Monday, November 27, 2006

Jeffrey Lewis Band / Kate Goes / Deadly Long Legs / Lets Wrestle Birmingham Bar Academy Saturday 25th November 2006

Okay, get a load of this. Four great bands. Four! Saturday night. In Birmingham. How much? Go on...nope, not even close...£5! A fiver! You can't buy a Mars Bar (other snacks are available) for less than a fiver these days. Well, you get the picture. George Michael charges £100 to see him at the NEC (the most soul destroying venue in the world) and trades on past glories, these spunky youngsters sweat it out for your delight for a fiver. I doff my cap.

Lets Wrestle - Indeed, why not? Listen to their rough demos on My Space and you won't get the how good this three piece were in the flesh. Showing more ambition than a lot of bands (lyrically speaking...who else name checks Charles Mingus in a track these days). The Wrestle are what's great about music these days. Eclectic. Energetic. And proof that, despite Celebrity Fame Jungle Beach Brain Surgery Factor, music is alive and well.

Deadly Long Legs - Crazy name, garage rock heaven. As Childish as Billy and the Buffs, but looking like they're fronted by a 70's footie star, DLL could belong to any decade from the 50's onwards. I love garage rock. It's uncomplicated, unpretentious and untainted by much of the thick layers of gloss that's slapped on to a lot of 'modern' tracks and Deadly Long Legs do the genre as well as any band I've seen.

Kate Goes - I have a soft spot for Kate Goes. Having witnessed and enthusiastically reviewed thier very first gig I've left it a good while before seeing them again and am delighted to announce that they've retained the same sense of innocence that I loved about them then. That's not to say that they haven't developed. Vocally and musically they seemed stronger (as you'd expect after more gigs) and their guitarist has transformed from someone who looked a little like a geography teacher into a rock god (good work fella). Boom Shadilak is, I'm convinced, a number 1 record in waiting (you can listen to the rough demo at their My Space site, but live it's 100 x better). They're getting rave reviews from better scribes than me and, if they get the break they deserve, they will follow Misty's into the bigger, wider world and...who knows...

Top marks for the theme tonight too. Kate Goes tin foil...

Jeffrey Lewis Band - Seen Jeff loads of times and hope to keep doing so. He is unique. As a solo artist he is the very definition of 'anti folk' (if there is such a thing), but with brother Jack he is capable of rocking out to a quite impressive degree. No Creeping Brain tonight, but we did get the Hand and History Of Communism in China. Sublime. Each time I've seen him the crowd gets bigger, his guitar gets more battered and the drawings that illustrate some of the songs become more dog eared. If you haven't yet witnessed one of his shows you've missed out on one of the most special musicians/artists around. It's as simple as that.

All this for a fiver! That's why Mums go to, I have no idea why I wrote that either.

Bromheads Jacket / Oxford Glamour Models Birmingham Barfly Wednesday 22nd November 2006

Hola! Naughty Baron has been neglecting his duties again. Tut tut. This blogging business takes ages though. I don't just dash this off in a quick five minutes you know...each word is torn from my soul like...oh who am I trying to kid?

Oxford Glamour Models - floppy fringed Suede-y in places but a lot harder...grrrrrr...Horrors-esque if you will...and who are you to argue? Listen to 'Kick Out the Grams' and you'll get flashes of early Bowie too. Go on...there..told you you would.

Bromheads Jacket - I knew this would be a moshy moshy kind of gig and the Jackets provided the perfect soundtrack for my well deserved battering at the hands, feet and heads of 'the kids'. If the bruises on my rib cage are anything to go by, if was a damn fine gig. As with most gigs that I go to, the majority of the people at the front knew every word. I, being a musical whore, knew snatches (stop snickering at the back), but they're such a damn catchy band that familiarity probably doesn't make much difference. I particularly liked their promise not to play Golden Arches and What, If's and Maybe's " 'cos they're shit"...only to play both tracks straight afterwards. Rock, and indeed, roll.

