Nov 23, 2004

Gig review: Stephen Devine, Night & Day café, November 15th 2004

It’s not unusual for me to walk out of the Night & Day £3-a-bottle the poorer and my ears bleeding like the lifts out of the Shining. It’s normally because I have seen a band so distatefully dire, I want to go home and dance to my food blender.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen until the fourth band tonight. I don’t know their name and I don’t care, as they made Maroon 5 sound like Slayer.

The third band were excellent, however, with a stack of good songs, a rack of exaggerated hair and a nice line in stooping. It’s such a shame they were called Fans Of Kate.

Meanwhile, the first band were called the Likes. They were a macho Coral whose lead singers had voices so low, I swear to this day they were transmitting subliminal orders to buy badges from their badge stand. Yes, a badge stand. What the Likes lacked in personality, they more than made up for with effects pedals. Bless.

No it’s the second band, or rather soloist Stephen Devine, I was here to see tonight. One man and his acoustic guitar couldn’t have been more out of place than if Divine himself had waddled onto the stage. At least Stephen had a sampler as an extra ‘band member’. And yes he really did introduce his ‘band’.

Devine (the non-drag one) opened with Do You Think They Know and yes it does start off sounding a bit like the Levellers, but this is ditched pretty promptly with a sequence of sometimes haphazard chords and an ending of such volume and intensity, you could actually see his tonsils.

Can You Wait was the first track to showcase his layered guitars party trick, sampling and looping as he goes to create a rich acoustic mantra with more nods to Underworld than anyone of the singer-songwriter ilk. The song was spoilt, however, by a plebeian sound engineer with mud in his ears; the crucial bass drum was lost. The song also sounded a little rushed, losing the sense of space that makes Devine’s experimentalism work so well.

Help Me, a desperately quiet anti-anthem of tortured desire is one of those Really Good Tunes that puts a flag on Devine’s song-writing talents and waves it as though the Queen’s in town. “I just want to go hooome with you” he pleads before telling you he’s bleeding and his tragic heart is broken. Talk about needy. The simplicity of this song speaks for itself, and no amount of mud in anyone’s ears could mess this one up.

The wistful vibe was carried into Comfort Me, the title track from his CD. It takes some courage to sing so quietly into the hip void of the Night & Day. It doesn’t work as well as Help Me, and sits the artist firmly in the singer-songwriter vein when I suspect his blood should be pumping down more experimental arteries.

Which brings us to Slow Down, his opus, his epic, his big tool that wrenches conversation into submission. The sound man has nipped to Boots for cotton buds just in time for an ever-so-simple quiet song that loops and builds and layers until it’s funking out like the Chili Peppers and Devine is spinning around on the spot like, er, Kylie Minogue. Here we have a singer possessed by everything Stephen ought to be about: repetition, beauty, simplicity and passion.

This is the sound of someone still looking for completeness in his music, with the result that some songs are better than others, and some songs’ mothers are better than other songs’ mothers. But he found that completeness at the end, leaving us wanting more and not begging for the strange rhythms of our food blenders.

Which is divinity in itself, I suppose.

Nov 22, 2004

Facing Up: Japanese Ann Widdecombe?

I've just seen a pilot episode of a new ITV1 comedy called Facing Up.

It stars Mark Heap (Spaced, Green Wing) as a celebrity impersonator who clearly resents the famous person he is making a living off. Along with a will-he won't-he friendship with Samantha Janus, he is mates with a Twister-obsessed Rod Stewart impersonator. He works for an agency run by a man called Harvey who never seems to be quite in control of events, played to perfection by John Thompson.

I'm not sure when it will be on the tellybox, but it's worth a look-in. (Remember Look-In?) Facing Up is not as original as Green Wing, and not as clever as Spaced, while Heap deliberately plays down the ridiculous characters he played on both of those series.

But just to persuade you to watch it, here are the five funniest moments in the pilot episode, in no particular order:

1. Japanese Ann Widdecombe? That's the Yes pile.

2. The dinner party conversation, from "Glue?" to "I love David Hasselhoff"

3. The intrusive Gandalf impersonator

4. Constant put-downs for Celine "yammering fishwife" Dion

5. John Thompson running off in the background, cartoon style, at the end of the episode.

Who needs fluffy celebrity gossip magazines when you have me? Facing Up. You heard it on the Fat Roland Blog first.

