Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Recycled Post! Here's Class Actress.

Here's a band I wrote about back in April; was just listening to them again and it's a pretty nice treat this beautiful evening! Here's my take on Brooklyn, NY based trio Class Actress. Looking forward to seeing them if they ever come Down Under!

9 MARCH 2010

Believe me when I tell you, you need someone ... real.

I usually have an idea of how a night at a show might go. I'll go with some friends, and sometimes the issue of the opening bands comes to light. "Well, we don't really have to show up until ten o'clock, 'cos that's when [insert band name here] starts."


I'm always keen on catching the opening bands. I reckon it works like this: You never know who you're going to hear - and it may just be freaking awesome.

So imagine my happiness when I went to go see Little Boots at the Fillmore on the 9th of March 2010 - and discovered an excellent and interesting synth-pop number from Brooklyn, New York called Class Actress. Good fun ensued!

Class Actress was up on stage first. Before they showed up, the general disinterest exhibited by the crowd was typical for any venue anywhere in the world -- flowing like syrup, with folks supping their beverages and tipping their beers -- but as soon as they took the helm, people took notice.

As did I! Vocalist Elizabeth Harper, drummer Mark Richardson, and synth-man Scott Rosenthal took control of the room within the space of a half-hour set and stole my heart. Such passion. Such beauty. There's a feeling you have when you're in a taxi cab late at night in Paris, flying through traffic under the sodium lights that flicker and flutter over your head as you are jetted through the ink of twilight. I think Class Actress have taken that sensation and transposed it to their debut EP, Journal of Ardency.

After catching them on their opening slot, I have to admit I was intrigued. I was even a little disappointed with the rest of the show, which included Dragonette, a lovely pop number from Toronto, Canada, and -- of course -- Little Boots herself. It was remarkable; there was such a sensual energy emitting from the Fillmore's dusty black stage that evening. Here was their setlist:

All The Saints
LMLMLUU2 (Love Me Love Me Like You Used To)
Careful What You Say
Journal Of Ardency
Let Me Take You Out
Someone Real

Long after the show was over, and Little Boots' little after-party DJing at the Triple Crown on Market and Octavia had faded into the background of subconscious bleeps and bloops (I love saying those words!), I found myself thinking about Class Actress and the spell they wove during that delightful half-hour set. I hadn't purchased their EP at the merch booth, seeing as it was only available on vinyl and, frankly, I haven't owned a turntable for quite some time. Finally I thought to myself, Jesus Christ Thomas, just buy the fucking thing already. iTunes, you dolt. And so I purchased it, and listened to it, and then I listened to it again. And again.

Wow, this record is good. It literally breathes fumes of love, wanting, and lust in intense wafts of Harper's sighing (and quite sexy) voice. Journal of Ardency, in that respect, is aptly named.

The Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines ardency as thus:
A characterization of warmth of feeling of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity.
And now I sit here at my desk writing this, whilst "Someone Real" emanates from my speakers for the fourteenth time, soaring in fits and starts during its epic 7:33 length as tendrils of Harper's smoky vocals hover delicately over a lovely shimmering synth, a dull throbbing bass, and snaky background noises and drumbeats. Thrilling stuff, really. I would recommend this record to anybody. And this song is the closer of the EP!

Another song to consider is the title track, "Journal of Ardency," a slinky and dangerous-sounding ode to a duplicitous lover in which, over a dark European synth, Harper delivers an excellent line (one of many):
Why can't you say to me I mean something to you?
'Cause everybody knows, everybody sees
That this is the thing you do,
Do to me.
And then there's "Adolescent Heart," a shimmery and buoyant track that brings to mind the best of '80s synth-pop band Book Of Love. Sure the music's floating and cheery, filled with bells and the attitude of a sunny spring afternoon; but the lyrics sing of heartbreak, emotional passive-aggressiveness, and what sounds like a very unfortunate conversation on the telephone.

