This Ain’t A Scene: Clash Meets Diet Cig

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Diet Cig do not care for your bullshit.

Specifically, they have no interest in your studied, angular math-rock poses, your immaculately dishevelled stage presence, your boys’ own preconceptions about what does and does not qualify as punk. They do not have time in the day for anything that reeks of the patriarchy, from the President down to your friend Joel, who’s actually, you assure us, a really nice guy. They bet he is. Most of all – and it may be difficult for them to stress this enough – they do not care about your band. They feel they made this abundantly clear on ‘Scene Sick’, and would politely ask you to refer back to that song for further instruction.

And yet, there’s an awful lot that they do care about. Alex Luciano, human firecracker and Diet Cig frontwoman, cares about making things better. She talks of establishing their live shows as safe spaces, and the positivity that can be conducted on those nights. She tells me that being in a band, or even just going to see one, is a “radical act” in itself today. Noah Bowman, the band’s drummer and “chill” counterweight to Luciano’s nervous energy, cares about how awesome that Pinegrove record was. (We still love it too.) Both of them care about their hometown of New Paltz, New York, but they care about soaking up as much of the world as they can, too.

The duo took some time out to speak to Clash about their forthcoming debut album, ‘Swear I’m Good At This,’ and Alex made some loud karate noises in between. By the end of the call, we cared the shit out of Diet Cig.

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Diet Cig bottle power pop lightning on Swear I’m Good At This

Did it occur to you to stop for a moment and think about what all this might be doing to the kids? Do you even know where you left them? Like a beleaguered prime minister, we’ve abandoned them in the pub, forced to make their own way between the fruit machines and the soothing baritone of Jeff Stelling. And guess what? They know all about Article 50, and the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and now they’re drinking, smoking, reading Dick Hebdige, and having sex in the back of trucks with boys who share their first name. On Swear I’m Good At This, upstate New York duo Diet Cig have effortlessly captured the zeitgeist in half an hour of adrenaline-fuelled power pop, bottling a lightning I’d forgotten could still strike.

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Pure Comedy and the infuriating charm of Father John Misty

You don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it anyway: Father John Misty is kind of a dick. He fancies himself a loveable provocateur on Pure Comedy, singing about having sex with Taylor Swift on live TV and then recoiling in horror at the suggestion that it might have been, you know, a little provocative. He was supposedly tripping on acid during that performance, as he was for his car-crash interview with Radcliffe & Maconie, and he’s keen for you to know it. What a rock star! What a modern day Tim Leary! And of course, he hates “the intersectional-virtue-warrior style of music writing” that us modern scribes peddle, ruining whatever politically incorrect lark he imagines himself to be peddling instead.

How tempting it would be, then, to dismantle his 80-minute treatise on the globalised world with the kind of withering gallows humour he evidently deems himself to have mastered. To tear it apart, to denounce the whole thing as a pretentious, self-serving footnote in the annals of rock history. But I can’t do it. Some writers have compared him to David Foster Wallace’s portrayal in The End of the Tour, but my mind wanders instead to John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, finally listening to the demo tape handed to him by the obnoxious little punks on the street. Because, hand on furrowed brow, we must face the unwanted truth: Pure Comedy is a hot, brash, unbridled success.

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British Sea Power return to glory with Let the Dancers Inherit the Party

Say what you like about British Sea Power, you can’t fault their industry. Since their last studio album, 2013’s lukewarm Machineries of Joy, the band have kept busy with various suitably charming projects: soundtracking a 2014 documentary film about the globalisation of Bhutan; refashioning their back catalogue for perhaps the third time on Sea of Brass; touring an exhaustive box set edition of their near-perfect debut. None of this is surprising for a band who have lived in thrall to antiquity, though such revisions inevitably invite the listener to compare the glory days to the modern era, a period that might uncharitably be called Austerity British Sea Power. Now back with a decadently-titled new record, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, it may be time to loosen our belts a little.

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Lydia Ainsworth’s eclectic vision narrows on Darling of the Afterglow

Shooting night scenes like a police photographer, Lydia Ainsworth works in the palette that she knows best: pitch black, pallor white, autopsy violet. It was scoring her friend Matthew Lessner’s 2011 film The Woods, nominally about “hipsters who move to the woods to start a utopian society,” that the NYU and McGill University student was asked to sing over her dark creations; following years immersed in atonal classical experiments, the possibility that she could be one of the pop stars she adored as a child held an appealing possibility. Better yet, as a classically trained cellist who once composed a Philip Glass-inspired score for a 50-piece orchestra, she was uniquely placed to merge both worlds. On Darling of the Afterglow, Ainsworth’s second album, one of those worlds has begun to fade from her work.

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Tall Ships come to a crossroads with Impressions

For the great pessimist Schopenhauer, the will to life was an aberration, a balled fist from humanity’s lowest reach that existed to be overcome. Society was a futile project, he argued, because our baser instincts would always win. “Will to Life”, the second track from Tall Ships’ long-awaited second album Impressions, does not endorse this view, though frontman Ric Phethean does namecheck the German philosopher in the press release. “It’s about battling the darkness and sadness we feel throughout our lives through companionship,” he explains, and the extent to which you consider this statement profound insight or bland pontification will likely inform your enjoyment of the record.

Continue reading at Drunken Werewolf

Semper Femina finds Laura Marling at her sensual best

On “How Can I”, from Laura Marling’s 2015 paean to life as a Los Angeles transplant Short Movie, the singer-songwriter issued a battle cry of sorts. “I put up my fists now,” she sang, “until I get what’s mine.” Still a somewhat timid presence on stage, the 27-year-old now commands the respect she deserves, and that record felt fuller, harder and bolder under her direction. Now on album number six, Semper Femina feels like a deliberate softening.

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Interview: Plants and Animals on battling ego and charming the UK

“I wish it had happened a little quicker and earlier, but you know…” Matthew Woodley breaks into laughter. We’ve been discussing his band, Plants and Animals, and their relative newcomer status in the UK and Europe.  “Well, here we are.” And where is that? Upstairs in The Fleece, technically, but I suspect he’s referring to the fact that, after the best part of a decade and a half, the band are finally accruing a decent following this side of the Atlantic.

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The Dears, Plants and Animals @ The Fleece, Bristol, 25/02/17

If you don’t follow my album reviews with the same religious zeal that Paul Nuttall followed Liverpool’s 1989 FA Cup run, you may not be aware that I am quite fond of the new album from The Dears. I also cut my teeth on Montreal’s booming indie scene of the mid-’00s, so when the evergreen Plants and Animals were announced on the bill, it seemed too good to pass up.

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The Magnetic Fields unite comedy and tragedy on 50 Song Memoir

For any other artist, an album comprising 50 explicitly autobiographical songs for each year of their life would be seen as the height of narcissism, a swollen vanity project for the benefit of no one but the author. Fortunately, Stephen Merritt is quite unlike any other artist, and his latest conceptual sprawl provides a fascinating glimpse into the personal, political, and cultural epochs that shaped the half-century of American life he’s lived through. But more than that, The Magnetic Fields man’s storytelling of the events that take place across 50 Song Memoir never seeks to delineate between history and pop culture, fact and emotion, tragedy and farce. Like Morrissey just before him (and, by proxy, Wilde), Merritt cares far too much about life to take it seriously.

Continue reading at Drunken Werewolf