Benjamin Shaw is back!
It’s been more than two years since his first album was released on Audio Antihero, and while he’s been pretty busy since then this news of another is very welcome. For those of you who have somehow missed him, Shaw offers a superbly lo-fi mixture of guitars, hesitant vocals, buzzing-hissing-scratching noises and found sounds, like a singer-songwriter fighting to be heard over a swarm of lazy bees made of entropy. Or something. His last record, Summer In the Box Room, was pretty much all entropic bees; track it down on Bandcamp. But I think what makes this music valuably off-kilter is the way these things scuff up against the more straightforward songs; and, of course, Shaw’s superb lyrics, which are both hopeless and hilarious. Often at the same time.
‘Goodbye, Kagoul World’ is the title track of this new album, due out later this month. Available as a free download, it’s a lovely chiming stately thing – sounding a little like much-missed AAH labelmates Fighting Kites – that will make you feel comfortably glum. Lovely piano and trumpet by Lieven Scheerlinck.
The video is even sadder, filmed as it was at an animal rescue centre, but rather lovely too.
The album can be pre-ordered here in a number of formats, with or without the Benjamin Shaw Stress Ball. I’m really looking forward to my copy.
There might be nothing more frightening than the passing of time, but it does have some advantages. In this case Ben Parker has had time to record several new Superman Revenge Squad songs, and return to a selection of older ones, with a full(ish) band. The SRS were always much more, musically, than Ben, his guitar, and a whirlwind of words – just listen to Martin Webb’s cello on ‘The Summer We Finally Cut Our Hair’, for example, from Dead Crow Blues. But the addition of a mix of saxophone, accordion, piano and cello gives these songs added depth. As do the drums, of course, because Adam Parker is there too. That, plus the fact that There… is released by Audio Antihero means that this is, in some sense, a bit like getting another Nosferatu D2 album.
If you’re not a regular BBO reader (ha) that might not mean that much, but Nosferatu D2 made one of the best albums of the last ten years (which we reviewed here). One of the reasons I love that album so much is the collision of Ben Parker’s smart, witty, self-conscious lyrics with brother Adam’s busy drumming, both often delivered at some pace. These songs now have that, and are equally good examples of Ben Parker’s songwriting and lyrical brilliance (he’s certainly the only singer-songwriter I’d trust to write about wrestling, or the Rocky films, or Flavor Flav). So the passing of time has been good for something, at least.
This is perhaps the best example, though the drumming is quite restrained: ‘The Angriest Dog In The World’, sounding quite wonderful.
You can pre-order this lovely album, out 14th of October, from Audio Antihero here – digital (£3) or very limited CD (£4) – and if you need any more persuasion, here’s the new song ‘A Funny Thing You Said’, which is also a free download.
“How was that?” Parker asks, at the end of ‘Angriest Dog In The World.’ It was great, Ben. What’s next?
PS – you can stream the whole album at Bearded Magazine here.
Big-hearted Jamie Audio Antihero has put together another excellent charity compilation – in fact I think this is the best yet. There’s the big names – well, you know what I mean – who are already Friends of the Label (Jeffrey Lewis, Darren Hayman, both lovely songs); the amazing turn-out of the label’s own stars (Wartgore Hellsnicker, Ben Shaw, Jack Hayter, Paul Hawkins & the Awkward Silences, Broken Shoulder and Fighting Kites… plus new AAH band Cloud, who we will be hearing more from soon); the post-AAH bands (The Jonbarr Hinge); and some established/emerging bands like The Society of Poor Academics and Internet Forever.
That sounds like a lot of tracks? Damn right it is – 31 songs, nearly 2 hours. And it’s great. The mighty Wartgore contribute nearly 8 minutes of craziness, the rest of the AAH roster contribute alternative takes and hard-to-find stuff, and there are other crackers scattered throughout the rest of the collection. It manages to be both a great AAH sampler and an end-of-term report on the class of 2013, like those cassettes you used to get on the front of magazines.
And it supports a very good cause – Rape Crisis England & Wales and Rape Crisis Scotland. You can get the compilation for a minimum donation of £3.99 or you could pay more. £4+ for 2 hours of music. What are you waiting for? Stream the lot then buy it here – though I should warn you that Jamie’s track-by-track guide includes puzzling wrestling chat.
