Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bourgeois Four - Celebrity Body Crisis / Facecrime

I’ve lost track of the number of really great ‘local’ bands that imploded / exploded / just faded away over the years without making the impact they deserved. It’s always happened of course and it always will but that doesn’t make it any less annoying when you see/hear some of the toss that sells (or is downloaded for free) by the bucketload. C’est la vie.

One of those bands still lingering in the dusty corners of my mind were The Bourgeois Four who I last encountered at a gig at The Actress and Bishop way back in 2007, when Twitter had barely uttered a tweet and One Direction were still at the breast...I guess they probably are now a different way. Anyway here's a rare and authentically scratchy video of the Four in action back then...

Well now they’re back, back, back with something old and something new (I guess the borrowed and blue will come on the follow up) courtesy of Speech Fewapy’s double AA side single Celebrity Body Crisis (the newbie) and Facecrime (the oldie, see vid above). Deliberately recorded with all the rough edges left on (on kit that probably dates back to pre 2007...positively prehistoric) they’re a pair of punk flecked missives with a nod back to that great garage sound of the 60s. Having only listened to Facecrime (inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 no less) a couple of times almost a decade ago it’s impressive that the chorus brings about a Pavlovian twitch in the old leg as lead singer Tristan Roe warbles “Panic now” in a strangely delicious way. It’s ruddy great to hear it...and them...again. Now, who’s up for an I Thee Lothario reunion?    

Celebrity Body Crisis / Facecrime is available for free download at and also available through itunes, spotify and amazon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big News From Big Bear

On top of bringing back the blues to Brum through the weekly Nothin’ But The Blues nights at the Asylum 2 Big Bear music main man Mr Jim Simpson has a major exhibition of just some of his photographs (many rarely seen) of proper 100% musical icons at the height of their fame. 

Little Richard, The Rolling Stones (still featuring Brian Jones), The Moody Blues, Howling Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and, of course, the band that Jim plucked from the back streets of Aston and launched onto an unsuspecting world...inventing heavy metal along the way...BLACK SABBATH! The exhibition’s on at new Harborne based gallery Havill & Travis and, best of all, you can actually buy signed editions of some the photos there’s that tricky Christmas present situation sorted. In honour of the exhibition Jim’s done a wonderful interview with the equally splendid John Kennedy which you’ll find over here at Brum Live

Last some sad news, saxophonist Mike Burney, who played at the Big Bear organised Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival for over a quarter of a century passed away last Thursday evening. Hailed as one of the finest jazz musician the Midlands has produced he played with everyone from Wizzard and the Beach Boys to Sammy Davis Jnr and Bob Hope. Here's a blast of the man in action in the appropriately named Wizzard track, Saxmaniax. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kate Tempest / Loyle Carner and Rebel Clef / Mahalia @ The Hare and Hounds, Sunday 16th November 2014

Poet, rapper, playwright, novelist, Mercury nominee, winner of the prestigious Ted Hughes Award, inventor of a cure for the common cold (okay, so the last one was made up but frankly you wouldn’t put it past her)...for many Kate Tempest has seemingly sprung from nowhere over the past year or so. The reality’s radically different but no less impressive...

More on this later but first up Mahalia. At just 16 years old she seems incredibly confident and relaxed up there (she’s been performing for three years or so already) with an easy going and pure soulfulness that’s impossible to fake. 

Playing half a dozen or so self penned tracks she addressed everything from the struggles of a single mum in the poem acapella mash up of Matalan to the evils of bullying in Silly Girl. There are plenty of great singer songwriters out there and it’s a fool’s game to try to predict who will and won’t make it but there’s just something that little bit extra special about this Mahalia that makes her well worth following. You’ll get your chance at her first ever Birmingham headline show at The Sunflower Lounge on December 21st.

It took a couple of tracks for Loyle Carner and Rebel Clef to really find their flow tonight but both opening number BFG and Cantona, touching tributes to the former’s dad who passed away earlier this year, revealed the kind of emotional vulnerability that a lot of rap sadly lacks these days. 

Like Tempest I’m guessing Carner started out writing poetry and there were some fine alliterative rhymes in the mix, notably on Night Gown, but the duo left the best to last with Hendrix, an addictively catchy track that apparently can’t be released as it features a sample of the man himself. If Jimi were alive I reckon he’d have no beef with it but it’s too good to stay underground. Shed the sample...or get some other guitar god on the case...and get it out there.