Will they become the 'next Arctic Monkeys' as predicted on this very site in March / April (well not this one, The Hearing Aid Mk1 - RIP)? Who knows. But they're one Jacket that you need to try on (who needs NME eh? This is gold, solid gold).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dufus / Mr Bones & the Dreamers, Jug of Ale, Sunday 12th November 2006

Sunday gigs...wrong, wrong, wrong.

Dufus...right, right, right.

But first, and it was their first, Mr Bones & the Dreamers debuted tonight and put on a strong performance. Their lead singer reminded me a little of...wait for it... Roy Orbison. Yes, I know. Maybe it was just me. They have a kind of country/folk sound, a little Decemberists in parts.

Dufus (one lead singer, the bearded wonder that is Seth, and an ever changing band that sometimes extends to nearly 20 people but tonight numbered a more compact 4) have been around for quite a while now and were/are part of what is known as anti-folk (a little folk, a little punk, a little art house/experimental know the kind of thing). Their live shows are legendary and full of the kind of childlike wonder that you just don't think exists anymore. They've just released a truly special album, The Last Classed Blast, on Birmingham's very own Iron Man Records. It's the kind of eclectic album that John Peel would rave over. A mix of sublime folky loveliness and Zappa-esque 'what the chuff...' moments. Put it on your Christmas list (and everyone else's) and you won't be disappointed. Tutu (probably one of my favourite tracks of the year) is worth the price of admission on its own.

Anyway, back to the gig. Seth had a charming female vocalist / foil tonight who was as brilliant to watch as Seth (and that's saying something). A lot of the music of Dufus really comes alive...well...when it's, with a formidable back catalogue to delve into it was a bloody great gig. Classics Underwear and Wee Ma Woo got an airing, as did the aforementioned Tutu. Sadly a number of the crowd were there for the local opening act and many had melted away before the end. Their loss.

Reading the liner notes of the new Dufus album and in after a very brief chat with Seth I kind of get the feeling that he is a little disheartened with the relative lack of success of a band that should really be playing much, much bigger venues and selling bucket loads of CD's. Let's hope the new album does just that.

As an aside, I had a chat with the female vocalist too (I always find appraoching a band a little odd, particularly at my age when I'm often old enough to be their dad...but, if I've enjoyed the gig, I'm kind of compelled to). It turns out she's a waitress in New York when she's not singing with the band. I sort of had it in my head that they would all be full time Dufi. It's just another reminder that some of the best and most talented people aren't to be found in enormo-domes like the NEC, but working in diners and singing in boozers like the Jug. In the vernacular of our American cousins...'it's kinda cool, but it kinda sucks at the same time'.

Anyway, enough already. Please buy the album. Here (look, how easy can I make it!)

I thank you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Luke Haines / Lisa Lindley Jones Birmingham Bar Academy Wednesday 8th November 2006

Wasn't sure what to expect tonight. Knew we'd be in an acoustic kind of place - and we were. Opener Lisa Lindley Jones had a smokey sort of voice that made you want to drink a bottle of Shiraz and puff on a big fat Havana whilst fanning yourself with a dog eared copy of Down and Out in London and Paris by George Orwell. Gentle, but good.

Saw Luke Haines back in the day (early 90's) supporting The The according to Lady Baron. Loved the 'big' single Lenny Valentino and the soundtrack to Christy Malry...but haven't followed Luke's career as much as it probably deserved to be followed. That's the problem with being a musical whore. If you like one band, or indeed, 'scene' it's quite easy to keep up. If you're into anything from The Big Bang to Phil Ochs, The Associates to Frank Zappa or System of a Down to Bessie Smith...(yes my i-pod has a serious identity crisis) it's a tricky business.I'm sure the last time I saw a picture of Mr Haines he was a fairly skinny kind of chap with blonde hair. Tonight he had morphed into that bloke from the Thin Blue Line and Four Weddings and a Funeral (no, not Rowen Atkinson, the other one, with the receding hairline who marries one of the know). This has nothing to do with the music of course, but he does look rather different.

