­al the­sis to track down as many of the then teenagers who were inter­viewed in D. A. Pen­nebak­er’s sem­i­nal Don’t Look Back doc­u­men­tary, to ask them how they feel about hav­ing com­plained about a con­cert they went to, know­ing exact­ly what it was they were going to see and hear. And going any­way, with the express pur­pose of boo­ing the per­former off the stage. 

I’d be curi­ous to dis­cov­er pre­cise­ly how many of them went on into adult­hood to unmask the piz­za­gate “con­tro­ver­sy”.)

This bat­tle of wills cul­mi­nat­ed with the gig Dylan and the band did at Man­ches­ter in ‘66, which was lat­er mis-labelled by the boot­leg­ger as hav­ing tak­en place in London’s Albert Hall. It’s this sto­ried set that Cat Pow­er has cho­sen to repro­duce, in a live per­for­mance she gave, mis­chie­vous­ly, in London’s Albert Hall.

Chan (pro­nounced Sean) Mar­shall per­forms as Cat Pow­er and has had a sim­i­lar­ly tem­pes­tu­ous rela­tion­ship with her audi­ence. Crip­pled by stage fright, she turned to alco­hol and drugs with all the usu­al dire and trag­ic consequences. 

Many of her albums pro­vide ample evi­dence for an eclec­tic musi­cal her­itage. 1998’s Moon Pix was record­ed with the Dirty Three, Nick Cave’s back­ing band, 2003’s You Are Free was with Dave Grohl and Pearl Jam’s Eddy Ved­der, and 2006’s The Great­est was record­ed in Mem­phis with an array of soul and RnB luminaries. 

Nev­er­the­less, Pow­er man­ages to pro­duce this remark­ably dis­tinc­tive voice and sound. With any­one else, there’d be the con­stant risk and wor­ry of monot­o­ny and rep­e­ti­tion. But some­how, all she ever sounds is true.

Nonethe­less, I was a lit­tle anx­ious on hear­ing about this lat­est album. Why would any­one want to repro­duce, almost note for note, a per­for­mance as famous as this? And, sure enough, on the first few lis­tens, I have to con­fess, I was momen­tar­i­ly disappointed. 

After all, the angry con­tempt that those songs were born of, and which were then fuelled so vis­cer­al­ly by the atmos­phere that they came to be per­formed live in, is some­thing that Mar­shall is lit­er­al­ly inca­pable of. She’s so weighed down by doubt and bouts of self-loathing, that any anger can only ever be direct­ed inward.

And yet, that even­tu­al­ly becomes the album’s strength. Stripped of Dylan’s fury, all you’re left with are the actu­al songs. It’s as if they were final­ly allowed breathe. 

Dylan has always insist­ed, to the rest of the world’s bemuse­ment, that he’s prin­ci­pal­ly a musi­cian and only sec­on­dar­i­ly a writer – though how much of that he real­ly believes is anyone’s guess. Removed from Dylan’s very per­son­al and par­tic­u­lar explo­ration of Amer­i­can roots and 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­cana, what you’re left with is a burst of extra­or­di­nary lyri­cism, mind-expand­ed imagery and an un-fet­tered, explod­ing imagination. 

And yet, it’s still un-mis­tak­ably, and tri­umphant­ly a new Cat Pow­er record.

Lis­ten to Cat Power’s She Belongs to Me here:

Watch her per­form Like a Rolling Stone here:

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10,000 gecs” latest album from 100 gecs

10,000 gecs, by 100 gecs.

10,000 gecs”, the new album from 100 gecs is final­ly here, and has been duly recog­nised as the promised deliv­ery of the sec­ond coming. 

After the LA-based duo’s debut, 1,000 gecs, broke the inter­net after its release in 2019, the band was signed to the mighty Atlantic records, and the world wait­ed to see just how dis­ap­point­ing their fol­low-up would be, now that they’d sold out to the man.

But no soon­er was the album fin­ished and ready to go, than the band cer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly binned it to begin it again from scratch. And now that, a life­time lat­er, their fol­low-up is final­ly here, the ver­dict is unanimous.

