Guitar.com announces Guitar.com Live, a free virtual event

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Guitar media brand Guitar.com will stage a virtual event over three days this October. Dubbed Guitar.com Live, the free online guitar show will feature performances, masterclasses, keynotes, product launches and more.

Launching partners for the event, which takes place from October 2 to 4, include the likes of Taylor Guitars, PRS Guitars, Ernie Ball, Music Man and MONO. Attendance is free and registration is open now here. Early bird registrants will be in the running to win a year’s free subscription to Guitar Magazine, the brand’s print magazine.

In a statement, Guitar.com chief editor Chris Vinnicombe said, “Audiences can expect to experience a series of incredibly immersive virtual spaces, as well as see the latest gear, hear breaking news first-hand and get up close (virtually) to their heroes. It’s also perfectly timed for guitar players to figure out what they might want to get – and give – this holiday season.”

Products and gear will take the centre-stage in the Guitar.com Live Hub’s Showcase section, which will function as a virtual showroom for brands to launch products and host Q&As. Elsewhere, The Main Stage will host artist performances, masterclasses and video podcasts, while industry discussions, gear reviews and interviews will take place in The Lounge.

More details on Guitar.com Live will be released in the lead-up to the event.

[Editor’s note: Guitar.com is owned by BandLab Technologies, which also owns Uncut.]

Bob Mould unveils massive 24-disc solo anthology

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Hot on the heels of his new solo album Blue Hearts (out September 25), Bob Mould will release a huge CD and vinyl anthology comprising all his all post-Hüsker Dü work on October 2.

Distortion: 1989-2019 compiles for the first time the entirety of Mould’s recorded work from 1989 onwards: 18 studio albums, plus four live albums and two albums of rarities and collaborations.

Watch a version of Hüsker Dü’s “Could You Be The One?” live from Washington DC’s 9:30 Club in October 2005, which features on one of the rarities discs, along with other numbers from that show.

Distortion: 1989-2019 comes as a 24xCD box or in 8xLP quarterly vinyl instalments, with brand new artwork, ephemera, interviews, sleevenotes and testimonials from the likes of Richard Thompson and Shirley Manson.

Pre-order the box sets and see the full tracklistings and contents here.

Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease

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Then just 20 years old and working in a London coffee bar, Shirley Collins first appeared on record on the 1955 compilation Folk Song Today. She was a newcomer alongside such veterans as Bob Copper and Jeannie Robertson, accompanying herself on an autoharp for her take on “Dabbling In The Dew”. In a neat reminder of her dogged commitment to the traditional songs of England, especially of her home county Sussex, she revisits the song here, on her new album, 65 years later.

Heart’s Ease is only the second Collins record since 1978’s For As Many As Will, after which dysphonia and a painful divorce – interestingly, the same circumstances that led to the loss of Linda Thompson’s voice just a few years later – resulted in her 38-year retirement. While the new album’s existence is less miraculous than that of Lodestar’s surprise appearance in 2016, Heart’s Ease finds Collins’ voice rejuvenated, and her confidence restored.

Having performed live in support of the home-recorded Lodestar, she was bold enough to enter a proper studio this time, Metway in Brighton, where she discovered that her delivery was far more dynamic and commanding than on the slightly tentative Lodestar. Age has taken Collins’ range down by an octave since the ’60s and ’70s, but she’s still able to soar up to higher notes on the hymnal “The Christmas Song” and the bluesy “Wondrous Love”. The mellower tones of her voice today are perfect for storytelling too, as on the seafaring tale “The Merry Golden Tree”; indeed, the sharp voice of the more youthful Collins was bleaker, often better suited to tragedies than to swashbuckling.

Half of Heart’s Ease finds Collins looking back to the work she’s done over the last 65 years. There’s “Dabbling In The Dew”, of course, here known by its other name “Rolling In The Dew”, and “Barbara Allen”, which appeared on her debut album, Sweet England, in 1959, but is now matched with its customary traditional tune. “Whitsun Dance” is a reimagining of a track from 1969’s Anthems In Eden, but stripped of its wheezing Early Music textures, all the better to allow the lyrics to unfurl in mournful celebration of those women widowed in WWI.

Its words were written by Collins’ ex-husband, Austin John Marshall, as were those of “Sweet Greens And Blues”, a tender tribute to her and Marshall’s children. Here Collins, once the companion and assistant of folklorist Alan Lomax on his travels to the heart of America, enlists Nathan Salsburg, stunning guitarist and curator of the digital Alan Lomax Archive, to provide the ornate intro and outro. The result is one of the record’s highlights, Salsburg’s spidery contribution reminiscent of Davy Graham’s 1964 collaboration with Collins, Folk Roots, New Routes. The fond crack of laughter in Collins’ voice as she sings the word “mud” is especially touching.

“She is a young girl with a modern approach to folk music,” read the liner notes of that 1955 compilation, and the rest of Heart’s Ease suggests little in her bold method has changed. “Locked In Ice” could pass for a traditional song, but is in fact a modern composition, the work of her late nephew, Dolly Collins’ son Buz. Just one of a number of sea-based songs on the record – an unconscious thread, the singer tells Uncut – it recounts the true story of a ship lost in the icepack for a century. To match the words, Collins and her main collaborator Ian Kearey transform the louder original into a spectral, translucent thing, floating on hesitant steel-string acoustic, ghostly mandolin and distant, almost ambient electric guitar. The result is one of her finest pieces, Collins’ unadorned voice perfectly inhabiting that of the “little ghost ship… doomed to travel endlessly”.

More experimental still is the closer, “Crowlink”, named after one of the singer’s favourite South Downs walks, and featuring Ossian Brown on droning hurdy-gurdy and Matthew Shaw providing electronics and field recordings from the actual location. With Collins’ voice drifting on the salt breeze amid eldritch synthesiser and harmonium tones, it’s a perfect, if unexpected, way to end the record. After all, so much of folk music is based on the idea of the drone, and many traditional songs, especially when performed by a sensitive interpreter such as Collins, have an eeriness about them, like some primal transmission from an ancient, collective dream.

At this stage, just the appearance of a new Shirley Collins album is cause for celebration. Heart’s Ease doesn’t just show up for applause, though: it’s as touching, beautiful and dark as any of Collins’ records, and even pushes her sound into new territories. Sixty-five years into her recording career, that modern approach to folk music is still yielding treasures.

