Sunday, 22 November 2009

Polar Bear

So I thought that I'd write about something other than Tom Waits. Four years ago I saw a one of the most inspiring live bands that I think I have ever seen. They went by the name of Polar Bear. Mixing new-jazz/be-bop/live electronics (a la Max/MSP) they have a unique and interesting sound and drummer/band leader Seb Rochford also has a good ear for a tune. Their self-titled third album came out in June of 2008 and has never really escaped my playlist since. I recently saw them (for the fifth time) at Camden Jazz Cafe. Well, they never fail to blow me a way. Jazz was once described to me by a friend as three virtuosos on stage. Polar Bear are five virtuosos on stage but at no point does the music seem indulgent or arrogant. The music moves from danceable dittys to psychadelic jams to melancholic ballads with ease, all founded by a brilliant sense of rythm and emotion. This is not music made for jazz fans so do NOT be put off by the connotations this word has. Go on, give it a listen and I'm sure you wont regret it. The new songs they played boasts Leafcutter John (electronics) playing electric guitar with a brush. Apparently the new album will be out by March of 2010 and I cannot wait.
If this floats you boat check out Acoustic Ladyland who you will find under 'jazz' in your local HMV store but seem to be more suited the term 'punk' with their influences being Jimi Hendrix and Iggy Pop, band members include drummer and saxophonist of Polar Bear respectively, Seb Rochford and Pete Wareham.
Oh, and the support bands for Polar Bear at the Camden Jazz Cafe were pretty cool. Can't remember the names of them but will try and find out.

small change got rained on...

So it's half midnight and the weekend has gone of crying to Monday morning. I am currently finishing the abstract to my dissertation which has to be handing in by midday of the morrow/today (depending on whether you're one of those annoying people who count the next day at precisely one second after midnight or not). My dissertation question resembles something along the lines of 'is Swordfishtrombones [Tom Waits' seminal 9th album] one of the most daring transformations in pop music history or merely a natural creative evolution.' blah blah blah. Anyway, researching this has got me delving into Waits' extensive back catalog from the seventies and reminding me of some true gems (eg. 'Romeo is bleeding'). Small Change is a brilliant album from the creative genius. The opening track is both beautiful and tragic, a romantic alcoholic anthem that could've inspired the pogues' fairytale of New York.

The title track is another craker - a kerouac-esque spoken word piece inspired by a young african american kid who waits saw one night in LA with his head in gumball machine covered in blood having been rained on with his own .38
It may well be the best album Waits produced in the seventies, the point when his tin pan alley/boho beat poet hit its creative peak.

Hey man, Romeo is bleeding...

...and he'll die without a whimper/like every hero's dream/just an angel with a bullet/and Cagney on the screen...

Highlight from Waits' Kerouac/Bukowski inspired boho-beat-poet-come-tin-pan-alley-bar-stool-crooning days.