Latest on the Cord gig on December 1st

Here's an update on what's happening downstairs in Cord bar, Northern Quarter, Manchester on December 1st, 8pm until 11pm (admission free!).

'Two' will be the name of the night. The event is set to be a great showcase for Fats friends and fans alike, with visuals supplied by Squeaky Productions cohort Fil (aka Weasel) and Altaer master Kol (aka Krow), plus a DJ set by Kid Mingus (aka Kid Mingus).

Kid Mingus will be showcasing tracks from his new mini-album Unhappy House (the best track title is Sting Loves Me). To hear the mini-album in full, go straight to the Defunktion website by clicking here. The music will automatically start streaming shortly after the page loads.

Brought to you by Sanctus1, the evening of electronica and creative visuals should also feature live experimental music courtesy of a laptop PC artist, but details are still being sorted.

Nov 15, 2004

The X-Factor and the end-times apocalypse

Nostradamus predicted it, the JWs live by it, and it has finally arrived.

The signs have been here for some time, but the biggest portent of doom happened on Saturday night. Voices With Soul got voted out of the X-Factor. They were clearly the best performers there, as this brief precis of the remaining contestants shows:

a) Rowetta = mad as hatter
b) Steve = smug Michael Bolton
c) G4 = Richard Clayderman with voices instead of a piano
d) Thingy = Stereophonics
e) The other one = who?!?

VWS believe in Jesus. They even changed the lyrics of their song to make it holier. Who said they had put on the best performance of the series and therefore cursed them forever? Sharon Osbourne, who is in fact married to the devil.

This isn't the first time this has happened. God-lover Gareth Gates lost out to Will Young, who is one of them homosatchels. Apparently he smiles at other men. Gates reacted to the defeat by defiling Jordan, which is a very important river in the Bible.

Even Jesus' best friend, Cliff Richard, came second in the 1968 Eurovision song contest to a ditty called La La La, and we all know what "la la la" means don't we?!?! (No - Blogger ed)

Will the only successful Christian musician continue to be just Daniel Bedingfield? Or will the Cheeky Girls get converted? Only time will tell, but there isn't a lot of it left and I can hear trumpets in the distance...

...oh no, my mistake, it's just bloomin' 2 To Go.

Nov 14, 2004

Back-slappers: a plug for Sometimes... Records

Aaw, God bless 'em.

In their latest web-powered missive, Electronica label Sometimes... Records have taken it upon themselves to plug my forthcoming appearance at Cord bar. They call me "official Sometimes... friend", which is praise indeed. The Cord night happens on Wednesday December 1st, in case you were wondering.

So in true vomitesque, pseudo-celebrity back-slapping style, here is a plug by me for them.

Cue flashing lights and 'Our Graham from Blind Date' voice: "While we're talking nights out (or rather while I'm typing and you're reading whilst munching on a Twix or your toes or something), if you're ever passing Dry bar on Oldham Street, Manchester on a Thursday evening, pop in for The Rug. DJs from Sometimes... and the Mixtape Club will throw a load of funk, soul, dub, dancehall and electronica at you."

Plugged right back at ya.

Nov 13, 2004

Young 'uns and explosives

I would like to say a trinitrotoluene-fuelled thank you to the Guy Fawkes-obsessed revellers setting off fireworks in my neighbourhood this evening as I trudged my way home from work. It was most unexpected since November 5th was over a week ago, but it brightened up the night sky and was a most spectacular sight.

Particularly touching was the sight of an elderly couple who, upon arriving home with their shopping, paused for a few moments to watch the colourful extravaganza. I thought I overheard them mutter something about hooligans and castration, but I'm sure they enjoyed the show nonetheless.

In a very real sense of the word, bangin'.

Fat Roland's blog

Yes, okay, I have succumbed to the evils of blogging.

So expect blogs from me. Because this is a blog. And not a dry cleaners. I will not leave dry cleaning stains on your silk shirts, but I will leave blogs. Here.

Watch this stain-- er, I mean-- space.