Wednesday, 21 December 2011

You can't be a Lives Editor and not catch up with The Calvi, Mercury Prize Nominee

Anna Calvi @ Trinity Hall, Bristol

This is the tour that Anna Calvi will look back on, over the years, and highlight as a landmark moment. It’s the one that people will keep referring back to and boast about having been there, over the next decade – and not being able to say that I was there too is unthinkable. If you liked the album you will love the songs live; from the first to the last song Calvi impresses and engages.

It’s in the detail; the way she wears her guitar high and no doubt the type of guitar she chooses to play with such intricacy and flair – taking her (largely male) influences as tools for her own feminine personal expression. It’s the percussionist, the way she does not so much accompany the melody or add light and shade to a song’s mood, in the traditional sense, but plays the songs too, with an original assemble – which includes that signature harmonium.

And from the start it’s all about Anna; her poise, a penchant for red and black, and proper songs. Just like the album she opens with ‘Rider To The Sea’, the guitar solo which starts the story oozes eerie imagery; tumbleweed rolls down a dusty, deserted street, people lurk in the shadows of shop doorways. It’s a declaration of musicality and confidence. And the bold set rolls forward in to the next song, ‘No More Words’, also from the album.

The power of these songs live is unquestionable, which brings a “wow” moment for anyone in the audience who knows the LP. Clever. Calvi has worked hard to show the correct impression of her artistic personality in this set list: calm, harmonious on the surface, with fear and passion beneath – and we’re all buying it. This includes her choice of covers, starting with Elvis, ‘Surrender’, the beautiful fury (and guitar change) for ‘Wolf Like Me’ and ending with ‘Jezebel’, an early Anna Calvi release but a million seller back in the Fifties for Frankie Laine with the Norman Luboff Choir and Mitch Miller. Lots of references to devils, death and desire in these songs but the art is in the songs, the guitar sound and melody structures, the open hearted-throw-your-head-back vocal choruses. Try not joining in to the chorus of ‘Suzanne and I’ (“Oh, Suzanne!”).

So confident and composed is her performance, it takes me by surprise every time she smiles and thanks the mighty applause after each song – she clearly seems both touched and secretly relieved. A queen of serene.

Ngaire Ruth
Originally published in

Saturday, 26 November 2011


IN November 1989 I wrote my first live review for the National Music Press, Melody Maker. It was the germinal - not seminal! - most willful Ut. (See Reflection - Ritual - Revolution Part 1) I didn't always "get" the adoration of my male colleagues for The Fall, but I "GOT" Ut, my female The Fall. In November 2011, twenty years later, I have the honour to see Ut live again. They haven't performed, officially, during all this time. I haven't reviewed bands for ten years. In fact, I have fled London, raised a toddler to a teen (she is my protest album so take that Polly Harvey) and taken a post-grad. But somehow, yet again Ut happen to be part of my new beginnings, as a live review "first", this time in the role of Lives Editor at the ground breaking on line music magazine Spirals not circles.

This review was originally published in the girls are

Ut @ The Croft, Bristol

THE moment Nina Canal hits the drums hard and the bass rumbles in on ‘Confidential’, you remember the interwoven rhythms and deep, dark tones; how the guitars and bass roll forward, layer over layer and the drum beats are hard and heavy, even groovy, driving the whole thing on. All these elements are the calling card of legendary three piece Ut.

You are forgiven if you do not recall their fierce grandeur, along with other ultimate heroines, like Viv Albertine, Pauline Murray, The Raincoats, or once-upon-a-time label mates Sonic Youth. Ut never chased the fame monster and they haven’t toured for over twenty years, originally forming in New York in 1978. This is not so much a championing of their return, more a vague idea that actually happened; three dates, London, Bristol, Brighton, songs from the album’s Griller, the critically acclaimed In Gut’s House and the latest Conviction.

The faithful gather, feeling proud: cool girls in dresses and lipstick hog the front, rock chicks in hip trousers lounge knowingly on the side and men who know their musical reference points shuffle awkwardly at the back. We shout to Ut to turn the guitars up, they oblige, with a smirk - and in that moment you can see how come Mark E Smith, of The Fall, and Sally Young became mates. The story goes: The Fall came to town and the girls realised, “We need to be in the UK.” A tour and friendship followed (1981).

The band are my female, The Fall, in this they’re triumphant. Tonight they play ‘Canker’ and ‘Rummy’, together on the LP Griller and here too, but the other way around. The rhythms are faster, less broken and more confident now, so that it feels safe to attach one’s emotion to the things and let go, e.g. I won’t fall over, as I may for ‘Hotel’. It’s often beautiful, holding a pause, sometimes a primitive force, which in the past male music critics have labelled as “threatening”. Frankly, Ut may as well just say: “This is the next emotion.” No song titles required.

Ut are both the most feminist band I know yet also the most staunchly, “We don’t want to be lumped in with all the girl bands,” (my quote) bunch of women you are ever likely to meet, with P. J. Harvey trailing close behind. All those little signifiers of the signified that is a rock show, created by a male dominated industry, are always noticeably absent. There is no lead guitarist, although there is a lead guitar and vocalist for every song. There is no instinctive, supportive bass guitarist, although there is an instinctive, team-playing bass guitar. There is no image, barely scrubbing up and possibly not even washing behind their ears. There is no sex, at least not the orgasm part.

Infuriatingly, the massive energy and hope that is raised during each song is soon broken because every new instalment demands a change of role and instruments, (Jacqui Ham, opener, ’Bedouin’, Sally, ‘Big Wing’). During the change over’s, guitar straps fail, amplifiers need adjusting. Having always thought this behaviour was an almost Brechtian approach, insisting on objectivity from its audience, rather than encouraging empathy, perhaps instead, it’s just because they all write the songs. It’s more likely the instrument choice supports the emotion of the song and when writing, performing couldn’t be further from their minds. They’re true anarchists.