I like to think of the EP and how it makes me feel when I listen to it a bit like this (forget the Paris taxi metaphor for a moment):

Imagine it's a sunny Sunday morning, and you wake up in bed with your partner close to you and the sun, it's filtering through the curtains and dappling the atmosphere with its muted rays and you both smile at each other. It's a lovely feeling, and this is a lovely piece of work. I, for one, cannot wait for their first full-length!

But, as I like to say, don't take my word for it. From their debut EP Journal of Ardency, here is Class Actress' "Journal of Ardency." Enjoy!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gig Review: Nitzer Ebb.


Do you pronounce it NIT-zer Ebb? Or NIGHT-zer Ebb? Doesn't matter, my good friends. Both are correct - just depends on the moment, really. The band says it both ways, and, by my reckoning, so should you.

On a spectacularly hot and (quite rare this year) sunny afternoon this last Sunday, Essex-based trio Nitzer Ebb was the headlining band for San Francisco's favourite BDSM festival, the one and only Folsom Street Fair. And what a day it was! A couple of friends of mine and I traversed Folsom from 12th Street to 8th, taking in the sights and sounds of a veritable shitload of gays, straights, lesbians, bears, leather daddies, tourists, locals, nudists, tops, bottoms, upsidedowns, slaves, owners, twinks, doms, trannies, transvestites, latex babes, and piercing affectionadoes (wow, could have sworn that was a word - but I like it, so I'm going to keep it) wandering around the streets and alleys of the SOMA district of downtown San Francisco ... and keeping it real, in a big fucking way.

And it was all good. We had a lovely time. Pretty much everybody under this great Sun of ours was represented, at least in some form or other. I quite like an atmosphere where everybody can be themselves, unmasked, around other like-minded folk, and in the process, everybody gets along. Isn't that the point of life? Getting along? That's what I think - but it's fucking appalling to me how many people out there just don't get it.

Where was I again? Oh yeah - Nitzer Ebb!

I'm not sure as to what exactly happened, but there seemed to have been some kind of a technical glitch that occured, so their set was delayed for 20 minutes. Which was a pretty hard-core fuckup on the part of the stage technicians, considering that all music had to cease and desist by 6 PM. This was especially bad in Nitzer Ebb's case, seeing as their set was supposed to begin at 5.05. Not good, not at all. Sure, we had San Francisco's own District 6 supervisor candidate Anna Conda (check out her site here) acting as a mildly amusing MC (think Guy Pierce in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - but not as cute), but I think the crowd was beginning to get a little restless. A hunched-over and naked old man to the right of us began to furtively masturbate, whilst a man wearing a goat mask backwards loomed nearby.

5.25 PM, and success! Nitzer Ebb - singer Douglas McCarthy and drummers Bon Harris and Jason Payne - took to the stage and wasted absolutely no time in breaking into their first number, "Getting Closer" from their 1990 album Showtime. Damn, their music packs such a punch! Think of a tractor-trailer painted the pitchest of black hurtling down an inclined interstate with absolutely no brakes, and you have there an idea of the beats being thrown out at the audience whilst McCarthy prowled the stage right to left and back again like a caged panther in militaristic garb, barking his lyrics as if they were orders to disgraceful subordinates. "I know what you buy / And it's wall to wall! / I know what you buy / I'm not gonna - TRY!"

Absolutely brilliant - the crowd (including our masturbating geriatric) was bouncing around like crazy, enthralled with the charisma flowing from the stage like magma. McCarthy, Harris, and Payne threw out as many songs as they could with their unfortunately truncated set; 1987's That Total Age, 1989's Belief, 1990's Showtime, and 1991's Ebbhead were represented in all their electro-industrial glory - as were a couple of songs from their first album in almost two decades, this year's Industrial Complex. "Down On Your Knees" was a glorious and ingeniously ferocious nod to their early pre-That Total Age days, and "Once You Say" (backing vocals on the album provided by Martin Gore of Depeche Mode!) fucking rocked, complete with hardcore thrashing guitars that brought to mind Motörhead.

