Monday, December 31, 2007

This year ain't big enough for the both of us...

Another year nearly over (you could never accuse me of being anything less than astute n'est ce pas?). Time for the traditional look ahead slot (I say traditional...I've only done it once, but in the fast moving cyber world that's traditional enough in my book). I have to say I'm a bit stumped though. Looking back at my predictions for 2007...well the obvious ones kind of made it (The Twang, The View, Mika). Blood Red Shoes are still in with a shout for 2008...the rest have gone to the great bargain bin in the sky. Wiser people than me seem a bit stumped too, what with the music 'biz' fragmenting into more genres and channels than any sane being could possibly cope with. But what the heck. Here's a few 'just for fun' predictions to cut out and keep...why not stick 'em to your fridge and share them with your friends and family (probably 'cos you've got lives right?).

Duffy and Adele (that's two people) both seem to be heading for Winehouse-dom...hopefully without the drink, drugs and breakdowns...get well soon you lovely tattooed beehive whackjob. Anyway, Duffy is a bit Dusty as people have pointed out...and Adele has more of a bluesy thang going on. Stardom for the pair seems a dead cert.

Elle s'appelle have been attracting a fair old buzz on the grapevine and some of the cooler publications recently. They sound like Mates of State...but as few people have heard of them, that don't really help (listen to their 'Fraud in the 80's' track though...v. good). Think spikey powerpop and you won't go far wrong.

Late of the Pier have been on the Hearing Aid video player for weeks 'cos I love them (and I'm a lazy bastard). For my money they're the best new ravey/dancey lot around.

Foals...yes I know I'm playing it safe but this one could go either way. Maths rock (hell I'm just making this shit up) legends in the making.

Sparks (pictured above...nice shot guys)...yep...the same Sparks who've been around for more than 30 years. They're overdue a serious revival and, with an audacious plan to play all 21 of their albums live over 21 dates in London, this is the year.

Loads of bands from the Midlands. Partisan? Moi? Whether the rest of the world takes any notice or not we have some class groups around at the moment. It's hard to pick just a few but step forward Prospect Lane, Beestung Lips, Velvet Texas Cannonball, Destroy Cowboy, And What Will Be Left of Them?, The High Society, Guile, Miss Halliwell, Johnny Foreigner, The Dirty Backbeats, the Bourgeois Four and, of course, Vix n'the Kix to name just twelve of 'em, Oh, and Kate Goes too. And Misty's Big Adventure. Shit...and Reverie Strings...how could I forget Reverie Strings? Oh, hang it all. If you see a local gig advertised, just go along. The chances are that, in any given bill, they'll be something to like/love or lust over.

Finally a few more generic (but still music related predictions). Zavvi (the store that was Virgin but should've been renamed Fucked...'cos it is) will close, leaving just HMV to shut the doors as the old fashioned record biz finally leaves the High Street.

NME will hype its last scene and retreat to the web (Artrocker is a much better read and - at £3.25 a month plus a cracking free CD - it's a whole heap cheaper too). After NME's gutter press Morrissey article (I'm a fan, but not a fanatic) I've stopped buying it and, with a court case looming over said article they'd be wise to shut up shop right now before they accuse Cliff of fisting ponies or something.

More and more bands will give away their recorded music, but ticket prices and the cost of merchandise will go up. Expect to see bands putting in more gigs than ever before too. It's where the moolah is now.

There'll be a festival every single bloody weekend. Some (the smaller ones) could be great. Others...I'm sorry but I'm looking at you Glasto...will smell a little off...and it's nothing to do with the toilets this time.

Well, that's it. 2008 here we come. It's good to know that the impending global economic meltdown will at least have a decent soundtrack. Hurrah! Three day weeks anyone?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The High Society / Trust My Dishonour / The First Seven Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 21st December 2007

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttt's Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas!!!!!! My thanks to Noddy Holder for introducing this weeks Kamikaze! review. It is indeed Christmas and how better to celebrate the birth of little baby J than some ROCK! Yes ROCK! With a capital RRRRRR! This was probably the rockiest Kamikaze! so far and The First Seven kicked it all off with some fine QOTSA tinged tracks, a respectable amount of fret wanking and some nice slow build solos. Although they're all established musicians (being ex members of Honeyman and Blackballoon) this was only their second gig together and an impressive start. These guys can play.

Next up Trust My Dishonour, a harder, scuzzier breed of rock monster. Echoes of Skid Row perhaps (yes I am that old). Lead Dishonour Rob has the coolest mic in rock (a glorious 50's looking thing which takes a mighty verbal pounding), and makes a great frontman for the band's full on, bullshit free aural assault. Straight, no chaser.

Finally, The High Society (pictured)...featuring ex members of King Adora. I loved King Adora. I seem to remember that they had a link with a band called Twist (an all girl group who were seriously good back in the day...whatever happened to them?) and can vaguely recall some rather excellent sweaty gigs at The Flapper & Firkin. I even bought the CD. Anyway, that was then...what of now? Well dear readers I think we have an awesome one here. Vocalist Maxi Brown is becoming some kind of glorious glam Johnny Thunders kind of creature, they have a drummer who I could watch all night (put that guy at the front too!) and the rest of the band provide cock on, deep down n'dirty gutter rock (yes...that's 'cock on'). Imagine Marilyn Manson fucking the corpse of Marc Bolan...backed by a thousand sex dwarfs beating the hell out of sheet metal and guitars and you've got a vague idea of what it all sounds like. Of course it's easier to just listen to their My Space tracks but then I don't get to write the words 'sex' and' dwarves' or indeed imagine Marilyn Manson fucking the corpse of Marc Bolan. That's besides the point I guess. What matters is that you fall in love with The High Society today, get their name tattooed across your chest, drink a bottle of Jack and make mad passionate love to the first boy, girl or boy and girl you like the look of. Oh, and Happy Christmas by the way.

The Baron

X

Monday, December 17, 2007

Carina Round / Lupen Crook / Tom Bellamy Birmingham Bar Academy Monday 10th December 2007

She was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar...all will become clear later...which makes a change I guess. First up, local singer songwriter and his posse Tom Bellamy who has a clutch of rather top notch folk tinged tracks all rather well arranged and beautifully played. Astoria and The Striking both stood out for me in particular on the night and you can see what you missed by clicking on his name and checking out his My Space (see how good I am to you eh...all you have to do is click...think of all the effort I put in to this...I have to make at least three clicks).

Next up Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds (grrrrrr...imagine that eh...birds that murder people...I think pigeons would be up for that....they always look a bit street...like they're packing heat under their dirty wings...crows are well scary too...the hit man of the bird world...robins would poison you I reckon...they'd lull you into a false sense of security with their pretty breasts then drizzle some polonium onto your cereal whilst you ain't looking...anyway...). A rare old mix of punk folk LC and the M are all sweet vocals one minute then all out shoutyness the next. They had a bloke who played a hub cap too. You don't see enough hub cap players these days. Bravo.

Right, I'll refer you back to the start of this review - which seems a lifetime ago to me, so god knows how you must feel. Yes, the first time I saw Carina Round she was literally working as a waitress in a cocktail bar...well, a Jazz Club (it was Ronnie Scott's on Broad Steeet, now the 'Rocket Club'...from jazz club to jizz club eh?) anyway, which is close enough. This was some time ago I'll grant you, but I can still recall being mightily impressed. The fact that she sang a cover version of The Associates track Party Fears Two (just go listen to and watch the original...it's an awesome tune) cemented my affection. Then, after seeing her a couple of times, I somehow failed to follow her career as I should've done (that's me...a musical whore all over). I'm delighted to say that the Carina Round of 2007 is even better than the Carina Round of 1997. The same fire is still there but it's like a fine malt now...smoother, richer and altogether more satisfying. Unfairly, in my eyes at least, compared to PJ Harvey she's got more of a bluesy, almost gospel tinge to her voice, punctuated with primal screams of passion, rage and pain. Playing on her own (apart from a couple of tracks when she was joined by the lovely Chrissy Van Dyke) she kept the room enraptured for a good hour and a half (a real rarity these days). Downslow...in...par...tic...u...lar...was...just...awe...some...

She seemed genuinely moved that we were all there to see her in her home town (yes I know she's from Wolverhampton but we're all one big happy family in the Midlands eh?). A real contender for gig of the year, which, as it was my 98th (yikes!), is some accolade.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Scarlet Harlots / The Allies / Prospect Lane / The Bourgeois Four at The Rainbow Friday 14th December 2007

Despite suffering the mother (or father...hell...the mother, father, grandparents and kids...) of all man flus I made it down to The Rainbow just in time to catch The Bourgeois Four for my second viewing in as many months. Good enough to headline in my humble opinion, the B4 are serious contenders for one of my hottest bands in the Midlands slots. As I've said before they've got a wit and sparkle about them that gets me right between the eyes (and no, that's nothing to do with the man flu...did I mention I had man flu?). I had a moment to catch up with the lead singer after the gig and am pleased to report that they're busily writing new stuff for 2008 which I'm a gagging to hear. Check out their My Space page for three tracks of classic B4 and make it your New Year's Resolution to go and see them. I'm adding them to my list of bands to sign to my imaginary record label too...

