Desperate Journalist

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Desperate Journalist - 2017 Interview


An interview with Desperate Journalist

The London-based post-punk four-piece band, Desperate Journalist, first caught my attention when I heard "Hollow" on the radio and immediately crested a majestic wave of Proustian 80s/90s reminiscence. That's not to say they're a throwback band at all. They are obvious music connoisseurs, genuine rock & roll trainspotters, whose love of past generations of music informs, rather than shapes how they sound. They embody the notion that to understand and make the most of the present, you must have the past firmly in your bones.

Their recent album, "Grow Up" was released on March 24th, to substantial critical acclaim and was accompanied by a run of shows in the UK and Germany. They spoke to Contact Music prior to their recent gig at Bristol's superb independent venue, the Louisiana. Having established, much to their relief, that they needn't explain where they got their name (basically Robert Smith giving Paul Morley his stroppy comeuppance for a stinking review) and how they all met (friends of friends, then friends, then bandmates), they established that their talking prowess matches up to their musical mastery. They definitely came across as the kind of people with whom you could spend a very long, misspent and deleterious afternoon/evening in a pleasant hostelry.

Contact Music (CM): Jo - as the lyrical force of the band, what's it like, bearing your soul, gig after gig and album after album? And for the rest of the band, what's it like living in Jo's inner world?
Jo Bevan (JB): It's great, in that it is a kind of therapy. I've written songs that are incredibly personal, which I hope come across in a way that is enjoyable and useful to other people. Other people's songs that I really love use that transmission of pain and problems into something beautiful.

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Desperate Journalist - Louisiana, Bristol 29.03.17 Live Review


The upstairs room of the Louisiana pub in Bristol has hosted many a band on the early slopes of a mighty ascent. You only have to browse at the commemorative posters downstairs to see names like The White Stripes, Goldfrapp and Florence and the Machine, even Snow Patrol playing a support slot in 1997. Appearing at the Louisiana is not a guarantee of future acclaim and stratospheric status per se. Appearing at the Louisiana and being so chuffin' impressive, however, makes it entirely reasonable to surmise that Desperate Journalist are heading for ever loftier heights.

Desperate Journalist - Louisiana, Bristol 29.03.17 Live Review

Their whole performance was precise, immersive and intense. Cohesion, emotional depth and an obvious love of what they were doing was paramount. The opening bars of, "I Try Not To" swept us immediately up with the profoundly oceanic swell that many of their songs possess. Its opening lines, 'Happily, I've lost all my nerve/ To give myself the kicking I probably deserve' are about the most self-aware opening for a lyricist as you can get. That's Jo Bevan in a nutshell - acute introspection, turned inside out and forensically, publicly unpicked. As an offering to the listener, that process is as bold as it is generous, and between the enticing steel of her stare and consuming fire of her voice, she is an irresistible force. She is no-one's imitation, but for reference, she comes across as a compelling hybrid of Ian Curtis (restless and haunting) and Dolores O'Riordan (diminutive and ferocious).

The other band members very much allow her centre stage. Fascinating as practitioners of their own instruments, they appear focused on doing their thing to the max without any 'look at me' distractions. Rob Hardy's guitar work is conspicuously energetic and surging, innate headbanging with many of the hits on his twelve-string Rickenbacker. Whereas the Bristol crowd was relatively well-behaved on this occasion, the Desperate Journalist moshpits of the future can immediately look to him for inspiration. Considering Caz Hellbent only took up the drums in 2013 to join the band, she provides far more complexity to the sound than just a bedrock. Theirs is a sound where sometimes the bass and drums are what you listen to most, the guitar shimmering atmospherically over the top. This was especially evident at the end of their rendition of "Lacking in Your Love", when Rob stepped aside for those two lines to accompany Jo's voice. Simon Drowner's bass gives you Hook/Gallup chills, depending on your musical penchant, the minimal movements of his considerable frame compensated by the busy, dextrous intricacy of his hands.

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Desperate Journalist - Grow Up Album Review


In May 1979, Paul Morley slated The Cure's "Three Imaginary Boys" with such pretentious savagery (Google it and puke) that Robert Smith took the next available opportunity, a Peel Session, to bite back, composing "A Desperate Journalist" about Morley, before Twitter burns even existed. Nearly four decades on and alt. goth, post-punk, 'angry janglers', Desperate Journalist, bring a similar brusqueness to bear on their second album, as well as a weighty nod to the glittering gloom of sombre Bob and his Munsters of rock.

Desperate Journalist - Grow Up Album Review

Foremost is Jo Bevan, vocalist and lyricist, self-proclaimed 'emotional romantic nightmare', who acknowledges that 'all the songs are borne of that anxiety'. So, to an extent, "Grow Up" is a tongue-in-cheek reference to her wish to be over such soul-destroying crapola by now (NB - it never stops, missus), and partly a reference to the songs' subject matter - experiences that shape young adulthood. With the bite of Siouxsie Sioux and the richness of the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser, Bevan's voice screams epic disaffection. The band brings mighty substance, Rob Hardy's 12-string Rickenbacker, Simon Drowner's bass and Caz Hellbent's drums providing soundscapes with depth and breadth worthy of "Disintegration".

Opener "Hollow" promotes the healing solace of remote places, the chorus surging tidally like the catharsis of a good cry. Any neurosis that grips and undermines is present in "All Over", like 'the gunshot that echoes down your hall'. "Be Kind" opens with a self-deprecating Sundays steadiness - 'This place is such a non-event;/ They are so loud and I am so ineloquent', before crescendoing into the fuzzed, bleeding-heart chorus, with its self-reproach and flawed determination to 'be kind'. Album closer, "Radiating" is a haunted torch song of undeclared, unrequited love. Compellingly, akin to Martin Rossiter in Gene's mid-90s prime, Bevan emotionally eviscerates herself over Rob's stark piano line.

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Camden Crawl 2014 Announces Lineup Additions Laurel Halo, Phil Hartnoll (Orbital) Plus Many More

Posted on 14 April 2014

Camden Crawl 2014 Announces Lineup Additions Laurel Halo, Phil Hartnoll (Orbital) Plus Many More

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