Look At Us, We Designed A Sleeve!

Art Brut

Much has been written about the musical greatness that is the debut album from Art Brut,, which was released in the UK yesterday. What has been criminally overlooked, however, is the brilliance that is the record's sleeve. Even better, perhaps, is the deconstruction of the artwork on the band's website into the four images of the individual band members, each of which may be downloaded as wallpaper.


Art Brut Eddie


Art Brut Freddie


Art Brut Ian


Art Brut Chris


Pictures On Walls

It is not enough, my friends, that your shelves should be lined with the latest discs, for if your walls are bare, then you are but half-way to being a young mod soldier. Be thankful, then, for the good fellows at GigPosters.com, who have been so kind as to collect some of the best music artwork of recent times at a single site, which may be searched by either band name or designer. While many of the best posters are not offered for sale, you can always contact the designer directly about obtaining a copy. Be industrious, my friends. Below is a taste of what you will find:

Joy Division, designed by Peter Saville

Joy Division

Dead Kennedys, designed by Raymond Pettibon

Dead Kennedys

The Decemberists, designed by Carson Ellis

Norfolk & Western


Your Weekly Pete Doherty Fix

Word is that a newly-sober Pete Doherty stole the limelight at the 50th annual Ivor Novello awards in London last night. Pete apparently showed up at the ceremony wearing a straw hat with black marker pen scrawled over his face. Speaking of his love for Kate Moss and his relationship with her two-year-old daughter, Lila, Pete said: "I'm bang in love with Kate. She's the one for me." The couple just returned from holiday in the south of France with Lila, Moss's daughter by magazine impresario Jefferson Hack. "Lila's a bossy boots," Pete said. "We argue about crayons. We like singing and dancing. She's really sweet." Pete also revealed that he is writing a song about Moss called What Katie Did Next, and that she will be joining him on stage at Glastonbury this summer.

Pete claims he has been free of heroin for the past three months after having an implant fitted, but that has not stopped him from feeling "a bit paranoid." He said: "I found a bug, a hidden camera, in my house. I don't want to talk about, it's being investigated."

Pete was nominated in the best contemporary song category, but lost out to Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out.


For Those Who Have The Means -- Collectibles Edition


For fans of Damon and his animated friends, Kidrobot and Gorillaz artist Jamie Hewlett have created limited edition giant-sized vinyl figures of the band to coincide with the release of Demon Days. The figures are $40 each (Noodle, 2d, Murdoc and Russel), or $150 for the set of 4. Available here.

Morrissey shirt

For that mopey Moz fan who has everything, consider the We Hate It When Our Friends Become Famous t-shirt by literary enfant terrible JT LeRoy in collaboration with "ghetto atelier" JU$T ANOTHER RICH KID. The front of the shirt features an excerpt from the Morrissey song attributed to Shakespeare, while the back features a quote from Shakespeare attributed to Morrissey. Guaranteed to confuse your parents. Available here for a mere $65.


Wir Sind Helden -- Your New Favourite Band (From Germany)

Turns out that the German music scene is not dead after all, it was just sleeping. BW, who just returned from Deutschland, reports that there is a new wave of German-language alterna-pop (what is being hailed as the first real German pop scene since Nena sang 99 Luft Balloons two decades ago), and at the vanguard of the movement is Wir Sind Helden, who just released their second album, called Von Hier An Blind (Blind from Now On).

Wir Sind Helden has arrived in a country, like our own, that is beset with pre-packaged "artists" a la American Idol (Germany's version of the show is called Deutschland sucht den Superstar). Indeed, BW says that German MTV is just as bland as its American counterpart -- except, that is, for the 3:56 of pop heaven that is Nur Ein Wort, the new single from Wir Sind Helden, which playfully reinvents Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues routine. Lead singer Judith Holofernes is adorable as she gleefully hops around, throwing cards down and picking them up as the film jerks backwards and forwards. As with all of their songs, the lyrics are entirely in German, but the hooks are so universal that it makes no difference. (You also have to love the cover art for the album, with its nod to Tintin.)