Talking of my imaginary label, another band that features heavily on the roster is Prospect Lane. Able to do 'singalongs' like 'Fickle' just as well as the more reflective 'Ghosts' they're a class act that are just screaming out for a really fat stadium gig. Sure they can play the smaller venues but you just wrap your ears around a track like Isolation and imagine that bad boy thumping out of a million watt amp (I think that's a lot of watts...I was crap at Physics...). I'm listening to it now...seriously impressive stuff. Big, phat, meaty riffs then a slab of vocoder. You gotta love the vocoder. I'm a child of the 80's...despite what a lot of people say it was a bloody brilliant decade for music...and Prospect Lane bring a lot of what was and is great about it all right up to date. I'm afraid I know jack shit about promotions but what the hell is going on when a band plainly this good and with a wide appeal aren't blasting out of the nation's i-pods (other MP3 devices are available...but they ain't as good...cos i-pods are all shiny and stuff)? On an unrelated note I guess this is what Gigbeth should be for. A fucking great showcase for some fucking great bands. With a fucking huge stage right in the middle of town. And a massive fucking PA. Broadcast on TV. Not local TV but national TV. Live. In the summer. Not in November. Aaaaaaaaaagggghhhhhhhhhh! Anyway. Prospect Lane. I love 'em. I even warmed slightly to the 'contraversial' Alice Deejay cover of Better Off Alone. At the risk of sounding like some naff gossip correspondent I also had the chance to have a chat with lead singer Michael after the gig. Bloody nice bloke, genuine as hell and, as with the B4, busy writing new stuff for the New Year as well as recording with Gavin Monaghan (who's worked his magic with Editors).

Next up were The Allies. Another band that I've seen a few times this year and yet another band with real potential. Deservedly gathering a loyal following they share an energy and vibe with a certain group of cold loving simians (think about it...) on some tracks but add their own style on others which is where they really stand out. I'm not encouraging them to turn into The Pogues or anything, but the fiddle and accordian really suit the feel of the band (just listen to Ain't No Love Lost) and I'd love to see more of them. It shows off just what good musicians they are too. Back in the day the mighty Wonderstuff blended Celtic influences with sneering vignettes on modern life and I can really see The Allies taking a similar path. Now that would be something...

With the man flu rapidly draining what little life I had left in me The Scarlet Harlots (pictured)took to the stage. As the only band of the night that I'd not seen before they had the hardest job of all so I'm listening more to their My Space tracks to give me a better reflection of what they're like (cos I was drowning in mucus on the night...nice thought eh? Did I mention I had man flu?). It's a fascinating mix of influences, echoes of Tricky, Massive Attack, Asian Dub Foundation, The Libertines, Drum n' Bass, Ska, Punk...like I say, one heck of a mix. It all seems to work really well through. I had trouble hearing the vocals on the night...but that may have been down to my man flu...hmmmmmm....yes...I'm getting it now....it does work. Not straight away I'll grant you...you need to get into the flow...but yep...it's there. Love that slightly dubby woohwoohwooh keyboard. The syncopation is all over the shop too, on a jazzy kind of tip, there's a post punk edge as well. It's sort of like the sound you'd get in a student house occupied by a rasta, an indie boy, a punk and jazz funkster. Rastindunazz then. Now that's a new genre for you. Did I mention I had man flu?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Destroy Cowboy / Grandscope / This Machine is Off / The Dogfight Revolution Rainbow Digbeth Friday 7th December 2007

Got a taxi down to the Rainbow tonight. Most unlike me, but we had guests (which is also most unlike me). The driver seemed to go via Gdansk to get there...which ain't the quickest way from Bearwood but there we go. He enjoyed himself. No matter, we still arrived in time for openers The Dogfight Revolution. Strangely they have no tracks on their My Space page which forces me to use what little memory I have left at my age to recall the details of the set. I can certainly see where they're going, tapping into earlier psych influences and 60's mysticism. They're a relatively young band and it's a tricky blend to get right. For me it worked best on Talk to Lucifer (see I can remember stuff so yah boo and sucks to you), which had some thermin...yes theramin! We like theramin. In fact I was referred to as a theramaniac. Which has quite a nice ring to it...well not so much a ring more a weeewoooooowooheeeeooo. If I had to offer some constructive advice I'd say 'wig out a bit more'. They've certainly got the talent for it. It would be bloody brilliant to get a real sitar in on the action too.

Next up This Machine is Off. Turns out it was some way off. Stuck on the motorway about 25 miles off in fact. Yes, our old friend Mr Friday Night Traffic decided to stick his oar in. Shame. TMIO sound pretty good, particularly the remixed shit. Check out the pkd breaks session on Their Space. Still the good folk of Kamikaze! have promised to try to get them back. Perhaps they should just stay in Birmingham now to be on the safe side?

Grandscope must hold the record for the most stuff ever on the Rainbow stage. I counted at least three keyboards, four guitars and a drum kit plus sundry electronic wizzardry. I like Grandscope. Birmingham needs a Grandscope. And we have one. Grandscope. That's not a review is it? Right. Well they've got a bit of Kraftwerk, a bit of At The Drive In, some Jazz Funk, a hint of A Certain Ratio (ask your Grandad), a dash of prog (ask your Great Grandad)...hell it's a melting pot of the good stuff (with a drizzle of the weird stuff for good measure). So, Grandscope then. Difficult to review. Bloody enjoyable to watch.

Last up headliners, and deservedly so, Destroy Cowboy. Just as good as the last time I saw them in the Barfly a few weeks ago, they've got some cracking tracks (christ I sound like an old Radio One DJ) that are just screaming out for a wider audience. Hey and 1000 Candles have hit written all over them. Andy actually sings like he talks too, I don't mean he goes around la la la-ing all day, he sings in his real voice, none of this mid Atlantic tosh. Which makes a huge difference. This band sound so right I can't believe they've not been snapped up yet. Still that's the music biz for you. Balls to it. I'll finance the fucking debut album and make millions whooohahahahah. How much do debut albums cost? Oh bugger...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Marc Almond / Lee Griffith Birmingham Academy 2 Saturday 1st December 2007

As the time comes to start opening up the advent calendar once more (Mars celebrations this year since you ask) Santa Claus brings me an early present in the form of a rare gig by a longstanding musical hero - Marc Almond. First up though I got stuck into opener Lee Griffith. A self confessed 'gobshite' from Liverpool who was, two years ago living the straight life and is now 'out and proud', Lee's one of the most infectiously endering performers I've seen for years. Given his 'gobshiteness' I wasn't expecting much of a voice or lyrical content but he came across as a younger, Scousier John Martyn. There's a bunch of tracks on his My Space page but I'd say he's at his best live.

Marc Almond is probably the only artist I've followed pretty much for their entire career (which, being a musical whore like I am, is a miracle). Although very, very young when Soft Cell first hit the charts way back in '81 (1981, not 1881...how old do you think I am?) I can remember loving Tainted Love from the very first listen. Since then of course he's done all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff that most people probably aren't aware of. Check out the album Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters (named after a Truman Capote short story) for some of his best work. Back in 2004 he fell off a motorbike and was critically injured. Few expected him to survive, but here he is, apart from a large dent in his head, seemingly as good as new and back to his bitchy best. He wasn't impressed with the Academy 2 (who is?) but put on exceptional performance (especially allowing for the cold that he was suffering from, poor dear) that took in most of his 27 year career. Inevitably one woman starting calling for Tainted Love after just one or two tracks. She was swiftly put in her place. The rest of the crowd lapped up everything he played though, including Lilac (awesome), Your Aura, The River, Mr Sad, Tears Run Rings, What and The Idol. Like I say, a pretty neat package of the hits and classics. It's the sixth time I've seen him as a solo artist and one of the best. The only minor quibble was the band. They played fine but some of his key material was recorded with classically trained musicians, real strings and brass. I missed that. A minor quibble however, especially considering that it's a miracle he can still breath unaided let alone tour. The star remains undimmed.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Chris Tye / Leitmotif / Jodi Lawrence / Vix n'the Kix The Rainbow Digbeth Friday 30th November 2007

Vix n'the Kix (pictured) could've been headliners this week (after all in terms of sheer superstardom Vix - with a clutch of top 10 indie and mainstream hits from her Fuzzbox days) is a bit of a legend. But they were on first. Not a problem as such, but they deserved a much bigger audience...people of Birmingham...this is a fine band. Wake up. Turn off 'I'm a Celebrity Pig Milker' and get your ass down to the next Vix n'the Kix gig.