The Stooges – Live At Goose Lake: August 8th, 1970

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If you’d been one of the 200,000 lucky attendees of 1970’s Goose Lake International Music Festival in Michigan’s Leoni Township, you’d have caught some truly stellar acts. Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull and Faces represented the bluesy, progressive and British side of things. Alice Cooper, the Flying Burrito Brothers and James Gang offered a winning sampling of the United States’ very eclectic early-1970s rock scene.

But as good as all of the festival’s big-name groups likely were, the odds are strong that the Goose Lake set that attendees were probably talking about in the weeks, months and years to come came from a homegrown Michigan band listed at the bottom of the bill: The Stooges, straight outta Detroit.

For decades, The Stooges’ Goose Lake performance has been known as an infamous disaster. What could have been their big break, playing to what was likely their largest crowd, actually ended up being the last stand of the band’s original lineup. Immediately following the gig, Iggy Pop sacked bassist Dave Alexander, who had spent the night reeling from a particularly potent mix of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Tuinals and other unknown illicit substances (Iggy himself later admitted to being on a nasty cocaine bender). But a positively scorching video clip of the band playing “1970” to a sea of immense blackness (dial it up on YouTube, for your health) hinted that perhaps Iggy and The Stooges hadn’t bombed nearly as badly as previously believed. Now, exactly 50 years later, we can decide for ourselves.

The 1/4in two-track tape that makes up Live At Goose Lake, unleashed this month for the first time by Jack White’s Third Man Records, was thought long lost — a proto-punk Holy Grail if ever there was one. Its chance rediscovery in the basement of a Michigan farmhouse is the stuff collectors’ dreams are made of. For one thing, it’s the only soundboard recording of a complete concert by the lineup that made the epochal The Stooges (1969) and Fun House (1970) LPs. For another, it’s absolutely fucking brilliant. Live At Goose Lake is messy, thrilling and utterly unhinged. In other words, it’s The Stooges at their best.

By the time the band hit the stage, Fun House was just about a month old, having been released on July 7, 1970 (the LSD-fuelled recording sessions themselves took place in May). Even today, Fun House remains a sui generis statement, a thrillingly abrasive (yet often sneakily tuneful) blotch that makes even the wildest punk rock that followed in its wake seem witheringly tame in comparison. Take it from Jack White: “In my mind, Fun House is the greatest rock’n’roll record ever made.” So it makes perfect sense that White is involved with the belated release of Live At Goose Lake; it’s the ideal companion piece to Fun House’s eternally incendiary charms. The setlist consists of the entire album (in slightly scrambled order). These songs were as fresh as they’d ever get, dangerously close to their white-hot source.

Live At Goose Lake gets off to a rocky start. After a short intro from the MC, a hopped-up Iggy bellows: “TAKE IT!!!” But his fellow Stooges aren’t quite ready. Guitarist Ron Asheton sputters out a few tentative notes. “TAKE IT!!!” Iggy urges again. And then we’re off, riding the rollercoaster of “Loose”, Asheton slashing out the iconic riff, his brother Scott pounding the drum kit and Dave Alexander… Hey, where is Dave? The deeply zonked bassist is definitely having trouble finding his footing; you can practically hear Iggy’s piercing glare across the stage as Alexander flails about, trying to crawl his way back into the song’s groove. This “Loose” is, well, extremely loose. But it’s a total blast nonetheless. What, did you want The Stooges to sound like Steely Dan?

Alexander gets himself (mostly) together for the remainder of The Stooges’ time on stage – especially on the tune where he’s really required to be on top of things: the bass-heavy slow burner “Dirt”. By the time The Stooges are joined by saxophonist Steve Mackay for anarchic versions of “Fun House” and “LA Blues”, the band has achieved what Iggy called “O-mind” — a deep, heady oneness between the musicians. And maybe they became one with the Goose Lake audience, too. Legend has it that The Stooges caused a riot as they wrapped up their set. Listening in a half-century later, at long last, you can believe it.

Arctic Monkeys launch crowdfunder for Sheffield Leadmill and other UK venues

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Arctic Monkeys have put their name to a new crowdfunding campaign by the Music Venue Trust to help save the Sheffield Leadmill and other grassroots venues around the UK, whose revenues have been decimated by the pandemic.

Since closing their doors in March, The Leadmill has had to work to reschedule or cancel over 120 events. With no clear opening date on the horizon, the future of the venue is now uncertain.

In an effort to raise critical funds to help support The Leadmill and numerous other grassroots music venues in the UK, Alex Turner is raffling his black Fender Stratocaster guitar which he used for many early Arctic Monkeys performances including shows at The Leadmill and Reading Festival in 2006.

Enter and/or donate here. Everyone who enters the draw will gain access to an exclusive viewing of that 2006 Reading performance at 8pm BST on Wednesday August 26 (it will remain available for 24 hours).

Jeff Tweedy to share his songwriting tips in new book

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Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has announced a follow-up to his 2019 memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).

How To Write One Song – published by Dutton on October 13 – is billed as a “candid and fascinating primer on the artform he knows best, revealing both the behind-the-scenes process, and the joy he gets from making something new.”

Says Tweedy, “The feeling I get when I write – the sense that time is simultaneously expanding and disappearing – that I’m simultaneously more me and also free of me – is the main reason I wanted to put my thoughts on songwriting down in book form to share with everyone so inclined.”

Pre-order Jeff Tweedy’s How To Write One Song here.

Uncut – October 2020

CLICK HERE TO GET THE NEW UNCUT DELIVERED DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR

The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Gillian Welch, Peter Green, Black Sabbath, Richard & Linda Thompson, Bright Eyes, Bill Callahan, The Cramps and Sun Ra all feature in the new Uncut, dated October 2020 and in UK shops from August 13 or available to buy online now. As always, the issue comes with a free CD – this time comprising 15 tracks of the best new music that Drag City has to offer.

THE ROLLING STONES: In brand new interviews, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and more talk Goats Head Soup! They recall heading to Kingston, Jamaica, to record the record, and remember “dogs and weirdness”, altered time zones, Jimmy Page and a lot of guitars… “It was always great fun,” says Richards, “but the pace of things…”

OUR FREE CD! DRAG CITY: 15 fantastic tracks from the legendary Chicago label, including cuts from Bill Callahan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Ty Segall, Jackie Lynn, Six Organs Of Admittance, No Age, Alasdair Roberts, Tim Presley’s White Fence and more.

This issue of Uncut is available to buy by clicking here – with FREE delivery to the UK and reduced delivery charges for the rest of the world.

