Monthly Archives: November 2009

Public Image Ltd: John the Revelator


I spoke to the man once described as “the biggest threat to our youth since Hitler” to learn that despite mounting evidence, John Lydon has no intention of mellowing out just yet.

“The Skinny? Oh God Almighty! You’re nicking London phrases.”

So begins forty-five minutes of impassioned, exhausting and wholly entrancing conversation with John Lydon. The artist formerly known as Rotten is keen to remind me that he’s never been afraid to “ruffle a few feathers” and accordingly, the exchange is peppered with quotable soundbytes, snippets of advice and well-aimed swipes at everyone from The Smashing Pumpkins to Radiohead (“I feel like I’m banging my head off a fucking brick wall.”), and from the Beckhams to vegans (“I’m sensible enough to realise that I’ve got two different kinds of teeth in my head, and they’re there for a reason.”).

But the man once described as “the biggest threat to our youth since Hitler” has seemed more likely to turn up on Loose Women than to destabilise the regime in latter days. He’s got a Hollywood smile to match his Hollywood home. His infamous stint on I’m A Celebrity… in 2005 was followed by a series of advertisements for Country Butter. But rather than view himself as a fading threat, Lydon considers these projects to be equally as challenging as his work with the Sex Pistols, and every bit as subversive.

“Oh God! I loved their bravery!” he beams about the adverts’ creators. “Butter: how politically incorrect for the lettuce-eaters. But you know, I like a bit of butter on me bread. I was more than pleased. I can see the good rather than the stupid pomposity of negating everything because it doesn’t seem at first to fit in to a lifestyle.”

Lydon’s articulate manner is contrary to his oft-projected image. He speaks with rapid consideration. His demeanour is more jovial than threatening. And he refuses to shrink away from any of the questions posed. His memories of reality television are less than fond, and his assessment of it is contemplative, but scathing.

Along with his wife Nora, he had been booked to fly on the fateful Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie in 1988. By virtue of poor timekeeping, they missed it, but the moment has haunted Lydon ever since. An agreement was struck with the producers of the show which would ensure Lydon was informed once Nora’s plane had landed in Australia to greet him on location – an arrangement they reneged on.

“They did some very nasty things to me that I’ll never forget, and I resent them bitterly. That ate at me, because I have to know when Nora arrives anywhere on a plane. Then that bomber (al-Megrahi) being released, really raised an issue in my head. I thought, ‘Where do I stand on this?’ Someone’s dying, and yes, you are sympathetic. But that bugger could’ve killed me and Nora.”

Death and his own mortality are issues that have been playing heavily on Lydon’s mind lately. Last year, his brother was diagnosed with cancer and his father died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. The events have, naturally, had a profound effect.

“Luckily,” he says solemnly, “my brother’s cancer is in remission. But my father died. There’s nothing I can do to change that, but I can’t accept it. It’s almost like a childish reaction. I just do not see why we must cease to exist. I’m not on a great search for heaven or ‘hark the herald angels’: that’s a coward’s way out of understanding what life’s about. Life is here to live to the absolute fullest, until you get the bucket. And self pity and misery, you really should have no time for.

“I’ve seen so many people die futile, pointless, stupid rock deaths inside my own industry. And nobody seems to be telling them that it’s not an alternative. It’s not groovy and far out. It’s an act of grotesque foolishness. And ultimately you pay the bitterest prices for your self-indulgence. Death.”

Last year’s tragedies have inspired Lydon to take Public Image Ltd on their first tour in 17 years. He describes PiL as “a mental release, as opposed to The Sex Pistols, which is more of a physical release”, and the desire for such an outpouring not only inspired this tour, but also the band’s formation.

“The song Death Disco kept playing in my mind after the funeral,” explains Lydon. “It’s a song I wrote for my mother when she was dying in the late 1970s. The whole thing, it had to be resolved in my head and when I started playing the record again, I really got it. I thought: ‘That’s it… that’s why I wrote that song!’ It’s somehow a cry in the wilderness, but a release from pain. It’s one of the many ways I can describe what PiL is. It’s a release from pain… an escape almost from drug hallucinogenic monotone.”