In the time between Ut’s last tour and 2011 women have owned  rock: acts such as Courtney Love, L7, Babes in Toyland, Daisy Chainsaw, Kenickie, Mambo Taxi, Riot Grrrl for example, as well as a veritable pop explosion of “love them or hate them” pop divas, like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and the grittier, Kreayshawn. On top of all that, the only artist to win the Mercury Award twice is a woman and now there is a really neat form of underground pop emerging, from bands like The Hysterical Injury, Bearsuit and Slow Club. Tonight’s Ut gig has put all that in perspective. I feel all grown up and ready.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

RIDING my freedom moped to somewhere pretty bloody amazing: my pick of the best.

Tag: Demonm Eowmeow image, Pumajaw
I know exactly what words NOT to use when describing the voice of Pinkie Maclure and the music of PUMAJAW: fey, tantilising. Forget any alternative-folk expectations, this is film noir, yet vigorous, unsettling. Sexy? Absolutely. Seductive? Er… not really, that word to me, implies an attempt to tease, whereas this album is just “out there”, the experiences of sex, corruption, despair and hope. If you are the kind of person who swims in the metaphorical deep end, calm and free, rather than the shallow end, then you too will appreciate and adore the sounds of “Demonm Eowmeow”, the new album due for release on the 7th November, Bedevil Records. The soundscapes created by PUMAJAW remind me of great's like Jesus and The Mary Chain, Kratwerk and The Young Gods but they didn’t have Pinkie Maclure’s legendary vocal range or her poetry or the spaces in this music, the pauses; moments in beautiful places, held up turned gently, lovingly and observed, balanced with pounding rhythms that know exactly where they want to go. And that’s just the album opener, “The Mazy Laws”. Each song swoons in to the next, so that it is one whole piece of work, rather than an LP of songs. PUMAJAW bring to mind the work of sculpture Barbara Hepworth, who tried to capture the primitive forces of nature, rather than musical references.Follow the link to hear for yourself:

Tag: Rita Lynch, live
The mood of RITA LYNCH ‘s new album, “Crack On” just released on 8th September on the Fruit and Flowers label, couldn’t be more different, for a start it’s about voice, guitar and drums: intensity with a swagger, even “yeah yeahs”. In comes “Counter Cultured”, snap, bop, chugga chugga, Rita’s silver foil vocals and true grit guitar, encouraged to “jump” by drummer John (whom she also plays with in The Blue Aeroplanes). How does she do that? Well, I think it’s just by being herself, you can not separate Rita the person from Rita the songwriter and performer – it all happens whether we are paying attention or not. (See Blog 3.) If there is anything similar about RITA LYCH and PUMAJAW it is that that lyrics are not seeking to “make sense” or tell a story in a plain old linear format, they are about responses, (maybe my feminine language?) but with Rita there are clues in the song titles: Ty “9 Years (Hardcore)”, if you’ve “been there”, you’ll get it or “Masculine Pride”. You can listen to her music, but not yet the album tracks, on the following link: Blinding rock and roll. Love to see Rita and U.S GIRLS IN A COMA together. Hold your breath, my wishes come true these days.

Tag: Austra video
Another album which tempts: my vote for the most confusing video but when I shut my eyes the vocals make it all clear. Like ice. The album "Feel It Break", by AUSTRA was released on 9th September, Domino, I believe.

Always more room for a feminist artist with a real story to tell - in terms of her actions, the logistics of being an independent female artist. This is FEVER RAY, found when browsing for tunes by the also fabulous FEVER FEVER. (Pinkie Maclure also recommends Fever Ray.)  

Tag: Marissa Nadler video
Add to the list MARISSA NADLER, who actually got fans to help pay for the production of her latest eponymous album. The no-messing self-help attitude is in contrast to the sound: sweeping, filtered moods of longing, doubt and wishes. She plays a rare London date on the 4th October at the Bush Empire. 

Tag: The Joy Formidable image and video
I am all over JOY FORMIDABLE and I feel safe with my affections, since this is a really prophetic, hard working outfit. They are touring most of October, including HMV London, Brimingham, Manchester, Belfast, Newcastle and also the Freeze Festival on the 21st October at London's Battersea Power Station. 


Tag: Madam video, featuring Sukie Smith.

I have also been winding myself up about MADAM, featuring Sukie Smith, since I will miss her show  this Friday at the National Portrait Gallery (16th September). This video though gets my vote for the most pretentious presentation. I feel I need to help her learn to love her belly and LAUGH. 

Tag: Kreayshawn video

 Were I in London though I would be upset that I was unable to be at the National Portrait Gallery as well as Brixton Acedemy to see tUnE-yArDs this Friday (16th September) but I have to say that I love KREAYSHAWN even more, despite the repeated used of the word "bitches" in this track - no UK dates planned yet.

Tags: Screaming Females video and Po' Girls video of radio show

MORE WIND UPS: not having caught THE SCREAMING FEMALES London gig's - only one screaming female, but armed with a guitar, that's plenty - and PO' GIRL  who play a date at The Lexington on Sunday 18th September. Also watch out for HANNAH TRIGWELL, currently playing third on the bill, specifically at Leeds Academy on the 21st October.
Tag: Hannah Trigwell

Tag: Dum Dum Girls video

NOTHING gets to me though, if I play DUM DUM GIRLS and this is the type of track for a really good ending. God how I love this band. I would even go so far as to write "Dum Dum" on my forehead, which is dedication indeed. This is a track from the new album. It's the raw guitar, vocals, drum combo with the slick Phil Spector production which gets to me - the lyrics seem appropriate, not depressing at all. Just lovely. 