Inside the issue, you’ll find:

PATTI SMITH: Looking back over her remarkable career, Smith tells us about deceased French poets, early encounters with Bob Dylan, fears for environmental catastrophe and her love for Billie Eilish. “I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done…”

GILLIAN WELCH: As she releases a new covers album with David Rawlings, Welch tells us about recording other people’s songs, her wrecked studio and Nashville’s “double whammy” of a tornado and coronavirus: “It’s been like living in a war zone.”

PETER GREEN: Former bandmates Christine McVie and Jeremy Spencer pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s original guitar genius: “Peter was such an important figure…”

BLACK SABBATH: The making of “Paranoid”

RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON: The pair take us through their difficult and brilliant decade, while we review their new career-spanning boxset Hard Luck Stories 1972-1982

BRIGHT EYES: As they reconvene their literate indie outfit for a new album, Conor Oberst tells us about inner peace, death and taking mushrooms with his mother

BILL CALLAHAN: “Things have opened up to me,” says the singer-songwriter as we hear how marriage and parenthood have inspired his second album in two years

THE CRAMPS: A classic encounter with Lux Interior, Poison Ivy and co, from NME in March 1980

SUN RA ARKESTRA: Album by album, with the help of the cosmic jazz visionary’s ever-regenerating starship troupe

CLICK HERE TO GET THE NEW UNCUT DELIVERED DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR

In our expansive reviews section, we take a look at new records from The Pretty Things, Nubya Garcia, Thurston Moore, Afel Bocoum, Doves, Idles and more, and archival releases from Prince, Spoon, Michael Rother, Nina Simone and others. We catch Nick Cave and Nadia Reid live online; among the films, DVDs and TV programmes reviewed are White Riot, Babyteeth, Southern Journey (Revisited) and Equus; while in books there’s Annie Nightingale and Chuck Prophet.

Our front section, meanwhile, features Elliott Smith, Beverly Glenn-Copeland and Irma Thomas, and we introduce Diana DeMuth.

You can still pick up a copy of Uncut in the usual places, where open. But otherwise, readers all over the world can order a copy from here.

For more information on all the different ways to keep reading Uncut during lockdown, click here.

The new Uncut: the Rolling Stones, Drag City CD, Patti Smith, Peter Green RIP, Gillian Welch and more

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Here at Uncut, we write a lot about transformative events in a band or an artist’s career. Those critical moments where a creative leap takes place, or when an adverse situation is overcome or how a new collaborator brings fresh and revelatory perspectives.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE NEW UNCUT DELIVERED DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR

I’m pleased to report that you’ll find all of these covered in this month’s issue of Uncut. For our cover story, Mick and Keith (plus assorted eyewitnesses) whisk us back to Jamaica in late 1972 – a time when the Rolling Stones found themselves in uncertain circumstances. Both of them are open about their troubles at the time – and equally forthright discussing the terrific music that made at Kingston’s Dynamic Sounds studio. Goats Head Soup, the album that emerged from those sessions, is the sound of a band stubbornly pushing ahead during challenging times.

Elsewhere, we have more new interviews with Patti Smith, Bill Callahan, HC McEntire and Bright Eyes. Their new albums all, in one way or another, document transitional times, whether it be individual change like fatherhood and bereavement, or tied into political and cultural change. There’s Black Sabbath, too, on their breakthrough hit “Paranoid”, veteran members of the Sun Ra Arkestra on a lifetime of cosmic jazz and Dan Penn on writing a legion of Southern Soul classics.

We don’t stop there, of course. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings survives bad weather and the pandemic in Nashville, Richard and Linda Thompson revisit their groundbreaking collaborative albums and for our free CD this month, we celebrate one of our favourite record labels, Drag City, with 15 excellent tracks from their current roster. If you’ve enjoyed our recent label compilations from Sub Pop and Light In The Attic, I’m pretty certain you’ll dig this.

Finally, thanks for all your continued support for Uncut. I know I keep saying this – but we wouldn’t be here without you. If this is your first copy as a subscriber, welcome on board – we hope you enjoy it!

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

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Ride’s Andy Bell announces solo album, The View From Halfway Down

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Ride’s Andy Bell is 50 years old today! To mark the occasion, he’s unveiled details of his debut solo album, The View From Halfway Down.

Due for release via Sonic Cathedral on October 9, it was engineered by former Beady Eye and Oasis bandmate Gem Archer.

Watch a video for lead single “Love Comes In Waves” below:

“I’ve always wanted to make a solo album,” says Bell. “I’ve always said I would do it, although I never imagined it happening like, or sounding like, this one does. I’d been sitting on this pile of almost finished tracks, along with all the other hundreds of ideas that had fallen by the wayside since I’ve been making music. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to find a way to present it to the world.

“The album is not about songwriting. There aren’t many verses or choruses, because this album is about sounds, a listening experience.”

The View From Halfway Down will be available digitally, on CD and in two vinyl versions, including a limited white and blue splatter that’s only available from Bandcamp. Pre-order here.

The Mission remake “Tower Of Strength” for Covid-related charities

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The Mission have rerecorded their 1988 hit “Tower Of Strength” to raise funds for key worker charities.

The new version – retitled “TOS2020” by ReMission International – features a host of special guests including Gary Numan, Martin Gore, Midge Ure, Billy Duffy, Rachel Goswell, Andy Rourke, Julianne Regan, Kirk Brandon, Lol Tolhurst, Miles Hunt and many more.

The single will be released digitally on August 28, with a 12” vinyl and CD release to follow on October 2. You can pre-order it here and watch a preview below:

Says The Mission’s Wayne Hussey: “When Covid-19 hit I started receiving messages asking ‘why don’t you re-issue ‘Tower Of Strength’ for the front line workers?’ So in conjunction with my good friend Michael Ciravolo, I came up with the idea of recording a new version of ‘Tower Of Strength’ for charity by enlisting the help of musician friends and acquaintances. ‘TOS2020’ has been renamed to divert funds from the original version, and the charities are all personally chosen by the people involved.”

Adds Gary Numan: “Being given the chance to do some good to raise money for people and animals struggling in these frightening times by singing one of the best songs ever written was such an easy thing to say yes to. An absolute honour to be involved.”