But here's where I might get a little critical. Now, I don't mind backing tapes all that much. If you're specifically an electronic band in a particularly demanding setting, then backing tapes are probably a must. This was an outdoor festival under a non-elastic schedule, so I'm not griping about the fact that it was rather obvious that, for all the flailing of drumsticks that Harris and Payne did, not once did their beating sync with what we heard (but maybe the beating-off of our old buddy) - but it was very noticeable. I've seen Nitzer Ebb a couple of times before, and they do perform the percussion live under different circumstances - but, yeah, it was hard to ignore.

However, as my friend Michael so sagely put it later, McCarthy's charisma (and his reflective policeman shades) quite literally carried the show - or what was left of it after the 25-minute delay. Enough about that; I think there's something more important to say.

One of the major themes swimming about in Nitzer Ebb's songs has always been about empowerment. Back in the mid-to-late 80's, that empowerment was being preached to the young - "Forget all that you're told / You are young, they are old / Control is all they've got to give" from Showtime's "Fun To Be Had" (which probably was going to be on the set, but wasn't for obvious reasons) is a great example. But there, on the baking asphalt of downtown San Francisco that sunny Sunday afternoon, the lyrics took on a different power - especially with a group of people who had grown up (probably in high school, no less) with their music. No, this time I reckon the empowerment Nitzer Ebb's music conveyed had less to do with authority, per se, but with the fucking dimwitted bigots and haters who would love nothing more than to see beautiful street parties like this outlawed, once and for all.

And I think that's a message that carries on, and it's a fucking great thing indeed. Goddamn, I love music.


getting closer
down on your knees
hearts & minds
once you say
lightning man

And now, for your amusement, here's McCarthy and friends with the rather dark and menacing track "Lightning Man" from Showtime. Enjoy!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Video Disturbeo: Simian Mobile Disco.


Hailing from Londontown in Dear Old Blighty, Simian Mobile Disco are James Ford and Jas Shaw, two supremely talented and unpredictable DJs and producers who have worked with a great many awesome bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Peaches, Air, and Klaxons. Ford and Shaw, who previously were in a four-piece band called Simian, came to prominence as a trés popular DJ duo who eventually began to write, record, and perform their own compositions. In 2007, they released their debut album Attack Decay Sustain Release, and, in doing so, became a force to be reckoned with.

A potent mix of hardcore analog and seriously thumping beats that veer wildly back and forth from acid-house to progressive techno, tracks such as "Tits And Acid," "Hustler," and "Hotdog" are supremely blissful affairs that affably dovetail with a bristling undergrowth of subtle darkness, sustaining throughout a detectable aroma of danger.

For today's entry in the "Video Disturbeo" pantheon, I'd like to share with you the video for "Hustler." With deliciously saucy and defiant vocals by New York City singer Char Johnson, this track has it all: Witty lyrics, throbbing bass lines, fluctuating chirps bleeps bloops, and some seriously wicked beats. The video starts off rather scintillatingly, with supermodels striking poses on a revolving stage whilst lip-synching the words. And then we begin to see plates of food on a spinning dais, such as french fries, hotdogs, and donuts. And then the models begin to eat. It's a veritable orgy of suggestive eating (NSFW, in case you were wondering), and then things suddenly get ... ugly. Very ugly. Watch for yourself - this is a pretty fucking disturbing video.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Happy Hump Day!


Well hello there, people. It's Wednesday, which means that it's officially Hump Day. Yep, we're officially past the half-way mark to the next weekend - so bully for us! We here at the Second Drawer Up corral would like to take a moment to celebrate this ridiculously named moment in time and honor it the only way we really know how - with electronic music, of course! And look - we brought some sexy! Get it? Hump; sex? Haha, we're clever little bonobos, and on this day of the Norse god Odin (also known as Woden or Woten), we're going to share with you a couple of songs you may or may not be aware of that have to do with ... you guessed it, sex.

Roll that beautiful sex footage!

