Monday, 29 September 2008

Helen Of Troy Does Audience Participation

After a recent conversation with fellow blogging chum Adem – check out
Adem With An E - about the greatest female pop acts of all time, we thought it only right that we pose the pertinent question to you lovely people and ask for your insightful thoughts on the matter, while starting a wee debate in the process… hopefully! Over the next few weeks we’ll be releasing our top three favourite female rock, hip hop, punk, electro and leftfield acts, and in return we’d like to know yours.

Anyhoo, after a few conversations with our friends and a little time for mulling over our choices, we both came to the conclusion that our top three female pop acts of all time are:

1. Madonna – needs no explanation.

2. Girls Aloud – we get a lot of stick for liking the might GA, but Biology is, quite simply, one of the best pop songs of all time. They’re the hardest-working girl group of the last decade; releasing five albums in as many years, not to mention the countless Arena tours and side projects, and have put out consistently good singles for longer than we can remember. They’re also extremely likeable, which is more than can be said for the super-surly Sugababes.

3. Janet Jackson – she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what with the Nipplegate fiasco and her sometimes-sickly singing style, but songs such as Rhythm Nation, Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately and Black Cat, amongst others, are undeniably worthy of a listen to this very day.

So ladies and gentlemen, it's over to you...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ladyfest Manchester

Manchester has arguably become England’s second city in recent years, thanks to its growing cosmopolitan feel and worthy international reputation. Birmingham may still officially hold the title due to its size (big whoop), but when it comes to music, art, theatre… in fact culture in general, Manchester is way ahead.

Why then, in a city as culturally evolved as Manchester – forgetting the tired resurgences of the Madchester/Hacienda days - is there still the need for a festival dedicated to celebrating women in the arts? Is the city failing to recognise, nurture and represent female talent? The answer to this, as far as we’re concerned, is yes.
Ladyfest Manchester is an attempt to redress the balance, if only for a few days. Essentially, the festival is 'a not-for-profit, volunteer-led arts and music festival, which aims to create a space for female artists and musicians to be seen and heard in an environment which is inclusive, individual and fun. Ladyfest as a concept is unique amongst festivals but Ladyfests have in fact been happening all over the world for eight years now.'

The programming offers a diverse selection of events, some of which include: art exhibitions by young emerging female visual and performance artists; film screenings, documentaries and shorts by female directors, and music showcases featuring Manda Rin (Ex-Bis), Zombina and the Skeletones, The Lovely Eggs, Vile Vile Creatures (pictured above), Penny Broadhurst, GeEkGirl, Hooker and others. Plus workshops, and a panel discussion on women in cultural industries, with speakers Miranda Sawyer, Professor Sheila Rowbotham and Dr. Marion Leonard in attendance.

Ideally these kinds of events wouldn't need to exist in the 21st century, however, they do, and there's still much work to be done.

Details: Friday 7th to Sunday 9th November, at the Zion Arts Centre, Hulme.
Advance Tickets: Weekend - £25; Friday Night - £7; Saturday - £12; Sunday - £12, concessions are available, as are tickets on the door. Go
here to buy tickets.

Currently listening to…
Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
PJ Harvey – Dry
CSS – Donkey
Tori Amos – American Doll Posse

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Album Review: Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke

Helen Of Troy… has been loving Ladyhawke since we first heard her gloriously retro 1980s electro-pop back in spring. It's understandable, if a little embarrassing, then, that when we got our grubby little mitts on Pip Brown's eponymous début album, we were filled with the kind of giddy excitement usually reserved for 13-year-old girls.

Perhaps the reason for this regression is that Ladyhawke, Ladyhawke could have easily been released when we were young snood and cycling short-wearing whippersnappers. The album pays homage to so many great bands and artists of the 1980s that sometimes it's difficult to know where Pip's record collection ends and the New Zealand singer-songwriter starts. Opening track Magic sounds like Depeche Mode fronted by Cyndi Lauper and Another Runaway is incredibly reminiscent of The Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star. The Pet Shop Boys, Hall & Oates and Stevie Nicks also show up at this 1980s soft-rock/electro-pop party.

Happily, although Ladyhawke wears her influences like a battered Bananarama badge, this album is much more than tired pastiche. Singles Paris Is Burning, Back Of the Van and Dusk Till Dawn are still utterly brilliant and there are a few hidden gems that grow with each listen. Oh My is delightfully multilayered and Professional Suicide is a dirty-beated treat. Ladyhawke might not have blown our pop socks off with her début effort, but this is an album filled with real promise. She's playing at The Roadhouse in October, and we can't wait to see how these songs sound stripped of the almost slavish 1980s production. We have a feeling it might be brilliant enough to bring our waning teenage giddiness back.