The nominated charities currently include:

NHS UK
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Memphis
Music Venue Trust UK
Covenant House, New Orleans
Disasters Emergency Committee
MusiCares
Plan International
Direct Relief
Alzheimer’s Scotland
Liberty Hill Foundation
The Shrewsbury Ark
Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, NYC
Prostate Cancer UK
The Teddy Bear Clinic
Red Rover
Help Musicians UK
Crew Nation
Venice Family Clinic
The Anthony Walker Foundation
Projeto Cáo Communitário
The City Of San Francisco Covid-19 Fund

Introducing the Deluxe Ultimate Music Guide to Prince

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As you’ll read in our deluxe, fully-updated Ultimate Music Guide, in his lifetime Prince was an artist whose creativity ran to films, gruelling concert tours, productions and compositions for other artists, as well as the trifling matter of his own 30 plus studio albums. His was a journey which found him exploring different musical combinations, pushing erotic boundaries – all of which he maintained while in the full glare of celebrity’s beam.

Prince’s was a singular vision and a vast creativity. His outpouring of ideas was difficult to completely accommodate in traditional releases at the peak of his fame (as you will read, there were conflicts), and it occasionally forced the compression of several projects into one – as with the Sign O’ The Times album, currently being reissued in an expanded edition. In consequence this meant the sidelining of a large volume of material as the artist moved inexorably on to his next project.

Hence, “the vault”. A much-mythologised aspect of this intensely private artist’s life, it’s a musical strongroom on which we are only now beginning to crack the door. Extended versions. Promotional cuts. Late night sessions in which he roams through his catalogue. Demos of songs made famous by other artists. Whole explosive live shows by his best bands. We’ve dug deep into what’s been released so far and been astounded. Who knows what may follow in the future? Even four years after his death there’s a feeling that we’re only beginning to scratch the surface.

As we gather from the classic interview encounters which punctuate our journey through the catalogue, the young Prince didn’t necessarily imagine things were going to be this way. “I don’t expect to make many more records,” he told Melody Maker in 1981 at a point where he’d only made three. “I want to be there as my life changes. I don’t want to be doing what’s expected of me.”

Mission accomplished, you’d have to say. The magazine’s in shops on Thursday (August 13) or available to order online now by clicking here, with free UK P&P.

Prince – The Deluxe Ultimate Music Guide

With a new, expanded Sign O’ The Times incoming we present the deluxe, remastered Ultimate Music Guide to a musical revolutionary. From Prince’s first recordings to his superstar years and the Vault recordings beyond. In-depth reviews of every album. Archive interviews, rediscovered. A pop life, in full.

Click here to buy

The 9th Uncut New Music Playlist Of 2020

If it’s currently as hot where you are as it is here in London, then hopefully this playlist will give you the opportunity to stretch out somewhere cool and enjoy the music.

We bring you the return of Uncut favourites Garcia Peoples and Songhoy Blues; a posthumous single from The Pretty Things’ final album (Phil May RIP); ambient doyenne Sarah Davachi’s first ever vocal track (inspired, she says, by Black Sabbath); more reliably great stuff from Bill Callahan, The Waterboys and A Certain Ratio; plus a couple of terrific pan-generational hookups, in the form of John Cale guesting with Kelly Lee Owens and none other than Bruce Springsteen joining the backing chorus of Bon Iver’s rousing new one-off single “AUATC”…

BON IVER
“AUATC”
(Jagjaguwar)

GARCIA PEOPLES
“One At A Time”
(Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)

SONGHOY BLUES
“Badala”
(Transgressive)

THE PRETTY THINGS
“Bright As Blood”
(Madfish)

SING LEAF
“Easy On You”
(Tin Angel)

DERADOORIAN
“Mask Of Yesterday”
(Anti-)

BILL CALLAHAN
“Let’s Move To The Country”
(Drag City)

KELLY LEE OWENS
“Corner Of My Sky (feat. John Cale)”
(Smalltown Supersound)

A CERTAIN RATIO
“Yo Yo Gi”
(Mute)

THE WATERBOYS
“Postcard From The Celtic Dreamtime”
(Cooking Vinyl)

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS
“Three Little Birds (feat Ziggy Marley)”
(Trojan Jamaica/BMG)

HELLO FOREVER
“Everything Is So Hard”
(Rough Trade)

GALYA BISENGALIEVA
“Kantubek”
(One Little Independent)

COSMIC VIBRATIONS Ft DWIGHT TRIBLE
“Nature’s Vision”
(Spiritmuse)

SARAH DAVACHI
“Play The Ghost”
(Late Music)

CRAVEN FAULTS
“Slack Sley & Temple (Live Works)”
(The Leaf Label)

Fontaines DC: “The most normal things become absolutely terrifying”

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Previously published in Uncut’s February 2020 issue

2019 was a breakthrough year for Fontaines DC, with their Mercury Prize-nominated debut earning effusive praise from the likes of Johnny Marr. Not bad going for a band whose earliest ambition was to be the “punk Beatles”. Dave Simpson joins Dublin’s boisterous, literary-minded quintet on a rainy night in Manchester, as they begin their largest tour to date. He discovers a band who, despite 
struggling to come to terms with success, already have their second album in the bag. “If we hadn’t written new music, we probably would have broken up,” they reveal. Words: Dave Simpson

___________________________

Standing in the dressing room of Manchester’s O2 Ritz, singer Grian Chatten weighs up the distance travelled by his band, Fontaines DC, in recent months. It is a remarkable trajectory for the Dublin quintet, encompassing ferocious gigs, sold-out tours and a Mercury-nominated debut album, Dogrel, along with plaudits from many of their musical heroes. “I suppose,” 
says Chatten with a half-smile, “we’ve been going forward… 50 yards every six months.”

He’s referring to the band’s jump from playing Whitworth Street’s 600-capacity Gorilla over the road in April to tonight’s venue, tripling their audience in doing so. Built in 1927, the Ritz has a proud history as 
a key step up for rising stars. Frank Sinatra and The Beatles played here; the building hosted the first Smiths gig, supporting Blue Rondo A La Turk in 1982. By uncanny coincidence, Uncut meets Fontaines just as guitarist Conor Curley receives a “good luck” text message from Johnny Marr – who lent them a guitar at Glastonbury – and the band are thrilled to discover that Mike Joyce is in the audience for tonight’s gig. 
On learning that Joyce rates his skills, Fontaines drummer Tom Coll modestly replies, “I’m really not 
a very technical player.”

What does Chatten think of praise from the likes of Marr, then? Does he consider it a mark of success – or how else does he judge his band’s rise? “We’re not making tons of money,” he insists. “I’m told we’re inspiring kids to get into poetry, which is great, but I’m desperate to live in ignorance of our success. That’s at the core of my paradox, because I’m worried about becoming too aware of it and starting to care about the wrong things.”