Lydon’s pain of the past year has been accentuated by accusations of racial assault made against him by Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke. The pair were involved in an altercation in Spain last July, during which Okereke sustained severe facial bruising. Lydon, however, has been taken aback by the allegation, claiming he is fed up with the “disruption and petulant jealousy of other bands”.

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain with my family and I’m reading all this nonsense that I’m a racist. Of all the people in the world! It really, really hurts; particularly for my grandchildren… they’re Jamaican. How do you think they feel about that? I’ve deliberately kept my public image, all my life, limited. And yet this dirty arsed, Hollywood gossip is still trying to stick its claws in me. And I don’t think that’s a paranoid point of view, I think this business of behaving filthy is now pervasive in society.”

Lydon’s anger over the incident is plain, particularly in light of his previously affable nature. But as the conversation draws to a conclusion, his fury subsides, replaced by a gracious farewell and a throaty cackle. He is asked, if there is anything he wouldn’t advertise to raise money for the next PiL reunion. The response isn’t long in coming.

“Tampax… how on earth would I get away with that?”

 

Written for The Skinny

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Adam Stafford – Awnings LP Review


Yi-fi frontman’s first solo album is an avant-garde trip

Compared to 2008, when all-pervading Falkirk outfit Y’All Is Fantasy Island unleashed a trio of albums upon the unsuspecting Scottish indie fraternity, 2009 has been relatively quiet. It’s the perfect time, then, for the band’s nucleus Adam Stafford to release a solo album. Awnings is an experimental lo-fi collection, written and recorded in a three hour session. The record is built around intense, taut drumbeats and splashes of warped vocal. There are few lyrics and (bar the short spoken word track, Huntington House for the Deaf) when they do appear, they’re so low in the mix that they’re rendered indecipherable. What results is an exercise in atmospherics. From the Amazonian rumblings of opener Penshaw Movement to the breakneck title track, it’s an intoxicating listen. A clear departure for Stafford, the album goes some way to highlighting his versatility as a composer. And whilst Awnings won’t be for everyone, it’s worth finding out which camp you belong to.

3/5

Note: You can download Awnings for FREEEEEEE here

Written for The Skinny

Scottish Albums of the Decade


A couple of months back, The Skinny organised a poll, voted for by both writers and readers, to find out what peoples’ favourite Scottish albums of the decade had been. The writers were to nominate their top ten, with the readers just plumping for their favourites. I have to admit, I found this much trickier than the usual Ten of the Year. A whole decade of Scottish music?

I lived in Edinburgh for almost four years and have been writing for The Skinny for just as long. In that time I was exposed to oodles of good new Scottish bands. Despite that, my list is still pretty populist. Most of the bands are relatively well-known. As The Skinny prepare to reveal the final Top Twenty, here’s my own Top Ten Scottish Albums of the Decade.

1. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

2. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

3. The Twilight Sad – 14 Autumns…

4. The Beta Band – Hot Shots II

5. Camera Obscura – Lets Get Out Of This Country

6. The Delgados – Universal Audio

7. Idlewild – 100 Broken Windows

8. FOUND –This Mess We Keep Reshaping

9. The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

10. Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase


Video: Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off


2010: Year of the Rabbit? An Interview with Frightened Rabbit

As they prepare to unleash album number three, Finbarr Bermingham spoke to Frightened Rabbit to find out what 2010 holds in store.

Scott Hutchison is in Bath. Today should have been his day off. But instead, Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and songwriter has found himself cooped up in a Somerset studio by day and answering his phone to journalists by night. The never-ending spiral of production and promotion has laid claim to the spirits of many musicians. Hutchison, though, is more philosophical than most.

“There are days when it’s awful,” he tells me as he checks into his hotel room. “But you have to catch yourself and transfer your body into an office, wearing a suit. Then you think: ‘Fuck it, I’m alright.’ Even on the worst days of touring, to me it’s preferable to any other job, so I’m not going to complain at all.”

Frightened Rabbit have been recording the B-sides for their forthcoming single, Swim Until You Can’t See Land. It precedes the March 2010 release of album number three, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which Hutchison says is “more of a storytelling record” than anything they’ve put out before. It will be speckled with autobiographical musings, but nothing to match the heart-on-sleeve opus that was Midnight Organ Fight. “In other words,” he assures us, “I didn’t spend all of winter getting pissed!”