10,000 gecs is an epoch-defin­ing snap­shot of the zeit­geist that per­fect­ly encap­su­lates the dis­pos­able nature of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. By min­ing so catholic a land­scape of musi­cal influ­ences with such bold irrev­er­ence, it tri­umphant­ly pro­duces a new kind of universality. 

The world and music will nev­er be the same again. You know, the usu­al in terms of a mea­sured crit­i­cal response. 

And the pair are play­ing their part to per­fec­tion, per­form­ing wall to all inter­views with prac­ticed insou­ciance, declar­ing their indif­fer­ence to all media, includ­ing and espe­cial­ly social (“I’m actu­al­ly not even on…” etc.) in per­fect­ly formed sound bites pre­cise­ly for­mu­lat­ed for the very plat­forms they’ve so lit­tle inter­est in courting. 

In fair­ness, it’s not their fault that they sud­den­ly find them­selves cat­a­pult­ed into the lime­light. They have to find some way, I sup­pose, of deal­ing with all that, and this is prob­a­bly as good a way as any. 

But there’s a huge prob­lem for a pair of musi­col­o­gists who are as unabashed­ly seri­ous in their study of all things son­ic as gecs are. There’s very lit­tle ter­rain left to go search­ing in.

In the 80s and 90s, the 60s and 70s were trawled exhaus­tive­ly by hip hop and rap artists for grooves and snatch­es of melody to sug­ar-coat their rage with. Then, in the oughts, DJs like Shad­ow and RJD2 mixed con­tem­po­rary hip hop with what­ev­er they could get their hands on from the 80s and 90s, as well as the 60s and 70s. While more recent­ly, the likes of Daft Punk and Bey­on­cé went back to dis­co and to house in their orig­i­nal forms. 

So any­one dig­ging today is forced on to nec­es­sar­i­ly obscure ter­rain. The result is that, in between the glo­ri­ous onslaught of thrash gui­tars, pop-punk, ska and auto-tuned vocals we get respect­ful nods in the direc­tion of Limp Bizk­it, Green Day, Primus and Ween.

Which gecs then feel duty-bound to insist is done in com­plete earnest­ness, and is utter­ly devoid of even a soup­con or smidgeon of irony.

It’s all incred­i­bly clever, gen­uine­ly impres­sive and propul­sive­ly toe-tap­ping. And yet. To once again mis­quote Gertrude Stein, there’s very lit­tle there, there. 

Instead of being able to bal­ance the intel­lec­tu­al weight of their son­ic archi­tec­ture with the emo­tion inher­ent in a clas­sic 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s melody, they’re reduced to rely­ing on musi­cal ref­er­ents that fur­ther bol­ster that intel­lec­tu­al heft. So it ends up being all brains and lit­tle in the way of heart or soul.

The result is an album that’s daz­zling but un-engag­ing. Telling­ly, despite com­ing in at bare­ly 27 min­utes, the album some­how over­stays its welcome. 

What it feels like more than any­thing else is an inter­mez­zo. An enjoy­able, indul­gent nov­el­ty record, that the band can now put behind them to focus on some­thing some­what more substantial. 

You can see the offi­cial video for 10,000 gecs’ Dori­tos & Fritos below:

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Gilla Band’s new album, Most Normal

Gilla Band, Most Nor­mal

After the tour around their sec­ond album, The Talkies, was put on hia­tus because of the pan­dem­ic, Girl Band found them­selves with less to do and a more than usu­al amount of time to think. 

And they decid­ed that, rather than wait to be picked up by the gen­der police and hauled in front of the court of pub­lic opin­ion, they’d change their name from Girl to Gilla Band. Dis­cre­tion being the bet­ter part of val­our. So this, Most Nor­mal, is the third album from what is now the Gilla Band

Gilla were part of a trio of bands to come out of Dublin in the lat­ter half of the 2010s, the oth­er two being Fontaines D.C. and The Mur­der Cap­i­tal – though the lat­ter are flavoured as much by the Riv­er Lee as they are by the Liffey. 