First up in our day's roster is an interesting little piece called "People Are Still Having Sex," by LaTour. Recorded in 1991 by William "Bud" LaTour, a successful voice-over actor, electronica artist and parody musician from Lowell, Massachusetts, this clever and rather catchy number was essentially a call for sanity during a period of time where AIDS was being used as a political tool by conservative fuckwits who wanted to press an agenda of abstinence (sound familiar?). The message then was the same as it is now: Abstinence education doesn't work, people. But the song? Pretty damn clever. Favorite spoken-word lyric: "When you see them holding hands, they're making future plans to engage in the activity - do you understand?" And here it is:

Second on our scintillating list is "Mystery Babylon" from My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Taken from the Chicago, Illinois industrial collective's 1991 album Sexplosion!, this is a sprawling and deviously subversive piece, with its lilting jazzy piano, horns, and a distinctive Zydeco-influenced vest frottoir running throughout whilst a singsong-y chorus with breathy female voices goes on about sexual providence and passion. The song is interwoven with a running spoken conversation between a horny john and a couple of hookers. Best exchange: "What goes for ten dollars?" "Well, whaddaya want for ten dollars?" "I want something different, I want something special." "Ah no, honey, not for ten bucks."

Last and thirdly on our triptych of hanky panky is a song that just about every human being on the planet has probably heard at least once - but man, what a great freaking song it is. I'm speaking, of course, of "Strangelove" by the one and only Depeche Mode. Martin Gore's synth anthem to BDSM after spending a huge amount of time in Berlin's leather clubs and bars is just as cheeky, playful, and brilliant now as it was back in 1987 when it was released as the first single of their monumental album Music For The Masses. Sadly, WMG are being fucking pricks and have disabled embedding on all their videos (the kick-ass Anton Corbijn version is what I would have liked to have shown you, but oh well), so here's Dave, Martin, Andrew, and Alan "performing" "Strangelove" on a German television show in 1987. Enjoy!

So there you have it, pleasant and loyal readers. Happy Hump Day - and may all your ups and downs take place in your bed of choice. Ciao!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Peter Schilling.

Hello, everybody. Happy Tuesday to you and yours! Today I thought I'd share with you all an absolutely fantastic gem from 1982 that's been popping up on my playlist lately - and it's a track that I just can't get enough of. I'm speaking, of course, of "Major Tom (Coming Home)" - or "Major Tom (Völlig Iosgelöst)", meaning "totally disconnected" in its native German - by the Stuttgart, Germany-based 80's synth-wizard Peter Schilling.

Taking David Bowie's 1969 masterpiece "Space Oddity" as its inspiration, "Major Tom (Coming Home)" takes a stab at describing the experiences of Major Tom as he launches into the great void above and loses contact with Ground Control. "Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows," Bowie crooned toward the end. What Schilling wanted to do with "Major Tom" was to tell the story from Major Tom's point of view - what was happening to him after his last transmission?
Far beneath the ship
The world is mourning
They don't realize he's alive
No one understands but Major Tom sees
"Now the light commands
This is my home,
I'm coming home,"
the lyrics go. It packs an emotional punch - there's a lovely melancholic sensibility going on here, and I find it absolutely irresistible. The song was originally sung in German (which is the version I'm currently listening to), but was rerecorded in English as the single, like Major Tom himself, launched into the stratosphere. It was also to be, alas, Herr Schilling's one and only hit.

But what a hit it was! Here's the English version:

... And here's the 12" version, with fantastic Japanese anime images put together by intoantics. It's pretty spectacular, so I recommend watching this one on a large screen.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Gig Review: Scissor Sisters.



I just can't get enough of this theatre! And so it was on this blustery and somewhat grey Sunday evening that my significant other and I rode the tube underneath the Bay on BART, heading for an evening of confetti, rainbow lasers, sequins, and campy fun!

After a warm-up gig from Casey Spooner (yep, from Fischerspooner) performing tracks from his new solo album and a DJ set from Sammy Jo, Scissor Sisters took the stage. Babydaddy and Del Marquis took their guitarists' spots on either side, whilst Jake Shears (looking outlandishly fit and amazing in a shiny black leotard with trousers sporting mesh on the buttocks) and Ana Matronic (done up in her Joan Crawford 'do, wearing a black S/M-style dress - looking a bit like a naughty 50's schoolteacher who specializes in spanking naughty students) took their spots at the front. Rounded out with a drummer (Randy "Real" Schrager) and a keyboardist (John "JJ" Garden), Scissor Sisters wasted absolutely no time whatsoever in getting their groove on with the explosive title track of their new album, Night Work.