“At its core,” Scott continues, “it’s still full of songs and for me, that’s the point of putting an album together. The way we’ve treated them is sonically quite different. It’s much more layered, but I don’t want to say grand, because the obvious mistake to make is to start going over the top. But I don’t think we have – in many ways it’s a much more restrained and confident record. I don’t think it’s grasping for your attention as much as the last record and the difference in confidence is probably why.”

The runaway success of Midnight Organ Fight was largely unforeseen and it’s a measure of the band’s progress that The Winter of Mixed Drinks is one of the most anticipated albums of 2010. For many, expectation like that is liable to breed pressure. For Hutchison, though, it all comes from within. “I just want to better myself,” he says. “When you’re demoing, writing and recording you’re away from outside influence. It’s nice forgetting about the fact that anyone’s going to hear the songs and remembering how to write to please yourself again.”

If the new songs were written to please Hutchison, then surely previous tracks were written to help him. Painfully personal accounts of a failed relationship formed the basis of Midnight Organ Fight and the album charts Scott’s progress as he attempts to get his life back on track. Frequently it’s stirring. Sometimes it’s lewd and at others it’s funny. But the only track his mother struggles to listen to is Floating Down The Forth, during which Hutchinson contemplates suicide.

“I can see why a mum might not want to hear about her son having those thoughts. But she’s extremely supportive of the rest of it. I’m sure I’ve said ‘cunt’ in front of my mum once or twice, so the language isn’t much of an issue.”

The subject of the songs, too, has been for the most part encouraging. “I know the girl in question has heard it,” explains Scott. “She told me that some days she’d enjoy it and others she just couldn’t bear listening to it at all. I understand that, she’s good enough to not complain about it and even though we don’t keep in touch anymore, for the small amount of time that we did, she was pretty supportive.”

In less than a month, Frightened Rabbit will play one of their biggest shows to date, when they take to the stage at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party. New Year has, in the past, brought contrasting fortunes for the Selkirk band. Scott describes last year’s performance in Sydney as “bloody excellent” and one of the highlights of his short career. Its grandiosity is only magnified when it’s considered alongside some of their humbler experiences. Scott takes up the story:

“A couple of years before that, we played at Barfly. It was the year the George Square celebration got cancelled because of the gales and the rain, so it was bad enough trying to even get there. At the time, we were doing all our own driving and I had to wait until we got all the way home to have a drink. So, that was shit. I think we got paid something like fifty quid for our trouble.”

He admits that sometimes it’s good to reflect on dark nights like those. “We’ve done okay,” is his modest assessment of the subsequent couple of years. The twelve months ahead, though, promise to be some of the busiest of their lives, but Hutchison is anything but daunted. “There are always people to be played to, there’s always a new town to go to so we’re going to treat it like that and tour the arse off it!”

Scott contemplates the rigours ahead, before saying, “It could be worse.”

One wonders whether he’s thinking of that suit?

Five of the Best: #4: Nick Mitchell

Nick Mitchell is the Editor of the excellent blog Under the Radar, which presents the cream of new Scottish music, daily. He works for The Scotsman and writes about all things musical for The Skinny, Clash and The Line of Best Fit. Hats off to Nick for selecting perhaps one of the most underrated albums of the past ten years, Midlake’s excellent Trials of Van Occupanther in part 4 of Five of the Best.

Radiohead – Amnesiac (2001)


When I first heard it

On its release in 2001 I reckon.

Why I love it

Close call between this and Kid A, and most people would have gone for Kid A, but it’s the second cut from those sessions that shades it for me. At the time everyone was trying to get their head around where Thom Yorke was going, and this album contains some of his weirdest experimentations, so it took some getting used to. But once you did get over that you found the same spine-tingling songwriting underneath. It’s far from uniformly excellent, but Pyramid Song still stands out as one of my favourite Radiohead tracks.

What it reminds me of

Strangely, considering it coincides with the time when I was finishing school and about to leave home for uni, it doesn’t really have any memories attached to it for me. Odd that.