It is a typically shrewd comment from Chatten – there will be further displays of such insight during the next 24 hours – that underscores the keen intelligence at work behind Fontaines DC’s rapid ascent. To an extent, they are kindred spirits with Idles, The Murder Capital and Shame – artists who are utilising the language and energy of punk as a response to current discord – but Fontaines DC have staked out other territory. Their music is fleetingly reminiscent of the monochrome post-punk of Joy Division or early Cure mixed with the kind of bracing, upstart qualities shared by The Libertines or The Strokes in their earliest days. They sing about Dublin 
– particularly the impact of gentrification, working-class anger, the decline of community and small-town frustration – dispatching colloquial wisdom in lines like “Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a Catholic mind”. Chatten cites The Pogues’ debut album Red Roses For Me as one of their chief influences alongside Yeats, Kerouac, Lorca and Joyce.

“They self-published two books of poetry before they made a record,” explains Undertones bassist Michael Bradley, who has watched the band’s popularity expand beyond Dublin. “It wasn’t just the singer who was doing poetry and then formed a band. It was all five of them! It’s as if James Joyce, Seamus Heaney and Brendan Behan all formed a band, or a vanload of Mark E Smiths.”

Backstage in Manchester before the gig takes place, the traditional trappings of rock’n’roll seem markedly absent. Band members and crew file in and out. Beside a modest selection of soft and alcoholic drinks, an uneaten chocolate cake sits temptingly on a table, presumably to be saved until after the show. While they wait to go on, bassist Conor Deegan cuts Chatten’s hair with scissors and a fork. “I’m not trained,” Deegan explains between snips. “We all cut each other’s hair.” Needs must, and the long-locked bassist makes an impressive surrogate barber, dusting clippings from the singer’s shoulders with a tissue and offering a jar of hair wax.

This is the first date on a new UK tour, their first large venue shows. Earlier, the band had spent the day meeting their new crew and running through a full production rehearsal with new lighting rigs, monitors and instruments. As Fontaines DC prepare to take the stage, it’s hard to tell whether nerves are running high; though as the band admit, there was every chance they might not 
have made it this far. As it transpires, they struggled over the summer, finding it difficult 
to come to terms with their success and manage their increasingly heavy schedule.

“Summer was hard for us,” confides guitarist Carlos O’Connell. “Imagine finding yourself in a place you’ve always dreamed of, but you just can’t find any enjoyment in any of it and you can’t understand why. Getting on a flight every morning and being in a different city and not seeing any of it; having a different crew we didn’t get on with. The gigs were always great. It was just everything around them.”

_______________________

The next day in Liverpool, aboard the band’s tour bus, Grian Chatten reflects on the previous night’s gig – a typically boisterous affair, with the audience singing along to every song. It was, he admits, life-affirming – “but there’s a sense of dread and doom on the album, and claustrophobia”, he explains. “It’s oppressive and cold, but humanity 
rears its head in this whole black landscape. That’s the way I see the world now, and I suppose a lot of other people do.”

He notices, from the band’s travels, how British cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds are experiencing similar upheavals to Dublin. “Any city that has suffered austerity or has an underdog aspect to the empire,” he says. “Northern audiences go particularly fucking mad at gigs, because they’re an outlet for frustration. People used to find that at football, but it’s become too expensive.”

He breaks off to look for a socket for the kettle. This is a new tour bus and clearly the layout has defeated Chatten. “As you can see,” he says with a laugh, “I’m really not used to all this.”

The bus is another barometer of the band’s progress after two years on the road in tiny vans. “It happened really naturally,” explains Deegan. “You’d walk around with a book sticking out of your jacket pocket and someone would say what’s that? I loaned Carlos some Yeats, I think.” Chatten compares this period to Dead Poet’s Society, where they were “drunk on the idea that poetry could change the world”. They published two small volumes of poetry together, Vroom and The Winding, before deciding to form a band.

Fontaines’ seriousness is familiar to one admirer. “There wasn’t much frivolity in The Smiths, because we wanted it to sound brilliant,” says Mike Joyce. “And these guys have that same passion.”

For Chatten, poetry equalled rebellion. Reacting against his formal music education, he became interested in the punk idea of “picking up a guitar and being self-righteously unable to play it”. He admits he may have been a “terrible singer, technically”, but they spent so much time together playing music that it became the next, natural step in their comradeship. O’Connell remembers the first time they assembled in a rehearsal room and “just jamming ideas for five hours, it was amazing”.

Their initial desire was to form a “punk Beatles”, though thankfully they have developed loftier ambitions since. The five members of Fontaines DC met at Dublin’s British and Irish Modern Music Institute, 
where they bonded over poetry, not tunes. “At that first practice we said, ‘We want to be the best band in the world,’” Deegan chuckles. “I don’t know how far we got with that, but at least we weren’t defeating ourselves from the get-go.” Aside from The Pogues, their early inspirations included Dublin noiseniks Girl Band and the ’60s garage rock they heard in their local Garage bar. They all agree that an early, unreleased song called “The One Between” was the first track to sound recognisably like the Fontaines.

Because none of the members had grown up in Dublin, seeing the city as observant outsiders proved 
a powerful trigger for songs. “There’s an area called Liberties which is being developed as a digital hub,” explains Deegan. “But you walk down the street and there’s horses. It makes you wonder what makes you love the place and what makes you fear for it.”

Chatten was born in Barrow-In-Furness, 
Cumbria. Having an English mother made him feel faintly insecure about his identity. “I felt like I was a fake. Writing about Dublin brought me closer to my Irishness.”

As Michael Bradley notes, Chatten’s lyrics are forensic in their detail. The Anglo-phobic cabbie in “Boys In The Better Land” only smokes Carrolls – an Irish cigarettes brand, now only made in Dublin. “They’re products that don’t always get out of town, like a lot of people. So there’s a hopelessness to Carrolls.” Meanwhile, the “ready, steady violence” chorus on “Liberty Belle” was inspired by Chatten’s walk to work “and the cognitive dissonance of seeing something and being unable to accept it as reality. I’d be confronted by domestic violence, bloody noses, heroin addicts curled up in phone boxes, racism, and I’d cope by listening to my iPod.”

Only their absolutely best tunes made it past Fontaines’ ruthless quality control. They self-released their early singles – their 2017 debut, “Liberty Belle”, limited to 500 copies when they were plain Fontaines, now sells for £350 – before signing to Brooklyn indie Partisan Records. Dogrel producer Dan Carey saw them play to 150 people at the Five Bells pub in Deptford and knew even at that early stage in their existence he was watching “the finished article”. To transfer that energy and intensity onto record, Carey recorded the band live in the studio, playing four songs at a time like a mini-gig. “We had this pact that if anything went wrong in a song, we’d wipe the tape and start again,” says Carey. “The pressure in that situation was unbelievable, but it worked.”