The last (and only time) I'd seen them was at their second ever gig. They were good then, but after a year or so of gigging, writing and getting into the swing of things they've grown into a much more impressive and confident group. I bet the recent tour to the Middle East helped. Yes. The Middle East. Playing with Fun Lovin' Criminals no less. Impressive huh? Well, I think so. I also think the Vix n' the Kix album (due out in the Spring sometime) deserves some serious attention. I've no idea what tracks are going to be on it but If and Bye Bye have to feature. If kind of reminded me of Fleetwood Mac in places. The Stevie Nicks era obviously. Whilst Bye Bye is classix Fuzzbox for the 21st Century. What I like also like about the Vix n'the Kix is that they look good. I don't just mean sexy, sexy hubba hubba...but they look like a band. They have a clear, cool style. They make the effort, which, let's face it, few bands do these days...blokes in particular (looking like a builder in a shell suit ain't making an effort). Anyway, this is turning into a dissertation on pop fashions. Suffice to say, I love Vix n'the Kix and, if there is any justice in this mad, bad old world they will bestride the pop landscape like great big things that bestride stuff. So there.

Next up was Jodi Lawrence and her boys playing an acoustic set that really gave her fine voice the chance to do the talking...well, singing...oh you know what I mean. As a group they play together really well, pulling off some complex melodies. It's always tricky watching a set like this though, the venue and audience plays a huge role in helping (without wishing to sound wanky) you get 'into' the music (I sound wanky don't I?). Whilst most of the audience were attentive, it only takes a few chatterers to distract you. When there's a great big wall of rock coming from the stage this ain't a problem. But acoustic music demands a similarly gentle output from those watching...here endeth the lesson. Jodi and band are playing the BAFTA awards shortly which should give them some excellent, well deserved exposure.

Leitmotif followed. Listing Coldplay as an influence (not my favourite band but hey...live and let live eh?) made me a little nervy, but Leitmitif are a lot more whooooh and far less bombombombom. Which is a very good thing. Lead 'motif Chris' voice is perfectly suited to the material and with rockier tracks like High On Life and Don't Believe the Voices (which uses that signature Coldplay guitar sound pretty well) you can see them building a strong following.

Last up, Chris Tye. As with Jodi, Chris played a stripped back set which was always going to have to compete with the inevitable Friday night good time vibe. Chris has a sublime voice...gentle, slightly bluesy in places, and a fine set of songs. For me though the highlight of the set was an excellent cover of Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat', one of those rare covers that's probably better than the original. Hat's off once more to Kamikaze! for putting on a good mix of styles in one night. The next few weeks sees the volume cranked up to 11 with Destroy Cowboy and This Machine Is Off (who sound dead ravey!) amongst a strong bill on the 7th. Mine's a vodka and coke...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Dirty Backbeats / The Velvet Texas Cannonball / Mills & Boon / The Fake Tracies / Burnst Rainbow Digbeth Friday 23rd November 2007

Good grief. Just typing in the names of the bands this week has left me drained. It was one of those nights. A mind melting mix of genres, performances and vodka (a most pleasing combination). We arrived just in time to catch a bonus band - Burnst - who had been due to play The Basement (I presume it's The Basement...not just a basement...but if you do have a basement and you find three young chaps playing their instruments to death, then it could well be Burnst). It seems that their gig was cancelled so they sought a slot at The Rainbow and I'm rather glad that they did. All the way from Manchester (and a hell of a long way from my usual fare) they played just two tracks, but two tracks that contained enough musical ideas to fill an entire album. Each. maybe a double. In quadraphonic sound. Purely instrumental and (dare I invoke the word...yes I dare...) slightly proggy, a bit jazzy and with a large slice of post rock (we can quibble over what that means until the cows come home but it just seems right for the complex beats and time signatures - yes I have no idea what I'm talking about - that Burnst somehow thread together). Mesmarising. It all put me in a bit of a daze, from which I have yet to recover. They seem to be mates with Mothertrucker, so I'm guessing fans of the 'trucker will be right at home here too.

After such an out there start to the evening The Fake Tracies pulled us back onto the rock n'roll highway with an energetic, balls out set (don't worry, we had the heating on) that got better and better as the band hit their stride. With the recent success of high octane, classic rock bands like Wolfmother it's little wonder that TFT are picking up some favourable, well deserved reviews. Lead singer, John Davies, put 110% into the performance and the rest of the band provided strong, tight, rifftastic backing. You can catch 'em in session on Radio WM on 6th December (9pm)...all live and stuff.

Right where next? Oh yes. Meat loving mentalists Mills & Boon. I've not caught them before so I was kind of expecting a slightly twee boy/girl folk rock act (I know...bands don't really pick names that sum them up...I get it). Instead we were faced with three blokes in pig masks and a chap wearing a blood splattered apron playing whacked out country...jazz...rock...folk...hell I can't describe it. Shit...it must be good. It was too. I keep wanting to mention Captain Beefheart. So I will. Captain Beefheart. There...that's better. Anyway, having seen the full Mills & Boon experience I can see what all the fuss is about. Imagine a mad axe murderer chasing you down the stairs in a some freaky old deep south farmhouse, pursued by a gang of equally deranged locals lobbing drums, guitars and amps at you...and maybe you get some sort of idea of what it all sounds like. Raw. Just like meat should be.

Still with me? Good. Next up The Velvet Texas Cannonball. Perfection. (Let's leave it pure eh?I've always wanted to do a one word review and now I have...apart from this bit...shit...maybe I could delete it and you wouldn't notice...but that wouldn't be real would it...balls...whilst I'm at it though, The Velvet Texas Cannonball are just so perfect it hurts...from the look to the performance to the music to the lyrics...so, like I said...PERFECTION).

Last up (and it was getting early by this stage) The Dirty Backbeats. More strong Beefheart influences, but this time with a glorious, mad ass dose of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Bonzos. In fact, in a certain light, lead backbeat Grant could almost be the very reincarnation of the late great Vivian Stanshall himself. Prowling the stage like a praying mantis (albeit a funky, freaked out praying mantis) he put on the kind of rare 'what the fuck is he going to do next' performance that leaves you a little shellshocked. Timing is everything with something this complex and theatrical, but the band were spot on, note after note. Hanging from the rafters near the end of the show Grant collapsed in a heap on the stage before leaping up once more and diving into the audience in a mess of sweat, hair and magic (yes...magic). It was that kind of show. Check out their My Space tracks which, for once, do justice to the band's music (especially Sticks n Bones...awesome). You really must, and that's an order, go see them live too. Legends.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Fall / Miss Halliwell Barfly Birmingham Thursday 22nd November 2007

Miss Halliwell. Remember that name. I will. For fans of The Fall, The Buzzcocks, Billy Childish...all class acts in my book...Miss Halliwell are a must hear. God help anyone who supports The Fall, after all the guy's a legend and his admirers are a loyal bunch (which don't always make for the most receptive audience), but Miss Halliwell were bloody impressive from start to finish, lyrically and musically. Sure they've got some rough edges and a few people didn't get it, but that's what makes performances like this really special...if you ain't dividing opinion then you might as well be Westlife. It looks like they've only been going a year or so as Miss Halliwell (in a previous incarnation some (?) of them were The Racists) - even less with their current line up - but I loved 'em. Lead Halliwell, Matthew (Halliwell...that's handy innit?) has a wonderfully sneery sort of voice, perfectly suited to the often caustic lyrics, drummer Sarah powers the whole thing along like Meg White on speed and CN Support (the stand stilliest man in rock) provides some darn funky bass. I've just listened to their two My Space tracks about 20 times and I'm still not bored. That is the mark of something glorious my friends.

Miss Halliwell put me in a great mood for The Fall. I've seen them just once. Of course it wasn't them. Mark E.Smith changes his band as often as I change my socks. Annually. So tonight was a totally different band to the one that graced The Foundry /Goldwyns back in 1997/8-ish. No matter, the one thing Mr Smith is good at is recruiting shit hot musicians and he's not lost his touch...his marbles maybe...but not his touch. The band took to the stage first then Mark entered from the left. I have to say I was a little shocked at first. He just looked a bit frail...a bit confused. Of course he's always had that sense of randomness (last time I saw him he wandered off stage and went behind the bar whilst the band carried on playing) but I doubted whether he'd even make it onto the stage this time. Of course, he did. And once up there he wandered about it like some glorious drunken uncle at a wedding, shouting into not one, not two...but at one point three (three...count 'em!) microphones. He has this technique (I believe it's deliberate) of tangling up the mic leads, knocking down the mic stands, tangling these up with the leads, then dragging the whole shebang around with him like Marley's ghost. He always fiddles with the band's stuff a lot too, jabbing the keyboard, removing the mic from the drum and finally, turning off then unplugging the guitarists amp. He wandered off stage a few times too, even performing an entire track from inside the dressing room. This was just after he'd nicked the drummers cymbol, plonked it in the middle of the stage then hit it - full force - with one of his mics. Unsurprisingly the mic thought 'Fuck this...' and broke into several large chunks (one of which now has pride of place in my collection of gig rubbish) in a vague effort to save itself. He also got one of the roadies (I think he was anyway) to sing part of one of the tracks. In other words t'was business as unusual. The diehards lapped it up, the curious first timers were astonished and it all went down as another legendary Fall gig in a career that's now in its 31st year. Amazingah.