Standout track

Pyramid Song
Anything else?

It came out of a difficult time for the band, the how-do-you-follow-OK-Computer era, and you can really hear the creative energies of the band members being pushed to the limit.

OutKast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003)

When I first heard it

Christmas time, 2003

Why I love it

Speakerboxx is a forward thinking rap album, which is fine for rap fans, but for everyone else, The Love Below is just a brilliant collection of pop songs that flows from start to finish. Sure, there’s Hey Ya, which has been touted as the hit of the decade, but the whole thing is the Andre 3000 show, the grandest, most ridiculously overblown LP of the decade, full of superlative songwriting, rapping and production. And the skits are actually listenable, for once.

What it reminds me of

I took it with me on a working holiday to the Basque Country the following summer, so it reminds me of lying on a beach in San Sebastian.

Standout track

Hey Ya for everyone, Spread for me.

Anything else?

OutKast purists would probably go for Stankonia, but to be honest I only heard the singles at the time, so it doesn’t hold the same retrospective appeal.

Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006)

When I first heard it

Autumn of 2006 I think.

Why I love it

This is a strange one, and even as I write this I’m questioning its inclusion in the top five albums of the last ten years. I doubt it would actually make any magazines’ top 100. But when you listen to music it’s a linear thing: it either makes a connection with you or it doesn’t, and what other people think shouldn’t come into it. This album really caught my attention at the time as it seemed to have come out of a past era of woodcutters and log cabins. But timeless in another sense. I listened to it a lot then, and I can still enjoy it now. And that’s what matters.

What it reminds me of

Going for a solitary walk through the woods near the sea at my parent’s home on a very cold winter day. Perfect hangover remedy.

Standout track

Roscoe

Anything else?

Their new album is due out in February.

The Strokes – Is This It

When I first heard it

Back in the halcyon days of the early noughties.

Why I love it

OK, so it’s the NME’s album of the decade, but that shouldn’t detract from just how important this album was at the time. Not that it was trying to be anything, and that’s what’s so good about it: it’s effortless. It’s also innocent, the soundtrack to being young and carefree and getting drunk and having fun. It’s also just two guitars, a bass and drums. And so it heralded a new wave of garage rock bands after all the self-consciously epic dross that accompanied the turn of the millenium.

Standout track

Someday. Yes, I prefer it to Last Nite.

What it reminds me of

A thousand student nights out. And the massive poster of the cover I had on my wall at the time. And generally just being young. Sigh.

The Knife – Silent Shout (2006)

When I first heard it

Some time in 2006.

Why I love it

I got into The Knife through the huge success of Heartbeats when it was covered by Jose Gonzalez and then re-released in 2004. I love electronic music, I think I have a kind of attraction towards anything cool and inhuman and synthetic, and this was The Knife in a nutshell. But you’ve got to remember that synths have been around for over 30 years, and somehow the Swedish duo make electronic music that sounds utterly unlike anything you’ve ever heard. They’re more than musicians, they’re arti sts, and when Silent Shout came out it was their masterpiece.

Standout track

We Share Our Mother’s Health

What it reminds me of

Walking around Edinburgh and feeling cooler than everyone on the street just by listening to it.

Choice Cut Video: Midlake – Roscoe

http://www.youtube.com/v/JDL9bXlwbM4&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

Stuart Braithwaite Tweets His Top Ten Albums of the Decade


I sometimes wonder why I bother with a Twitter account. I don’t tweet much; rarely learn anything interesting from it, and use up hours of my time that could undoubtedly be spent doing something much more productive. And then I find something like this.

I’m sitting at my computer, wondering what The Guardian has to say for itself and reading inane tweets from the Brighton Argus, and a steady stream of tweet updates start coming through from @plasmatron… aka Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai.

The first one read:

“Sponsored by mars bar ice cream here is my top 10 albums the of the decade of records that probably won’t be on anyone else’s lists

My senses were alerted, I began noting them down thinking they’d fit perfectly in the Five of the Best series. And since it is Stuart, why not let him have the ten? I’m not sure what the law is about regurgitating people’s tweets, so if I’m in the wrong, somebody let me know!