If you want a taster then I suggest these two tracks. First, this lovely version of Jack Hayter’s ‘Sweet JD’, one of my personal favourites from his Sisters of St Anthony singles series, which is also highly recommended; find it here.
And second, this little belter from Internet Forever, from their album of last year. This is perfect pop, somewhere in the vicinity of Helen Love. The album can be found here.
Audio Antihero has released this fine seasonal single from label stalwarts Benjamin Shaw and Fighting Kites, who I was lucky enough to see perform as ‘The Benjamin Shaw Band’ at AAH’s second birthday bash last year. ‘This Christmas (I Just Want To Be Left Alone)’ is a lovely song, with some of the pleasure coming from hearing Fighting Kites playing a more straightforwardly-structured song than usual and the rest coming from Ben’s voice – which also works really well with a fuller sound – and his lyrics. Is he looking forward to Christmas? It’s not immediately obvious whether he’ll be putting the tinsel up, though despite the title I detect some ambivalence about the festival. Maybe this is his answer to ‘Last Christmas’.
This was actually brought out last year, on Darren Hayman/Fika Record’s brilliant advent calendar – which contained no end of fantastic tracks like this and was mentioned in this post. It’s been re-released, presumably because it’s ace and all good Christmas records should be re-issued every year, and because it’s a charity single – pay as much as you like, with all proceeds going to Shelter. Buy it from Bandcamp here.
Mr Shaw made this slightly odd video out of film scraps and it’s quite affecting.
There are lots of men with beards at End of The Road, but very few in Audio Antihero t-shirts. Despite this rarity, or because of it, they bring people together. When you meet someone else wearing one – like Matt White, he’s the one on the left – you have an overwhelming compunction to greet them like an old friend, talk about your love of the Nosferatu D2 album and Benjamin Shaw, and make your girlfriends take photos of you grinning like loons.
We even thought we’d send a signal to Jamie Halliday, boss of this most fascinating of labels, though it’s not all that easy to see what we’re doing:
If you want to experience the power of Audio Antihero in your life, you can find the site here. I think this particular t-shirt is sold out, but there are a lot of very fine bands on the label and you should buy some of their music. Here’s a lovely little film of AAH star Benjamin Shaw entertaining the people of Hackney with ‘How To Test The Depth of a Well’, for example:
More Audio Antihero magic for you very soon…
jkneale – photos courtesy of Matt White
This is the first time I’ve seen Jeffrey Lewis, but it’s nice to put a face to the music. I suppose some grouches might find his popular culture renaissance man schtick annoying, but he’s genuinely passionate about comics, music, politics etc etc – and a genuinely talented musician and artist. And when you see him live you realise just how charismatic and funny he is. A real anti-star. His band – the Junkyard – can’t stop grinning throughout, mostly grinning at him.
His early evening appearance on the Garden stage was another classic End of the Road moment – the crowd cheered and sang along in this lovely clearing in the woods, and the sun shone. We got a few of the ‘hits’ plus some covers, including a very fine version of the Fall’s ‘Kurious Oranj’ from their late 1980s purple patch. Lewis and the band then popped up at a ‘secret’ gig in the Tipi later that night, running through his brilliant illustrated lecture on the history of punk on the Lower East Side and more. Marvellous.
Jeffrey Lewis’ site is here.
Beer note: My notes are very hazy but at some point on the Saturday I think I had a pint of Whitstable Bay. Nice enough, but Shepherd Neame aren’t my favourite brewer and I seem to have drunk a fair bit of this in bottles recently, because nothing else was available. Still.
Jack Hayter’s relationship with the Audio Antihero label continues with a series of twelve monthly singles, available by subscription. The first release, ‘The Shackleton’, is a beautiful thing, a bittersweet ballad sung in Hayter’s marvellously lived-in voice. It starts off as a wryly observed story of a teenage relationship and the narrator’s unrequited crush on Sally Evans, who [it turns out] was much keener on Graham; but they are “two cold war kids on a horsehair mattress’, in the shadow of the bomb, and the song becomes a tale of equally unsatisfying relationships in the present day. It ends with the drone of the Avro-Shackleton, the noise that haunted those cold war kids as they listened to it “hunting the subs in the North East Atlantic”. This is superb storytelling – maybe it’s autobiographical, it doesn’t matter – with a perfectly evoked sense of time and place.