Tag: Trash Kit video

Stop Press! Dinner burns while I add this essential footnote. The elusive Ut are returning to the tour circuit this month after an allegedly, ten year gap. (See Blog "Rital - Revolution - Reflection, Part One".) They are playing London, Lexington 23rd, Bristol, The Croft 24th and Brighton on the 25th. For an excellent article about the band follow the link:  Support are Peepholes and Trash Kit. (Trash Kit! Wooah! The Slits meet Toxic Shock Syndrome - a reference point which may escape a few of you.) 

Finally, without apology for the last minute addition  or the endless emails of this blog that members will soon discover in their inboxes...another favourite, duo Hysterical Injury are playing at The Green Park Tavern, Lower Bristol Road, Bath, 28th October. See Blog, "We Made A Mess And We're Not Sorry" also

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Blog 5, reflected: what’s the bloody point of this Blog again? As is a Blogs want, I continued to reflect on MY relationship with feminism, what Riot Grrrls call third-wave feminism but is still really about ALL types of feminism: female empowerment giving female writers and performers “a voice”, sharing information, such as the logistics of finding the space to make music and the savvy to make a living out of music. Riot Grrrls were all about the DIY ethic and this should have exploded with the onset of technology: where are they? Who are they? Ring me!  

 Language is a powerful thing. Academics like Juliet Kristeva Luci Irigaray worked hard to make an intellectual argument that can shift the thinking away from polar opposites, which makes female “the other”, that which is lacking, instead coming to an “otherness”, a Viva la difference! For writers in contemporary culture now then, I think it is their responsibility to embrace and experiment with language – avoiding vocabulary rooted in male references; creating a new format ; avoiding elaborating on clothes, hair, make up of an artist. If the image seems so relevant, then describe the character they are trying to create – the clothes and hair are only part of it. However, the subject material and topics should be rooted in good old feminism and the reason for talking to them in the first place…musical talent.

Live music is a ritual. I could bore you forever with my theatre training about the relationship between performer and audience, use of space and sound. The point is, when you write a review you have a chance to get across the hope, urgency, ideas and sound of a band – not just a furrowed brow, eloquent explanation. You can make people want to try that experience out for themselves; you can make bands read your review and think “that’s it!” bringing the trust to the publisher and the team. These factors, along with the hirdy girdy pace of the live gig circuit, more music than your brain can take, the endless talking with other writers, press officers and performers: What do I think? Why do I think that? What do you think? Why do you think that? What about? It makes me feel alive. Absolutely, nothing else has ever proved so powerful – the consequences being good for all around me, including those for whom I am responsible for.

Revolution is a strong word but let’s just say that the opportunity to embrace female artists and writers is now upon us, because I've decided, of course. Maybe it's because the Riot Grrls have all grown up and are in charge, and making some good and brave decisions?

Some feminists want equality, some love the difference, some want utopia but whatever they want, they seem to be working together; enjoying the creative results, which are sharp enough to warrant mainstream attention. A browse at an on line magazine like www.thegirlsare offers a mind-boggling number of talented women-centred bands and female artists and include Big Names like Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Lana Del Ray as well as the class of the indie underbelly. Comment pieces relating to the representation of women in music, such as at festivals and behind the camera, as directors, have begun to appear in the broadsheets, as people sit up and take notice of people like Laura Kidd, She Makes War or Mimi Cave, who directed tUnE-yArDs "Bizness".

Feminism has stopped pushing itself in to comfort corners and is embracing all culture and cultures; acknowledging women-centred is the thing and balance still essential. I would have loved this blog to be gentle reflections in the form of grown up interviews about vital female musicians and their stories but, then I saw Rita Lynch live, still bitchin', then I discovered Th' Hysterical Injury and the video of "Three", which frustrated the "male gaze" (French feminist film theory). In the end, there's too much out there that's brilliant, boundary crossing and new; it's impossible not to want to join in.

the girls are official image

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Reflection - Revolution - Ritual

Tag: P. J. Harvey

THIS WEEK I have been browsing female-centred music reviews and interviews and continuing to find related books or essays which I think I should read; also tracking down names of artists and bands. In turn this has led me to think about my relationship with feminism in the context of writing about music and to re-evaluate the purpose of this blog: celebration interviews with independent UK female artists; dancing and stomping on the boundaries of traditional female roles and creating their own “norm”. How do they do it?

One stormy night…
I visited the F-Word web site and learnt about Electrelanes, who have been absent for three years while doing PhD’s and then I clicked on a section titled Essays in order to read six superbly written instalments, by Cazz Blasé, writing women back in to the story of punk, under the banner “Punk Women Write Back”. I learnt that Riot Grrrl has not necessarily been taken seriously as significant by female rock, pop and punk writers, which will not be a fault of this Blog. I discovered lots of amazing books, such as “The Lost Women Of Rock Music” by Helen Reddington. I felt elated, as if I had found a treasure, in terms of research for my Blog and information which support my thinking, as a music critic and feminist, BUT I was also starting to loose my nerve - and along with it any belief in this Blog’s value. The reason? This blog's concept of celebration interviews, rather than an analysis, in the context of feminist theory. The sheer, unadulterated naivety of my idea, with a bonus, the notion that maybe some kind of method to survive the creative process, both in terms of making music and being able to survive on making music would appear like a shining thread through all the interviews - invisible only to those who “needed to know” or who are ready to see. 

   “Plonker!” I shouted to myself, standing up, leaving the screen page open and walking around the room quickly for a bit because I was highly embarrassed.

It reminded me of the moment that I realised I needed to go to university and learn the new theories: deconstructionism, semantics, post-modern feminism and psychoanalysis. (I didn't have any A levels but was accepted, based on an inspired, rather than wise, essay I wrote about gender and border crossing and also because I maintained weekly writing for a National newspaper and passed the preliminary Foundation subjects.)  