Ten of the Best: Stuart Braithwaite’s (unedited) Top Ten Albums of the 2000s

10. Desormais – iambroken and remade iambroken (total glitch masterpiece)

9. Alan Sparhawk – solo guitar (Alan from Low’s make instrumental album of the decade)

8. Super Furry Animals – mwng (only welsh language album by SFA, their best record)

7. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle

6. Lightning Bolt – Ride the Skies

5. Afrirampo – A (amazing band featuring 2 girls from Osaka)

4. Growing – The Sky Runs into the Sea (one of my favourite bands goings debut)

3. Arab Strap – monday at the hug and pint

2. Jack Rose – Red Horse White Mule (mind blowing guitar player)

1. Malcolm Middleton – 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine (low on laughs but a truly amazing record. for a ginger)


Mogwai – New Paths To Helicon Part One
http://www.youtube.com/v/EnDqalVWeSk&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

Five of the Best: #3 Alan Timmons

Alan is a writer, a drawer of buildings and the former frontman of superstar Wicklow outfit the Hecklin’ Howlers. He’s the person I credit with my introduction to Gillian Welch (read more below), and as such, his music taste is exemplary. Here are his five favourite albums of the past ten years.

Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (2001)

When I first heard it

I got Soul Journey first (probably around 2003) and then quickly collected her previous albums. They are all brilliant but this one is exceptional. I went to college with a nut who knew everything about music. I gave him Soul Journey and he gave me Time. Deal.

Why I love it

Deceptively simple, haunting and patient. David Rawlings plays guitar here (also produces I’m sure) and the acoustic instrumentation is incredible at times. There’s not many that can pull off a 14 minute final track but I Dream a Highway carries you along on a melancholic aching journey. The harmonies with Rawlings add another layer, like a ghost in the back of Welch’s mind. You won’t find anything like this anywhere. If you do, let me know please.

What it reminds me of

I love Dylan and this reminds me of early Dylan in terms of its style and aspiration. It’s probably a bit better even, more confident, assured and better produced.

Standout track

I’m going to say the title track but that’s a reluctant choice. Elvis Presley’s Blues maybe. Red Clay Halo…ah I don’t know. Too difficult to choose. There’s three for you.

Anything else?

I saw Welch and Rawlings live in Vicar Street Dublin around 2003/4. Front row. To this day I’ll say it was the best gig I was ever at. She’s covered all over the place too. You’d be surprised.

 

Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005)

When I first heard it

Early 2005 sometime. I wandered into HMV, as I often did, looking for some escape from my lunch break and the job that begrudgingly afforded me the luxury. I never felt comfortable at those listening stations, trying to hold the oversized headphones on like one of the eegits from Band Aid. My embarrassment was often compounded by catching myself nodding along to whatever shit of the week was being played. If I’m being honest I was really just pretending to listen while I watched girls around the shop. Pervert, I know, what are you gonna do! And then one day I heard a story about a woman falling from an airplane and I listened intently. When the song kicked in I took off the headphones and went straight to the counter and purchased this album.

Why I love it

Maybe my favourite album. Big talk, I know and not everyone’s cup of tea but definitely mine. Two sugars and just a drop of milk. Full of stirring little tales sometimes stark with just acoustic guitar, sometimes backed by peddle steel, piano and some brass. The songwriting and lyrics are mature and considered.

What it reminds me of

Some dusty folk outpost where an older generation, unsure of themselves and the world, watch their children play with sticks and built dreams from the earth.

Standout track

Land Locked Blues. The poetic lyrics throughout. If you walk away I’ll way away, first tell me which road you will take, I don’t want to risk our paths crossing some day, so you walk that way, I’ll walk this way. Backing vocals by Emmylou Harris. Shivers.

Anything else?

If I gave this album to someone and they said they didn’t like it I’d have to tell them then that we have nothing in common.

Josh Ritter – Golden Age of Radio (2002)

When I first heard it

A friend in college (the same music nut) gave it to me at the same time as I was trying to get my hands on Damien Rice’s O. Jesus no man, he said, listen to this. And so I did. Good job too.

