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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Allan Jones

The Night Lou Reed Bopped David Bowie



The news that Lou Reed is going to be playing his brilliantly grim Berlin song cycle in its entirety at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in June reminds me of when he played what was then known as Hammersmith Odeon, in April 1979, a night that ended in some mayhem, with Lou smacking the proverbial fuck out of David Bowie.


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Allan Jones

TEN YEARS AGO THIS WEEK



HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO

March 12 to 18, 1997

Jermaine Stewart, the 80s soul star whose biggest hit was "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off", dies of AIDS-related liver cancer, aged 39. Initially finding fame as a dancer on the long-running TV show Soul Train, Stewart also sang backing vocals for the likes of The Temptations, Tavares, Shalamar and Culture Club.


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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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Allan Jones

'There's a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pouring out of a boxcar door. . .'



I am risen, Lazarus-like, from a couple of weeks in flu-ravaged purgatory, a desperate condition accompanied by much attendant chest-rattling coughing and colourful spluttering. So apologies for my recent absence here. What passes for normal service will hopefully resume next week, with a return to the daily blogs as advertised at the top of this page.


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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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Editor's Letter

Steve Gunn, "Way Out Weather"/Nathan Bowles, "Nansemond"


How does a questing psychedelic guitarist transform themselves into a classic singer-songwriter? By compromising, in many cases. Steve Gunn, however, is managing the transition with uncanny elegance. Maybe you've already heard the latest album from this languidly prolific Brooklyn guitarist: it'...