You can listen to Nur Ein Wort and other songs here, and the full album is available as an import at Amazon UK. And if you have any doubts, just look at the records recently purchased by the same people who bought Von Heir An Blind: Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, British Sea Power and Kaiser Chiefs.


Your Weekly Pete Doherty Fix

Pete has been evicted from his flat. Full story here.

Pete plans to debut songs from debut Babyshambles album at gig in Ibiza in early July. Full story here.

Finally, the long-awaited (and apparently quite underwhelming) Max Carlish documentary "Stalking Pete Doherty" aired on Channel 4 in the UK last night. For info on where to download it, go to here.

Hallo from Deutschland

My best friend and brother in arms BW is in Germany this week, and his absence has caused my mind to wander there as well. Indeed, while the story of my origin remains a tale untold, there is strong evidence to suggest that I was born not in London or Paris, as many assume, but in a small town in Germany.

Why then, you may ask, do my tastes not veer more toward the latest band from Berlin or Hamburg rather than the newest sensation from Liverpool or Leeds? The painful truth is that the German music scene has produced little to celebrate of late.

But there ia new record from a German artist that greatly interests me. Entitled Another Language, it is a compilation of covers by Claudia Brücken (former lead singer of German synth-band Propaganda) and formally-trained neo-composer Andrew Poppy. It was released earlier this year, but has managed to garner nein attention, despite its collection of remarkable covers, including Radiohead's Nice Dream, Frank Black's White Noise Maker, Bowie's Drive-In Saturday, McAlmont & Butler's You Do, Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, Elvis Costello's Lipstick Vogue, and Marianne Faithful's Broken English.

So is it the next Nouvelle Vague (which I rate as possibly the best album of last year)? Unfortunately, I cannot say as I have yet to hear it. I asked BW to pick it up in Germany, but it appears it has escaped even their attention, as no one there has heard of it either. Alas, I suppose that means that Amazon UK will be receiving more of my meager pension.


Duels -- Your New Favourite Band

You will understand how a young hussar confined to his camp yearns for ever new stimulation, something to take his mind from the dull days that pass end on end while the generals chart their next bold strike. Music is a fine tonic during these times, and there is much to celebrate of late, but how easily our minds wander and seek out the thrill of the new. We all want to re-live that feeling when we first heard The Stone Roses' Made of Stone, Suede's The Drowners, Radiohead's Creep, etc. To discover a great new band that you will cherish for the rest of your life -- those are the moments a soldier prizes above all others.

Let me have the honour then, my friends, of introducing you to your new favourite band...


Duels are more than the next big thing from Leeds; they may be the next big thing period. Combining the best of Pulp, Blur and Hunky Dory-era Bowie, the band already has a small legion of fans known as Young Believers (after one of their songs) who slavishly mouth every word of every song at their live shows, even though the band has yet to release even their first single. Word-of-mouth about the band has spread quickly over the past few months as they toured England with the Kaiser Chiefs, and this past Tuesday the fervor reached new heights when they played a triumphant headline set at London's Camden Barfly. The band is apparently still unsigned, although that is certain to change in the coming days. In the meantime, we must make due with the demos available on the band's website and await what promises to be the most heralded debut record in quite some time.


It's Official, The World Has Gone Mad

Sometimes I believe I have seen too much to be ever taken by surprise. Yet I must admit, my friends, to being shocked by the results of an auction last night on eBay for a signed handwritten U2 setlist from around 1980-1981.

I no doubt have made some previous allusion to my penchant for collecting setlists. Suffice it to say that anyone who dares come between me and a setlist I covet puts his or her life in extreme danger. The result of this little obsession is what some have called the greatest such collection ever assembled. While I do not dispute their characterization, I nevertheless acknowledge that it may be improved upon.