NB: Interesting to read the comments on The Fall message board re last night's gig too. Some loved it, some were underwhelmed. Plus ca change.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Guile / The Hoi Polloi / Blisst / Telegramme The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 16th November 2007

Despite being cold enough to freeze mercury, the inside of the Rainbow courtyard-y bit was as hot as a sumo wrestlers inner thigh...after finishing a marathon...at the height of summer...wearing PVC (this was all thanks to what can only be described as a jet engine just by the stage). Into this heat we were delivered (see what I did there?) Telegramme. They have accents over the first two e's...all French like...but I can't get them to work in Blogger...'cos I'm inept. Lead 'gramme Faye has a belter of a voice which worked particularly well on the rockier tracks. It's refreshing to hear strong female vocals. There are far too few lady fronted bands around I say. I blame the EU. Musically the 'gramme have some blistering choruses, some cooool quiet loud quiet bits and...what I really liked, something that added that extra zing...some synthy keyboard noodlings on a couple of tracks. This is because I am, at heart, a gay synth boy. Blisst are clearly anything but gay synth boys. They were a revelation though. A huge wall of guitars, throbby PiL style bass, hints of vintage Verve, echoes of Radiohead and, on the more leftfield side, touches of Labradford and some of the old school Krautrock bands. Lyrically and vocally they're pretty sophisticated too, working much better live than on their My Space tracks. It's music that needs to be heard live in fact. It's quite tricky to get that kind of hypnotic rock sound right but, for my money, Blisst nailed it. Impressive stuff from a local band that deserves far more attention. Next the Hoi Polloi. I didn't envy them having to follow Blisst but the Polloi have their own unique take on stirring anthemic rock that more than stood its ground. They clearly put their heart and soul into every track and seem to be deservedly winning a strong loyal following. I did enjoy the joke midway through the set too...no I'm not repeating it. Go and see them next time and maybe lead Polloi, James, will tell it again. Finally, and for the second time in a month, Guile. They seem to be growing in confidence each time I see them and capped off a strong night of local rock in fine style. I've said it once...and I'll say it again...they have a real 'soundtrack' element to the music that evokes all kinds of shit...dusty highways that go on forever, rattlesnakes, run down motels in the middle of nowhere, ladies with cheap tats, hazy sunsets...pour me a Jack D and I'm right there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jeffree Star / My Passion Bar Academy, Birmingham Wednesday 14th November 2007

Strange how you're drawn to one particular spot in a venue. I am any way. The last few times I've been to the BA my usual spot (left hand side, glued to the speaker) has been taken. Same deal tonight. This is very bad news in a venue like this. Especially when you're next to some prick who keeps booing the first band. Why do these people bother breathing? Anyway, My Passion were quite good in a synthy/emo-y kind of way. Some of the audience got it some, like my brain cell challenged friend to the side of me, clearly didn't. The band certainly look the part (think a less depressing The Horrors) and it would be good to see them in a better venue...without the pond life. Onto the main event, interweb icon Jeffree Star. I have to admit to just a passing knowledge of JS before tonight but, being slightly camp myself, I was quite taken with the whole deal. There just ain't enough drag queens in pop these days. Mr Star has an incredible 654, 816 friends on My Space (and over 28million...that's 28 million...profile views). Christmas must be expensive for the poor love. Musically he's a slightly camper Peaches mixed with Chicks on Speed. Peaches on Speed if you will...and if I have anything to do with it then you will. I must admit it was quite gratifying to be surrounded by dozens of young gay men and teenage girls all screaming "we want cunt" at the top of their voices. This then is the future of music and celebs in general. Hurrah. Andy was right. We will all get our few minutes in the spotlight...if we want it. Perhaps we'll be forced into it even if we don't. Maybe that nice Mr Brown will introduce some new form of National Service that calls on every man, woman and child to appear on a local news feature about talking goldfish or haunted kettles.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Foxes / The Will To Rally / Killerapollo The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 9th November 2007

Time once more for my weekly soiree down Digbeth High Street for a good dose of the up an coming stuff from the Kamikaze! 444 club...or the 344 club tonight as first on the bill, Soldier, went AWOL. No matter, The Allies kept us entertained on the ones and twos...which is some DJ term...'cos I'm down with all that. Anyway, the first band proper were Killerapollo. I get the impression (I could be wrong) that they've got together fairly recently (with this line up at least) and are still getting to grips with some of their material. The lead singer mentioned that they were playing quite a few new tracks and that was bound to show a little. That said, they certainly know their way round their instruments and seem to be developing a solid, scuzzed up rock feel perfectly exemplified in their only My Space track up at the mo, Elephant Foot. Next up, The Will To Rally. In my mind (none of my companions agreed...but heck, who wants to agree...vive le difference) they came across like Elvis Costello fronting an edgy rock band. Maybe it was the lead singer's specs, but listening again on their My Space page...yep...I'm still getting it. I'm talking Elvis in the Pump It Up Days...nervy, spikey, new wavey...got it? No? Just me then. Anyway, I liked them. They have a damn fine track called I Heart Birmingham...which has a QOTSA (yep Elvis Costello and QOTSA in one review) vibe. The drummer has excellent tats too. Finally, The Foxes. Every bit as good as I hoped they'd be they're a fab blend of 60's pop, close harmonies, garagey bits, riffs from heaven and a fine dose of the magic ingredient X that makes a band a BAND. Opening with one of their catchiest tracks She's A Cow (Joe Jackson meets The Beatles in a bad mood) they put on an excellent show from start to finish, the highlight of which was the brilliant Lover Killer from their self released Limited Edition EP (I have number 174 I think...it's the best one...so much better than 173...and don't get me started on 175...no, 174 is where it's at, trust me...I wonder who has number 1?). They're coming back to Birmingham in January (24th) with Yeti at The Barfly. I heartily recommend you catch them. To paraphrase as T-Shirt from back in the day..."Cool As Fox".

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dan Whitehouse / BC Camplight Glee Club Birmingham Monday 5th November 2007

Ahhh Bonfire Night. What better way to start than the vocal firecracker himself Mr Dan Whitehouse then eh? Third time I've seen him this year and he never fails to impress. He seemed a lot more at ease this time round too, chatting in between songs and adding some light in between what are, in some cases, quite dark, emotional songs. I really like his acoustic set, it would be good to see him with some other musicians at some point in the future too. Like I've said before he's got a particularly strong, powerful voice that works well with full band behind it (check out Lost The Fight on his My Space page to see what I mean). He's headlining at The Glee Club on 6th December for the very first time. Go see. From 'go see' to BC (seamless...bloody seamless), Camplight that is. With echoes of The Wondermints, The High Llamas, The Beach Boys and Ben Folds Five, BC Camplight's are a blissed out, loved up sugar pop treasure. And if you have any idea what the heck that means you'll probably love them. Have a listen to Lord I've Been on Fire...glorious. If that's not enough for ya then anyone who calls their album Blink of a Nihilist (cute eh?), has to be worthy of our devotion.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Destroy Cowboy / Guile Birmingham Barfly Friday 2nd November 2007

This gig was supposed to have been headlined by Boy Kill Boy (the cover stars of the Gigbeth Festival programme). However the lead singer lost his voice, if anyone finds it please give him a bell on 0797332567...

Happily this meant that Destroy Cowboy were on later than planned and, as a result, got a much better audience. They deserved it too. Before I go on I'll reveal that I know one of the band, lest anyone claims some kind of Ant and Dec style 'phone rigging malarkey. I'll also reveal that the last time I saw them I thought they were okay, the big stadium tunes were there but it was all let down by some dodgy sound (the vocals especially were far too low). So I approached this gig with caution, determined that, whatever my opinion, I was going to voice it honestly. So I will...Destroy Cowboy are a seriously impressive band. One anthemic classic after another. Driving guitars, melodic synths and pounding drums - all mixed to perfection. A band that really knows its stuff and ain't afraid to show it. I have to say that Andy's voice is a darn impressive weapon too. Reminds me a little of Paul from Interpol, but with a far greater range. There are shades of the great Robert Wyatt in there too, albeit a Robert Wyatt with a lot more ooomph. I hate to get all Mystic Meg on you but I can really see Destroy Cowboy making it, not just nationally but across the pond too. They are, in my humble opinion, THAT good. Now go listen, see 'em live and if you're not 100% satisfied then you don't have ears.

NB: Lady Baron, who doesn't know any of the band, was just as impressed. So there.

Hot on their heals came Guile. Again I saw them a few months back and commented that they seemed a touch nervous. Not tonight. And that made a huge difference. Maybe they've got a few more gigs under their belt, maybe they've just been putting in the hours, whatever it is, tonight Guile hit the spot...just there...no left a bit...that's it. The missing link between the 13th Floor Elevators, The Doors and XTRMNTR era Primal Scream (with a bit of JAMC thrown in for good measure), Guile are the awesome psych soundtrack to the greatest road movie never made. Standing there last night, having just seen Destroy Cowboy and now listening to Guile, the praise I've been heaping on the local music scene was suddenly more than justified. Far from missing Boy Kill Boy, the rest of the audience seemed to agree.