With the room now packed full of a unusual mix of punters ranging from a couple of ladies of a certain age right at the front through to hipsters, bookworms and the odd head nodding hip hopper Tempest lingered momentarily off stage before joining band seemingly savouring the moment. Once she’s up there though there’s no stopping her. Most of us have trouble remembering our pin numbers but the sheer volume, speed and complexity of some of tonight’s tracks is staggering and she barely stumbles over a single syllable. Everybody Down, the album that’s finally bought her the attention she deserves, is a wildly ambitious piece of work set in modern day London and featuring 12 tracks linked by a series of characters. Rizzle Kicks this ain’t. Opening with the sparse Kraftwerk-ish beats of Marshall Law Tempest packs in more lyrical content than most artists manage in an entire album. 

Brilliantly observed, witty, insightful, socially aware...the pictures she paints with words are splattered with sweat, coke (and we’re not talking the fizzy drink here) and jizz. It’s a wild ride and we’ve only just begun. Over the course of the evening Kate takes us through her characters’ trials and tribulations set against the backdrop of the fallout from the recession that’s condemning many of her generation to a grim slog for survival. Familiarity with the material helps as the beats can, at times, make catching every word a little tricky, especially given the pace that some of them run at but it’s perfectly possible to enjoy much of this stuff as just great pop music (in the very best sense of the word) with both The Beigeness and Circles (featuring a gloriously soulful solo from Kate’s backing vocalist) possessing some particularly hooky choruses. More challenging was the industrial pounding of Happy End that threatened at times to shake the fillings from yer teeth but it certainly created the right atmosphere for the track’s subject of Harry and Becky running away together to avoid her uncle actually removing Harry’s teeth with his boot. Nasty.

If anything the between track chat made an equally powerful impression though. It’s clear that Tempest has worked her (white towelling) socks off to get this far and she talked of the night’s she spent rapping at strangers on night buses and travelling for seven hours to get to a gig attended by just 12 people...none of whom were there to see her...before returning home to get changed for work. It’s a subject she returned to in a seemingly spontaneous performance of one of her older poems The Becoming with Tempest in the raw, stripped of the beats, addressing the young girl she was, the young woman in her twenties that she is now and the older Kate still to come urging herself to keep working, striving, growing.  

She’s been doing just that for some 11 years now (I was lucky enough to see her a few years back with her band Sound Of Rum, dubbing her “a fly Janis Joplin”, a description that still seems apt) and the sheer joy and gratitude emanating from the stage now that people were finally listening to her was almost physical.

Like her spiritual granddaddy, (Sir) Billy Bragg, Tempest clearly intends to use her growing fame and influence to... for wont of a better phrase ‘make a difference’. “If you take just one thing from this evening it’s to go to battle with your greed and cultivate your empathy” she concludes after a particularly passionate plea for us all to try to be better people. Out of the mouths of most performers this would sound like Bono-speak but you get the distinct impression that she’d genuinely give away her last penny if someone else needed it more than her. This makes the last track of the night especially poignant. “I’ve had my heart broken recently” she reveals before launching into an emotional Hot Night Cold Spaceship, a single tear sliding down her face as the last beat fades away. Here’s hoping that the obvious love in the room after tonight’s performance might just go some way towards mending it eh?

For once, to paraphrase Public Enemy, do believe the hype. Tempest is an exceptional talent with the drive and commitment to make the most of it. What she’s achieved in the past few years is pretty extraordinary but I get the feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet. This gig sold out weeks ago and her next show in Brum on February 11th at The Rainbow Warehouse looks set to do likewise (tickets from our good chums at Birmingham Promoters right here). In fact it’s certain to get...wait for it...Everybody Down. Oh come on, it had to be done. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kentish Fire - In Our Band

Not for the first time I'm insanely addicted to catchy pop tracks this week and, hot on the heels of Taylor Locke's offering yesterday, here's another cracker. Formed back in 2009 Camden's Kentish Fire do a neat line in indie disco and this one's Ting Tings-tastic. Apparently the video took a year to make which, when you compare it to that comet footage which took 25 years, seems ruthlessly efficient. Bonus points if you can spot all the song titles the band manage to shoehorn into this track...maybe they'll buy you a sticky bun or something if you get them all right. That's what's wrong with the music biz these days, not enough sticky buns...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taylor Locke - Running Away From Love

Take a little 10cc, REO Speedwagon and Dodgy, whip it up in a blender and leave it out in the Californian sun for a few hours et voila, you've got Ex-Rooney guitarist (nope, me neither) Taylor Locke's ruddy catchy new single Running Away From Love. 'Interesting' vid too, I do hope the naked lady had her factor 50 on...

