EP review – Vladimir


Vladimir – Vladimir The EP.’ (Self-released)

As was pointed out in another online review of Dundee’s Vladimir a few months ago, the band formally known as Vladimir and the Mods inhabit a very dark place indeed.

How dark? Well, the final track on this five track EP entitled, um, ‘Untitled’ samples a speech from none other than Charles Manson. Mrs. 17 Seconds’ sister has described this track as creepy. Certainly, their music may be described in a way that could be creepy and is beyond being like that of a band like the Cramps who seem a little Schlock by comparison. But let’s face it, with a name like Vladimir, you shouldn’t have been expecting Kylie.

But getting any sensationalism out of the way, the band sound awesome, and if you enjoy the darkness of a band like Sunn O))) or -closer to home – the sonic assault of The Wildhouse (from whom there will be more before the end of the year) then Vladimir are for you.

When you’re in the darkness it can take a while for your eyes to become accustomed to the gloom. So it may be for your ears. But when you become accustomed – oh boy!


Vladimir -‘I Fight Fire.’ mp3

Stream the EP and buy it from here from Monday 22 August.

Gig review – Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, August 15.

2011 marks Shonen Knife’s thirtieth anniversary. When they climb on stage and tear into their set, it’s with an impressive amount of energy for people of any age. Not only that but – as with their records – it’s just a performance full of sheer cheeky joy and pleasure. And they keep it up for the entire gig.

The last time they were here, they tell us, was eighteen or nineteen years ago, when they opened for Nirvana. As with other acts, they certainly benefited from Kurt Cobain’s patronage (see also The Vaselines, BMX Bandits, The Raincoats…)They then tear into ‘Perfect Freedom.’ This is the nopening track on their excellent, most recent album Free Time.

Tradition dictates that each Shonen Knife has a song about food, so tonight we get the ‘Sushi Bar Song’ as well Free Time‘s ‘PYO.’ This song was inspired by chance visit on trhe last trip to the UK when, between Brighton and London, they found a pick your own fruit farm.

It’s a hot sweaty night in Edinburgh and a tightly packed, sold out gig. But the sheer joy of watching them means any physical discomfort is soon put aside. This gig has so many highlights. Drummer Emi taking lead vocals on ‘I Am A Cat.’ ‘Supergroup’ being so good I buy the album from the merch stand next to me before the song is even finished. ‘Economic Crisis’ from the latest album and the song that made me fall for them in 1992 ‘Riding On The Rocket.’

They also have a side project as the Osaka Ramones so for the encore we get Ramones songs ‘ Sheena is a Punk Rocker.’ ‘The KKK took my baby away.’ And of course ‘Blitzkreig Bop.’

I waited nearly twenty years for this. And it was worth it!

Interview – The Raincoats


Kurt Cobain maintained that re-acquring the Raincoats 1979 debut meant more to him than making his first million. Thirty years since the release of their sophomore album, Odyshape, I got to interview The Raincoats about their legacy, working with Robert Wyatt and clear up about their involvement – or not -in Ten Things I Hate About You.

17 Seconds: You’re just about to re-issue your sophomore album Odyshape. What are your thoughts and memories of the album thirty years on?

Gina: What I do remember is Robert Wyatt coming to the studio and playing drums along to our very oddly timed playing of And Then It’s OK, which we had recorded drummerless, speeding up and slowing down as the mood took us. Robert slipped seamlessly into the plan, and played as if he knew exactly where it was going, where it had come from and tuning in totally to its intention. Amazingly he made it all sound so much more focused than it had been. We had played for a while with Ingrid Weiss, a drummer, who was a 17 year old girl. She was very musical. She played drums on Odyshape and came up with the origins of the music for Shouting Out Loud. Sadly it didn’t work out with her for reasons I can’t even remember. Ingrid now is in Daisy Kitty and Lewis (their Mum) playing a mean double bass, still fabulous, musical and beautiful as ever.
We were still rehearsing some of the time in the squat basement at the end of Monmouth Road, and then later in Vicky’s squat in Brixton. I had no hot running water at the time, and was at Hornsey art school in Alexandra Palace. I remember turning up to a rehearsal one day, to say I was leaving the band to concentrate on my studies at art school, then burst into tears and decided to I take time out of school to concentrate on The Raincoats. I did go back and finish my degree after two years out, and I made super 8 films and videos for my graduation.