Gigbeth Opening Ceremony Digbeth High Street Thursday 1st November 2007

I'd be interested in hearing what the rest of the audience thought of this...both of them. I jest, but only just. Where the hell was everyone? Judging by the size of the makeshift arena the organisers were expecting far more people to turn up than the 100 or so that did. Arriving there at 7.45 (and expecting the whole shebang to be in full swing) we found instead that there were soundchecks and all sorts of major technical hitches going on. I heard one guy on stage say "Shouldn't we have checked this yesterday?". Well, yes, you should've done. Could we not have had some music to listen to at least while we all waited? Would it not have been possible to have entertained the crowd in some way? How about a screen next to the stage showing some local band videos? Or just some bloody music from somewhere. It was supposed to be the bloody launch of a bloody music festival. Aaaaagggghhhhhh!!!! It was left to Nizlopi to climb down from the stage to play 'unplugged' at the front of the small crowd. Good on 'em. Things finally got going at 8.20, with Nizlopi 'plugged'. The 'lopi are always a treat and I loved it when they were joined by the lead singer of the next band Achanak (although his mic didn't work at first). It's only by reading the BiNS site that I'm now aware that this was one of the main points of the night, getting one band to jam with the next so that the whole evening formed one long session. Nice idea. Just the kind of thing that could make Gigbeth as diverse as it claims to be. Quite ambitious though, particularly given the technical tsunami that threatened to engulf everything. Achanak played a few lively Bhangra tracks (why don't we see more local Bhangra bands in places like the Academy?) before making way for jazz legend in the making Soweto Kinch. Again he was only allowed to play a few tracks, happily this included the anti-bling anthem 'So' together with some quality backing from the Nizlopi double bass player. Having see Mr Hudson and the Library recently (and fearing that the sound gremlins would muck up their set too) we wandered off into the night. I can't help thinking that the whole evening was a bit of a wasted opportunity. Not only on the part of the organisers, but the people of Birmingham too. It would have all been so much better with a decent crowd, a sound system that worked and just a bit more thought. Moan over.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Late Of The Pier

The observant amongst you may have noticed that the great multimedia Hearing Aid bit (go to the left of this gibberish then scroll down) has finally changed from the Rumble Strips to Late Of The Pier. Who they? I hear you cry...both of you. Well they're another result of this fabby electro revival and, for my money, one of the best. Bathroom Gurgle (the video of which can be seen in the multimedia Hearing Aid bit...click on it and then you have to scroll back up to the top to see the video...I know...it's all such an effort my dears) is a brilliant mix of new rave, Jobriath and M's Pop Musik. Space And The Woods is pure Tubeway Army and it's all further proof that the much maligned early 80's of my youth were indeed a golden era for music. They're from the Midlands too...Nottingham. Get in. Anyway....Late Of The Pier. In the words of that 80's icon, Mr Mallet...brilllllllllllllllllllllllllllliant.

Shy Child / We Smoke Fags Birmingham Bar Academy Saturday 28th October 2007

Lest you think I'd forsaken my love for all things electro tonight I hit the old BA for a spot of ravey / dancey / indie stuff. First up We Smoke Fags, who are a lot better than the jokey up yours kind of name suggests. There's a lot of that in bands names at the mo n'est ce pas? We Start Fires, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Does It Offend You, Yeah?...I'm quite surprised that no one's started a band called Am I Bovvered? yet. Or how about Wot R You Lookin' At, Mate? It can only be a matter of time. Anyway the Fags were great fun, much more guitar driven live than on mp3 (I can't say record anymore 'cos there ain't any). Shades of late '70's new wave, bits of Billy Childish like lo fi (have a listen to I Love You if you don't believe me) and enough beats per minute to satisfy even the sunniest of the Sunny D generation.

All the way from NYC Shy Child were a much smoother proposition. Kind of a pocket sized version of Men Women & Children. So, naturally, I like muchos. Armed with just a keyboard (one of those funky guitar slung jobbies that everyone used in the '80's...dead Howard Jones) and a drum kit, Pete and Nate manage to funk up some pretty natty slabs of New Jack Disco (no that doesn't really exist, I'm making shit up again). After ending up behind the tallest person at the gig (a fenomenomonommnom henceforth known Baron's Law...which states that no matter how tall you might be, there's always someone taller standing right in front of you) I crept round the speakers and stood at the side of the 'stage' for a glorious view and plenty of room to funk out (which for me involves gently rocking and occasionally thrusting my hips like some kind of lascivious OAP with a bowel condition...this I call dancing). Drop The Phone in particular is a classic - coming across like Justin Trousersnake with a firework up his ass and The Volume could be a great lost track from Mr Moroder in his prime. Both of these are good things. Not that I wish to insert a firework up anyones bottom...although it is nearly bonfire night. I'll shut up now.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oneyesblue / The Allies / Honeytrap / All Your Peers The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 26th October 2007

Pegs, cups and rock n' roll...oh yes it's time for my weekly review of the good ship Kamikaze! Launching us off tonight (yes I'm going to stick with the nautical theme this week, any reference to sea men is purely innocent) were visitors from the fair city of Leeds, All Your Peers. The lead Peer has a cracking live voice, clear as a bell and as powerful as hell. Musically there's a distinct late 70's early 80's indie rock vibe with catchy choruses and brain snagging riffs (All Fours in particular has a really cool guitar bit that's all diwl diwl diwl diiiwl diiwl...hell, you try spelling it). They gave out free CD's at the end too. Result.

Well, as the distant shore that was the start of the evening faded away (sse I told you I was going to keep the nautical theme going..I did warn you) up bobbed Coventry's Honeytrap. Any band with a track called Mussolini's Son has to be worthy of our attention and lo it was proved. Honeytrap are brave musical explorers, melding gypsy music, a bit of German cabaret, a little folk, a handful of Sarah Records style indiepop and a few dashes of insanity. They have a very tall lead singer who bravely tackled (verbally at least) some chatterboxes at the front during a quiet bit of a song. Good work fella. Listening again to the 'trap on My Space I'm warming to them even more than I did last night. They're one of those bands that deserves closer inspection and proof positive that Coventry, like much of the Midlands, is home to a far richer musical stew than most people imagine. There we have it then, Honeytrap are the thyme in the rich musical stew that is Midlands music.

If Honeytrap are the thyme (oh hang on, I've gone on to a herb theme now, balls, what happened to the nautical theme...crap...), then The Allies are the sage, for they are wise beyond their years (sage...wisdom..see?). I've seen The Allies before and tipped them for big things. As they've just finished a tour with Reverend and The Makers they seem to be making it too. As jaunty as The Coral, as cool as The Arctic Monkeys and as potential laden as The Libertines they really score for me when they add stuff like the harmonica and fiddle (like on Ain't No Love Lost) which lifts them into a different league. They've already got a strong, loyal fanbase, a stash of catchy tracks and some decent road experience behind them. If there's any justice in this world 2008 will be theirs for the taking. They gave away pegs too...real wooden pegs...with their My Space address on (written in felt tip). I have three (yes...three).

Finally, to see us safely back to shore(yep, back to the nautical theme there) ahoy shipmates, we have Oneyesblue (pictured above in classy black and white). I've always had a bit of trouble with the name, but it seems to be pronounced 'one eyes blue'...not 'one yes blue'. Just thought I'd clear that up. What doesn't need clearing up is how crackingly good they are. Rock n'roll with a soul and blues edge, lead 'eye Scott dances about like Elvis, the rest of the band provide tight, solid backing and the whole thing's like a glorious instant party.

So, there we have it. Safely home once more after a ride on the musical ocean wave. No Kamikaze! next week 'cos it's Gigbeth, but the 9th sees hotly tipped The Foxes (I've heard them and they're ace) who join us before jetting off to New York...got a feeling that one could be another sell out so if you don't want to have to go and see them in the NEC in 2009 pull yer finger out and get a ticket.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flamboyant Bella / Big Ice Gem / Bi-Polar Baby Bar Academy Sunday 21st October 2007

This was a 14+ gig. I am 14+. A lot +. I'm also a bloke. 96% of this audience were not. They were girls. 14+ girls. I felt old. And outnumbered. Still, on with the show eh? Bi-Polar baby first. Yet another local band who had evaded my ears. Where are they all coming from? Why isn't Birmingham awash with big, big bands...give it time my friends. Anyway, Bi-Polar Baby. The lead singer is most lovely and has a voice that reminded me a bit of the vocalist from All About Eve. The band itself has a strong rocky vibe (think a classier, harder edged Republica) and, although tonight wasn't the best audience for them, they seemed to win over a fair few of the audience. I'd like to see them in a different setting to really appreciate the full Bi-Polar experience (I can't link to their My Space cos I've tried to open the page and it's crashed my computer...twice...damn you My Space).