The understanding that I needed to update my education happened during an interview with Polly J Harvey, in my role as assistant editor for Lime Lizard. She told me that feminism was dead, or something along those lines - and I didn’t say a bloody thing. We talked about dreams and, serve me right, that night I couldn’t sleep. Why didn’t I say anything? Because I didn’t know what feminism was – in the middle class educated sense. At that time, it had meant equal opportunities on an official level, but still mind games, a sexual politics every present in an unofficial capacity.  I had led the life of a Queer (a woman who does not serve any female stereotype) and feminism in the public arena, upbringing and sheer enthusiasm and doggedness had provided that, but I didn’t know the theory; I didn’t know there were different types of feminism even, such as French feminists, who celebrate difference and to which I developed a preference for during my studies, particularly Luci Irigaray, Juliet Kristeva and Helene Cixous.

My experience of feminists had been as a young mum going to march with Babies Against The Bombs (that daughter is now 29!) and being told to wipe off my lipstick, take off my summery top and replace it with a dirty khaki tee shirt, with paint on (provided). In my head it was still about burning bras. I could see P J Harvey would be the kind to prefer a nice brassiere.

It hurt all the more – my ignorance and inability to push a point – because I had been inspired to seek out women-centred music after the experience of UT, live, which was my first live review for Melody Maker and commissioned by Everett True. I had previously been writing music reviews for LAM magazine, the free cultural magazine left outside London tube stations. I remember accidently stomping, in my doctor marten boots with fluorescent orange laces, on my first article - about New Zealand indie royalty, The Chills - as the page lay open on the wet tiles of Tufnell Park’s tube entrance.

The UT review was a response; in the middle of any UT song I felt that I understood everything – or at least felt that kind of confidence and hope – in flashes, moments of chord chaos and guitar swells. To disconnect you, erase the empathy and therefore any responsibility for you at all, they would fluster around changing, re-setting and tuning instruments, every one of them, it seemed to me. There was a guy in the band, I remember; with a smile so big you could put it on a pumpkin.

It didn’t take long to realise that there was an inevitable reaction when I skipped in to the office inspired by the latest independent female artist or band. For example, Lida Husik,  then signed to Shimmy Disc, who stayed at my house while visiting from the States. My enthusiasm was interpreted as “love” by a few (hello Zane!). Then it was my P J Harvey review, the first in the National press and I overheard the comment: “Another one of Ngaire’s lesbians.” It still amazes me how people’s sex lives relate to anything unless you want to have sex with them. Maybe it’s because rock’n’roll – if yer talking rockabilly and blues the core of rock and pop – means fuck or fucking. That said plenty of people knew her value because no doubt the guys at Too Pure who ran the White Horse in Hampstead, who put on her first London show, would have tipped them off too. For once this gig didn’t have a dog, or next door neighbour but the other three people were there. And the review was published.

Then an interview with Kristin Hersh in the Guardian came my way; courtesy of writer Lucy Gulland. 

Lucy was infuriated because the journalist who had written the piece had focused on Kristin's manic-depression (replace that with madness), self-loathing and judgements on her role as a wife and mother. Lucy wanted to know why we couldn’t know the logistics, such as how does she finance her recordings; write, perform and raise a family of four? (Scroll down the link to find Lucy’s comments in full.) Lucy made it clear what sort of interview it SHOULD have been and with that I realized, in a flash, that it should have been exactly the sort of interviews I am doing, and developing, on this Blog. 

I remembered my friend Lida reminding me how anger is energy. Originally, the fear of not being “clever” enough just deflated my pleasure of the text but this was different, there was something much more sinister about this interview and I had to get to bottom of it. Finally, I got out the cardboard box of feminist essays out of the attic. I can’t believe I kept them in the attic, the place where madwomen were kept, out of sight, on the edge, making as much noise as they want! I freed them and dusted off my non-fiction women’s shelf.

And I soon realised the male journalist was taking the traditional form of silencing the woman, in order that he may identify her as mother/wife/mad woman. If he had asked her about the points Lucy Gulland had mentioned (in Comment): how does she finance herself, take the family on tour and so on, that would have been giving her voice; defining her own behaviour as natural and of value, rather than her "serving" his image of the female roles. He could not acknowledge her as different otherness itself - and no doubt he's an intelligent man.
First thought: No wonder I'm single.
Second thought: This is why my blog is so important. I've decided.

Onward for ritual and revolution.

Next interview September. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

WE MADE A MESS AND WE'RE NOT SORRY - An art lesson with brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury

It’s a rainy day. The music journalist is listening to Mambo Taxi, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth on U Tube; remembers Huggy Bear, reads some reviews; hears about Never Mind the Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock by Amy Raphael (published in the U.S. as Grrrls: Viva Rock Divas) and the book Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music, a sociological study of women musicians in British popular music. Eventually the name of Delia Sparrow (Mambo Taxi, Ye Nuns, with the notable female guitarist Debbie Smith ) crops up, which leads to the mention of one ANNI GARDINER, singer/songwriter and bass player of brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury.

Music journalist locates “Three” by Hysterical Injury ON U TUBE. Presses play. Press play now:

Oh yes! High energy, noisy bass, driving drums and slick and clever video -  no satisfaction of “the gaze” ( only singer/songwriter and bass player Anni's legs and feet tap, tap, tapping. Listen to this or the bass in “Labyrinth”, BEFORE you ask the question, “How can it be a proper band with just a bass player and drummer?”

Music Journalist meets Hysterical Injury. (How could she not.)

Anni Gardiner: singer, songwriter, bass player of Hysterical Injury, artist, mother. Open, active, intelligent, beautiful, a prodigious laugh; can say words like “fuck” and it doesn’t sound gratuitous, lazy or coarse.
Tom Gardiner: drummer, runner, adapting fast to the intensity that has to be maintained when playing for Hysterical Injury; a subtle laid back man, who makes his sister laugh.
Music journalist: excitable, loud mouthed, determined, mother.

It goes something like this: Note it is meant to be fast and slows down after four minutes - not to be missed!