Ana: When we did the first album, we just went into Berry St studios and recorded the songs live, as we had done them on the tour we had just finished, and only added the vocals afterwards, plus a couple of other bits. It was quite clear what was happening. (Also we knew Palmolive was leaving.)
When we did Odyshape, as we didn’t have a drummer in the band, everything seemed more vague and on the other hand more open to possibilities, so we asked different people to play drums according to what we thought was best for each particular song. Richard Dudanski had already played with us before Palmolive, so we asked him to contribute. We also asked Charles Hayward, whose rehearsal studio we had used for a while and who ended up playing with us after the release of Odyshape. He is a great and sensitive musician and contributed a lot to the sound we had at the time he played with us, between projects he had with This Heat.
It was very interesting to have other people come in and see how personal music really is.

17 Seconds: What does the album title mean? It comes from the song (track five on the album) but what was the concept behind the title?

Gina: The title was a pun on the odyssey of a body. The idea that a body could have an ideal shape and it if did, what happens when a body doesn’t live up to that ideal. it was at a time, when (as probably now) there seemed to be a body fascism. It was important for women to be this shape or that shape. Thanks to people like Beth Ditto, and hopefully The Raincoats, things have been broken down a little. Hair can be crazy, messy, outfits can be baggy or tight, inside out or upside down, we can be fat or thin, creative, playful, stylish and beautiful without having to subscribe to some fashion mag ideal.

You’re going to be playing your debut album at All Tomorrow’s Parties this December. How did this come about -and was this something that you had to think about, given that you have done this before?

Gina: It seems a thing that bands are doing nowadays, playing whole albums, songs in the order of the album. We have performed ‘The Raincoats’ at the Scala once before and it was fun. Shirley walked across the stage with the vinyl album for side two and turned it over and then we played all the songs from the second side onwards.

Ana: This ATP is curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) and, apparently, he requested we play the first album. When we did this at the Scala, at the end we came back to do another set of songs. We’ll also do this at the festival.
We’ve done ATP twice before and I really enjoyed the experience. Thanks Jeff for having us.

17 Seconds: Who will the live band be? And who are the fulltime members of the Raincoats in 2011?

Gina: Ana and I will be there, along with Anne Wood who has played with us
for over a decade on violin and guitar and often we will play with Jean Marc Butty on drums, who has also played with us for many years. In the US we have sometimes had Vice Cooler playing drums with us, instead of JM Butty.

17 Seconds: It’s been mentioned numerous times how much the Raincoats meant to Kurt Cobain. Do you feel that this opened up an awareness of the band to people or have you felt frustrated that it took his enthusing to make many people aware of what you had achieved as a band?

Gina: We didn’t expect the kind of enthusiasm and praise that we have subsequently got for our work. We did it for ourselves to stretch ourselves, to make the best most creative music we could and then move on. That we are now revisiting that work is strange, but fun and exciting.

Ana: Having someone like Kurt Cobain and others of his generation praising our work definitely made a lot of people aware of it and therefore wanting to see those songs played live. We love playing live so, doing this is such a pleasure. We didn’t feel frustrated at all. We weren’t playing together anymore, so people were interested in other things, which is the natural way –new ideas, new challenges, new enthusiasms. But, in reality, some were actually interested without us knowing. This was a huge and rewarding surprise.

17 Seconds: You covered ‘Lola’ by the Kinks on your first album. Did Ray Davies ever get in touch to tell you what he thought, and to thank you? (It’s one of my favourite cover versions by the way!)

Gina: Ray is reported as saying that he likes people who take an album track and make it a hit, not those who take a hit and make it an album track. A joke I suppose, but I have never heard any reporting that he liked our version!! perhaps you could ask him yourself!!

Ana: He made that comment when he had his eyes on Chrissie Hynde…she made the album track ’Stop your sobbing’ a hit.
Harry Rag, a German friend of ours who was doing some filming about Ray, was staying at my place and, coming back from meeting him, brought an Italian sweet he had sent. I think that was a nice gesture…

17 Seconds: As well as the Raincoats, what other projects have the members got on the go (musical, or otherwise)?

Gina: Too many to mention. Ana is doing a new solo album and making drawings. I am painting, knitting/felting, filming, editing, writing recording. The Raincoats documentary is coming on and most recently, managed to get an interview with John Lydon which is the last one I really wanted to get, apart from needing to rerecord the one with Beth Ditto as the tape screwed up.

Ana: Yes, I’ve got an album in a very advanced state, but that last leap is taking a while. Maybe I’ll finish it during grim winter. Good time to work, isn’t it? I’ve been also making paintings and lots of drawings, which I’ll be showing together with Shirley’s photographs and Gina’s videos in an exhibition, which is part of Pop Montreal music and arts festival, where we’ll also be playing in September 2011. We’ll be doing a tour in the USA and Canada – New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and finish in Montreal.