As an acoustic set I felt that some of the songs suffered a little and his vocal delivery (more a kind of menacing whisper) really benefits from having some backing (either other musicians or vocalists). He is also rather well read. So if you're not up on everything from child killers to Marxist theory some of the meaning of the songs can be lost a little. But, that being said, I rather enjoyed the set and , for an artist who once jumped off a 15ft wall (breaking both legs) just to get off finishing a US tour, he seemed to enjoy himself too. Luke Haines - demented genius who deserves far more success than he gets but is probably quite happy where he is.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Gossip / Comanechi / Panther Birmingham Barfly Thursday 2nd November 2006

November, as Moz so wisely pointed out some years ago, spawned a monster. Thus this November sees a monsterous number of gigs (see what I did there?) all tempting me like sirens of sound (no, I've not been drinking). Anyway, on to the review of the first gig of the month. Opener Panther was a delight. A bloke who sounds a bit like Har Mar Superstar trapped in a lift with Justin Timberlake and Jeff Buckley. He did lots of cool / mental dancing too and is an electropop star waiting to happen. Watch his latest video here you mutha.

Comanechi were up next and had a cool Japanese girl drummer (vocals) and male geeeetar player (Peter Hook style shapes) thing going on. In love Japanese girl vocalists. They could sing a shopping list and make it sound and look cool. Don't know her name but it was her birthday tonight and someone had got her some Cava as a pressie...aaahhh bless. If you can like the whole Japanese garage thing as much as I do, check 'em out.

Right. The main event. The. G to the O to the S to the S to the I to the P. Lead singer Beth has been getting so pretty good press this year and I can see why. There are few frontwomen with as much spunk (as it were) as Beth, vocally she could easily out Janis Ms Joplin and she struts some pretty funky stuff all over the stage. Towards the end she climbed over the barriers and danced amongst us mere mortals. I always like bands that do that. TOUCH YOUR PEOPLE...we won't bite...well maybe one ot two of us will...

Lady Baron - who was less than convinced with Panther and Comanechi - loved The Gossip, as did the rest of the crowd. An outspoken lesbian of generous proportions, it makes a real change to see someone like Beth making the pages of NME (naked no less). Perhaps there is hope for the world after all. In a year of outstanding gigs, this has to go down as one of the best. Southern tinged, blues garage rock heaven. Lets hope The Gossip spreads...(oohh, now come on, that's clever right? Oh, okay then, please yourselves).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Long Blondes / 1990s / Monkey Swallows the Universe Birmingham Academy 2 Saturday 28th October 2006

Early gig tonight as Saturdays see the Academy host Ramshackle - a club night thingy for troubled teens, pervy old men and glue sniffers. So the first band came on at the ungodly hour of 6.45. ..barely time for a £3.20 pint of watered down Strongbow (thanks Mr Carling Academy, you really are spoiling us). Monkey Swallows the Universe is a name that conjures up some kind of 60's psychadelic cult group. The Monkey's were, in fact, more acousticy (well how would you spell it?) and mellow than that. As with many opening bands the majority of the audience weren't as receptive as they should've been...which was a shame as they had some gentle, but impressively catchy, tunes. Download Florence from their website and see what I mean...

Gentle isn't a word that you would use to describe 1990s. They had a real 80's rock group thing going on. I think they scared some of The Long Blondes fans a bit at first but, by the end of the set, the applause has lifted from a gentle appreciation to more of a 'woohoo' with a coupled of added 'yeahs'. They couldn't help reminding me of The Knack a little bit. Which, as they sang 'My Sharona' (a classic is ever there was one) was no bad thing. In fact the more I listen to them the more I like them...

The main event then. The Long Blondes. Unknown to me the drummer is from Stourbridge and his dad (I think) was just behind me, next to the bass players mum. Which made it all feel a bit like a school play. But I'm being picky (naughty Baron). On record The Long Blondes must be one of the bands of the year. Once and Never Again and Giddy Stratospheres are bloody ace and they didn't fail to hit the spot (several spots in fact) tonight. No encore, but I kind of like that. Come on, do your thang, then leave. None of this on/off crap. We're not fooled and it ain't a frickin panto.

Overall a good night, but I rarely feel particularly knocked out by gigs at the Academy or Academy 2 these days (due to the venue, not the bands). But then, so soon after the audio orgasm that was Coldrice, what could possibly compete? Answers on a postcard please...