And ends up like this:

Anni has a big stack! She likes lots of amps, power. Once it took a small village hall in Wales sixteen seconds of “Snow” to realise that they didn’t think Hysterical Injury was for them.
   “Can you turn it down, dear?” the promoter asked. Anni was happier to pack up, turn around and go home rather than turn down her bass.

Anni and Tom were raised in a tiny village in Wales. One day she was moaning about being bored and her Dad gave her a bass. Musical influences came from their parent’s record collection. Later Anni’s own preferences, which are on going: the layers and language of Throwing Muses; the noise and rhythms of Sonic Youth and in particular Kim Gordon; the depth and drive of Fugazi (even) have been dragged in to the sibling’s own time and place, own ideas and emotions. The reason Hysterical Injury are going to be massive is because people are more open to bands like HI, because of those “who went before”.
   Anni Gardener’s clear, pop vocal melodies rise about the beautiful bass noise in the way I always wanted it to happen for The Faith Healers.  There is an edge and humour, which P. J. Harvey promises in her images and song titles, but not the sound…

Speaking of Influences
There is a tradition in alternative indie/rock/dance music to be proud of right now: the drive to record and distribute music yourself, nowadays via the Internet, gig regularly, as a means of a living; stay sober (except for the parties); there is also a Riot Grrrl legacy, I am finding: you don’t have to piss in people’s suitcases or drink more than the boyz to get noticed anymore, it’s OK if there is more than one of you (writer, musician, sound engineer and so on).

Anni likes these punk inclinations, our culutural inheritence, but does not approve of reproducing tradition, in the rock and roll sense, either in terms of its swagger and and sound, or its hedonism.

   “To repeat what The Stones did, like for example The Libertines, is completely uninteresting to me,” she explains, matter of factly.

Delightful in its ambiguity and jaggedness, both funny and a nod to hysteria and manic depression, engendered by psychoanalyst Freud; and clearly so not a purely female trait.

The band has just received a generous bursary from this fantastic charity. Anyone can apply for a grant. To find out how to apply or to donate click on the following link:
   Be warned there are a lot of forms to fill out and a lot to organise before you can send it back. Anni remembers the process with horror yet in the end, the next contact from them was a request for bank account details so they could give them some money!

Anni and Tom have been working on an LP, as yet untitled, at Jim Barr’s studio, who is a regular bass player in Portishead. Expect a recorded sound with the same high energy, a bass with enormous personality, urged by Tom’s drumming – a fabulous momentum, bearing teeth, but never alienating, angry or mean.
   Tom and Anni share glances: the way siblings do when they remember arguments, disasters, exciting days out with mum and dad – or without the parents, for that matter.
   “It hasn’t been easy, for me in particular,” says Tom, grinning. “ I’ve had to get used to it. There’s an intensity that has to be maintained which can leave you quite… “(clenches teeth, growls).

Last night Anni tried out new song “Into the Cabin”. She wasn’t sure how well it would work. She produces it from her bag, screwed up. Whole lines of phrases are scrawled out, words run right to the very edge of the paper in joined-up handwriting.

“Rosetta’s Waves” is the celebration of black female blues guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe; pre Hendrix, Muddy Walters - practically pre Jesus - another, truly brilliant invisible link to female artists heritage. I love it before I’ve even heard it.

Kristen Hersh
Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) has unknowingly become a role model for women in the alternative, creative field, particularly musicians. Anni has read her latest book, Pardoxical Undressing ( ) and managed to talk to her for ten minutes at a book signing. It is the logistics of parenting, writing/composing and performing which drove her to overcome the embarrassment of demanding a one-to-one. There are other similarities: the understanding that language is man-made; of songs having their own sense, rather than story or meaning; of layers in every song.

The Tour
Hysterical Injury are touring this October but play random gigs all over the place all of the time anyway. See their web site for up to date details through this link:

For Anni’s top tips on other bands to see in Bristol see the opening of the video clip under the 2. BAND NAME.  She also recommends this:

The name of the second EP, which includes “Labyrinth”, “Three” and “Snow”; not difficult to understand why this was the EP which got them noticed.!/thehystericalinjury/musicAvailable on I tunes.

No doubt in my mind.

Friday, 5 August 2011

UK Female Artists One: Rita Lynch by Ngaire Ruth

Guitarist and song writer RITA LYNCH is having a bit of an “awakening”. She asked herself a question and made a very quick decision: “What’s important?  My son and writing songs are all that matter.” Blue Aeroplanes drummer, John Langley, has been working with her for three years now, and she produced a blinding album “What Am I?”, quite clearly the record which announced that she knew exactly who she was and where she was going and why.. The songs: a stripped down, fistful of guitar rhythms, certain from the off, rolling, like they do, lyrics that make sense and yet, they don’t – it’s a feeling. In autumn comes the follow up, “Crack On”.

It’s awkward, weird, to see such a bright, intense character like Rita Lynch (twenty five years in rock’n’roll and counting), drive in to your shady, tree-lined, avenue of Victorian terraced houses, in a little red car and get out, all smiles, arms open and ready to greet you. On stage, even when it’s only a few centimetres higher than the audience, Ms Lynch, with her chunky, raw guitar rhythms, Patti Smith voice and drummer, Langley driving everything forward with those relentless beats, seems impenetrable, protected. This is why fans come up with words like “Goddess”, even though Rita is THE true grit rocker, with user-friendly melodies, painted toe nails and her own angel. (The latter assumption being my own fluffy notion, not Rita’s.)

Much later, when I ask what is the thing that people say to you which makes you cringe? She replies, without hesitation: “Calling me Goddess! That’s a hard one to live up to!
   “I mean I love all the attention but sometimes I just feel it’s too much. I’m gonna let you down. I’m not that fantastic. Even sometimes when I’m doing gigs I feel I’m transcending beyond myself in to something else, so when people give me too many compliments I can’t cope. I worry that if I meet them in person I’m going to let them down.”

