Tag Archives: Megaphonic Thrift

50 years of tunes…2010-14…

2010

I was alerted to the work of John Grant by way of BBC6music playlisting the title track from his ‘Queen of Denmark’ record, and was further drawn in through learning of the support of members of Midlake as his backing band.

I’ve written previously on this and other blogs of the regard in which I hold John Grant, especially live, so will try and keep it brief here.  He is though, an extraordinary artist and performer – a tall, broad and striking creature, with even greater voice, all of which belies a being that is seemingly at all times shy and even insecure – which for the listener adds up to a peculiar mixture of charming, sad and awe-inspiring.

Enough of the superlatives (well, nearly)…QoD is a brilliant, heartbreaking, record – musically and lyrically.  Any of the tracks could get a special mention, my favourite however is ‘Sigourney Weaver’…and this version is pretty special…

Also from 2010: The National’s ‘High Violet’ (replete with ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ – another contender for best song this century) and the self-titled debut from androgynous psych Japanese krautrockers Bo Ningen.

A very honourable mention too for The Megaphonic Thrift’s ‘1000 years of deconstruction’ ep and ‘Decay Decoy’ lp…which I discovered a little bizarrely after witnessing the Norwegian psychey noise pop group as support for a country gig at the Borderline.  I fell in love with them there and then.

2011

Fucked Up’s ‘David Comes To Life’ is an incredible piece of work.

I first became aware of the Canadian (post-?) hardcore outfit during a chance encounter at Reading Festival and picked up the album soon after.  It really is like nothing else I’ve experienced…a concept album-cum-rock opera focusing upon a love story amidst the society of Thatcherite 70s and 80s Britain.  Make of that what you will.

The record is inherently hardcore punk but as with much of the band’s work, woven throughout are wonderful melodies and musicality, with supporting vocals from Kurt Vile, Jennifer Castle and Cults’ Madeline Follin – all of which juxtapose brilliantly against Damien Abraham’s unstoppable roar.

‘Queen of Hearts’ is just immense, and this video is equally brilliant…

A very good year otherwise as well, with other magnificent releases including Cliff Martinez’ outstanding soundtrack to Nicolas Winding-Refn’s ‘Drive’, Joy Formidable’s ‘The Big Roar’, Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Gentle Spirit’ and Mogwai’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’.

2012

Another Reading Festival discovery, followed a week later by an even better performance at End of the Road.

Toy’s self-titled debut is a brilliantly assured piece of psychey shoegaze from an unnervingly young and talented band – elevated above the recent spate of (still mostly great) ‘nu-gaze’ guitar-driven bands with the addition of a swirling wash of keys and synths from Alejandra Diaz.  It is, to coin an oft over-used phrase of mine, a fucking lovely noise – evidenced by the magnificent ‘Kopter’…

A diverse and brilliant mixture for 2012’s other notable releases: more 70s desert prog with Howlin Rain’s ‘The Russian Wilds’,  a full album of wonderful noise with The Megaphonic Thrift’s ‘The Megaphonic Thrift’, Paisley Underground via Mexican desert storytelling from Dan Stuart’s ‘The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings’ and Eat Lights, Become Lights’ ‘Heavy Electrics’ – which very much does what it says on the tin.  Relentlessly.

2013

2013’s best album, discovered by me on the Thursday night of EOTR 2014…Ezra Furman’s ‘Day of the Dog’…

We walked out of the Tipi tent following Ezra’s ‘secret set’ with broad smiles…my immediate (100% positive) assessment of what I had seen “a young man imbued with the soul of a 50yo Lisa Simpson, backed by the E-Street Band, singing Velvet Underground songs”.  And I stand by that.

The album is full of stories and sadness and tenderness and humour and charm and love.  Furman is a great talent, deserving of what I am convinced will be a great career.

Herewith my favourite song of 2015: ‘And maybe God is a train’…

More from 2013: Fidlar’s self-titled debut, Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Fanfare’ and Kiran Leonard’s extraordinary ‘Bowler Hat Soup’ (keep an eye on this one…alongside Ezra…so talented it is not funny).

2014

Gruff Rhys’ ‘American Interior’ is one of the greatest pieces of art this century…which ever medium you choose…book, film, album or live telling.  It confirms as well Rhys’ position as an absolute genius of this music generation, if further proof were indeed needed.

The work follows Gruff’s retracing of farm boy John Evans’ American adventures in the 1700s…who sought to prove the hypothesis that North America had been discovered by a Welsh tribe hundreds of years before Columbus.  Such is the scale of the work, to say much more would constitute spoilers to what I recommend is an experience everyone reading this should seek out…especially if you get the opportunity live…although ‘100 unread messages’ does précis the whole thing quite well, and I defy you not to dance to it…

Some other very definite favourites from 2014: Mogwai’s ‘Rave Tapes’, Teleman’s ‘Breakfast’ and Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s ‘Days of Abandon’.