Next up...and boy were they popular...Big Ice Gem. Indie rock but with a boy band sensability (and that's a compliment by the way). Mr Gem has written a clutch of some of the catchiest songs I've heard for a while. On some he comes across all The Streets, then a bit old school rock n'roll. It's a right mix. But a crackingly good one. I've never seen so many sweaty 14 year olds since I was one. I purchased a CD. God, they must be good (the band, not the 14 year olds...they didn't have any CD's...).

Finally, and a band I only discovered by chance after seeing their name on the Academy listsings, Flamboyant Bella. Sweet boy/girl vocals, synths, guitars and loads more sweat (this was rapidly becoming a very sweaty gig). Like Mr Gem, this lot have catchy down to a fine art (but with less swearing...unless you count wankered as swearing...good word that...WANKERED...that's just how I feel right now). If you're having a shit day listen to My Skies and I guarantee...that's guarantee...that you'll feel better. How I found myself drawn to the front, bouncing around like an old nutcase I'll never know. But the Bella are just irrisistable. And I have no shame. I purchased two CD's...lawks a mercy...they must be really good (they are too).

So, an odd gig in some ways (I felt like the oldest person in the entire universe), but a great one. Generation gap my arse (albeit a slightly sweaty one). The kids are alright.
PS: Yes the picture is worse than normal but you try taking a photo whilst bouncing up and down with a bunch of young people. Actually don't...you might get arrested.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And What Will Be Left Of Them? / Liner / Dead World Leaders / Shocked Elevator Family The Rainbow Digbeth Friday 19th October 2007

Dang it, these really are turning out to be cracking nights. Kamikaze! once more plucked out some of the best local (and further afield) bands starting with Shocked Elevator Family. They've been around since 2001, but somehow they've avoided me. Wise chaps. I have to say that I rather warmed to them. They're messy, but in a really good way. Lead Elevator Bryn (I think) comes off like a cross between Captain Beefheart, Lloyd Cole and Edwyn Collins and the music has all kinds of weird time signatures, stop/start, slow/fast that kind of stuff. Listen to Wet Ender (Live) for a good slice of the SEF pie.

Next up Sheffield's Dead World Leaders. Full on power rock and a lead singer who got me clapping along (and I hardly ever clap along). As some other reviewers have detected ,there's a hint of Matt Muse in their somewhere, albeit with a harder edge.

By the looks of it Liner (pictured) have been attracting a fair bit of attention lately (check out this bit from Billboard Magazine...yes THE Billboard Magazine...it mentions Birmingham's 'boiling music scene'...yes OUR Birmingham! It's official. Birmingham rocks...but then we knew that already right?). They've been signed to a worldwide publishing deal by a US crew called Second Spring in a deal brokered by Solar Creations and, I believe, they've got a song in a forthcoming film (but I have no idea what it is...what am I now, Mark chuffing Kermode? I'd like to be...then I could get close to Lauren Laverne of The Culture Show...). Are they worthy of all this? Yep. They just look right. Which is, although it shouldn't be, obviously a big deal in the worldwide music biz. Like a number of bands I've seen recently they're better live than on their My Space tracks. Diamonds in particular is one song that really stood out. A belter of a tune that blends Joe Jackson at his prime with a slab of Kasabian glam swagger. Keep an eye on this lot.

Last, but most certainly not least, the lovely And What Will Be Left Of Them? Despite their name sounding like a And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead tribute band they're actually a sparkling power pop treat from Worcester. Yes. Worcester. Part B-52's, part Bis, part Worcester sauce (see what I did there?) they're a prime example of a truly class Artrock group...all new wavey, Rock Lobstery, girls in polka dot dresses doing the shimmy loveliness. The lady of the band, Red White, bopped around the stage like Clare Grogan on speed (ask your dads), the other vocalist, Blue Peter (yes, stop sniggering at the back) chopped away at the guitar whilst the two of them traded lines like a pair of angry teens in a disco. Really, really liked this lot. Can we have them again please? And again. Oh go on then...and again.

The Rumble Strips / The Answering Machine Birmingham Academy 2 Tuesday 16th October 2007

In an uncanny rerun of the last time I saw them (29th November 2006) the mighty Rumble Strips were again supported by Manchester's The Answering Machine. I remember liking them last time and the intervening months have seen them become a fair bit sharper. A bit Bloc Party in places, a touch Arcade Fire in others and even some Los Campesinos (check out Silent Hotels...sounds a bit like You! Me! Dancing!) but all whipped up with a fine artpop sensibility (whatever one of them is). I tipped them as ones to watch in 2007 and lo...they've been picked up by Regal records (as well as being played by 'Zane' 'Lowe') who release the mighty Lighbulbs in November. Yay.

Yay again for the blessed Rumble Strips...

...who art in Devon (sometimes, cos they come from there)

Forgive us for not buying your records by the bucket load

As we forgive those who still listen to Oasis

Thine should be the glory

Forever and ever

Ahhhhh when?

It strikes me that if Charlie Waller and co snorted dead babies or pretended to be from the streets the music press would be all over 'em. After all, what's not to love? Soulful voices, simple but heartfelt lyrics and brass...lots of brass. Tonight , as on the previous few times I've seen them, they were on sparkling form. Every track honed to perfection after a good year or two on the road. And yet the gig (in the Academy 2) wasn't sold out. Oh well. Last time I reviewed them I promised to eat Charlie's hat if they didn't 'make it' this year. Well I suppose they have, sort of. The album's out, they're playing slightly bigger venues and slowly more and more folk are being converted. So Charlie's hat is safe...for now. It would be great if they could just get that difficult second album out next year. Here's hoping.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pram / Modified Toy Orchestra / Shady Bard Birmingham Town Hall Monday 15th October 2007

Judging by the many and varied reviews on the GDFAF site pretty much every blogger in Birmingham woz 'ere. One of the great things about this is reading all of the different perspectives that people have on one event, sharing thoughts and experiences...which is surely one of the great pleasures of reading and writing blogs.

It was the first gig I'd seen in the all new Town Hall since it reopened after a lengthy period in mothballs, scaffolding and builders bums. For my money reopening it is one of the best things Birmingham City Council has done in a long time. Hurrah. Now we just have to make sure that (a) they (the powers that be) put on or allow others to put on decent events and (b) people get off their ass and go. Easy eh?

Capsule (one of Birmingham's gems bless 'em) put on a typically varied and eclectic mix of sounds tonight, kicking off with indie folksters Shady Bard. According to their My Space page their first EP and promo copies of their new album have been fetching £100 on ebay. Beat that Radiohead. Musically they do quiet bits that morph into quite loud bits...then back to quiet bits. It's all very English. Very Folky. And very lovely.

Next up the frankly unique (a word you can't often use these days) and rather splendid Modified Toy Orchestra. Consisting of kiddies toys, some bastardised to within an inch of their life, plugged into bloody great speakers it all makes me feel a little like a small child must do when it's parents stuff things into its cot to keep it quiet. The scary doll creature with wires coming out of its head (see the picture above) is a particular object of fascination for me. What made the performance extra special though were the projections behind the band, especially the one with the little grey elephant (Freeno and Olaf I believe it's called). It made me feel all wibbly. Which I guess is the point (a fond farewell to Mike who left the band this evening...who's going to sing Pocket Calculator now eh?).

Also making me feel wibbly (for different reasons) were headliners Pram. They too have projections, although unlike the MTO pieces, most of these were the stuff that nightmares, rather than dreams, are made of. Many of the 'videos' consisted of surrealist scenes, possibly from the dawn of cinema, the band were also flanked on either side by disturbing white balls that featured 3 masked characters seemingly stuck inside but trying to escape. With the distinctly 60's sound and fairytale vocals I kept thinking of an episode of the Avengers...or maybe the Prisoner (I guess that would explain the white balls). Some of the audience got it...some, I felt, did not. But that's the beauty of an event like this...it makes you think. I could've watched and listened all night, whatever it may have done to my fragile mental state. Hurrah to the Town Hall for reopening, hurrah to the bands, hurrah to Capsule, hurrah to all the bloggers who have taken the time and trouble to write up the event...but boo to the bar charging £3.00 for bottles of beer and £3.50 for a small glass of vino. That's more than the Academy! Boo and indeed hiss.
PS: I went to see The Rumble Strips the following night in a mad fit of GDFAF-ness...the review will follow...honest

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Bourgeois Four / Ill Ease / Fade To Sepia The Actress & Bishop Saturday 13th October 2007

In the true spirit of GDFAF I decided to follow my regular Friday night at Kamikaze! with a irregular Saturday at a new (to me anyway) venue, The Actress & Bishop. I've been meaning to go for ages but, in the same way that I've been meaning to read more, drink less and generally be a cheerier person, it just never happened. Turns out it's my kinda venue. Whilst the downstairs is very St Pauls Square, the upstairs is small and a bit scruffy. Perfect. No idea who was promoting tonight's gig (correction...it's Skeleton Crew) but they put on a pretty eclectic bill starting with Pete Heywood, lead or ex-lead (I'm sure the poster said ex-lead) singer of local indie-rocksters My Dad Hitla. I like band names with the word dad in the title, especially Ken Dodd's Dad's Dog's Dead...a band I've never seen 'cos surely no one could be quite as good as the name suggests. The obvious exception to this rule (the bands with cool names not being as cool as the name suggests rule or BWCNNBACATNS for short) being David Devant and His Spirit Wife (who were truly great). Anyway, whether Pete's dad is still Hitla or not, tonight he was on his lonesome, playing a few tunes that once more bore the hallmark of a certain Mr Jeff Buckley. Before taking a misguided paddle in the Mississippi (if that's the correct spelling I'll be amazed) Jeff was a bit of a cult figure, now he's probably the most influential artist singer songwriters from here to just outside Kidderminster. Of course there's nowt wrong with being inspired by others. I for one take great inspiration from things I see carved on bus shelters. Who can fail to be moved by the beauty of 'Trish 4 Ash 4 Eva' or 'Shazza Suk Cock'. There's nothing wrong with this and Pete, like many solo artists I've seen recently, certainly has a strong voice and good material but, personally, I think it's a shame if their true self doesn't come through. I can't find a solo link, so I'll direct you to the My Dad Hitla site...here we go...they sound (ed) quite good.