If these singles are all going to be this good, this is going to be a fantastic series. See what I mean below:
Jack Hayter – ‘The Shackleton’
Go and sign up for the series here – £4.99 for a dozen songs. Audio Antihero will also throw in the excellent Sucky Tart CD EP, reviewed here, for another couple of quid, which is a steal. And there’s a nice interview on Bubblegunked here, from which I gleaned the name of the Avro-Shackleton.
And here’s AAH stalwart Benjamin Shaw’s cover for ‘The Shackleton’:
We’ll be keeping an eye on this series over the next twelve months!
Audio Antihero is two years old. The label, ‘specialists in commercial suicide’, have released an amazing series of EPs over the last two years, bookended by Benjamin Shaw’s new album (reviewed here) and of course by the Nosferatu D2 album that started everything. And now Jamie Halliday is throwing a party, pretty much everyone associated with the label is playing or DJing, and YOU’RE INVITED.
So for absolutely nothing you’ll get to hear (deep breath) sets from Broken Shoulder, Jack Hayter, Benjamin Shaw (+ band!), and Fighting Kites; and DJ sets from AAH artiste Paul Hawkins, Ben Parker (Nosferatu D2 and now Superman Revenge Squad), and promoter Stroke Your Beard. Not bad for free, eh? All at the Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London SE1 3SS (click for more on gig and venue), doors at 7pm. Free entry.
To put you in the mood here’s two snippets from the split Fighting Kites/Broken Shoulder EP AAH put out earlier this year. A ‘side’ of Fighting Kites’ sunny post-rock and a ‘side’ of Broken Shoulder’s minimalist electronic noise, both highly recommended. You can still buy the EP from AAH here.
‘Wotjek The Bear’ – Fighting Kites
‘Organomegaly’ – Broken Shoulder
Anyway – any BBO readers in the London area should get themselves to this. Given our enormous audience it might be foolhardy to say I’ll buy you all a drink, but if you can work out who I am and say hello I might just do that…
Benjamin Shaw’s first album came out yesterday, on Audio Antihero Records. This is a very good thing as far as we’re concerned. We knew he had it in him after last year’s ‘I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got’, and this release makes good on the promise of that EP.
Shaw works between the most apparently natural sounds – guitar, piano, voice, stepping uncertainly from one moment to the next – and a reservoir of fuzzy found sound and dissonant grumbling; sometimes this wash of noise takes over, and sometimes it’s happy to slosh about in the background. This is a pretty irresistible combination for me – it draws you in, ear cocked to hear the next line, to follow the broken thread of a melody; and then it sends you reeling back out with a head full of stuff. The title track and ‘An Exciting Opportunity’ are wordless, pretty much. But on the other tracks Shaw’s lyrics turn to everyday dread, love (or what passes for it) and misanthropy, but in a delightfully odd way that avoids singer-songwriter clichés. On ‘The Birds Cheep and the Sun Shines’ he sings ‘I never meant to stare into the abyss. CELEBRATE, GOOD TIMES, COME ON!’, in the least ebullient tones imaginable. ‘HULK’, or to give it its alternative title, ‘The Ballad of Dr Banner’, is a lovely, tender song about anger.
While this might sound a bit glum, it’s an album with a glimmer of hope, as the title suggests. The slow trudge of the single ‘Somewhere Over the M6’ builds into something epic and shoegazey, for example. I said the EP was ‘scabrous’; this album seems a bit less unhealthy, like Shaw’s been getting out more. Though there’s still a line about drowning Tories, which you can hear on this track we offer for your listening pleasure:
‘How To Test the Depth of a Well’ – Benjamin Shaw – There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet
The album looks great, too, with Shaw’s own art gracing the booklet (I particularly like his Hulk). So go on, buy it. Head here for the physical or digital versions, or it’s on Amazon, iTunes etc. And if you’re near London the official launch will take place near London Bridge on Friday the 25th Nov; more details here but the main thing you need to know is that there are lots of other Audio Antihero artists on the bill and entrance is FREE!