Each pro­duced a vis­cer­al, indus­tri­alised squall to gut­tur­al lyrics that were declaimed rather than sung, angri­ly decry­ing despair and urban alien­ation. Mur­der Cap­i­tal and Fontaines found imme­di­ate, overnight suc­cess, the for­mer to a man­age­able degree, the lat­ter stratos­pher­i­cal­ly so. But Gilla Band seemed some­how to have got left behind. 

Fontaines D.C. enjoy­ing their success.

First, after being signed to Rough Trade and then releas­ing their first album, Hold­ing Hands With Jamie, in 2015, the band were forced to take their first hia­tus. As their lead singer, Dara Kiely, focused, quite cor­rect­ly, on the men­tal health issues that were threat­en­ing to over­whelm him.

Then, when they even­tu­al­ly got back togeth­er again to release their very good sec­ond album, The Talkies, in 2019, Covid once again put them on hold. But this, it turns out, was a bless­ing in dis­guise. Because it sent them back into the stu­dio, and the result­ing album, Most Nor­mal, is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward again. And is in fact one of the most excit­ing albums of the year.

The album’s strength come from two quar­ters. First, instead of only pro­duc­ing music that can be played live, they focused instead on using every­thing at their dis­pos­al in the stu­dio to pro­duce the noise they were look­ing for. The result is a sound that’s even more unnerv­ing, and some­how even loud­er and more grat­ing than the one pro­duced on their pre­vi­ous pair of albums. As dis­tor­tion gets processed to pro­duce an even more per­ilous assault on the ears.

What it sounds like at times is that part of the sound­track on a David Lynch film where the sounds are so dis­tort­ed and dis­so­nant, and what you hear is so unset­tling, that you avert your eyes in fear of what’s about to happen.

As to what the album address­es, if the pro­tag­o­nists from CamusThe Stranger or Sartre’s Nau­sea were cat­a­pult­ed into the 21st cen­tu­ry and locked inside a record­ing stu­dio, this is very prob­a­bly what the result­ing album would sound like. 

The Mur­der Capital.

And sec­ond, and as facile as this undoubt­ed­ly is, it’s impos­si­ble not to con­clude that the suc­cess enjoyed by Fontaines and the Mur­der Cap­i­tal has knocked the edges off the songs that they’re now producing. 

Where­as the absence of that suc­cess has ensured that Gilla Band con­tin­ue to be and to sound as angry about being over­looked and ignored by the world they find them­selves in as they were five and six years ago. Not the music busi­ness world, the world in gen­er­al. The real world.

It’s the sound of jump leads, one thrust into a brain, the oth­er into the gut. And as such, it’s glo­ri­ous­ly unmediated. 

The boys from Pitch­fork give it an impressed 8.4 here, and cor­rect­ly point to The Weirds as the stand­out track.

You can see the video for Back­wash, the lead sin­gle, below. Just don’t expect it to chart any time soon.

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New albums from Circuit des Yeux and Bonobo

Cir­cuit Des Yeux, Io

Io is the sixth album from Haley Fohr in her guise as Cir­cuit Des Yeux. And it suc­ceeds some­how in mar­ry­ing and merg­ing her twin ter­rains of grunge folk and exper­i­men­tal rock, and in a way that man­ages mirac­u­lous­ly to evade any hint of pretentiousness. 

The result is an album that sounds like extracts from an imag­i­nary rock opera. But instead of arous­ing the usu­al dread and embar­rass­ment that those two words tra­di­tion­al­ly evoke, it moves and impress­es in equal measure. 

Lis­ten­ing to Fohr’s impe­r­i­al bari­tone chan­nelling Dia­man­da Galás, scal­ing who knows how many octaves, as the strings ref­er­ence mid 70s ELO, you imag­ine a David Byrne pro­duc­tion, but at an off Broad­way venue in a yet-to-be gen­tri­fied seedy side of town.

An album born in melan­cho­lia, the result­ing music soars. 

Bonobo, Frag­ments

Frag­ments is the first album in five years from the LA based British DJ slash pro­duc­er Si Green, who releas­es albums under the moniker Bonobo. And almost every­one agrees that it’s a won­der to behold and as joy­ous a way to ush­er in the new year as could pos­si­bly be wished for. 