Next up were one of those lovely GDFAF type surprises - Fade To Sepia. Taking inspiration from The Fall, Gang of Four and Joy Division (and co-fronted by a chap who bore a slight resemblance to Lofty from Eastenders) they are the kind of band that trendy music critics will write about in 25 years time when they've split up (the band, not the critics) then reformed to play a gig in London that's full of celebrity fans...and Kate Moss...who will, by then, be forced to fuck, snort and wear anything that moves in order to keep her sorry ass in the papers (whoops...feel the love everyone). Right. The music then. Distorted guitars, drone rock bits, Hooky style bass lines, mad shouty bloke vocals and lyrics about sniffing glue, the futility of modern life, civil war battles, mental illness...some of my favourite things in fact. Co-vocalists David and James threw themselves around the 'stage' like men possessed (which they may well be). I particularly liked David's shuffling along the floor on his back routine near the end of the set. That is a performance. That is music. That is passion. That...is that.

No sooner had the dust settled I noticed a woman busily humping bits of kit around the stage. S'funny thought I, nursing a glass of 'red' 'wine', a female roadie at a small gig. Turns out she was the next act, Ill Ease, from Brooklyn, Noo Yawk. Imagine a one woman White Stripes on speed who eats KT Tunstall, mates with Polly Harvey then brings up the offspring on a diet of punk and thrash metal. The result would be the full on, frankly awesome, Ill Ease experience. She plays guitar, loops it with one of those loopy machines, plays another guitar, loops that, then goes round to the drum kit and bashes 7 flavours of shite out of it. If you only do one thing today, have a listen to Too Much Sucky at full volume. I really must stop giving my musical heart away but, from now on, a little bit of it (part of the left ventricle in fact) will always belong to Ill Ease.

Tonight was rapidly turning out to be well worth the £4 it cost to get in (hell, they could've charged £40 and it would've been worth it) even before the Bourgeois (why is that damn word so hard to spell?) Four took to the stage. I can take no credit for knowing about the B4 before tonight. That belongs to the Silver Footed Gig Slut (RIP) who is now blogging about all manner of stuff under the name the careless gene. She got it right though. They are chuffingly good. The kind of spikey, fast paced intellectual indie that thrived back in the late 70's / early 80's before the musical landscape was wrecked by 'dance' music, rubbish rap (as opposed to good rap, which is good) and talent shows for ordinary people who can sing a bit. Fuck that. We don't want our musical heroes to be ordinary people. We want them to shoot heroin into rabbits and have sex with dead postmen. I'm sure the B4 don't do that, but with tracks like She's So Ghetto one could forgive them pretty much anything. Lead B4, Tristan, is clearly a sharper tool than your average frontperson and has the voice of an angel combined with the spleen of...someone with a very big spleen. I'm pretty sure he spends hours on the bus watching people and muttering about the decline and fall of western civilisation. Thanks to bands like the B4 at least there's still hope for us all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Others / The Motive / Geezer / Bootleg Poets The Rainbow Friday 12th October 2007

Ahhhh, the nights are getting chilly, there's a frost in the air, old folk are roasting their nuts by an open fire...actually they're not though are they? In fact it seems to be getting warmer. Speaking of things that warm up old people (I'm talking about me here...and I'm about to make a cheesy link...here we go...) first up in tonight's Kamikaze! were Bootleg Poets (see, gold, pure gold). Although they weren't poets and, to the best of my knowledge none of them are bootleggers either, they turned out to be the surprise hit of the night. They're a fine scuzzed up mix of The Pistols, Libertines, Strokes and Ramones, all served up with a side order of classic Brittishness (top marks for calling a song 'Cheer The Fuck Up'). Listening to tracks like Rose Tinted Glasses and Follow The Leader (their current My Space versions don't do 'em justice) you can easily see them amassing a loud and loyal fanbase that'll top anyone from Coventry (their home turf) since the glory days of t'Specials. In a word...ace. In two words...really ace.

Talk of t'Specials brings us neatly on to the ska infused rock sounds of Geezer. They've clearly gone through the mill a bit of late after their lead singer left and tonight was their first gig with the new line up. If they hadn't mentioned this fact I wouldn't have noticed, so they've obviously worked hard to keep the band going. Fans of solid, arms in the air, jump up and down with your mates rock will find a lot to like in Geezer.

Next up, The Motive. Again a strong, confident performance. Rawer, edgier punk than the Bootleg Poets, almost Oi!-ish in places. Lead singer Add kept losing his guitar (the strap was fucked...he didn't literally keep losing it...like down the back of the drum kit...or behind the speakers...that would be silly now wouldn't it?) and without it he was able to bounce around a lot more, giving off the sort of energy that really suited the music, which I kinda liked.

Last, but by no means least, The Others...yes...The Others! For the uninitiated amongst us The Others were, back in 2004 a really big deal. Lead Other Dominic Masters (you can just see his head in the picture at the top of this review...he's singing to the girl in the red...see?) was, and as far as I know still is, a good mate of old Pete Doherty and, at the time, the two of them were seen as being in the same kind of league. For various reasons the media turned on Dominic well before laying into Pete. But you can't keep a good man down. The Others released their second album last year and seem to be doing quite well enough thank you very much without the support of what's left of the traditional music press and record industry. Why? Well they've recruited themselves an extraordinarily loyal and passionate fanbase (the 853 Kamikaze Stage-Diving Division) by being pretty much totally accessible. Dominic, so I've read, gives his mobile number to fans, they hold guerilla gigs on street corners and actually welcome stage invasions (hence the fan 'club' name). I'd not heard a huge amount of their music before tonight, but I recognised singles like This Is For The Poor and William, both delivered with as much passion as I'd expect in a band on their first tour. Musically they do anthemic indie rock (with a social twist) much better than most bands playing venues ten times bigger than The Rainbow. Dominic came across as a bloody lovely chap all round too, even before giving me a sweaty hug after leaving the stage. I'll never wash again...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thomas Dolby Birmingham Academy 2 Monday 8th October 2007

Well, 23 years after he last appeared in Birmingham and 14 years after he quit the music biz to focus on all manner of tech stuff, the original mad scientist of synthpop is back. The reason? To set the record straight! He's not an '80's artist at all, he's a 70's, 80's, 90's (just a bit mind) and noughties artist too. Yay. As a fan I was rather pissed that he gave up music to focus on some shit called the 'interweb' back in the early 90's. 'Interweb' sminterweb scoffed I. It'll never take off. And lo, it hasn't...which is why he's really back. Anyway, this was a pretty cool return to form. I'd seen some You Tube clips and wasn't 100% convinced, but live it all came together rather well. As a man who knows how to get the party started Mr D hit us with the hip hop classic Airwaves, getting the crowd throwing all kinds of mad crazy shapes...I jest, of course. It's actually a ragga dancehall classic. All joking aside (yes, those were 'jokes') Airwaves was as hauntingly beautiful as it was back in the day (26 years ago?). Like St Julian a few months ago, Mr D scattered his greatest hits set with all kinds of amusing tales of free software malfunctions and KFED related (the ex-Mr Brittany Spurts) legal wranglings. I was only expecting Thom and his collection of laptops, but midway through he was joined by a brass section (hired at the last minute after his US posse were turned away at Heathrow...welcome to England...now fuck off 'cos you've not filled in the right form...bomb carrying nutjob with the right form? Come right in). I might be in a minority of one but I rather liked his jazz funk opus Aliens Ate My Buick, so Airhead and Keys To My Ferrari, which I really didn't expect to hear, came as a unexpectedly groovy treat. The best thing of all was the news that Le Dolby has seen sense and moved back from the States after 20 years. He's started making music too. Judging by new track Your Karma Hit My Dogma he's probably going down the jazz funk route again, a wise choice after the slightly US MOR-ish final album Astronauts and Heretics. All in all an impressive gig. Finally got to (briefly) meet Russ L too (as well as hooking up again...I'm so street aren't I...with Ken and Jes). Russ L deserves a big shout out as he's bravely tackling Going Deaf For A Fortnight for the second year in a row. As I type these very words he's probably on his way to watch a death metal band called Monkey Spunk in some backstreet boozer. Sounds good...I might go myself (and before anyone makes any sarky comments, no I do not like primate jizz...they're a Bulgarian Thrash Disco act...dreadful).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

False Starts & Broken Promises - Last Man Standing

Okay, so I’m a bit of a musical whore. Perhaps you can tell. In these days of t’net it’s all too easy to dip in and out of whatever you fancy. Unlike my youth, when I’d sit with headphones the size of a small eco car gently braising my ears and listening to every single note of my latest purchase, I rarely listen to albums over and over again. So I’ve picked an album by a band that I saw and loved earlier this year, Last Man Standing, and lived with it for a week or so. Just like I did back in the day. And I’m rather glad I did.

