Tag Archives: london

Aaaaaaand We’re Back!

5 Nov

metronomyWow, that took a while. Sorry for the 12-month outage chaps. Contrary to reports in the media I have not hung up my chopsticks for good, I just couldn’t locate my inner rant. I might well have left it in the back of a Hong Kong taxi to be honest. Well, now your friendly neighbourhood Noodle is back, with all the inevitability of an unloved season, and primed to explode over this city like hot porky broth on a ramen shop floor. (I’m going to be doing some jokes).

To kick things off, though, I found this little gem lurking in the bottom of my tatty porcelain noodle bowl of fun. An interview with arch electro-plinky plonkers Metronomy from back in 2008 – ie before they was as famous as they is now – replete with original line-up and arguably better songs. Stay tuned for original content coming soon…

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Metronomy is not a band to play by the rules. In fact, they don’t even know where the rule book is. And if they found it, they’d probably burn it, in a wooded area, next to a no-smoking sign. So it comes as no surprise to find these three deceptively well-spoken and civil young men having a cheeky fag in one of the numerous threadbare rooms inside Camden’s Koko. It’s a couple of hours before they’re on; the nth date on their never-ending tour to promote their unique brand of electro plinky-plonk, perfect pop harmonies, falsetto choruses and affected, meticulously choreographed dance moves.

Here at Canvas we don’t rate the more obscure bands for the sake of their obscurity, but Metronomy are different, we’ve decided; they pretty much provide our very own litmus test of friends and acquaintances. Heard of Metronomy? Yes? OK, thumbs up. Like them? Alright, you can be our friend for life. Which isn’t actually to say that Metronomy are obscure – songwriter and band founder Joseph Mount has remixed everyone from Kate Nash to Goldfrapp.

“It’s nice now because people are quite up for having their stuff remixed,” he says. “KD Lang wanted something quite radio-friendly, so I did what I thought was radio-friendly but it wasn’t really what she expected. Taking entertaining risks is good fun, it’s a nice way to while away a few hours.”

You might have already come across Metronomy in broadsheet articles heralding the so-called Nu Rave scene alongside Late of the Pier and Does it Offend You, Yeah? among others – but it’s about as cohesive a scene as anything invented by a Guardian journalist, ie not at all. “I guess you have to expect that,” muses Mount. “But it’s actually quite nice now because we have people interviewing us and they’re saying ‘ we don’t know how to describe your music’.”

So how do you describe Metronomy’s music? According to the MySpace page, the band hail everyone from Bowie to The Ramones as an influence. In their own words though, they rate Usher and Timberlake for their unique credit-crunch defying dancing skills, Timbers coming in for special praise by virtue of being “like Beatles-lite”, according to Mount. A cross between the Beatles and Nirvana is how they’d like to describe their own music though – ie a combination of Revolution # 9 and Polly, apparently.  Hmmn, maybe you should just go out and buy a record for yourself, or even better, see them live – their unique stage show involves rather large push button lights slung from each band member’s neck, being pushed on and off at regular intervals in time to the music, and statuesque posing behind their keyboards. If you’re very lucky there’ll also be a troupe of dancing girls behind doing a jig in time to the tunes. But don’t let this put you off, there’s a boyish playfulness – a knowing wink to the audience that this is all just a bit of a larf and not some art school pretentious wank – that means they can just about pull it off. But are they worried the gimmick will be a curse as more people discover “that band with the lights”?.

“I went though the paranoia that maybe we should change this idea but actually it’s brilliant – it’s a strong look,” says Mount. “I’d argue that there’s not that many other bands that have something so visual linked to them. So some people may catch us at a festival and not know who we are but remember the show and then stumble across our music a few weeks later.”

The music has evolved a lot since Mount wrote the first album in his bedroom – figuratively anyway. Recruiting school chums Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing for the live shows has led to a more expansive, lyrical and, god forbid, radio-friendly sound. Tunes like Heartbreaker, Radio LADIO and Heart Rate Rapid featuring infectiously catchy choruses and little flourishes which marry perfectly to the band’s cheeky on stage antics.