Released on: 22/09/08 Label: Modular

Friday, 19 September 2008

Music Round-up (19th September to 3rd October)

Thursday 2nd October – Kaki King
To give you an idea of just how formidable this Georgia-born guitar virtuoso is, Rolling Stone bestowed her the title of ‘Guitar God’ back in 2006 - making her the first ever female to make the list in the history of the publication! A must see for all guitar-loving geeks!
Details: Night & Day, Oldham St, Central Manchester
8pm, £10 adv (excluding fees)

Thursday 2nd & 3rd October – The Ting Tings
Dig out your whistles, aviators and neon legwarmers, because the former Salford-based twosome are returning to Mancland for this highly-charged two-date extravaganza. The electro-pop poppets will be performing tracks from their number one début album, We Started Nothing which, although far from perfect, contains three of the years best singles. Ker-fucking-ching.
Details: Academy 1, Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £13.50 adv (excluding fees)

Album Releases:
Rilo Kiley vocalist, Jenny Lewis, releases her second solo album Acid Tongue on Monday 22nd September.

Tori Amos releases a live retrospective of her early career days in the form of Live At Montreux 1991-1992, which is also out on Monday 22nd September.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Album Review: Uh Huh Her - Common Reaction

There’s something a little desperate about naming your band after a PJ Harvey B-Side from an identically-titled album, regardless of the reasons. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that the chosen B-Side is from Peej’s least-critically acclaimed album to date. Not only that, it’s impossible to say Uh Huh Her without sounding like a twat.

The Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo features singer-cum-producer Camila Grey, a former member of lo-fi rock band Mellowdrone, who has worked with the likes of Dr Dre, Busta Rhymes and Kelly Osbourne. Even more notable, however, is musician and actress Leisha Hailey of The L Word and The Murmers fame. A chance meeting back in 2006 led to the decision for the two to join forces to start a band. Since then, they’ve sold out a number of shows across America and London, put out an EP titled I See Red, and, more recently, released their first full-length offering Common Reaction.

On first listen, this eleven-track début is an agreeable collection of synth-composed reminiscent pop songs. On closer inspection, Common Reaction becomes a considerably muted and transient affair. Tracks such as Everyone and Away From Here, are overwhelmingly derivative. The more you listen, the more you hear strains of Alanis Morissette's second release Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, and Shakespeare’s Sister’s phenominal rock ballad, Stay. In fact, it becomes impossible to listen without trying to identify futher unashamed imitations. Musical influences serve to provide references points for both the artist(s) and listener. After a while, this lack of clear original thought becomes irritating.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to comprehend why anyone would go to the trouble of writing, rehearsing, recording and (barely) promoting an album that, essentially, is completely unexciting in every way. In the words of the late Peggy Lee and Polly Jean herself, is that all there is?


Release Date: 18/08/08 Label RCA

Monday, 15 September 2008

New Music: Lele[SPEAKS]

Straight-talking Croydon-based grime-girl Lele[SPEAKS] is, quite literally, a voice to be heard. Spitting superbly-crafted ravaging rhymes over sparse pop beats, the hip-hop star sounds a like a hybrid of fellow Londoner Lily Allen (only a little rougher round the edges) and swaggering Stateside emcee, Amanda Blank. It's difficult not to like this superbly-witty missy.

Funnily enough, the name Lele[SPEAKS] comes from the fact that her name is Lele and she's not afraid to speak her mind! Tracks such as Magazine, a brazen diatribe addressing the hot topic of women’s body issues, and Juice, an edgy yet well-observed onslaught about the highly-sexualised nature of current generations, prove that the young wordsmith is happy to voice her views on just about anything.

When it comes to the UK hip-hop scene, women are in short supply. So when a commanding and invigorating artist such as Lele[SPEAKS] comes along, who can more than hold her own in an overtly-misogynistic field, while tackling complex issues in a fresh and insightful way, shouldn’t we all stop and listen?

Debut album The Mentalist Daily is available now via RaggoTech Records.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

You're History?

Manchester will once again shake under the collective feet of passionate pop pixies Bananarama as they launch the newly refurbished Hard Rock Café tonight. Yes. Bananarama. In Manchester. Tonight! But before you throw down your keyboard, grab your mitts and slap on your cagoule in a panic-stricken rush to get tickets read on a little, because while we may still be able to choke on the sugary smoothie that is the Bananarama live show, we can no longer indulge in a warm, comforting mug of the Bard's broads; Shakespears Sister.

