Nouvelle Vague

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nouvelle Vague at Bloomsbury BallroomOn Saturday night, I saw French band Nouvelle Vague play at the Bloomsbury Ballroom. Their concept to cover New Wave songs in a Bossa Nova and French jazz style is inspired. Their two albums have featured songs such as Love will tear us apart, Teenage Kicks, Blue Monday and Ever fallen in love, stripping away the angsty guitars and synths and replacing them with acoustic, breathy, laid back, summery grooves. The resulting music, though great, is a little too light, too fragile for my taste.

I wasn't sure how this would translate on stage. Happily, in a live settings, Nouvelle Vague's music becomes more rhythmic and insistent with a deeper resonance as the double bass makes its presence felt.

Nor had I reckoned on Nouvelle Vague's two very charismatic live singers, Melanie Pain and Phoebe Killdeer. Playing a range of instruments - tambourines, maraccas, cowbells and harmonicas - both have a captivating stage presence. Their voices have contrasting styles which perfectly compliment each other - Melanie sings sweetly with breathy, wistful, hopeful, poignant tones, while Phoebe's voice is darker, deeper, and more dramatic. As a twosome, they're wonderfully alluring and enigmatic, dancing through the songs with light sways and expressive hands. Melanie plays a cute, wide-eyed innocence. The songs she leads (Ever Fallen in Love, Blue Monday) become melodic and sweet. Phoebe's songs have more drama - her Bela Lugosi's Dead is baroque.

It doesn't always work. Their cover of Blondie's Heart of Glass begins brilliantly with Phoebe archly singing a melodramatic Spanish flamenco. The song soon turns to sweet melodies, which I felt was a missed opportunity. Conversely their cover of Too Drunk to Fuck descends from their style to a riotous cacophony, with most of the audience dancing and chanting along as if the original was being played.

Happily, these are exceptions rather than the rule. There's a sense of playful fun through their music, especially in concert. Phoebe caused my favourite moment, melodramatically asking for the house lights to be turned "red, deep red, passionate red, blood red". The lights stayed candy pink, to which she replied gothically, "...or pink will do". Their versions of Guns of Brixton and Friday night, Saturday morning were sublime, melodic and haunting, the latter all the more so as I had gone out on Friday night and returned on Saturday morning and felt the effects... The overall effect is to cause a wry smile, with admiration for talent both in performance and music.

Buy Bande a Part

Fab at 50

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This is my 50th post on acediscovery and, by sheer serendipity, is a year to the day that I started the blog with my very long post about Gdansk.

So to mark the occasion, I've been out and about in London looking for 50s. And here they are:

50 at the Fifty Club

50 at UCL

50 at Frith Street

50 on Euston Road

50 at UCL

50 at Liverpool Street Station

50 at Gray's Inns

50 at Brixton Hill

50 at Coram Street

50 at Doughty Street


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I went to see up-and-coming popstar Mika last night. Dingwalls is a rubbish venue, but Mika more than made up for it. Although he's relatively new, as 2007's great big hype, he seems to have amassed a hoard of fans. Fan girls crowded in front of the stage a good twenty minutes before the gig began, all clutching their Mika rosettes and sucking the Mika lollipops which had been dutifully provided by his street team.

Mika's performance was energetic and entertaining. He bopped around the stage, high-kicking and flailing his arms about with aplomb. He is quite tall, thin, with a fey indie style dressed in white shirt, red trousers and black braces (looked better than it sounds). His voice has a quite surprising range - from high falsetto to an almost indie growl, the vocals oscillate, often in the same song.

Mika's popstar equation:

(Jake Shears + Freddy Mercury) - (homosexuality + campness + rock) = Mika
(Rufus Wainwright x disco) x metrosexuality =

Sort of. Either that, or he's oddly unique, and yet not really unique either. The songs sound like everything we've heard before in a familiar, loving way. Most are instantly catchy.

Mika is a popstar

His first single, Relax (Take it Easy) opened the gig, and it is ace, a potential anthem for early 2007 with its arms-aloft-yet-chilled sentiment, soaring high disco chorus and dance-bop beats. This was followed by the more strident, more uptempo Love Today and other jolly, ecccentric songs about married men having gay affairs, and loving larger ladies, and a rather affecting, dramatic ballad. The gig ended with the anthemic-although-formulaic Grace Kelly, made better with ace vogue-esque hand movements. The encore was the quite wonderful playground-esque Lollipop, which could either be about having too much sex, or too much wanking or quite possibly neither of these things.

The dancing for Lollipop involved playing with his braces in a jaunty fashion. This was rather good.

At one point his grandmother appeared on stage to dance with him, providing the best On-Stage Granny Action since Boonika banged her drum for Moldova on stage at Eurovision 2005.

He has an ace drummer, who plays a starring role during Grace Kelly.

Mika is almost certainly destined for popstardom. The songs are ace, he's a great performer. Hurrah.

Mika website Mika myspace

Baila! Baila! Baila!

Monday, November 20, 2006

On Saturday evening, I went to First Out Café to a Spanish pop music night held there every two weeks. I didn't know a lot about the night before going, having only seen a flyer on a recommendation from Karinski. The dress code, rather fabulously, was for "wigs & heels".

Spanish Pop Night

Getting there around 8.30, it was already busy with a happy bunch of Spanish gays, guys and girls bopping around the DJ box. The music initially was quite Spanish-indie-pop guitar bands, so I wondered how Spanish poppy it would be. How soon should I pester the DJs, asking for anything by Chenoa! or David Bisbal! or any other fab latin-pop songs?!

Las Ketchup's Asereje was played a few minutes later, and I was happily reassured that it was pop, pop, pop all the way. Chenoa's excellent Cuando Tu Vas soon followed, with joyful whoops from me, as did David Bisbal's Buleria and Shakira's Hips Don't Lie, which (if not strictly Spanish) is whole lot of ace latin pop. One man told me that the night was "really great" as it was the only gay Spanish pop night in London. Hurrah!