“It’s been quite a gap between the first album and this and it’s been quite a natural progression, influenced by the fact that we’ve been playing live and me realising what Oscar and Gabriel are capable of … and what they can’t do,” says Mount. “When the first album was done, songs like Trick or Treatz were written by me but the reason I didn’t sing on them was because I wasn’t confident enough to sing like a girl … but that’s all changed now.”

So what’s the ultimate goal for the band? Can they or do they want to reconcile their unique sound and growing band of followers with the mainstream and super stardom? Well, their aspirations are typically modest; Gabriel wants a Saturday morning kids TV slot, apparently, while Oscar would just like it “if a few more people heard of us because we deserve it”.

“It would be a shame if we were dropped by our label because people didn’t pick up on it quickly enough,” adds Mount. “It would just be nice if more people got it, although we’d have to do fucking badly to get dropped by our label.”

So look out for the new album in September kids – “driving music” perfect for 45 minutes in the car, according to Mount. Or better still, catch them at one of numerous London and festival appearances over the summer – you won’t be disappointed, although they might be if you don’t bother coming, and so will we. Not angry, just disappointed.

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The Elephant that forgets: regenerating SE17

20 Jun

elephant posterIf my 20-year-old self could see me now … he’d probably spit at me, then shake my hand. And then ask for all of the Grand National and FA Cup winners for the next 16 years.

Sitting here with an ice cold beer on the balcony of my lovely little flat overlooking the Elephant I don’t think I’d blame him. This little corner of south-east London that I’ve lived in on and off since 1998 is finally changing into something befitting a Zone 1 neighbourhood in the greatest city on earth. According to the glossy Lend Lease posters there’ll be shiny new buildings, cinemas, market squares, tree lined boulevards – or roads as I like to call them – and more artisan bakers than you can shake an organic French stick at.

Or there will when it’s finished, by which time I’ll probably have moved out to a larger place two buses and an uncomfortable train ride away – somewhere I can hang up all those Nepalese prayer flags and Laotian lampshades.

The Elephant and Castle. An actual elephant could build a castle in the time it has taken a series of ignorant local authorities to decide what to do with the area. Day after day I’d pass the “regeneration” office nearby to see bearded, middle-aged men and women (not all of the women, some had shaved) fiddling while the area sank deeper into a post-crash malaise. To their credit they must have got through a shitload of tea, sandwiches and Hob Nobs, which I’m sure has made a lasting, positive impact on the economy.

You see, now that it’s actually happening, I can’t really decide whether I want the Elephant to change. Couldn’t we have just prettied up the Heygate a bit, smoothed off the edges and renovated the decaying bits? Did we have to spend 20 years um-ing and ah-ing only to sell the land off to a property developer for a ridiculously low sum, on the proviso of “social housing” that doesn’t really do what it says on the tin?elephant regeneration

I couldn’t afford to live in the area if I was looking now. And I can barely afford to live further out as the knock-on effect of this insane house price inflation ripples out through London. That’s not really Elephant’s fault, of course. But it’s come to represent a lot of what’s bad with Britain today: its politicians, its vested interests, and its priorities. Number one on the agenda of any local council regeneration meeting: “Let’s get a fucking Starbucks in guys. Chop chop.”

Then I remember just how grim this area was in the late 90s. I mean, it had nuttin’ going on. Yes, there were fewer payday loans shops and Halal butchers, but the decaying husks of the local businesses that were once on those premises did little to brighten my student days. I think Elephant was the carpeted, mock Tudor-beamed pub capital of the world back then. My early evening stroll back from uni to the council estate flat I shared with two others was rarely a stroll, more like an anxious jog.

I’ve just seen a flat in that estate going for over half a million quid.

Nah, fair play to Elephant. It’s got to change. Like an elderly aunt bricked up in the attic of a stately home, it deserves to be give a bit of lippie and a change of clothes once in a while. There are already more students than nut jobs walking the streets outside, which is no bad thing in my book.

Let’s just hope the sandwich and Hob Nob vendors aren’t forced out of the area.

London: we’ve been doing this for centuries

19 Dec

covent garden christmasI’ve just been back to London this week for a pre-Christmas wedding, which involved the ceremonial catch-ups with mates and ex-colleagues and a particularly lovely encounter with a bacon and cheese toastie, which will stay with me for a very long time.

Festive London really is a lovely affair. Christmas as we know it in the UK is pretty much a Victorian invention so it’s probably fitting that the capital – with its imposing monuments, churches, statues and stations from this period – does it better than anywhere else. Even Covent Garden comes into its own at Christmas – I dunno, there’s just something very festive about cobbled stones, failed actors and terrible mime artists.

It’s always bitter sweet, going home after any length of time abroad and it can be difficult to get over the feeling of having being left behind. London had its best mockney attitude on for Christmas, though, and did its best to persuade me to stay. Eccentric little bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs are dotted all over the place from Soho to Exmouth Market, Borough to Brixton. Menus glued to the inside of Cannon and Ball albums, blackboards scrawled with the lyrics of classic indie songs, bar staff with more piercings, tattoos, casual unaffected humour and just plain weirdness than you can shake a stick at: London is just better at this shit than anywhere else.

In Hong Kong, of course, the biggest tragedy of the absurdly high rents is that any budding entrepreneur looking to succeed in the hospitality space needs a combination of luck, friends in high places, plenty of money and a business plan aimed at servicing wealthy ex-pats, tourists and super-rich locals with lots of money but no taste. This is the Armani and Cristal set, who’d rather preen with a cocktail halfway up a skyscraper than slum it in an artsy dive bar basement. The fact that there are few alternatives to get wonky in Honky is a tragedy.

London’s not all good though. I was staying in Elephant and Castle, an area which has redefined the meaning of underachievement. Zone 1, 10 mins by Tube to the City, West End, etc etc and yet a wasteland of brutalist 1950s housing estates, 99p Shops, Halal butchers and payday loan shops. This is urban planning by the bastard child of Corbussier and Waynetta Slob and it has been waiting for renewal for about 20 years while successive local councillors bicker over the small print.

If this was Hong Kong, Elephant would have been restored to its rightful place as the Piccadilly Circus of the south by now. No political infighting, no squabbles over funding – just getting shit done. Then again, it would have probably ended up with 35 x 7-11s, 5 x private members’ bars, 3 x shopping malls filled with luxury fashion and jewelry brands, far too many escalators and housing that no-body who currently lives there can afford. I love Hong Kong – “sometimes misguided but always enthusiastic” – but it needs to loosen up a bit or its poor citizens will be drinking in vapid grief-holes for the rest of their days.

Olympic Fail, Hong Kong style

10 Aug

london flagWhat an epic two weeks of sport eh? I love how London is revelling in its position at the centre of the world again – its stately monuments and beautiful city-scapes beamed across the planet to the envy of, well, people, everywhere. I’m loving how the worst premonitions of a Games dominated by greed and dirty commercial interest has given way to the sheer unadulterated joy of Great Britain suddenly, collectively, realising it is great at something – two things actually – putting on a show and winning at sport. Yeah, for all our cynicism and shoulder shrugging, we do actually like to see our boys and girls kick some ass – even if it is at mainly sitting-down sports like horse gymnastics and cycling.

I say I’m loving all this of course but I can’t really comment since Hong Kong TV isn’t showing a BLOODY THING! I take that back, if endless table tennis and badminton matches are your bag then you’ve come to the right place. It is an unmitigated, shameful broadcasting disaster with the laughable banner “A Games for All”. Err, not quite. A Games for none of the tens of thousands of TV subscribers on the island that aren’t locals. Even the most biased domestic broadcaster surely has some kind of public interest remit to switch occasionally to see what the host nation’s up to?

Nope, not a bit of it here. Not even a sniff of Andy Murray’s amazing men’s tennis final, zero football and virtually no track and field. To add insult to injury, the bi-lingual commentary in the studio involves the English anchor team relegated to what looks like a glass-fronted break-out room on a mezzanine behind the main presenters – you can just about see them if you squint really hard.

So that’s my Games. Am probably better off following Samuel L Jackson’s excitable Tweets than switching on Hong Kong TV. Still, hope you’re having fun. I wonder if I can apply for a refund on my London Council Tax for the past decade?