And what would have been the worst musical comparison?  This takes a bit more thought, but finally: “Blondie on a crash diet!” (Which sends her in to chuckles and makes me shout: Fuck off!)

I want you to hear her laugh. Press play.

I would not have been surprised if Rita Lynch had turned up in my backyard riding the sun, bare backed, scorching my pride-and-joy vegetables on entry. Being serious, maybe at least in a balloon, perhaps having parachuted from above, or at best, on the back of a noisy motorbike, but the little red car will do for me. The manager sits in the passenger seat, I note, cos Rita is driving. Ah. Here we have a theme. We talk about themes and Rita can’t think of hers, but in retrospect I realise, this is it. She is now in the driving seat, metaphorically speaking.

Her reputation precedes her, as it does with all wild women, who are simply a force of nature, having taken on the challenge of expressing timeless primitive forces, using up their valuable energies turning chaos in to beauty. Same old, same old, attitudes and assumptions; and being sexy, grungy, rocky (as opposed to poppy, which is allowed, because that objectivity), doesn’t help. For those, like Rita, of any gender, for whom their art can sometimes be a confrontation with psychosis, rather than the lame understanding that art is the freedom of expression of some vague kind of subjectivity, the side effect is often, in fact, a crisis of subjectivity, something that bad habits and gloomy friends attract to like moths to light. But Rita survived. All the while, behind the scenes, she still remembers to write the songs, take the rubbish out, pays the bills - even though there is no money - and prepares the dinner before people start to get hungry. I would rather talk to the artists who are ”still surfing”, than muse creatively about those who crashed and burned.  (viz Amy Winehouse, of late).

In tandem with my good thoughts, she gets out of the car and brings with her a pint of milk, as the chosen refreshment of the day. OK, it’s very rock’n’roll the way she swigs it right there, in the middle of the street like that.

In her musical career, Rita Lynch has produced seven albums and been in a number of bands. (Currently these are available via, from Fruit and Flowers or Angel records, or at the live shows. “Crack On” will be available as a download and in CD format.) It would be a fair comment to say that one of her earliest assembles, Lynch and the Piss Artists, were not intent on chasing the fame monster and it would be true to say that Rita has never made a lot of money out of music; that she never made a commitment to living off the beast which whispers, simply has stuck at it; fallen in to one thing and come out with something else. For example, the best advice she’s probably ever been given – in terms of music – was when her partner of the electronic duo she played bass for, decided to sing a Lou Reed duet of “Pale Blue Eyes “. It worked so well he told her: “Forget the bass and sing.”

“You see back in the day it was easier to be on the dole. It facilitated people who weren’t from middle class backgrounds to think higher thoughts, do creative things. It created the bohemians, like me, in my opinion. Now you can’t do it. “

This is one of the things that worries Rita today, along with phases of what getting older actually means.

I have put these ideas in to her head, probably, because that’s what music journalists do, stir thing around and see what rises to the top.

Rewind to the Eighties, Rita now has blonde extensions and favours leather and rubber and is a singer/songwriter with guitar – dragging her first musical influence of Bob Dylan in to her own time and place. She has been living in Bristol since she was 21 and she is still innocent enough to be brave, that is, embracing ideas, truly, madly, deeply – in the way artists often do, almost on behalf of the rest of us, who know better.

Do you or did you take pleasure out of drawing attention to your sexuality, I dare to ask?

“Absolutely,” she returns. “But not so much anymore, as I get older, I have started to retain a bit of dignity. I remember hitchhiking out of Paris once. You could see this huge queue of hitch hikers and I thought ‘fuck this’ so I went in to the toilet and I changed in to the shortest shorts and put some make up on and within, like, a minute I got a lift. I used everything I could, as you do.”

Back in the day, Mick Mercer (see Mick decided to interview her for Melody Maker but he couldn’t get it passed Features Editor, Steve Sutherland, who thought the Paper didn’t need a feature on “junkie lesbians”. Rock’n’Roll the supposed bastion of alternative thought, deed and open to desire, rejected her for being too “way out”. Geez. Get a grip! It’s jaw dropping, plain faced embarrassing that rampaging rabble rouser bands, songs falling apart at the seams, silliness to fill in, with names like Lesbian Dope Heads On Mopeds (all male, by the way) should have got copy space?

“When I first started I got hailed in Bristol as the next big thing… and it didn’t happen. In the lesbian scene I got massive exposure but it didn’t really cross over. Then they did this documentary ‘On the Road With Rita Lynch’ for Channel 4, a twenty minute documentary. And then when I started to have heterosexual relationships, there was an element of the gay scene feeling betrayed. None of it really did me any favours.”

Ironically, there was nothing particularly “ghetto” about Rita’s music, even back then, despite her in-yer-face sexuality. It was hardly punk or had titles and words which were never going to get on the radio. In fact songs from her first album, “Call Me Your Girlfriend” included “Beautiful Eyes”, a song that floats over the darkside, blinding, which became the soundtrack for the independent film “Rosebud”. A later album, in 2000, produced three tracks, used in the film, "Vampire Diary", (“Feels Like The End of the World, “Far Away” and “Fallen For You”). All these songs are timeless soundscapes, full-on lingering and longing. Words like devotion come to mind.
   Rita accepts the description: “I was a lot younger and more innocent. At some point the romance goes in to other things.”

It’s been an hour and half drive from Bristol, St Pauls, smack bang in Montepelier where Rita Lynch lives, to here. Rita is well known in the Scene, which is far too laid back and busy being successful to call itself that. In 2008 she joined the Blue Aeroplanes, a well know Bristol band, once adored by critics Nationwide, thanks to the charm of it’s founder and song writer Gerard; still producing intelligent, emotive guitar music. In a recent review Rita was described as being “the new vocal foil”, I like that. A recent gig also included original guitarist Angelo, now in Massive Attack.

