John Mulvey

SXSW: Pete Townshend, Bob Mould, Mary Weiss, Charlie Louvin, Holy Shit. . .



As promised, I have a guest blogger at Wild Mercury Sound today. Luke Torn is Uncut's man in Austin, Texas, and here is his report on last week's South By Southwest shenanigans - the 21st SXSW he's attended. Luke didn't get to see Psychedelic Horseshit, sadly, but at least he saw Holy Shit...


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John Mulvey

The Black Mountain Army



Just a quick post today, since I'm waiting for a couple of reports on South By Southwest to be filed by Uncut writers. In the meantime, I've been listening to some new stuff from the Vancouver family of bands centred around Black Mountain.


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John Mulvey

Rufus Wainwright's Release The Stars



There's something a little disingenuous about opening your album with a song called "Do I Disappoint You?". This is how the fifth album by Rufus Wainwright begins: with wave after wave of opulent, complex orchestral flourishes, building and building; with a multitracked Martha Wainwright screaming "CHAOS!" and "DESTRUCTION!"; and with Wainwright himself, coy in the midst of so much melodrama. It's a theatrical set-piece pretending to be an anti-climax. It's both lovely and knowingly ridiculous. And it's also rather good.


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John Mulvey

Battles



It seems a long time ago now, when I thought post-rock was the most exciting music in the world. The thing with those early records by Tortoise and such was that they made anything seem possible. Post-rock was never going to supersede rock, but in the mid-'90s it still felt like a fantastically open-minded scene. The bands weren't hung up on the old signifiers of rock, they had this voracious appetite for so much music: jazz, electronica, Krautrock, endlessly obscure diversions from the well-beaten path. There were no apparent rules, which made it all the more disappointing that it became so formulaic so fast.


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John Mulvey

Bruce Palmer, Elliott Smith, Bill Fay



I got a message the other day from Erin Palmer, encouraging me to go and see Jandek at South By Southwest. Unfortunately, I've had to cancel my trip to Texas, so if anyone sees the Jandek show, please let us know. Erin, it transpires, is the daughter of Bruce Palmer, the giant bassist who drove down to LA with Neil Young in his hearse and went on to join Buffalo Springfield.


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John Mulvey

South By Southwest Bound



As I mentioned yesterday, Wild Mercury Sound is taking a holiday in Texas next week. The pile of new albums will have to wait a while; I've got fine things by Rufus Wainwright, Battles, The 1990s and Alberta Cross here that I haven't had time to write about yet. Next week, though, I'll be filing slightly frantic daily reports from the South By Southwest festival in Austin, as I try and see a good dozen or so newish bands a day. I've just been having a quick look through the list of artists playing, and I really want to check all these out, for a start.


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John Mulvey

Elliott Smith's New Moon



I'm just getting my head around the new Elliott Smith compilation, and there's a lot to take in. "New Moon" features 24 songs stretched over two CDs, dating from the mid '90s. Ostensibly, I guess they're demos; mostly Smith plus acoustic guitar recorded without fuss at a variety of basements in the Portland area. But the clarity and quality is obviously stronger. Like everything Smith released in his lifetime, these are stealthy, insidious songs that are worth living with.


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John Mulvey

The Artist Formerly Known As Smog



Perhaps he's been inspired by the way his other half, Joanna Newsom, goes about her work. Perhaps he's up to some clever contract shenanigans. Whatever the real reason, it's pretty easy to read high creative significance into Bill Callahan's decision to drop the Smog brand and release this fine new album, "Woke On A Whaleheart", under his real name.


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John Mulvey

Wilco, Boris, Tuesday



I've been thinking some more about that new Wilco album, not least in response to a post from someone called Andrew. "It appears every thinking American songwriter," he writes "has been listening to Midlake's "The Trials Of Van Occupanther" and decided that America and Fleetwood Mac circa "Rumours" and "Tusk" are the way forward."


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John Mulvey

Sky Blue Sky



Jeff Tweedy has always been a perverse bugger. When Wilco became the toast of the Americana classes, Tweedy did everything in his considerable power to disassociate himself from the scene. He made the two greatest albums of his career, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost Is Born", and saw his band hailed as so adventurous as to be virtually avant-garde. Clearly, though, being stereotyped as a radical is starting to get on his nerves.


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Editor's Letter

The 43rd Uncut Playlist Of 2014


Very taken with Africa Express' version of "In C", by Terry Riley, this week. I have a few takes on the piece (50 years old this month, incidentally), the latest being one by Portishead's Adrian Utley from a couple of years back, though I still probably default to what I think is the original...