The bonkers duo, comprising one-time Bananarama member Siobhan Fahey and mad-as-a-box-of-frogs singer Marcella Detroit, won us over with the power ballad to beat all power ballads, Stay. The reputation of this 1992 classic has since been marred by myriad dubious metal and European electro-pop covers and, though we're sad to say it, the Sister have been confined to the 1990s pop bargain bucket.

If you stick your head out of the window and listen carefully I’m sure you’ll hear me, and many others, screaming today's burning question... How and why has this happened? Stay, and it’s originating album Hormonally Yours, were big sellers in their day, beating the previous Sister release Sacred Heart and its flagship single You’re History. The main problem seems to be the unflappable ego of Fahey herself. Having conceived Shakespeare's Sister as a solo outfit she became increasingly annoyed as Marcella Detroit came to prominence. The fact that Detroit's vocal was the driving force behind Stay tipped Fahey over the edge and that, as they say, was that.

I wonder if the inspiring sight of the Bananarama girls continuing to flog that musical horse long long after it died will be enough to get Fahey to give Detroit a call (where she works at a small garden centre outside Dallas, so I’ve heard) and get the Shakespeare's Sister show back on the road. If not, the petition starts here.

Jordan Stead

Currently Listening to...
PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?
Cat Power – The Covers Record

Thursday, 4 September 2008

New Music: Le Corps Mince De Françoise

If CSS' underwhelming sophomore effort left you looking for a fresh dose of waggish kaleidoscopic yell-pop, check out new kids on the block, Le Corps Mince De Françoise. Formed in Helsinki in the spring of last year, this kooky Finnish trio - complete with their impossible-to-remember name - proffer a mash-up of highly-infectious electro-pop layered over dissonant, coarse noise-rock. Their rough-around-the-edges crude and shouty lyrics are incredibly reminiscent of the bawdy Brazilians and arty electroclash outfit Chicks On Speed.

Bitch Of The Bitches is by far the most CSS-like offering, but this is more than just copy-cat pop; their vocal style is brilliantly varied and their lyrics are much ruder than anything Lovefoxxx and friends have delivered so far. Other tracks available on their MySpace page are equally promising, from the multilingual Cool And Bored, which will have scenesters everywhere clambering over each other in order to get their cigarette-stained mitts on neon-coloured cow bells, to the heavily-looped fast-paced catchy pop-art treat Pollution.

They're may be a slight sense of déjà vu surrounding Le Corps Mince De Françoise, but fuck art let's dance!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Women Don’t Rock!

The kids are calling for a smothering by bollock-swinging, sweaty, stadium rockitypop, so AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Dragonforce & Rush will be coming round to drink your Red Bull, mess up your bed and call your mother rude names. That’s right, all the greats are lining up inside Rock Band 2, and you get to party like a real rock legend if you play with them!

Harmonix, and their Guitar Hero brothers Neversoft, have been releasing a never-ending stream of hard-rocking games based on the premise that you get to pal-up with the big names from rock history. But as Leonie Cooper at
The Guardian pointed out some time ago (sorry I’m late) it’s pretty much only the men who get to play.

That’s because across the five games there are less female artists included than there were Tupperware parties at Kurt & Courtney’s house. Is that because Hole, The Slits, Gossip, Blondie or Polly Jean herself, don’t deserve a spot at the rock picnic alongside The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Offspring (?!)? Hardly.

Sure, you can play along with Bikini Kill, Joan Jett or The Donnas, but the pitiful number of female-fronted bands out of the 85 plus tracks on Rock Band 2 means you’ll have to replay those few a lot if you don’t fancy singing along to Journey. Again. According to
Eric Brosious (RB2’s Audio Director) “[There are] more female-fronted bands this time… but not enough. Oddly enough, girls don’t seem to mind singing guy songs, but guys don’t like singing girl songs, we’re such idiots”. Seems like Brosious' heart is in the right place, but distinguishing between guy and girl songs in the first place ain’t a great start.

So maybe it is because the boys demand that the disc be loaded with as many Judas Priest tracks as possible. But if Harmonix are content to keep the boys (and girls) drumming along to an achingly out-dated beat, and will happily admit to doing so, we'll have to take it back to basics, strap on our air guitar and make do with striking some classic Courtney Love poses.

Jordan Stead

Currently listening to...
Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Feist - The Reminder
Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape