Idlewild is often described as a mix of the Smiths (poetic, existential lyrics like "Gertrude Stein said that's enough/I know that that's not enough now"), R.E.M. (melancholic, twinkling melodies) and Hüsker Dü (clanging riffs, squalling vocal outbursts). But save for a few noisy segments -- and the oddly Def Leppard-sounding chugging notes and harmonies opening "Love Steals Us from Loneliness" -- Idlewild's new album, Warnings/Promises, turns up the twang and quiets down for some quarter-life-crisis-level introspection. Vocalist Roddy Woomble talked shop on a recent morning from New York City, as the Scottish group plows through its final tour of the year.
Roddy Woomble: Tonight we're playing the party for the opening of the CMJ festival.
B-Sides: Oh, I wish I was there.
Oh, I don't think you do.
It's just full of music, rock wannabes. People who want to try and make it. It's OK, I mean, it's just a bit hectic.
You guys recorded Warnings/Promises in LA. How do you think that changed your recording process?
Well, it's just a different place. It's not as if we were all going for some West Coast, like, you know, hazy '60s kind of sound at all. Those records were certainly what we were listening to -- the Byrds, David Crosby and things like that.
Did you have any wild celebrity stories or spottings?
Nah, we're not really into that anyway. They're just people, aren't they? And generally quite boring people. [Laughs] I did sit next to Meg Ryan in a diner, but again, it didn't really excite me.
I've read a lot of reviews of Warnings, and there seems to be a backlash against the record. Why do you think that is?
I have no idea. I mean, I don't care about stuff like that, because it's just so fickle, isn't it? You meet these people sometimes that have given you bad reviews, and they're just, like, little dorky guys. But I do think this record is the best thing we've ever done. I know it, in fact, so that's why I think that if I think that, then someone else must agree with me. -- Annie Zaleski
Idlewild at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. Show starts at 9 p.m. Wednesday, September 21. Tickets are $14; call 314-727-4444 for more information.
The Glasgow School
Glasgow, Scotland, is a well-respected center of music and culture, having birthed such native sons/daughters as Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, the Pastels, Bis, the Delgados and Teenage Fanclub. None of these bands sound alike; the only thing they really have in common is critical acclaim and rabid cult followings.
Where does Franz Ferdinand fit in? Well, in some ways, they don't. Their self-titled debut sold multi-platinum worldwide. Their follow-up, You Could Have It So Much Better, will probably sell more by itself than the above bands' entire catalogs combined. But in sound and pedigree, Franz Ferdinand is a Glaswegian band to the core.
Consider their roots. Vocalist Alex Kapranos and drummer Paul Thomson spent years on the fringes of the Glasgow scene, hanging around such hallowed dives as Nice 'n Sleazy and the 13th Note. Kapranos and Thomson were also in a later incarnation of the Yummy Fur, a nervous, raucous band that specialized in catchy chants rife with sarcasm and sexual ambiguity. Neither was a songwriter in that band, but consider how the Yummy Fur approach carries over to "Michael," from Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut, and the new single "Do You Want To": Both are absolutely drenched in libido and innuendo.
Examine the trademark Franz Ferdinand sound as well, which is anchored by a jittery, shambling, four-square beat. This rhythm can be traced directly to Postcard Records, a cheeky, early-'80s indie label whose flagship bands, Josef K and Orange Juice, crossed the Byrds with wannabe-disco beats. Franz Ferdinand has acknowledged the debt, citing both bands as primary influences -- and FF's success has allowed its label, Domino Records, to re-release archival goodies by OJ and Edinburgh's similarly minded Fire Engines.
So how has Franz Ferdinand succeeded where its progenitors did not? Perhaps the world has finally caught up to that classic Scottish indie sound. Or perhaps they just sound better-built for stardom -- confident, brash and world-beating. So Much Better... should not slow them down one iota. The CD takes the catchiest parts of their debut and adds elements of the Fall ("Evil and a Heathen") and Village Green-era Kinks and Blur ("Eleanor Put Your Boots On," surely about you-know-who from the Fiery Furnaces). Next month they're playing Madison Square Garden, but here in St. Louis, you have a chance to catch them in a club setting. Do. -- Mike Appelstein
When I heard the Brian Jonestown Massacre would be playing the Creepy Crawl, I called the club for details -- only to learn that the show had been canceled. Seems lead singer Anton Newcombe has flipped out.
"I got word from the promoter that Anton had a meltdown and that either he had fired the band or that the band had deserted him," Creepy Crawl owner Jeff Parks told me.
So I was more than a little surprised to see Newcombe -- with full band in tow -- outside a club in the heart of Chicago's Wrigleyville, directing one of his signature tirades at a bouncer. (If you've watched the 2004 documentary DiG! or seen BJM live, you know no one in rock & roll is more pompous, violent, self-aggrandizing and certifiably insane than Newcombe. He has called himself the son of God and is notorious for hijacking shows with his long-winded rants.)
As he ends this particular verbal barrage, a couple of kids recognize him and offer to buy him a drink before the show.
When he steps out with the random dudes to a nearby frat-friendly watering hole, I discreetly follow, figuring I might slip in a question about the fate of the Creepy Crawl show. But first I must endure another Newcombe rant, this one occasioned by Hurricane Katrina.
"I got some inside information at a show this week, man," Newcombe says. "It's fucking bad there. They still have all these bloated corpses floating around and when they find them, they tie them to trees and they stand them up and mark them by spray-painting them with an 'X' so they'll be found. Only it's so hot and they've been there so long that the bodies are starting to explode. They've got to pick them up with rakes. It's disgusting, man."
I nod my head in agreement. "Hey Anton, by the way, what happened in St. Louis? I have a few friends who were supposed to see your show there."
"Oh, yeah," he says. "Well, we've been touring a lot, man. And my management company's a little worried, man, 'cause I'm a little loose in the caboose. You know, it's all a little scary, 'cause we're getting Nirvana-popular."
Back at the nightclub, I catch the show (tickets aren't exactly Nirvana-scarce). Predictably, Newcombe interrupts the set to deliver a solid twenty minutes of verbal diarrhea that careens from Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville ("That goddamn fucking fuckhead") to admonitions to the audience to stomp a heckler to calling a bandmate a "cocksucker." The band, meanwhile, steps to the side of the stage for a smoke break, looking like a bunch of bored factory workers waiting for the work bell to ring.
And oh yes -- although the Creepy Crawl's Parks said he "was hoping that wasn't the case," the Brian Jonestown Massacre show originally scheduled for September 27 is indeed still cancelled. -- Rick Sharp