Why I love it

It’s everything I love about folk. I saw him live a few times around after the release of this album. When he told his stories, I believed him. I believed the smirk, the shy voice, the bad suits. This album grabbed the lapels of my student get-up and said: get that blazer jacket off you nerd, find yourself a check number and get on a train.

What it reminds me of

Hotels, buses, leaves, rivers, laughs, rambling, rolling, leaving….but most of all…trains.

Standout track

Me & Jiggs. I’ve heard him ramble on with two completely different stories about this song, one about taking a girl to a dance and another about some mongrel dog that he befriended. I believed them both.

Anything else?

I was torn between this album and Hello Startling. His first album Josh Ritter is brilliant too, raw, simple and elegant.

 

Jesse Malin – The Fine Art of Self-destruction (2002)

When I first heard it

November 2004. I listened to it on repeat for the whole month. I think I broke it up sometimes with Highway 61.

Why I love it

Because it’s just a really good debut album. And it’s all New York. I hear echoes of Springsteen, The Clash and Elvis Costello.

What it reminds me of

New York of course. But also: Crisp November Mornings…Grand Canal Dock….The Dart…A coat that wasn’t warm enough….Lonely beaches in my dreams…Last year’s girl creeping down my world…The Unbearable Lightness of Being…Desolation Row.

Standout track

Brooklyn. It had me at the two chord down-strummed intro. When the piano kicked in my eyes were closed and I was walking along the Bridge. There are two versions here, one ‘with band’ which is only slightly inferior to the other.

Anything else?

I’ve been sadly let down by subsequent albums where the songwriting has too often strayed towards cliché and easy rhymes which is just lazy writing! There have been some good songs since but no album to come close to this one. And dare I say it but sometimes I think he’s sold out to commercialism, trying to write cheesy pseudo-rock songs. Not a good endorsement of the man, I know, but this album stands alone.

Micah P. Hinson and the Gospel of Progress (2004)

When I first heard it

An island somewhere in Thailand 2006: I’m hanging out with this Norwegian guy, a journalist and would-be writer. We get a load of beer and batteries for dodgy speakers, go to the beach and he plays an unending stream of great music till the night gets so dark and drunk we can’t sea the water. If there is any comparison to be made between Thailand and Micah P. Hinson then it’s something to do with the sublime and the ridiculous.

Why I love it

The drole voice, bleak lyrics. Lazy slide guitar, dulcimer & piano. It’s atmosphere I crave, air and space.

What it reminds me of

Not Thailand. A barn in the middle of acres and acres of corn. The wind is blowing and threatening rain. The ripe heads sway and rattle endlessly for miles around like ripples in a lake.

Standout track

This is a tough one. Candidates are The Possibilities, Don’t you and the opening track Close Your Eyes. But my personal favourite is Patience. A four chord repeated verse and chorus looped over a building narrative of noise. He’s pissed and running out of patience; he’s packing up his night bag and he’ll be on his way.

Anything else?

If my taste has annoyed some people, that’s life.

Choice Cut Video: Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)

http://www.youtube.com/v/dey-K1OcjVQ&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

New Blood: Trapped in Kansas


They read Stephen Hawking, question the laws of physics and still find a minute to make a wave on the local circuit. There’s only one Trapped in Kansas.

When a group of university students decide to combine forces and make music, the move is quite often inspired by cheap booze and the need for an alternative to daytime television. Not so, it appears, in the case of Ayr’s Trapped In Kansas. Guitarist Gregor Fair explains that the quartet’s intricate, tuneful brand of indie rock was borne out of inter-band conversations on space, time travel, the Hadron Collider and other assorted quandaries of physics. “We genuinely have some intense scientific brain meltdowns whilst traversing the M8 in Chris [Ward]’s trusty Citroen Picasso.”

Ward, the band’s bass player and vocalist elaborates: “I would certainly say our biggest influence is science. We get into crazy chats about dark matter, parallel universes and Stephen Hawking.”

It’s a refreshing approach to songwriting, and one which has paid dividends this year. Though only formed in June 2008, Trapped in Kansas already have debut performances at RockNess and a headlining set in the T Break tent at T in the Park under their belt, having also featured in a filmed session for The Skinny and Off The Beaten Tracks at the latter.