Carey’s other plan was to record the vocals separately from the music. “An a capella recording 
of Grian singing the lyrics would be a perfectly satisfactory recording,” he argues. “So I mixed the music instrumentally and put the vocal on top afterwards. I wanted it to sound like a gig, but so people could hear every word.”

Band and producer were so thrilled with the results that they had a party in the studio, playing the album all night; evidently it paid off, but to an extent that no-one could have foreseen. The band admit now to being “gobsmacked” when the album went into the Top 10 and and was subsequently nominated for a Mercury Music Prize.

Looking back on this period now – the sudden rise, overwhelming success and punishing schedule – Grian Chatten admits it almost broke the band.

“I think every artist simultaneously feels deserving of success and a complete fraud,” he explains, sitting in the tour bus close to a small fan heater that hums gently in the background. “That feeling was there already, but the success means it feels like your fraudulence is growing.”

Where does that come from? Insecurity?

“Yes,” he nods, “If I really felt that I deserved this, then I wouldn’t have it.”

He admits he struggled with acclaim and attention. “I mean, it’s touching, but difficult to reconcile. To be described as a ‘poet’… My favourite poets, like Yeats, are untouchable, out of reach. I can’t possibly imagine myself being like that.”

However overwhelmed the band were by the sudden and acute acclaim, this was only amplified by their increased schedule. “Drive from the gig, get to the hotel at 4am, woken up at eight,” recounts Chatten. “Get in the van; you have to do things on the journey and you want to tell the interviewer, ‘Fuck off, I’ve had four hours’ sleep.’” He smiles. “We’re sensitive people and we become more sensitive when we’re sleep-deprived.”

“It’s hardest on the guys who have girlfriends back home,” considers Deegan. “I can suspend my life and go on tour. But for them, it continues without them being there.”

When O’Connell finally went home to be with his girlfriend, he found himself having an unexpected anxiety attack while out buying a sofa. “It was insane,” he says with disbelief. “The most normal things become absolutely terrifying.”

Some bands may turn to drink and drugs, but Chatten says Fontaines aren’t a big party band and that “our manager says we’re mad enough already. But the itineraries are made for robots. I’d encourage any artist to put their foot down, because it can end up feeling the opposite of what you go into it for.”

_________________

During summer 2019, Fontaines suddenly cancelled a slew of festival dates in the UK, Switzerland and America, citing “health issues”. Chatten now acknowledges this was burnout.

“I’m not complaining,” he insists. “I got what I wanted, but at some point we’ll take time out. I want to be treated as a normal person. I really want to get 
a job, put on a uniform and be faceless from nine to five. I miss the staff in the bookshop I used to work in, when it was easy to compartmentalise who I am privately and publicly. I no longer have that.”

For some bands stepping off the promotional treadmill, time off would be taken literally. Not so Fontaines DC Back home in Dublin, they used their R&R time as an opportunity to regroup and consider their next steps.

“I suppose most bands would have just gone to sleep,” Chatten says. “But we knew we needed to be doing the thing that makes us happy, and that’s writing music. That just changed everything. If we hadn’t written new music, we probably would have broken up. But we went on the [autumn] American tour knowing that we’d written another album, and the tour was just fantastic.”

They had a head start, though – as Chatten explains, the band spent their time profitably “recording four-part harmonies on our phones” as their van travelled the motorways and freeways of Europe and America. “When we touched down in Dublin, the songs just tumbled out.”

Chatten is quick to make the point that this second album won’t repeat Dogrel. It has, he explains, been influenced by the Beach Boys – Chatten’s favourite band – and what Deegen calls “American cowboy music”, encountered touring the States with Idles. Perhaps the biggest revelation of all is that they’ve stopped singing about Dublin. “Because our Dublin in our heads is pretty much the way we left it,” Chatten explains, “but I haven’t written about hotel rooms. The album’s introspective, full of characters from my dreams. They’re parts of me – roads that I could have gone down – and they carry guilt and shame.

“It’s a subconscious attempt on my part to empathise with people, because the paradox of doing this is that I sometimes feel so lonely.” He brightens, and there’s a grin. “But we’re alright! The band are as close as ever and we’re encouraging each other to open up.”

It’s soundcheck time and fans are milling round the bus. The gigs continue to get bigger: they’re playing the 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy in February. So how far can Fontaines go?

“Personally, I’d like us to last for another 20 years,” smiles O’Connell, stepping off the bus 
for a smoke. “There’s nothing that’s given me 
o much joy as being in a room with the lads, creating music together.”

“They could all go home, because they’d leave behind this brilliant record,” says Michael Bradley, who was around Chatten’s age when The Undertones’ bubble burst. “But I’d be surprised if the new songs weren’t just as good.”

Chatten says he “can’t even think about” arenas, and adds, with a note of caution, that “skipping around the rehearsal room happy with what you’ve created is pure enjoyment. But I promise if that feeling ever stops or we run out of ideas, we’ll go away. I’ll just get a job and quit.”

Then Chatten and his bandmates walk inside Liverpool’s O2 Academy, the shouts from eager fans filling the evening air around them.

___________________

Fontaines’ literary heroes

JAMES JOYCE
Carlos O’Connell: “Dubliners was a big book for us. There’s all these Dublin characters and different stories from these different perspectives and they all ring true – innocence, lies, lost ambition. We shared those ideas.”

ALLEN GINSBERG
CO: “We read lots of Jack Kerouac about self-acceptance, but Ginsberg was definitely the Beat writer we liked the most. Howl is about outcasts in America and is
 just amazing.”

FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA
CO: “His book Poet In New York influenced the Beat Generation [and Leonard Cohen]. It’s the shock of someone from rural Spain living in New York. When artists fled fascism in Spain, he remained because he felt the people needed ideas. He was killed.”

WB YEATS
CO: “After reading 
the Beats we found Yeats, and it was a whole new level, almost a different language. So much 
is said with a few words. We became obsessed with 
that and read Yeats so that we could get better at it ourselves.”

OSCAR WILDE
Grian Chatten: 
“I adore Wilde’s writing for the way 
e can get such big ideas into a single sentence. Our song “Chequeless Reckless” is a list of Wildeisms – or my hopeless attempts at Wildeisms.”

Hear and buy Habibi Funk’s Solidarity With Beirut compilation

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Following this week’s terrible disaster in Beirut, one of our favourite reissue labels Habibi Funk have put together a compilation of artists from the city, which is now available on Bandcamp with 100% of proceeds going to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Artists featured include Rogér Fakhr, Ferkat Al Ard and Munir Khauli; none of the tracks have ever been on a reissue before.