In St Pauls, a writer, performer and single mum, can make mistakes, be allowed to learn and grow from them, the one place perhaps where there isn’t judgement, instead a smile and a wave, with a rhetorical shout “Still singing?!” over a pounding soundtrack out in the street.

“I am completely influenced by the place. I love it,” she explains. “It’s so free, people are out and about, playing music, chatting. We are all outsiders, it feels like. Punks used to get arrested. These days, I seem to represent something because I kept going, but I’m one of them, I had problems, a kid on my own, and I’m still here, doing what I do. 
   "My new target is to produce one album a year.”

Her son is aged nine and severely autistic. This is relevant because Rita has had to fight so hard for everything; getting housed, trying to get a nurse to help out at home and at the school; endless and necessary meetings with teachers, assistants, specialists. Standing her ground, certainty and urgency are evident in the songs and explain the forthcoming LP’s title: “Crack On”. This does not mean that Rita is champion of angry female shouty stuff, she certainly doesn’t want to alienate people. Neither does it mean that she is a trail blazer for all working class single mums or even mums of autistic children. And I am not going to tell you about her choice of sexuality because why should I fucking care! Do Goddesses have sex at all? All that type of behaviour will, yet again, facilitate putting her in to an appropriate ghetto. No. Rita Lynch is producing music that has a place in the mainframe.

The album I have been playing is “What Am I”, the one I am calling her “turning point”. ( In fact, after much womanly wittering the root of all turning points can be found when Rita, a painfully shy pupil who was failing, due to the inability to find her voice, was told she would be taking C.S.E’s not O’Levels, the G.C.E. equivalent. Without further ado she went up to the teacher’s staffroom and banged on that door. She told that teacher that she was going to take O’levels and, in the end, she got eight.)

The CD of “What Am I?”(Angel Records) is so cute, in terms of the way it looks! When you take it out of the cover it’s exactly like a tiny vinyl. The LP says good bye to instrumental accompaniments, such as second guitar and bass. The opener, “Sit Up, Sit Down” has the energy of P. J. Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig” and "Losing" which follows, takes those dynamics and one step further, showing Lynch's unique voice and John's rhythms to the full: elated, defiant - sharp and sinister.
   “The whole point of playing guitar for me is to write songs. If I learnt how to do silly, wizzy things it wouldn’t help me write the song.“

I love that Rita has given herself a clear musical format and boundaries, but the creative process is still all about unleashing the primitive timeless forces in to the here and now.

“I believe in the unconscious. I just pick up the guitar and come out with certain things, they might not even be real language, but they’ve got syncopation and rhythm. Sometimes I will go back to old tapes and I will put proper words in; I kind of jam with myself. It just seems to flow – out of that.

That could be interpreted as quite a spiritual thing.

“It’s more because I am driven to do it. It’s not a happy, happy thing, necessarily, the process of creative expression, but that doesn’t mean the end result need be ugly, it’s working through that.

“Sometimes after a gig people will say, ‘Did you enjoy that?’ and I’ll think, ‘No. Actually I could quite easily bang my head against a wall now!’ I don’t do this because it makes me happy, but it’s still something I have to do. What else is there to do?
Julia Kristeva, French feminist, psychoanalyst and linguist says the unconscious both calls for interpretation and cannot be exhausted by interpretation. That “calling” can be at odds with responsibilities such as parenting, earning money, maintaining a homelife.

 “Sometimes when you are being true to yourself it feels like things are crumbling, but that’s the time to sit tight and keep going. Sometimes when you are doing it you may be thinking: this will lead to my disaster but what else is there to do?

Rita says this phrase a lot: What else is there to do?  It shows that her “staying power” is not related to confidence or arrogance, its just part of her very being.

“Whatever I’m going through in life will probably come out in the songs.”

Whether that is positive or negative?


I get that. I get that there is a thread musically, but not lyrically, thankfully. Perhaps that’s the difference with indie or rock bands?

“That’s true. Sometimes people seem to write the same song over and over again. They do!
   “I try to be honest and think that if I have felt this at some time somebody else will have done. Sometimes I look at back at things I’ve written and think, ‘I just can’t say that it’s too obvious!’, but then I think what I’m going through surely other people apart from me have also experienced.
   “At the moment real live events are turning very quickly in to songs.”

Like I said, Rita Lynch is having a bit of an “awakening”. 


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ngaire Ruth is ON-it, Big Bad Blog Two.

I am wondering whether you have got the idea of this Blog yet. The science vocabulary in Blog One would be a clue to the fact that it is an experiment. It is both the production notes and the product. Interviews with:  some high kudos characters for whom producing and performing is up there with breathing, who unashamedly chase The Fame Monster or… not; some new and interesting contenders for the former; some who made an impact either as solo or front people or writers of bands, thinking here of Lesley, Silverfish, Roxanne, The Faith Healers or Pinky McClure. (Still waiting on ideas here, in Comments section.) Like stars, these women came, burned brightly, reminded me to pay homage to the inner girl – or certainly that it was safe to bring her out to play in the current company I was keeping (Camden, Melody Maker, Lime Lizard) and then went. And where did they go to? Well, I know for a fact that Roxanne is still an artist, but not a performer and lives with a collective in London somewhere.

And here’s the thing about this glorious format, an interview like that can link to current exhibitions, show artwork, as opposed to pensive, yet focused music shots where the subject is trying really hard to “look like they are thinking of something.”  The mind boggles at the opportunities, when I consider links to every reference churned up and stroked lovingly, by words and memories you understand, relating to places, small labels of city scenes, from London, Bristol and beyond (apparently, there is a beyond, I know for a fact there is a very real thing called “Cov Love”).

Get on with it!
My first interview is with Rita Lynch, this Thursday (4th August, 2011).See above photograph.