17 Seconds: Interviewing Viv Albertine last year, it’s clear that there was a link between The Slits and The Raincoats. Which other bands (if any!) did The Raincoats feel a kinship with?

Gina: I think we felt a kind of kinship with many of the bands in and around Rough Trade, Swell Maps, Scritti Politti, Young Marble Giants. But we were very shy and didn’t really commune with other bands too much. I was a huge fan of The Slits, because it was them that made it seem possible to pick up a guitar and make a noise, as a girl. People love to go on about how terrible they were, (because on the whole, boys (oh.. vast generalization, I’m sorry!) tend to sit in their bedrooms perfecting their guitar skills till they are ready to ‘go public’) but The Slits were just amazing, brilliant because they were totally in the spirit of punk, fresh, unschooled, and without the preconceptions and boundaries of many bands. They were so feisty, creative, emotional, boisterous and that was such a treat to witness.

Ana: We definitely felt part of something and Rough Trade bands were the ones we felt closest to, partly because we met there but also because we did gigs together. The reason for this was not because we were on the same label but because there was a lot of mutual respect based on the wonderful music they created, and because they were great people too.
We also felt a certain kinship with other female bands, probably because there weren’t that many around and we were all fighting for a bigger female presence. There still aren’t as many as there should be.

17 Seconds: At the end of the nineties, The Raincoats appeared in Ten Things I Hate About You. How did this come about and how was the experience?

Gina: The script writer I think was more ‘indie’ and ‘radical’ than the film turned out to be. We are not actually featured in anyway in the film, except for the namecheck. it would have been brilliant if they had used a Raincoats track on the soundtrack. Shucks!!! Maybe in the indie remake!!

Ana: There was no experience to speak of. The boy mentioned us to the girl so he would appear cool and when the film came out someone told us there was this mention.

As well as Nirvana and Sonic Youth, who else do you see as being indebted to the Raincoats?

Gina: I have no idea!!!!

Ana: Lots of people say that, especially female bands, but I think they would have done it anyway. You don’t only get inspiration from one thing or person.
But if we have inspired anyone to do anything, then that is one mission accomplished.

17 Seconds: You make reference in the sleevenotes to friends using their vinyl copies of Odyshape to make fruit bowls out of. This is just as joke, right…?

Gina: In some ways yes it is a joke, but I think Odyshape was a bit out on a
limb for some of my friends and they just didn’t get it. I don’t think Ana or I ever envisaged ourselves having a group, playing live or making records and when we got the opportunity we took the bull by the horns and stretched ourselves creatively as much as we could. Historically this has proved to be a good thing, but some of the time I felt quite vulnerable and was unsure that what we were doing was of any value. I am proud that we stuck to our guns and did not try to please others, just ourselves. There are obviously moments on all our records I think could be better or different, but they are a testament to where we were at the time.

Ana: My experience is different from Gina’s. I think a lot of people, specially in other European countries, appreciated the quirkiness, guts, risk, variety and challenge of that album. We were in a different place as people and musicians and we let the new music reflect that. The first album is more punky but punk was all about challenge and thinking for yourself, about looking around and to yourself, about feeling free to find your own path, and Odyshape was as part of our path as the first album.

17 Seconds: As this is for a Scots-based blog, Is there ANY chance of Scottish dates any time in the future?

Gina: Invite us, (and if it makes sense financially!!) Ana and I will be there, bearing in mind our drummer comes from France and Anne from tippy top of Scotland!!

Ana: Anne wouldn’t be that far then!
I remember one of the times we played in Scotland, it was Summer and we came back after the gig in a van, late, and soon after it got dark, it got light again. I’d never experience such a short night before.
The day broke.

The Raincoats re-release Odyshape on WeThree on September 12.

Find more The Raincoats songs at Myspace Music

Presenting…Randolph’s Leap


Randolph’s Leap hail from Glasgow and do a fine line in excellent indie-folk-pop. They are Adam Ross (guitar & vocals), Gareth Robert Perrie (keyboards), Iain Taylor (drums, Vicki Cole (bass), Andrew MacLellan (cello) and Heather Thikey (the fiddler). Thus far they have released one EP Battleships and Kettle Chips and a single ‘Counting Sheep’/’Deep Blue Sea.’

They will be playing their first headline gig at the Electric Circus on August 19. This is a Song, By Toad night which will also feature music from Amber Wilson and Matthew Healy.