You can listen to the compilation below, but most importantly you can pay to download it here – where you can also read more about the featured artists.

Black Sabbath announce 50th anniversary deluxe reissue of Paranoid

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Black Sabbath will release a 50th anniversary ‘Super Deluxe’ reissue of their classic Paranoid album on October 9.

The 5xLP box features the original album plus a quadraphonic mix – originally released on vinyl and 8-track cartridge in 1974 – made available as a fold-down to stereo mix on vinyl for this set.

The collection’s final three LPs mark the official vinyl debut of two 1970 live performances. The first was recorded on August 31 in Montreux, Switzerland shortly before the release of Paranoid. The second concert was recorded a few months later in Brussels during the band’s performance for Belgian television.

Check out the full tracklisting below and pre-order here. The Paranoid Super Deluxe Edition will also be available as a 4xCD set.

Look out for the new edition of Uncut, out on Thursday (Aug 13), which features an extensive interview with Black Sabbath talking about the making of the “Paranoid” single.

LP 1: Original Album
Side A
“War Pigs / Luke’s Wall”
“Paranoid”
“Planet Caravan”
“Iron Man”

Side B
“Electric Funeral”
“Hand Of Doom”
“Rat Salad”
“Jack The Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots”

LP 2: Quadradisc Mix in Stereo (WS4 1887) 1974
Side C
“War Pigs / Luke’s Wall”
“Paranoid”
“Planet Caravan”
“Iron Man”

Side D
“Electric Funeral”
“Hand Of Doom”
“Rat Salad”
“Jack The Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots”

LP 3: Live in Montreux 1970 (Part One)
Side E
“Intro”
“Paranoid”
“N.I.B.”
“Behind The Wall Of Sleep”

Side F
“Iron Man”
“War Pigs”

LP 4: Live in Montreux 1970 (Part Two)/Live in Brussels 1970 (Part One)
Side G
“Fairies Wear Boots”
“Hand Of Doom”

Side H
“Paranoid”
“Hand Of Doom”
“Rat Salad”
“Iron Man”

LP 5: Live in Brussels 1970 (Part Two)
Side J
“Black Sabbath”
“N.I.B.”

Side K
“Behind The Wall Of Sleep”
“War Pigs”
“Fairies Wear Boots”

Unreleased 1999 David Bowie live album due next week

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A previously unreleased David Bowie live album, Something In The Air (Live Paris 99), will be released on August 14.

The 15-track live album was recorded live at the Elysée Monmartre, Paris, on October 14, 1999 – the same day Bowie was awarded the Commandeurs of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. It features 12 previously unreleased recordings and three tracks used as B-sides for singles from the Hours… album.

The special set included “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”, first released in 1966 and not performed live in over 30 years; “Word On A Wing” reinstated into the set after an absence of 23 years; “Drive-In Saturday”, which hadn’t been performed since 1974; and Hours… track “Something In The Air”, making its live debut at this performance.

Watch “Drive-In Saturday” below:

Something In The Air (Live Paris 99) will initially be available to stream, with no word on a physical release as yet. Check out the tracklisting below:

Life On Mars? (David Bowie)
Thursday’s Child (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
Something In The Air (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
Word On A Wing (David Bowie)
Can’t Help Thinking About Me (David Bowie)
China Girl (David Bowie/Iggy Pop)
Always Crashing In The Same Car (David Bowie)
Survive (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
Drive-In Saturday (David Bowie)
Changes (David Bowie)
Seven (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
Repetition (David Bowie)
I Can’t Read (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell (David Bowie/Reeves Gabrels)
Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)

John Coltrane’s Giant Steps reissued for 60th anniversary

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John Coltrane’s landmark album Giant Steps will be reissued in various expanded formats on September 18, to celebrate its 60th birthday.

The Deluxe Edition will be available as a 180-gram double-LP set and as a double-CD set, including the newly remastered version of the original album plus eight alternate takes. Anyone who orders the 2-LP set from Rhino.com will receive a limited edition 7-inch vinyl single disc featuring alternate takes of “Giant Steps” and “Naima”.

The Super Deluxe Edition will be available for download and streaming only. The 35-track collection includes the original album, eight alternate takes, and 20 additional outtakes, all of which are newly remastered. Until now, many of the outtakes were only available on the 1995 set, The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings.

Check out the tracklistings below:

GIANT STEPS: 60th ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION
Side One / CD 1
1. “Giant Steps”
2. “Cousin Mary”
3. “Countdown”
4. “Spiral”

Side Two / CD 1
1. “Syeeda’s Song Flute”
2. “Naima”
3. “Mr. P.C.”

Side Three / CD 2
1. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 1, Incomplete)
2. “Naima” (Alternate Take)
3. “Like Sonny” (Alternate Take)
4. “Countdown” (Alternate Take)

Side Four / CD 2
1. “Syeeda’s Song Flute” (Alternate Take)
2. “Cousin Mary” (Alternate Take)
3. “Giant Steps” (Alternate Version Two False Start)
4. “Giant Steps” (Alternate Take)

GIANT STEPS: 60th ANNIVERSARY SUPER DELUXE EDITION
1. “Giant Steps”
2. “Cousin Mary”
3. “Countdown”
4. “Spiral”
5. “Syeeda’s Song Flute”
6. “Naima”
7. “Mr. P.C.”
The Outtakes
8. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 1, Incomplete)
9. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 2, False Start)
10. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 3, Incomplete)
11. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 4, Incomplete)
12. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 5)
13. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 6, False Start)
14. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 7, Incomplete)
15. “Giant Steps” (Alternate, Take 8)
16. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 1, False Start)
17. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 2, Incomplete)
18. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 3)
19. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 4, False Start)
20. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 5)
21. “Naima” (Alternate, Take 6)
22. “Like Sonny” (Rehearsal 1, False Start)
23. “Like Sonny” (Rehearsal 2, Incomplete)
24. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 1, False Start)
25. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 2, Incomplete)
26. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 3, Incomplete)
27. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 4, False Start)
28. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 5)
29. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 6, Incomplete)
30. “Like Sonny” (Alternate, Take 7)
31. “Countdown” (Alternate Take)
32. “Syeeda’s Song Flute” (Alternate Take)
33. “Cousin Mary” (Alternate Take)
34. “Giant Steps” Take 3 (Incomplete)
35. “Giant Steps” Take 6 (Alternate)

Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas

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In years of yore, you could be relatively sure that an album bearing its author’s name was their first: Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Madonna. These days, an eponymous record often comes later, as a statement. If the hoary old saw about debuts – having your whole life up to that point to write it, but just a handful of harried months to write your second – is true, it’s also true that when recording that debut, everyone needs a helping hand, from producers, engineers or A&Rs. Often it’s only once an artist learns the ropes of the studio, label politics and the promotion cycle that they can truly find their own voice.