Whilst Fair is loathe to define the band’s sound, he describes its intricacies as “thoughtful and sometimes challenging, without being complicated for the sake of it.” He is sure, however, that Trapped in Kansas have found a distinct identity. “I think we’re instantly recognisable against other Scottish bands. Finn [Le Marinel]’s vocals are very unique which helps us stand out. The rhythms and tempos are constantly shifting in our songs, which keeps people interested.”

It’s a reasonable summation, according to the few tracks the band have released. There’s a palpable element of math-rock, but the tracks are consistently melodic. Their palette owes much to the wildly varied tastes of the band’s members: drummer Iain Symes enjoys dubstep and drum & bass, whereas Le Marinel is, according to Fair, “a purveyor of anything devoid of time signatures.” Fair’s own background is playing in punk bands, whilst Ward mainly follows indie bands like Belle & Sebastian, Stapleton and The Smiths. Collectively, the band enjoy more than the mere mysteries of the universe, sharing a love of Frightened Rabbit and American Football.

Having just completed a tour of Scotland with Bronto Skylift and Lions.Chase.Tigers., Ward is confident that another EP release from the band is forthcoming in the near future, though the process of formalising an agreement with the right label hasn’t been without its complications. “We’ve had chats with some Scottish labels about doing a single deal, though thus far nothing has been right for us. But we’re excited about the EP, it will be like the end of our first chapter and we can move away from those tracks and onto new material.”

With another round of Scottish gigs scheduled between now and the festive season, the opportunities to catch the dextrously talented Trapped In Kansas are plentiful. Be sure and see them now before they turn the page.

Written for The Skinny

Five of the Best: #2 Finn Scott-Delany

Number two in the series features Finn Scott-Delany, a music critic who writes for Drowned in Sound and Alternative Ulster. He also plays a mean guitar and occasionally, sports a killer quiff.

Grizzly Bear – Yellow House

A steady fixture on album of the year lists in 2006, the drip-drop of critical praise eventually led me to buy Yellow House. An enveloping mood piece, it has been part-relegated by the excellent, chirpier follow-up Veckamist. But to my mind this edges it as one of the most unlikely great albums to get lost in, the abstract and fantastical sonic imagery making it a rare album that commands intensive listening alone. The intro to ‘Reprise’ seems to suck back inside itself before emerging in all its dawn chorus glory.
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

Surely the best modern dance-based album, this also works as an indie crossover because it doesn’t compromise on either. Song-based but mix-led, In Ghost Colours ebbs, pulsates and swoons, a collection of expertly compiled pop songs that knows when to make you dance and when to stand hands aloft. The climax arrives when the driving clatter of ‘So Haunted’ bottlenecks into the set-up for the euphoric ‘Heart on Fire’. In thrall to 80s aesthetics but undeniably fresh.
Common – Be

Kanye West might have made my personal top-5, but since Be is his greatest effort behind the desk, it will do just fine. Spoiling us with a rich palette of deep soul and retooled funk and jazz, Be works as a loving tribute to the black musical canon. Standing proud among his best efforts, Common is streaming with a mature, laidback wisdom. A master class in rhythmic en Pointe delivery, ‘The Corner’ is Common at his most expressive.
The Streets – Original Pirate Material

Being a middle-class kid was no barrier to revelling in the (sub)urban witticisms of Mike Skinner. With too many great lines to quote, this “day in the life of a geezer” was set to homemade two-step beats, normalising a much-pilloried sub-genre. A real memory-jerker, Skinner articulated modern culture on Original Pirate Material in a way he hasn’t done since, ‘Weak Become Heroes’ a poignant celebration of a misspent youth: “But this ain’t tomorrow and for now I still love ya”.

Radiohead – Amnesiac

The second release from the Kid A sessions, Amnesiac has all the progressiveness of its predecessor, but is less bogged down in the post-Ok Computer landscape. As a teenage Radiohead devotee, I would have lapped up almost any release, but this stands out handsomely. ‘Pyramid Song’ is archetypical Radiohead with its discordant piano chords, cut-up time signatures and swirling Thom Yorke vocal.

Choice Cut Video: Cut Copy – Hearts on Fire