Spanish Pop Night

Highlights of the new-songs-I-hadn't-known were a song which may or may not be called Enamorada del amor by Joan Sebastian, a Mexican singer and definitely Maquillaje by Mecano, an ace song which sounds like early 80s preview for Girls Aloud's Biology. You can listen to that below. Apparently it's all about disguising one's true appearance through make-up, with reference to the superficiality of modern society. So, here are some people wearing wigs and dancing. Ace!

Spanish Pop Night

Listen here to Mecano - Maquillaje:


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Like so many Londoners, I read today's Metro on my trek to work. Tabloid journalism is never very accurate but today's headlines seem just ridiculous. I can't believe that Metro, Evening Standard, London Lite and thelondonpaper can get away with such scurrilous, shrieking, scare-mongering and worrying headlines.

"DRUG RAPE IS A MYTH" screams today's headline. The article reveals how sedative drugs had not been used in a sample of 120 rape cases tested by the police. Not that drugs had never been used, not that drug rape is non-existant (or a "myth") - just that drug rape is not as widespread as we would perhaps believe. With a rather cruel irony, it would seem drug rape is a media panic.

On a lighter note, I noticed a headline about the "real James Bond". The article showed a composite picture of what makes the ideal James Bond, taking elements from all the actors that have played Bond. So this picture is not the 'real' James Bond - it's a fake picture, of actors. The survey revealed that the 'perfect' Bond would have Daniel Craig's eyes, Sean Connery's nose, Roger Moore's hair and eyebrows, Timothy Dalton's jaw and Pierce Brosnan's Smile.

I don't know what the survey respondents were thinking about. Have they not seen the Daniel Craig's publicity shots for Casino Royale? It ain't his eyes I'm looking at! Hello.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DragonetteOn Monday night, I went with Mr. Gaypop and Ms. Karinski to Ghetto to see Dragonette, a new electropop band who are Canadian but based in the UK. They played about 8 songs in all. Their song I Get Around is an ace synthy number with an excellent rousing pop chorus. I think about this song at least 3 times a week, as it has the line "so I tiptoe out of this mess / as I slip myself back into last night's dress". Then the singers slathers herself with lipstick and faces the day - a song about The Walk of Shame, how fantastic.

The gig was great. Lead singer Martina is quite fabulous, addressing the crowd with a louch, but enthuastic, style. She wore gold spandex skin-tight leggings (which I know she bought at American Apparel), ace black shoes with gold heel, black-and-gold fingerless gloves, and black cashmere cardigan with a piece-de-resistance accessory - a mutilated pom-pom hanging from one shoulder (made from cassette tape, so she told us).

Dragonette guitaristI was highly impressed by some of their newer songs, which I hadn't heard before the gig. True Believer sounds like an ace rousing, power uptempo ballad-esque pop song. I can see it being huge. I like equations, so Dragonette sound something like this:

Rogue Traders - Rock + Electro = Dragonette ≈ No Doubt + Pop - Ska.

While Martina moved around, dancing with the audience, standing on the amps and generally shimmying like a funky-robotnic, the rest of the band stood intent on playing their music. I was quite taken by this guitarist. Hello. The band finished off by saying, “We’re Dragonette... you’re not -but don’t feel bad about it.” Cute, and great attitude.

So. Dragonette: they have excellent synthy-pop music and a fabulous nouveau-eighties look. The pic below is one of their striking gender-bending-but-not-too-much promo images. Having already supported Scissor Sisters and New Order live, 2007 could just be their year. Here's hoping.


Wish I was there

Friday, November 10, 2006

When an idea forms in my brain, I often find myself thinking that I wish I'd thought of it earlier. For instance, I wish I had thought of my map collecting project a year ago, and could have collected maps from my trips to Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Japan etc. This thought came to me again a few weeks ago. We went for a day to Hastings, during the lovely weather of the Indian summer.

As we walked along the clifftops, I looked out to sea. I was taken by the strong, vivid, complimentary blues of the sea and sky, divided by the horizon. I took some photographs. I was pleased when I looked back at the photographs, but thought that these could have been taken anywhere. There was a universality in the combination of sea and sky.

Seascape: Hastings

I again started to wonder why I hadn't thought of this idea earlier. A framed picture formed in my mind, showing 8 small photographs of the sky and sea, each taken in an entirely different location, yet each with a similar and timeless universality.

I thought about this some more when I got home, and started looking through my photographs pictures. I found that kernels of this idea had formed, but nothing fully fledged. The photographs below are from Brighton, Barcelona, Japan, Cork, Kerry and San Francisco.

Seascape: Hastings

Seascape: Barcelona

Seascape: Japan

Seascape: Kerry

Seascape: West Cork

Seascape: San Francisco

I love how each photograph could be anywhere (with the possible exception of the photo from Barcelona). There is sky, there is sea. But each photograph is, for me, grounded - that is Kerry, that is Barcelona etc. My memory of these places influences my viewing of the photographs. So while I was disappointed that I had not had this idea sooner, I found that thinking about how the idea traced its way through my previous travels was as rewarding as any ultimate framed picture.


Friday, November 03, 2006

I've spent the past couple of weeks working on this image from my trip to Japan. I put most of these photographs on the blog inMay. I wanted to do something more with them. So I collaged the best photographs together, making a large poster print which I've framed and now adorns my bedroom wall. It measures 30 x 40cm, and is a riot of colour. I'm really quite pleased with it.

I'd like to sell this, and any other image I've done, as prints. So if you'd like to buy a print of this, just let me know by commenting or emailing or any-way-you-can and we'll organise something.