So it is with south Londoner Lianne La Havas. Her first two albums, 2012’s Is Your Love Big Enough? and its 2015 follow-up Blood, revealed a rare talent and won her nominations for the Mercury, the Brits and the Grammys, along with the love of Stevie Wonder and Prince, who played a gig in her front room. Somehow, though, it still feels like she’s never really had her defining moment.

La Havas is now in her thirties, having weathered the deaths of her grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as Prince, who became something of a mentor, in the past five years. Her third album arrives in a musical world just as changed, where artists such as Solange, Thundercat and Nao have brought soul and jazz back to the mainstream in full, genre-spanning complexity, and in which a singer-songwriter doesn’t have to smooth off their edges to be heard.

Which is not to say Lianne La Havas is a sonic shock: it’s evolution not revolution, putting its author’s sound deeper into her own context. Though she doesn’t, like the neo-soul musical heroes of her youth – Erykah Badu, India Arie or Jill Scott – actually sing her own name, still it’s written in every note. And what better setting for a narrative of self-rediscovery than a breakup record? Partly inspired by the Destiny’s Child album Destiny Fulfilled, Lianne La Havas follows the giddy beginning, intense heat and messy death of an unhealthy relationship.

“Bittersweet” sets the flavour from the opening, with a languid, deeply soulful groove built on the bones of Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone Good”, La Havas’s voice languid as she picks wearily over broken pieces: “We’re picking that fight everyday/This shit’s going nowhere.” The finger-clickingly slinky “Read My Mind” then picks up the pace as it looks back to the delicious danger of losing yourself, body and soul, to a stranger: “So right, would make a baby tonight, throw my life away/I’ll die another day.” Odd details – an almost-jarring little plink of harmonics on her guitar here, a distracting little run on the piano here – complicate the beat. By the gorgeous “Green Papaya”, La Havas is head over heels, rolling deft arpeggios through Joni Mitchell-esque guitar chords, crooning away any last misgivings: “this river of doubt, help me to swim my way out”.

It’s those quieter songs that stay with you the most: once things have begun to come undone on the deceptively free and easy “Can’t Fight”, “Paper Thin” stuns with the weary huskiness in La Havas’s voice. It’s languorous, lost, almost too tired to go on, as she pleads for the “other key” to her lover’s too-open heart over tangled fingerpicking and softly-softly drums. “They said they’re scared of you, I’m like, me too, me too… You say you’re scared of me, we both just want to be free.”

The pressure is released in a glorious cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes”. La Havas’s connection with the song is intense; her version, a slower, heavier groove with intent drums and thick, subaqueous keys, builds beautifully, fitting the album as if written for it. She reins her voice in for “I get eaten by the worms”, and the restraint makes the payoff at the climax cosmic indeed: “I’ll hit the bottom and escape.”

Freedom secured, the final third of the album revels in resilience: the oblique, dodging R&B of “Seven Times” asserts, “What used to be means nothing to me now.” “Sour Flower”, her final moment of epiphany, contrasts a smooth, rolling verse with a poignantly defiant chorus. “Running my own show,” she sings, “You can find me/Dancing on my own.” It’s a beautiful tribute to self-reliance to close a record that takes you down to the bottom and back up to the light, leaving you in no doubt as to who Lianne La Havas really is.

Desolation Center

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Screaming over the primitive chug of “Flower” as demented-looking hobbit people cluster around in the middle of the California desert, Kim Gordon screeches out the song’s bad-hippie mantra: “The word is ‘fuck’.” Deep into their Charles Manson trip as they made their West Coast debut at the Gila Monster Jamboree on January 5, 1985, the Sonic Youth captured in shaky footage in Stuart Swezey’s Desolation Center look like they are performing an occult ritual rather than an off-grid rock show.

Struck by the idea of “putting on shows as a form of artistic expression”, the 20-year-old Swezey started seeking out under-the-radar venues to avoid the attentions of the weirdo-averse LAPD. This documentary mixes footage and memories from the five events his Desolation Center collective staged between 1983 and 1985, as they put art firmly before commerce. Selling beer to turn a profit was a no-no (“alcohol brings cops,” Desolation Center wrote in their founding manifesto), while audiences were expected to have the right kind of fun: “No dancing. We would rather shut down than become a New Wave Disco.”

For their first adventure, the collective bussed around 200 Los Angeles hipsters into the California badlands to watch the Minutemen play as the desert wind whipped sand into their faces. Barely able to open his eyes, singer D Boon has a certain irritable tone as he introduces the band’s set: “Here we are in the godforsaken Mojave Desert. In a fucking riverbed.”

Such a hostile environment was better suited to Einstürzende Neubauten, stars of Desolation Center’s March 1984 extravaganza. The extreme metalworkers’ Alexander Hacke loved the wasteland backdrop: “In a spot like this you can reach a much higher level of concentration and a much higher level of communication between the performer and the audience because there’s less distractions.” However, a show that involved an attempt to blow up a mountain, and misanthrope Boyd Rice having concrete smashed up on his stomach, was as much about destruction as creativity. As scenester Janet Housden puts it: “People in their twenties are sociopaths.”

For their next trick, Desolation Center had the Minutemen and SST labelmates performing on a pleasure boat circling San Pedro harbour, but the Gila Monster Jamboree felt like their grandest success, a $400 fine for trespassing on the site failing to kill the collective’s righteous buzz.

The fun drained away, though, when D Boon died in a van crash in the aftermath of the final Desolation Center show, a Swans/Sonic Youth warehouse clank-athon on December 21, 1985. Swezey moved on, satisfied his “punk rock field trip” concept had “stayed pure”, but his sometime roommate Perry Farrell kept the idea on file for the Lollapalooza extravaganzas he organised with Jane’s Addiction from the ’90s onward. But if Swezey’s shows created a blueprint for Burning Man and Coachella to perfect after the Sonic Youth-led grunge assault turned indie losers into commercial contenders, his film celebrates less hard-headed times. As Gordon howls into the darkness at the Gila Monster Jamboree, success looks a lot like survival.

Stream Desolation Center on-demand here.