Friday, November 07, 2014

Motörhead / The Damned / The BossHoss @ The NIA, Thursday 6th November 2014

Now that’s a pretty varied bill right there, a German Country and Western band who do covers of pop and hip hop tracks (The BossHoss), the fathers of UK punk (The Damned) and the hardest rocking band in the world...any world for that matter...Motörhead.

Sadly we missed The BossHoss as they presumably came on at lunchtime...I jest, but only just. We got in around 7.40 and the roadies were already dismantling their kit and scratching their arses a lot (their own arses I hasten to far as I’m aware The BossHoss don’t employ arse scratchers...although how cool would that be?).  

We were there in plenty of time for The Damned though and it’s always a bit of treat to watch these punk survivors blast through some of that era’s best tunes. Despite requests Captain Sensible refused to play Happy Talk (boo!) but we did get a rousing Eloise with lead singer Dave Vanian in particularly fine voice. It’s the pure punk stuff that went down best with the ‘head fans tonight though, Love Song, New Rose, Neat Neat Neat (featuring some truly Hendrix-worthy guitar playing from Sensible) and Smash It Up were all dispatched with as much vim and vigour as they were almost 40 years ago...well almost. National treasures.

Speaking of which it looked like we might lose another one last year. Conceived at the tail end of World War II Lemmy’s lifestyle appeared to have finally caught up with him recently. Struck down by heart problems, diabetes and a number of other ailments most people would probably just curl up in a rocking chair and mainline Werther’s Originals. And yet here he is, nudging close to 70 and looking pretty much the same as he did when the ‘head first started deafening the world for a living way back in 1975. The formula’s stayed pretty similar for the past four decades too, play it fast, play it loud, play it hard...why mess with rock perfection eh? 

Kicking off with the addictively riffy wild west (Midlands) rock out of Shoot You In The Back Lemmy’s vocal is perhaps a little rougher these days, but given that he’s always sounded like he’s been using his own larynx to sand rust off a ship’s hull that’s no great problem, far from it in fact. Much of Motörhead’s music revolves around overdoing it a little...okay...a it’s entirely appropriate that the man himself sounds like he’s ‘lived’. Mid set number Lost Woman Blues in particular benefits from this edge and if he ever fancied it you could almost see Mr Kilmister pulling off a pretty impressive full on blues album.

Pretty much everyone here to worship at the mole-ter though just wanted the band to rock their socks off and the longstanding trio of Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee dutifully obliged. Sure many of the songs share the same DNA but Campbell and Dee are phenomenal players and throughout the set they seemingly vied with each other to see who could pull off the most jaw dropping performance. Dee won by a knockout during Killed By Death though by somehow playing the kind of drum solo that a well co-ordinated octopus would struggle with whilst simultaneously chucking drumsticks high into the air then picking up fresh ones on the down beat. The man ain’t human. 

In the middle of all the mayhem Lemmy remained as solid as a rock, cracking the odd between song joke, growling out the words and playing the bass with the ease of someone who’ll probably still be grinding out the hits when they try to nail down the lid. Predictably Ace Of Spades got the biggest reception but less predictably ex member “Fast” Eddie Clarke joined the band (Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor was also in attendance). This ramped the volume up to 11 but by this stage I guess everyone in the mosh pit was a deaf as a post anyway, besides as the lyrics to encore Overkill put it “Only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud”. 

Mission well and truly achieved this evening I’d say. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Mutes – No One Is Nowhere

Mutes continues his unique sonic journey with the release of brand new EP, No One Is Nowhere, seven tracks of fragile ambient dream pop beauty. Opening up with the shadowy lo fi guitar of Intro (echoes of The Durutti Column in there perhaps) it’s the perfect soundtrack to lose yourself in and practically guaranteed to soothe even the most troubled of brows. Much of it is instrumental, where there’s a vocal it’s buried deep in the mix like a voice from beyond. Combine this with the beautifully delicate guitar playing and other worldly sounds, most notably on the sublime Horror, and it’s all strangely enchanting.

Hop over to Bandcamp and you can buy the whole shebang together with an exclusive t-shirt designed by the equally talented Lewes Herriot for a mere £7 quid!