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So there we go.  The end.  For anyone who has made it this far thank you for  indulging me – I hope at least some of it has been of interest and that you may have discovered something new that you love too.

It has been a challenging and thoroughly interesting exercise and I think after a number of reviews I pretty much stand by the choices.  By its nature, the least objective piece of music writing I’ll probably ever manage (at least for another ten years or so when maybe I’ll make it up to sixty) which I hope along with the excessive hyperbole can be tolerated if not excused.  It is affirmation all the same though of so much that I love about music.

I am also well aware the whole fifty years’ worth needs a bloody good edit.

To sign off…a very appropriate line I read from Lauren Laverne just this evening…

“Music is a banquet…THE WHOLE THING IS A GLORIOUS FANTASY”

…and long may that continue.


The Megaphonic Thrift…at last, beyond the borderline

I first encountered The Megaphonic Thrift on 12 May 2010.

Five had gone to The Borderline to see Langhorne Slim, an alt-country troubadour delivering glorious love songs amidst raucous live performances.  Arriving early in line with obsessive compulsive gig habits, checked first what time Langhorne was due onstage, also noting the evening’s support band – of whom none of us had ever heard.  The name alone was intriguing, enough to convince us not to disappear elsewhere for beers in the meantime, although gave an inkling that not a great amount of thought had gone into aligning the acts in any sense at all.

Such suspicions were vindicated when the band took to the stage and gave us what I was only able to describe for months afterwards as ‘four Norwegians playing Daydream Nation’.  Despite the punk sensibilities apparent in Langhorne Slim’s headline show I’m not sure the fairly partisan americana crowd quite ‘got’ the support.  I however was hooked.  The intimate surroundings (and particularly low ceiling) of the Borderline proved a great setting for a thrilling half an hour of shoegaze-cum-noisepop balancing just perfectly soaring melodies and clever harmonies with ear-splitting riffs and feedback.  Halfway through one song, at a point on the verge of uncomfortable volume, an apparently magic flange pedal managed to double the decibels to incapacitating.

I sought out the EP ‘A Thousand Years of Deconstruction’ and then its expansion into debut long-player ‘Decay Decoy’, both of which provided welcome confirmation of first impressions, paying faithful respect to pretty much everything that was good about (great) early nineties guitar music.  The parallels with the works of Messrs Moore, Gordon, Mascis, Barlow and Shields are pretty glaring in that early output, released through champions of nu-gaze Club AC30, albeit in a respectful and very impressive, rather than derivative, fashion.

Fast forward nearly two years from the Borderline and the band are in the process of releasing an eponymous second album.  A modest and fortunate UK following are granted the first listen, and I think the first opportunity to buy, at consecutive nights at The Lexington and Old Blue Last on 31 January/1 February prior to a formal hometown release show in Bergen the following week.

Free entry to the The Old Blue Last ensures what I imagine is a larger than expected audience has assembled as the band take the stage, thankfully though light on the chatty disinterested hipster crowd which one can encounter in Shoreditch venues.  The band open with two songs from the first album – Neues and Talks Like A Weed King – both of which set the tone (and levels) for the rest of the night.  They are followed by Tune Your Mind, the opening track of the new album and the first of seven new tracks in a twelve song set.

The band’s confidence in new material is justified – all of it standing up well next to earlier stuff.  The new songs hint at more complex arrangements than previously with new melodies and maybe even an increased degree of patience, while remaining enveloped in the trademark noise.  ‘Moonstruck’ was noticeable in particular for harmonies reminiscent even of the Byrds cleverly woven in amongst the wave of riffs.  If there was a song that didn’t convince as well as the others it was penultimate track Swan Song, which didn’t feel quite finished, although being sandwiched in between Acid Blues and Queen of Noise it could be forgiven for not standing out.

The night ends with lead guitar, spewing wondrous feedback, lodged above a pipe six inches from the ceiling as the band leave the stage, triumphant.

The album has deservedly received positive reviews from all corners since its European release and I imagine will be similarly well-received when Sonic Unyon get their hands on some copies across the water as well.  Hoping very much they get the success they so clearly merit, although selfishly I have no problem with a few more gigs in small venues (and maybe the odd festival…ahem…Reading…ahem) in the short term.

The Megaphonic Thrift are back in the UK in March.  I am going to the Buffalo Bar in Islington on the 14th.  If you are any kind of fan of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr or My Bloody Valentine I highly recommend you do too…

Bassist Linn Frokedal's setlist