I had hoped to make one such improvement to my collection by acquiring the above-mentioned U2 setlist, which recently turned up on eBay with an opening bid of $1. A similar early handwritten (but unsigned) U2 setlist was recently listed on eBay only to be withdrawn because the seller received an unspecified "offer he could not refuse" from a private buyer. This turn of events should have provided some warning of what would transpire with this latest setlist, and yet nothing could ever prepare me for the insanity of the final winning bid.

To put the item in context, signed handwritten Beatles setlists from the early-mid 1960s generally sell for a few thousand dollars, an unsigned handwritten Elliott Smith setlist recently sold for about $800, and a pair of handwritten setlists from one of The Smiths' earliest shows in 1983 sold last year on eBay (to me) for less than $100 for the pair.

Can anyone explain, then, how someone could justify paying $45,100 for this?



Franz Ferdinand's New Fuzzy Warbles

Franz Ferdinand fansite www.franzferdinand.net has scored an exclusive new interview with Alex Kapranos on the recording of the band's highly anticipated sophomore album with producer Rich Costey (Bloc Party, Muse), which is currently taking place in Kapranos’s house in Dumfries, Scotland. Here are the highlights:

The band is simultaneously writing, arranging and recording, and currently has 25 songs, of which about 18 are considered "contenders" for the new album, including "re-arrangements" of live favourites Villain, This Boy and Your Diary.

While in the studio, the band has been listening to a wide variety of bands for inspiration, including "Eno, The Damned, Trout, Tiger Lillies, Bowie, Bronski Beat, Beefheart, The Stanleys, Dylan."

Once they have finished recording, the band will come to New York to mix the record (and maybe play a secret show or two?).

You can read the full interview here. Sadly, they neglected to ask whether the band will be taking Snoop Dogg up on his recent offer to collaborate.

Never Mind New Wave, Here's Nao Wave

No doubt you have heard my name mentioned as being the beau-ideal of a soldier, and that not only by friends and admirers like our fellow-townsfolk, but also by old officers of the great wars who have shared the fortunes of those famous campaigns with me. Truth and modesty compel me to say, however, that this is not so. There are some gifts which I lack -- very few, no doubt -- but, still, amid all the vast armies there may have been some who were free from those blemishes which stood between me and perfection. Of bravery I say nothing. But there are other gifts besides bravery which are necessary for a soldier, and one of them is that he should be aware of more than just the latest band du jour in the NME. In this respect I must admit to occasionally being remiss. For example, I spent the 1980s listening to the best new wave artists in England, completely unaware of a host of Brazilian bands working from the same post-punk references. No longer shall I persist in error, however, thanks to a new compilation of the best of these South American new wavers entitled Nao Wave V.A. (Brazil post punk 1982-1988).


As an aid to those brave enough to dip their toe into these heretofore unknown waters, I offer the following chart of band comparisons:


If you are intrigued, the record is available at Other Music, Colette, and other discriminating boutiques.


More Stellastarr* Secret Show Madness?

Some small controversy erupted over my previous revelation that The Ligers, scheduled to play Bowery Ballroom on 20 May, were in fact Stellastarr* playing under a nom de guerre. Rest assured that I betrayed no confidences in bringing this information to the public. Indeed, I must confess that I did not view Stellastarr* headlining Bowery as a real stretch, and was somewhat disappointed that The Ligers was not the pseudonym of someone a tad bit more exciting (e.g., New Order, Oasis, White Stripes, Coldplay, etc.).

But now comes news that The Ligers are scheduled to play a much smaller venue next Friday the 13th. Assuming that these Ligers are the same as those scheduled to play at Bowery the following week -- i.e., Stellastarr* -- then this show promises to be something very exciting. I will leave it to you to deduce the location, but it should not be too difficult. As someone who is still kicking himself for not seeing Stellastarr* at Luxx a couple of years ago, you may rest assured that I will not be missing this show.