Never have I seen a band exude such confidence, such ebullience. Maybe it has something to do with Ana Matronic playing in her former stomping grounds (she performed as a transsexual impersonator at the seminal (haha) San Francisco club The Stud, during their infamous weekly party "Trannyshack"), but I'm telling you guys - they were on fire. Examples!

picture by yours truly

Their 110-minute set was a well-mixed affair, consisting of a healthy sprinkling of songs from their eponymous debut and the new album. The widely ho-hum-regarded sophomore album Ta-Dah was only represented twice, with the terribly catchy (and Elton John co-wrote) "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" and the somewhat mediocre "Kiss You Off." But let me tell you something - Night Work is a phenomenal fucking recording. I can honestly say that it's a flat-out splendid piece of mischievous, gaudy, frolicking, and intense fun. And, I'm happy to report, it translates to live extraordinarily well. Here are some of my highlights!

The delightfully filthy "Whole New Way" was simply introduced by Ana Matronic: "This song," she deadpanned, "is about sodomy." Featuring a lyric about "Well, I think I need a rubber tonight," I'll just let you use your imagination as to where the song goes!

"Running Out" is probably my new favorite song of theirs, and my nominee for the next single! I'm telling you - this song soars, man. It's an incredibly, impossibly catchy piece of pop confectionary that seemingly has it all: sharp indie guitars courtesy of Babydaddy and Del Marquis, a fantastic disco beat, and chirping, swooping synths that bring to mind some of the best stuff that late 70's/early 80's Krautrock had to offer.

Another track off of Night Work that really works for me (especially live) is "Skin This Cat." Sung by Ana and featuring a deep, progressive throbbing bass-line throughout with a fantastically fun 8-bit keyboard flitting about like a stoned butterfly, it's something of a turn-on when she purrs, "Here, kitty kitty, let's skin this cat." Bathed in a flood of dark purple lights, it was a simply divine moment.

Old favorites such as "Laura," "Tits On The Radio," and "Take Your Mama" shone with the light we've come to expect over the years, though I do have a tiny - tiny - complaint with the latter song. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that they've been playing "Take Your Mama" for, like, ever, or anything, but their performance of it this evening did seem to be a little bit ... lackluster, for want of a better word. Maybe they're getting a little tired of performing it? It's a possibility. Just sayin'.

One little bit of funny occurred during the beginning of the new track "Something Like This." Jake (who's prone to dropping mic stands in the midst of his onstage shenanigans) dropped his mic off the stage just before he was set to begin singing! After the roadie ran out with a replacement, Jake picked up where the song was supposed to be, smiling quite bashfully as Ana did her damnedest to keep from cracking up. He righted himself quite gracefully, and, at the end of the number, Ana laughed and told the crowd, "See? We're really singing!"

Before they tore into the last song of their regular set, "Night Life," Ana Matronic turned serious for a brief spell. "We don't usually read our reviews," she said. Jake piped in "But sometimes you just can't help it!" "Yeah," said Ana, "we read the review of our show in Chicago ... and that fucking bitch called us 'shallow!'" Ana began to get animated, her voice rising, and went off on the Chicago Sun-Times reviewer (I looked it up and the reviewer's name is Misha Davenport) - "So maybe she thinks real life only happens from nine to five; but let me tell you, honey: It's going to clubs that allow people to let their hair down and be themselves. It's where love happens, it's where dreams are born and magic is created. So let me be the first to tell you, bitch: It's not fucking shallow!"

Damn right, sister.

After a five minute break, they returned to a monumental and thunderous rain of applause before scorching into an encore that cranked the show (which was already at a ten) to a fucking sixty-nine. Their highly infectious Pink Floyd cover "Comfortably Numb" was filled with an effervescent energy that shot the already pumped-up crowd over the edge. "Invisible Light" brought to mind the hi-energy rave anthems of the mid-90's, complete with a spoken-word segue from the one and only Sir Ian McKellen (!!!), and then they flew into "Filthy/Gorgeous," which was extended in a huge way, culminating in a confetti drop that went on for minutes!