NPR’s All Songs Con­sid­ered, the Guardian, the Inde­pen­dent, UK and Irish, NME et al. Only those peren­ni­al scrooges at Pitch­fork held out, giv­ing it a cur­mud­geon­ly 5.4 out of 10, here.

St Ger­main’s Tourist

The album starts out promis­ing­ly enough, and sure enough, tracks 2, 3 and 4 do indeed seem to promise that much need­ed and prover­bial ton­ic. T3, Rose­wood, even hints at the kind of hoped-for ubiq­ui­ty that Rose Rouge, the open­ing track on Saint Germain’s Tourist achieved when it was released in 2000, and which it seemed to main­tain well into the fol­low­ing year and beyond.

But after those first few tracks, Frag­ments sinks into mid- and increas­ing­ly slow­er tem­po fare. And very quick­ly, you qui­et­ly drift off. 

If you find your­self at a club where Green is spin­ning his discs, you’ll enjoy his use of those first few tracks as part of his set (and per­haps track 8…). But there’s absolute­ly no need to sit down and lis­ten to the rest of the album. I’m afraid the boys from Pitch­fork get that one right.

You can see the video for the open­ing track on Cir­cuit Des Yeux’s Io, the Van­ish­ing, below:

And here, if you need it, is a reminder of what St Germain’s Rose Rouge sounds like:

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2 of 2020’s best albums: Sault’s Untitled, (Black Is) and Untitled, (Rise)

album cover for Untitled Black Is
Sault’s Unti­tled, (Black Is)

No soon­er had artists from all walks of life just about man­aged to per­suade the world that no, the pan­dem­ic was not in fact the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to final­ly get around to pro­duc­ing that mas­ter­piece. And that, on the con­trary, craft­ing any­thing of sub­stance was, sneer, a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed than that, along come Sault with not one two stun­ning albums, both of which are dou­ble albums, and nei­ther of which have a sem­blance of filler in sight.

Sault’s Unti­tled, (Rise).

Worse again, the first, Unti­tled (Black Is) seems to have been pro­pelled into exis­tence in response to the mur­der of George Floyd, on May 25th, and was released, in qui­et anger, bare­ly four weeks lat­er in June. With Unti­tled (Rise) appear­ing but 12 weeks lat­er. So that’s a brace of appar­ent­ly hasti­ly con­ceived dou­ble albums over the course of the sum­mer, after the pair of equal­ly impres­sive albums they released at the end of 2019 – ‘5’ and ‘7’.

Sault’s ‘5’.

Then there’s the ques­tion of who exact­ly ‘they’ are. Sault do nei­ther pro­mo­tion nor pub­lic­i­ty. And not in the we’re-uncomfortable-in-the-limelight limelit inter­view way, there’s gen­uine­ly almost noth­ing about them, any­where. The two prin­ci­ples appear to be the London–based pro­duc­er Inflo and the RnB singer Cleo Sol, who are joined by a hand­ful of the per­form­ers signed to their record label, For­ev­er Liv­ing Originals. 

The two albums mir­ror and echo one anoth­er, with, on paper, Black Is pro­duc­ing the more som­bre med­i­ta­tion and Rise the more dance­able beats. But truth be told, they both dive and glide from men­ac­ing gloom to con­fi­dent joy and back. And the mood con­jured up by both albums can best be summed up by the latter’s title, ‘rise’, being at once tri­umphant­ly upbeat and con­fronta­tion­al­ly revolutionary.

Sault’s ‘7’.

Musi­cal­ly, we move from 70s’ RnB and the pre-dis­co soul of Luther Van­dross to the care­ful­ly con­sid­ered mashups of the Avalanch­es, and that turn of the cen­tu­ry moment when dance, funk and triphop coa­lesced. And each album is mar­bled with tracks built on afro-Cuban beats, send­ing the sounds back to where it all began.

Excep­tion­al albums from an embar­rass­ing­ly fecund base­ment some­where in the for­mer metrop­o­lis of Lon­don, Eng­land. You can see hear the stand­out track Widl­fires from Black Is here:

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