Thursday, 29 April 2010

How To Destroy Angels: yes it is Trent Reznor...

This video appeared yesterday online (sorry for the knockoff copy - the vimeo original won't embed on here properly). The name of the project is How To Destroy Angels; there are no official song titles as yet. At first, no-one owned up, but the rumour soon spread that this was Trent Reznor's new project with Mariqueen Maandig. The accompanying artwork shows someone who looks very much like Mariqueen, and, well, anyway, it is her, because the duo owned up today.

A six-track EP is pencilled in for the summer and rumoured tracklistings are already floating around. It's not known whether Trent and Mariqueen are recording as a duo, or whether they're part of a larger group, but all will probably be revealed, sooner rather than later. The video shows Mariqueen operating an interesting-looking synth that I would love to have a go on, and is there a hint of heavily-treated vocals there? It's not even certain that How To Destroy Angels, seemingly named after a Coil album, will feature any, or much vocal at all, and no clues other than the video have been given as to who's doing what within the band. It's tempting to think of it being the classic "man twiddling knobs while woman sings" setup, but who's to say it won't be the other way round? Mariqueen, judging by her revived Twitter, is quite keen on knobs at the moment.

And the music? Hard to tell right now, but the 40 seconds we do have is 40 seconds of dirty, threatening synth, and I like the sound of it very much. It could be a purely instrumental thing, but I could see this heading in the sort of direction that someone like Dot Allison has taken in her harder-edged work. Despite being described as the ex-lead singer of West Indian Girl in several hundred blog posts and articles, Mariqueen was/is actually more of a vocal effects singer than a frontwoman, and this might show in her new project.

As for Trent, he seems capable of turning his hand to most things. I'm looking forward...

(Official website is

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cover Version Showdown #1: That's When I Reach For My Revolver

Okay, I just thought it would be interesting to look at some covers of songs, and compare them, like those arguments you have in the pub, only with videos as evidence.

The first showdown is That's When I Reach For My Revolver, written and first recorded by Mission of Burma in 1983. For the studio version, you'll have to find a CD or a download, but here's a good-quality recent live version:

This is one of MOB's more accessible tunes, replete with rough-hewn three-part harmonies, an urgent driving rhythm and some great angry lyrics. It's very catchy and yet retains its edge.

The earliest cover version I can find is by pop-grunge types Soul Asylum, from 1989. The quality of this recording is poor, so it's not the best listen. They've left the song virtually unchanged, although the tempo is slower and the sound appears less abrasive. They've kept the multipart vocals.

British band Catherine Wheel recorded their version in 1992. It isn't vastly different to the original, although, like Soul Asylum, they have slowed the tempo, to begin with at least. The bassline remains very similar, but the guitar sound is brighter somehow. The vocals are different, with less harmonising and a clearer delivery.

Moby's 1996 cover is probably the best-known version of the song. It comes from his rock/metal album Animal Rights. His interpretation is cleaner and more minimal than the original, but it is still very true to MOB, down to the vocal stylings.

Graham Coxon has covered the song live, despite never making a recording of it, to my knowledge. His distinctive vocals bring something different to the song. His arrangement is quite simple, but keeps a similar set of guitar effects to the original. This is most up-tempo version.

Of all of the covers, Graham Coxon's is probably my favourite, as he has put his own stamp on it more than the others. That's When I Reach For My Revolver obviously inspires a lot of respect from other musicians, as none has felt the need to adjust the original very much, even when their own style is quite different.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Moustaches with (Coco)Rosie

My tickets for the CocoRosie gig at Manchester cathedral came today. In honour of this, I drew on a CocoRosie-esque moustache for this picture.
I'm very excited about the gig. I won't be modelling the moustache for it, however.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Film Review - Whip It

The directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, Whip It is a familiar tale of hero (or in this case heroine) triumphing over adversity, set in the high-speed world of roller derby.
Our heroine is Bliss Cavendar, a rather aimless teenager bored with her mother's beauty pageant ambitions for her, who discovers roller derby by accident and finds that she has quite a talent. She joins a team, despite being underage, and plays in secret without her parents' knowledge, falling for a local indie-boy singer along the way.
You know from that brief description pretty much how the rest of the film will pan out. Whip It
is a pretty formulaic story that sticks to several sports-movie and girl-friendship-movie tropes. For example, you know from very early on that Bliss, in her guise as rollergirl Babe Ruthless, will come across a spiteful adversary who dislikes her for no good reason. You know that her parents will find out and almost - but only almost - end her roller derby career and send her packing back to pageants. You know that Bliss will somehow "find herself".
However, Whip It is done so well that the cliches are almost part of the fun. A strong cast, well put-together, gives great performances, especially Ellen Page (Juno) as Bliss, who is pleasantly understated, Kristen Wiig as the tough-but-kind roller derby veteran Maggie Mayhem, and Juliette Lewis, revelling in her comedy bad-gal role as Iron Maven, a derby rival. Barrymore herself puts in some funny turns and memorable pratfalls as Smashley Simpson, Bliss's hotheaded and accident-prone team-mate. Rapper Eve is surprisingly effective as Rosa Sparks. another rollergirl.
Where it would have been easy to fill a movie like this up with crude one-liners a la Dodgeball, Drew Barrymore eschews this route, instead allowing us to appreciate the sport of roller derby itself. There are many snappily-filmed action sequences which seem to capture both the speed and the crunching blocking techniques of the girls-only game. Some real-life rollergirls might not agree, but the flying tackles and sinuous dodges make for great dramatic viewing. There is not shortage of gags either, some of them crude, in keeping with the not-taking-itself-too-seriously nature of roller derby.
Despite ticking off so many in the Big Book of Film Cliches, Whip It is a great piece of escapist feelgood comedy, a promising debut and a sweet tribute to roller derby, which the writers and directors obviously hold great respect for.