Check this out – it’s brilliant!

Randolph’s Leap -‘Undergod.’ mp3

The Fresh Air show


A few people asked to hear my show from Fresh Air the other night, so here you go!

1. Fiction Faction ‘Apparitions.’
2. Spook School ‘History.’
3. Shonen Knife ‘Perfect Freedom.’
4. Sargasso Trio ‘Dinner.’
5. Chris Bradley ‘Waltzing.’
6. Gone but not forgotten: Uncle John & Whitelock ‘The Train.’
7. Chris Devotion and the Expectations ‘I Need Your Touch.’
8. Cover version of the week: This Mortal Coil ‘Song To The Siren.’
9. Wake The President ‘Stockholm’s Archipelago.’
10.Letters ‘Grand National.’
11. Cover version of the week
12. Astrid Williamson ‘Pour.’
13. from the Album of the Month Butcher Boy ‘Helping Hands: Butcher Boy ‘Imperial.’
14. Howler ‘This One’s Different.’

Some twat has removed this for violation of copywright. Given the bands this was giving exposure for, you are a selfish git.

Album Review – The Dead Trees


The Dead Trees -‘Whatwave.’ (Affairs Of The Heart)

Ever wondered what would happen if Stephen Malkmus got together with Vampire Weekendand the two acts decided to cut a record? No? Well, nor had I, to be honest (but then I’m still taken aback at the news that Lou Reed has recorded an album with Metallica).

But that’s what this album is like, on first impression, if perhaps minus some of the Graceland stylings. It’s a short album at only thrity minutes -but none the worse for that. ‘Slow faze fast’ and ‘My time has just begun’ sound like indie classics already. ‘Play Your Hand’ and ‘Mexican Politics’ sound rather different from the rest of the album, a bit more like Jackson Browne fronting a seventies California rock band.

Having given a few listens to this over the last few weeks, it gets the thumbs up, and I’ll be inetersted to hear more of their music.


Whatwave is out now on Affairs Of The Heart.

Stream most of the tracks over at the band’s myspace

Presenting…the Tamborines


A duo of Henrique Laurindo and Lulu Grave, Tamborines have just released an awesome double-A single. This manages to encapsulate the best of more than a quarter of a century of twee pop. Spare six minutes of your life to listen to this – you’ll want to hear it.

This is a review I wrote of the single:

“This double-a side has all the trademarks of classic c86 twee-pop. ‘Black and Blue’ is a quick but dreamy thrash-a-long that you can lose (or find) yourself in. ‘Indian Blue’ is a slower, female sung song that breaks your heart form its’ very first play.Two very different but brilliant songs that give insight into the band, and hold their own with the stars of classic and contemporary indie-pop just brilliantly.”


Now go and listen -and then go and buy it.

Black and blue by The Tamborines

Album review – Candidate


Candidiate -‘A New Life.’ (self-released)

Meet Candidate. The Kentucky band’s debut shows a variety of influences of British acts from the last forty years. It’s a heartfelt debut, played with passion.

The lyrics are heartfelt, though the vocals are sometimes trying so hard to convey passion, that they seem strained, rather than raw. When not strained, there’s much to recommend them. The songs like ‘I’d Come Running’ and ‘Need It Most are pleasantly anthemic. Best of all is ‘Nothing Ever Made Me Cry’ which is perhaps the darkest sounding song on the album.

Whilst it’s not a groundbreaking record, the songs are pleasant enough, and there’s enough here to suggest that with time the band may develop further. I’ll be interested to see where they take their songs and sound from here.


A New Life is out now

Live on Fresh Air

My radio show can be streamed live right now on Fresh Air:

Link here

1. Fiction Faction ‘Apparitions.’
2. Spook School ‘History.’
3. Shonen Knife ‘Perfect Freedom.’
4. Sargasso Trio ‘Dinner.’
5. Chris Bradley ‘Waltzing.’
6. Gone but not forgotten: Uncle John & Whitelock ‘The Train.’
7. Chris Devotion and the Expectations ‘I Need Your Touch.’
8. Cover version of the week: This Mortal Coil ‘Song To The Siren.’
9. Wake The President ‘Stockholm’s Archipelago.’
10.Letters ‘Grand National.’
11.Amy Winehouse ‘Cupid.’
12. Astrid Williamson ‘Pour.’
13. from the Album of the Month Butcher Boy ‘Helping Hands: Butcher Boy ‘Imperial.’
14. Howler ‘This One’s Different.’