Spoon In-Store Galore

Every once in a while Virgin Megastore Union Square swoops in out out of nowhere and books an amazing live in-store performance. Travis in 2001, The Shins in 2003, and now...Spoon! For those of you, like me, who cannot abide Webster Hall, this is your chance to see the band for free in a much more pleasant environment. The show is scheduled for Tuesday 10 May at 6pm, and coincides with the release that same day of their new album, Gimme Fiction, copies of which the band will be signing after their performance.

Perhaps not as earthshattering, but also worth noting, are two other events this month at Virgin Union Square:

On Thursday 5 May at 5pm Thurston Moore will do a signing and Q&A in support of his book Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture.

And on Thursday 19 May at 6pm Aimee Mann will perform live.


Secret Stellastarr* Show Revealed

I enjoy a good secret as much as the next soldier. I do not, however, believe in being coy.

There has been much speculation about the NY2LON: Bridging the Transatlantic Gap event scheduled for May 20 at Bowery Ballroom. The list of opening acts -- The Hong Kong, The Ordinary Boys and Amusement Parks on Fire -- is fairly impressive, but the headliner is a heretofore unheard of band called The Ligers. Who, you may ask, are The Ligers? According to my sources, they are none other than hometown heroes Stellastarr*. Tickets are still available, but will not be for long now that the truth has been revealed.

Libertines Reunion In The Works?

You who have heard some of my little adventures will give me credit for being quick in my decisions, and prompt in carrying them out. But when it comes to a Libertines reunion, I must confess that I am of two minds. On the one hand, there is the chance of the band recapturing the spirit of Albion and recording a new masterpiece worthy of their first two albums. On the other hand, there is the chance of the band polluting their own legend and spoiling what at this point is an unblemished career. In any event, we are but spectators, and can only wait to see what unfolds.

However, following the brief meeting of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat last week, it appears that a full-blown reunion may be imminent. Former manager Alan McGee has just announced that he is looking to bring Pete and Carl back together to reform the Libertines. According to McGee: "I think they want to work with each other again so it's just about getting them in sync, getting Peter to accept Carl and Carl to accept Peter and have them vaguely on the same playing field." McGee, of course, is less concerned with the artistic significance of the band's reunion, focusing more on the financial implications: "If we can reform The Libertines, if we can get Peter back with Carl and everybody can be in the same space firing off the same shotgun, we'll sell three million records."


The Field Mice + The Wake = The Occasional Keepers

I have spent the last several days turning over in my mind some most exciting news. It began last Wednesday when Jane Gazzo's Dream Ticket on BBC6 played several songs from a 1990 session by what is probably my favourite band of all-time after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- former Sarah Records' greats the Field Mice. In addition to the wonderful performances from the BBC archives, the show also had a brief new interview with Bobby Wratten (the group's main singer/songwriter) about his current projects. On top of working on a new record for his current band, Trembling Blue Stars, Wratten mentioned that he also is collaborating with former Field Mice member Michael Hiscock on a new project called The Occasional Keepers, which will also feature Caesar and Carolyn from former Sarah Records' labelmates The Wake (who also made up part of the Factory Records roster of artists in the 1980s). The resulting record is set to come out on LTM later this year.

LTM is the same label that recently re-issued the full Field Mice catalogue, as well as a DVD of The Wake playing live at Factory Records nightclub The Hacienda in 1984. Perhaps equally exciting is the news that they will also be releasing later this year the entire, expanded works of what was probably the second-best band on Sarah Records, The Orchids.

Trembling Blue Stars, meanwhile, will be returning to New York for what I believe is their first live show here in many years (since their now-legendary show at Brownies approximately five years ago?). They will be playing at the Knitting Factory on May 27 with fellow old school popsmiths the Ocean Blue. Check here for details and tickets.

By the way, does anyone know whether Trembling Blue Stars are still signed to Sub-Pop? It appears that their page on the label's website has not been updated in three or four years.