After just a few listens False Starts & Broken Promises already feels like a familiar friend. Like some of those albums that have been with me from those pre CD days of yore. Sure there are loads of influences clearly on show. I’ve no problem with that. It’s the quality of the influences and the way they’re played with and mixed together that makes this album so damn good.

Opening with Variation – an instrumental heart puller that comes on like something out of John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy score – it’s clear that Last Man Standing aren’t your average blokes in a bar kinda band. Just as you’re being gently lulled by the strings you’re woken from your reverie by glam stomper Queen Kong. Loads of deep throbby bass and clanging guitar notes make this one of the album’s standout tracks. Another dramatic change of pace takes things down a notch or two with Waiting So Long, the bastard child of Bowie (John I’m Only Dancing), Nilsson and Mott The Hoople (check out that chorus). Then The Dean Street Stumble boogies along at a fair old pace, sounding like a lost classic from Paul Williams’ Bugsy Malone soundtrack.

Everything Must Go sees vocalist Max Vanderwolf growling like a modern day American Alex Harvey. You gotta love the Prince style yelps scattered through the gospel tinged choruses before the whole thing merges with downright dirty sax. Nasty but niiiice at the same time. Back to the piano and, at first, Bar Room Floor could almost be a prime slice of the night tripper himself Dr John. It’s the tale of a hopeless drunk, left by his star hungry girl, seeking salvation ‘if someone could kindly help me off the bar room floor’. Hopeless and hopeful at the same time. Taking the musical pace down even further, but the voice up several octaves, The Climb is a tale of a man on the edge. It’s do or die time. Perhaps it’s the same guy from Bar Room Floor, just a few hours later as the fog of booze is clearing…

In fact, listening to it again and again (and again) the whole album is like a night on the town. You can almost imagine each track accompanying a different scene. The highs, the lows…and the ever lowers. It’s not something you'd get from the casual listen - one of the victims of living in this ‘shuffle culture’.

Back to the album and A Man Condemned has shades of classic Mott the Hoople. Go Home, the penultimate track is a kind of mini rock opera all wrapped up in one track (neat) replete with backing vocals from Robyn Hitchcock, a mental mid track Brazilian break and a Sergeant Pepper style third act.

They leave us with the seemingly upbeat Theme for a Last Man Standing. If the whole album’s been one long night on the town, then it’s nearly over. We’ve made it. The sun’s ripping through the dawn, life ain’t so bad…whoa…hold on there buddy…it ain’t over yet. Throughout the track, the band brings us back to earth with a bump via dramatic, discordant orchestral chunks of sound. The sort of noise you’d get in silent movies every time the baddie appears from behind his cape. Vocalist Max Vanderwolf returns for the last minute, just accompanied by a guitar. After so many musical styles and sounds it’s a nice way to end, a kind of musical sorbet.

So, there we go. For the first time in years I’ve actually listened and lived with an album for a whole week. The effort’s been well rewarded. It’s become something I can slip on and into. It takes me places. Late nights. Seedy bars. Dark alleyways. It’s the soundtrack to a classic 70's movie that’s never been made. You want to visit the world it occupies, but you know you’d never come back unscathed. Which, despite my natural desire to remain in one piece, is my kind of world...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Finding Calcutta / Reverie (Strings) / Le Retrouvailles / Little Palm (aka Anna Palmer) The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday October 5th 2007

If it's Friday it must be Kamikaze!...I sort of feel like everyone should scream Kamikaze! (a bit like they used to do on Crackerjack) every time I type that word. Let's give it a try eh? Kamikaze!!!!!!! Hmmmm, spoilsports. Anyway. The music. Tonight was a slightly more chilled affair than previous Kamikaze's!, but it was the perfect showcase for four rather fine bands - a couple of which I was already aware of, two of which were all new, new new! Speaking of which, Anna Palmer (also known as Little Palm...or vice versa) was up first and, despite nursing the remains of a cold, put on a charmer of a performance. Backed by Jordan on drums for a few songs, but mainly just solo on keyboards, she's got a great voice (think a better version of Kate Nash), strong songs and an engaging personality (plus oodles of loyal mates, who clearly think she's as good as I do). Whether she carries on as a solo performer or forms a band (which she seems to be considering) I'm really looking forward to seeing how she develops as a singer and songwriter.

Hot on her heels were Le Retrouvailles (which isn't as easy to spell as you think). Lead Retrouvailles (Gemma...who also designs the rather fab Kamikaze! posters) has a gorgeous, rich, slightly bluesy voice that, at times, reminded me of a female Jeff Buckley. Like Anna, in fact like all the bands tonight, they've got some seriously good self penned songs, the highlight of which, Hush, has naggingly been going round in my head for some weeks now.


Next, and a band I've raved about before, were Reverie...no Reverie Strings...hmmmm...no just Reverie. It seems like they've not quite settled on that yet...no matter, they are, in my humble opinion, one of the strongest Midlands bands around at the moment. There's something about Ian's voice and songs (earthy and real) with the strings (classy and elegant) that just works. I'd love to see them in the Symphony Hall with a full orchestra, or maybe even the Town Hall. I can hear it now...a small choir in the background, a huge string section...a bit of brass...those big drums...anyway, they were (and are) ace. Music to live, love and die by. This was the best performance of theirs so far and if they get any better I'm going to have to sell my house and sign them to my imaginary record label. So there.

Finally, Finding Calcutta...SEVEN...SEVEN...SEVEN...SEVEN...not quite sure what came over me there...(you had to be there). Finding Calcutta have a kind of Prog Folk thing going on. As I like both Folk and Prog, this was all rather good news. The more they played the better it got and the more I got into it...which is the thing with both Prog and Folk. Bags of energy, some rather good finger picking and a bass player who did that cool one handed thing that bass players sometimes do. They've got a new EP out too (which is probably available through their My Space thingy).

So there we go - pianos, folk, prog, strings, blues, mandolins and all manner of lovely stuff. These nights are a great showcase for just some of the talent we have in our city and, judging by the impressive audiences, the word is finally starting to spread.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Puppini Sisters / Patti Plinko and her boy Tuesday 2nd October 2007 Glee Club Birmingham

Two gigs, two nights...yes it's GDFTD (Going Deaf for Two Days for the hard of thinking amongst you). Well, when you're 104 like I am, heaving your festering carcass out of the house is a big deal. Damn glad I did though. Cos I'm in love. Yes. L-O-V-E. LOVE. Lady Baron won't mind. The object of my affections? Patti Plinko...and her boy. Damn...she has a boy. Balls. Still, I will steal her heart by plying her with cakes and stuff in the shape of her weapon of choice...the ukelele (try spelling that after a glass of champers). Imagine Marilyn Monroe, Regina Spector, Bessie Smith, Jacques Brel, the French Resistance, a glass of absinthe and George Formby all whisked up in a blender. That's what Patti Plinko sounds like. Just incredible. Seriously. Go listen. Now. See? Awesome. The fact that her 'boy' wore a gas mask throughout (reminding me of that Dr Who episode...'are you my mummy?'...spooky) and her songs were full of dead husbands, electric chairs and all kinds of weird stuff made me love it...and her...even more. I may give my musical heart away like a rent boy in Soho, but my love for Patti will remain until we're united in an air raid shelter of our own. (NB: if Patti ever reads this I'm not really a stalker...this is just for the review...you are brilliant though). Riiiight. The Puppini Sisters. They do 1940's style covers of modern classics. Sounds a bit uncool. It ain't. It's so cool. They look so cool. They harmonise better than angel triplets (that's three angels with the same mum...do angels have mums? If not where do they come from?) and were a lot more amusing and even better in real life than I was expecting. The arrangements of the covers is spot on. Just listen to (a snatch of) Crazy In Love. (Beyonce? Pish). Then check out (a snatch of) Walk Like An Egyptian (yes, that one). Monumental. And a bit mental too. I was born in the wrong time. I've always suspected that. If you could just erase WW2 I'd fly back to the 1940's in a flash. Tonight the Glee Club lived up to it's name.