Campy. Energetic. Boisterous. Ballsy. Fun. Confident. I'd say many things about Scissor Sisters' triumphant return. But "shallow"?

Fuck no.


night work
any which way
she's my man
something like this
whole new way
tits on the radio
harder you get
running out
take your mama
kiss you off
i don't feel like dancin'
skin tight
skin this cat
fire with fire
night life
comfortably numb
invisible light

Now, here's Scissor Sisters performing "Running Out" live on Chattyman on UK's Channel Four. Enjoy!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Patience, My Lovelies. And IAMX.

Hello from your faithful friends at Second Drawer Up! Well, I really can't say "faithful" in the truest of senses - I've been a little bit slow on the draw as to putting new enticing entries, reviews, and general bric-a-brac up on this site. My apologies!

I've just been incredibly busy as of late. My London gal is moving back to her native Australia, and is coasting through the grand city of San Francisco (my environs) on her way there. And then, once she's back on her native shores, I (and this site) will be moving Down Under, towards the beginning of October. So that's exciting!

So, don't worry (if, indeed, you ever were worrying)! There will be more material coming up this very week. Expect an in-depth look back at a-ha's seminal album Hunting High And Low, a review of Stereo Total's September show at Slim's, a review of the new OMD album History Of Modern, and other mouth-watering morsels, including a new installment of Video Disturbeo.

Thanks again for your patience. Please come visit, and visit often (and tell all your friends!).

For now, here's a song from an act that's been playing on my stereo quite a bit over the last few days: Berlin's own IAMX, a long-running project from Chris Corner, formally from the band Sneaker Pimps. In my own reckoning, I like to think of him as the morbid offspring of Marc Almond, Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget), and Steve Strange of Visage. I will be writing more about him in the very near future - providing any of you are still reading this very lazy blog! Cheers, my friends - be well, and talk to you all soon!

From the 2004 album Kiss + Swallow, here is "Missile." Absolutely fantastic track.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Video Disturbeo: Vive La Fête.


Vive La Fête. Long live the party! Who wants to party? We all want to party!

I love a cute couple. Who doesn't? And I especially adore cute couples who make music together, and make it well. Arising on a wave of 80's nostalgia, pretty legs, and clever songs about parties, lovemaking, and general bacchanalia, Ghent, Belgium-based Vive La Fête (the lovely Els Pynoo on vocals, and her handsome paramour Danny Mommens (bassist for Belgian band dEUS) on guitar) sprouted like a lovely confetti-strewn flower from that odd little country and, within a few short years, conquered the fashion world.

Let me tell you - their shit is wild. Fun, humorous, and unpredictable, you'll never really be able to figure out where they're going next. Is the music going to be rocking out with its cock out? Is it going to be smooth and aching, like the best fucking groove-heavy dubby shit you've heard? Is it going to be balls-to-the-walls techno?

Shit, you never know. The one constant, I believe, is that Els and Danny are in love - not only with each other, but with taking the best of what each has to offer and flying off it, creating a quasi-universe of great sounding confectionary aurism (yes that's not a word, thank you very much, but I just made it up. Get used to it).

So it almost pains me a little bit to debut Vive La Fête for a new little feature I'm going to be doing from time to time on this blog: "Video Disturbeo." In these snippets, I'll be showcasing videos that are just a little bit shocking; a little disturbing, even. There may be violence. There might be blood. There might even be - gasp! - sex. But I guaran-fucking-tee you: It will always be interesting!

So let's get cooking! From their 2003 album Nuit Blanche, here is the track "Noir Désir." In this clip, we get to see the slow, horrible descent of a beautiful girl into the world of drugs, thievery, and despair. It doesn't end well, needless to say. Still - the music! Such a great mixture of great synths with powerful rock-n-roll guitars provide a fitting soundtrack to such a depressing video. Els has some serious pipes on her as well - great screaming! Enjoy, my friendly readers. I adore you all.