I walked in to The Thunderbolt, Bristol, spring 2011. It was noise, a fuzz box wall-of-sound. It was crowded, self-absorbed and smelt of damp. It was like a pat on the back, hard, from an old mate. I knew the soles of my shoes were going to stick to the place on the way out. (Good!) It was just like The Falcon or White Hart of old where I saw bands for the first time, usually, and wrote about them, in the National music press, including P. J. Harvey and Blur. The relief that this was still going on, when I had given up ever being able to re-experience the hope, the intellectual and emotional peak which comes from listening to a band or artist, live, who pushes the boundaries, almost brought tears to my eyes. Easily though, I gave in to the pleasure, rather than nostalgia because the sound of the guitar and drum beat, beat, beat was dragging me in.

As I moved closer, to watch this Rita Lynch woman, the tunes and layers in the music became clearer. She held her guitar close and played furiously. Scrap that. She played her guitar like she was going to die the next day. This was my impression, absolutely. The tunes were jagged; complex yet her hand movements graceful, free-flowing and the melody fought to “get there” because it knew it had a chance, given the knowledge and understanding of the drummer, John Langley. He is needed here – because they seem to connect, driving the music forward - more than in the Blue Aeroplanes, with whom he also plays. So, apparently, does Rita, but I can’t see that here and now.

I remember when I went to see the Lives! Editor, at the time it was Everett True, about writing for the Melody Maker. Back then I was reviewing, pretty much the same as the Melody Maker, as an independent freelancer for the underground London paper, free at the tube stations, LAM. He asked me if I liked the Blue Aeroplanes. I said, “Who?” An absolutely huge grin appeared on his face. He sat back in his typing chair, over exaggerated his sigh and shouted, “Did you hear that Chris?” At the same time, Chris Roberts appeared from behind a screen with a face that gave away neither approval nor disapproval, only humour. Where was Everett dragging them up from now?

I saw the Blue Aeroplanes live, for the first time, this Spring and the experience was intense and vital, not at all “the nice collective of intelligent and talented beings playing jingly jangly indie”, I had expected. This has a place too, usually indoors, on my stereo, for company,  but live, I want to be possessed, owned. But that’s another story and not for this Blog.

Have you ever tried to go up, the way you went down?
Often when musicians talk off their motivation and ideas, the interviewer, particularly if they’re talking to a female, will focus on the “angst”, such as their periods of manic depression, abusive or co-dependent relationships. To me, these are just in-evitable downs, to the ups. Why can’t we talk about the “ups”, as earnestly and analytically? Have you ever tried going down, the way you went up? I think that is part of the creative process that a singer/songwriter takes, whatever their gender. It is very clever. It is an emotional intelligence. It is about what goes on in their backyard; waking up in the morning and spinning the wheel, to see how you feel, and working “with it”. I am interested in the backyard.

Visual learning
Colour and texture is also a theme because the trigger, for me, the realisation that my idea could produce something, entirely, adorable, helpful, funny, vibrant and really truly, feasible - by working with and adapting the Blog format - was when colleague Neil Kulkarni, (read him, it’s like skateboarding, while hitched to a rare, classic car, driving, at speed, in zigzags through bustling city streets), recommended to me a Blog, on this site, from Lucy Cage. Lucy was part of Lime Lizard when they moved from the young rich American’s house, with the lizards, in to a proper office. But then, I am only guessing. I was at the house, you see, earlier on. (By the way, the original Editor, Britt, still has my rare copies of The Face and I.D. I always felt she started the magazine to a) meet Robert Smith and b) appease her boyfriend.) I digress: Lucy’s excellent Blog, in particular something in a piece titled, Something To Cry For. Something To Hunt, a review of Kristin Hersh’s new book, “Paradoxical Undressing”, captured my imagination. It was this: the touching and enviable story, from the book, and Lucy’s thoughts on it, where the young Kristen is encouraged to move away from playing primary colours, to mixing the palette, such as playing yellow and blue to make green, with paternal patience and love.

So colour and texture are a must here, and the moment I or the Blog turns the colour off or becomes stuck in the Primary colours. Tell me.

There are two types of questions: open and closed. For example, how could you make that sentence more interesting? Open. What adjectives could you add to those nouns or adverbial phrases, in order to engage the reader? Closed. You see, I know how to do that as a teacher – the person I have become over the last six years, since I have been responsible for my own backyard, so to speak – but now I have to apply this skill to my writerly notions. And get back to inventing words, like “writerly”. Surely that must be a word?

And here’s my backyard: one of the exciting parts of this project is adding new skills to the old ones. Maybe this will also end up a theme in the interviews.

Questions are not there, even the open ones, to be followed, like a jobs-worth, but they do help me focus on the theme for this experimental blog.

Here are some of them so far:
Write to play, play to perform?
Bands played with/musicians, writers, artists worked with? Both as a record or log and with regard, if appropriate, to the little nuggets taken away to use for yourself, either literally, or as a trigger for other personal project or relationships with people… which led to something else.
I’m most proud of the fact?
The best advice I’ve ever been given is …
You cringe when people describe you as?
Musical compromises?
How to avoid those compromises?
Here and now or five/ten year thinking?
Current projects. Where to get other stuff?
Expressive or hysterical?
I worry about?
Indoors or outdoors?
People used to say to you?
A child of?
The things I like about myself are…

Mystery and Suspense
In the end this Blog will be a fine source or reference but also, I hope a trigger for inspired thoughts and ideas, even reassurance and laughter. If you are ready, you will be reading between the lines all kinds of useful things, real life tools for working/thinking, a wholehearted embracing of foolish notions, wry, sniggering, kindly. (Oh yes you can!)

I have an image in my head of a chubby cheeked maiden, eyes focused and bright, safe, satisfied grin, riding the sun, at a gallop, guitar strapped to her back and what’s that? A tail?