Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Misty's Big Adventure / Poppy and the Jezebels Birmingham Glee Club Tuesday 27th March 2007

Ahh, the Glee Club. But not as we know it. Tonight was a...shock, shock, horror, horror, shock, shock horror...STANDING GIG! At the Glee Club. Hmmmmm.

Minus the chairs just 0.007mm apart it's a bloody big space and, unlike other venues it's really open. No dark bits to lurk behind...and I do like to lurk behind dark bits. Anyway we will banish talk of dark bits, or bits of any kind in fact, and move on to Poppy and her Jezebels (pictured to the left). Punky in places (with a distinct twist of Poly Styrene in the vocals) a little New York 70's folky in others, they are a beguiling mix of styles, one of which they may settle on as time goes by. For now though I was pretty impressed by the set, especially when you consider that they're all around 16. I have grey hairs older than that...and they can't play keyboard, guitar or drums. They can't sing either. So there we go. Proof that Poppy and the Jezebels are much better than my hair. Seriously though you should go and check 'em out before they get signed by EMI who will do a Fuzzbox on them...talking of which, Vix from Fuzzbox is back gigging again as part of a new band Vix n'the Kix. I think they're playing at the Sunflower Lounge on 11th April (you must go 'cos Fuzzbox were/are ace). See, informative and entertaining...well informative anyway.

What can I say about Misty's that I haven't said before? Very little really. Suffice to say that they were as brilliant tonight as they have been for the last 7 years or so that I've been following them. Lyrics that sum up the sad old world we all live in today, kick ass horns, musical madness and Erotic Volvo. I am holding out for a Pulp like rebirth when the rest of the globe catches up with them and Grandmaster Gareth takes his place as Prime make that Lord of Everything. I have the feeling the world would be a much better, if slightly madder, place.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

New Music Sunday

In my never ending quest for mucho musical goodness I bring you another random selection of genuine quality schmutter (it's a cockney thing, but I'm not...a cockney that is). Anyway...

Lucky Soul are up first...and first is a position that they well and truly deserve. As a massive fan of Mari Wilson (back in the day), St Etienne, The Pipettes, The Rumble Strips, 60's girl get the idea...Lucky Soul are a gem. Sophisticated pop, beautiful arrangements, classy vocals and a look to match. I defy you not to listen them and feel that the world is a better place. The Sound of Summer? Oh yes you lucky souls...

Beat Union, hailing from my dear old home town of Birmingham, are about to release a classy hybrid of 80's New Wavedom and Punk called She's The Gun. It's chuffin ace. They already sound like a band that could easily fill a stadium and it looks like they're catching the eyes and ears of bigger fish than my humble self. I've yet to see them 'in da flesh' as it were but I'm expecting great things. Watch this space (well not literally obviously...unless you have nothing else to do for a few weeks).
Look come a million billion. Plucked from one of my endless trawls across t'net I know little about them other than the fact that they come from New York and appear to make whatever music they feel like on any given day. Witness the electro madness that is Squid compared with the lush, slightly Tindersticksyness of Volcano Season.

Arthur Russell is up next. Although sadly no longer with us, I've been getting more and more into his music recently. He was a cellist by trade, but then got bitten by the disco bug (naughty can get cream for that) and combined all this with a way of producing music that just sort of added layers of loveliness onto bits of 'oooohhhh...what the fuck was that'ness. Simply a genius.

Young at Heart Chorus is less of a band...more a tribute to the human spirit. There was a documentary about them on TV a while ago...if you didn't catch it the basic gist of the project is to get 'older' people (seriously older people...I'm talking older than me here) together in a choir to sing modern hits. It sounds really mawkish writing about it and the clips on their My Space page only really tell part of the story but basically there's something magical about someone near the end of their days singing Fix You by Coldplay (not one of my favourite acts as regular readers may know). Just a bit of the Fix You clip the old dude singing was supposed to be doing a duet with his best buddie...but his best buddie had died a few hours earlier...

Finally, to prove that this posting isn't unduly fixated with the dead and and dying, I give you...yes you...Kavinsky. His current EP, 1986 (like most of his stuff), sounds not unlike an outake from Bladerunner dusted off by Jan Hammer then fiddled about with by Daft Punk. So there. Eclectic? Moi?
My work here is done.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Sounds / Under the Influence of Giants / Low vs Diamond Birmingham Bar Academy Tuesday 20th March 2007 you doin? Sorry, just felt a bit US like after a night with some of Uncle Sam's finest pop tarts (yes, all these bands are from stateside...sort of...The Sounds are a bit Swedish...well they're totally Swedish...but they're big in the States...god I've started waffling already).

Starters came courtesy of Low vs Diamond who are managed by the bloke who manages The Killers fact fans. Oh yes. Despite the opinion of the young lady behind me who advised everyone in the crowd that 'all the warm up bands are shite...I've heard them on My Space...they're wank' I rather enjoyed L vs D. They reminded me a bit of a band called Furniture who had a hit a squillion years ago (the 80's actually) called Brilliant Mind. There's certainly a hint of the Killers in there too (their more mellower songs), strayed a little into 'Coldplayland' in places but I won't hold that against them 'cos they seemed like lovely people.

Equally lovely, but a little strange, were Under the Influence of Giants. Again strong shades of the 80's, a little Scissor Sisters (falsetto vocals ahoy) crossed with Daryl Hall & John Oates (I'm sure I read somewhere that one of them is related to either Hall or Oates...but then I'm on medication and it could just be a figment of fevered imagination) and any number of 80's soft rock bands. Sounds odd but it actually worked pretty well. The bass player had the best 'tache in rock too - and he wore huge Miami Vice style shades throughout the show, which is good enough for me.

For the main course we were served a large helping of The Sounds, a band who are currently attracting a hefty slab of positive P to the R to the E to the S to the S. Now, on record (or whatever format floats yer boat) The Sounds do come across a little Europop in places. Not a problem for a camp old sod like me but it might put off people who aren't in touch with their inner Steps (god this is ruining my reputation as a hard man of rock isn't it?). However, live they're a mass of sweaty oestrogen soaked Scando-rumpo-punk. Ms Sounds (Maja to her mates) began the set by rubbing her chest in the face of some poor bemused soul at the front (he didn't look too upset by the experience though...). There was lots and lots of provocative microphone work (note to Anne Summers - microphone vibrators...they could be that sounds wrong...well I spose they could come in all sizes...shit that sounds even worse...quick get back to the review, no one's reading this anyway...oh bugger). Ahem. Anyway, musically imagine Blondie, The Cardigans and Kim Wilde mashed up in a blender then drunk by Joey Ramone and spat out in gobs of musical sputem. And if you can imagine that you're sicker than I am.

Are they going to be big? The man from The Hearing Aid he say yesss. Maja is chuffin' brilliant, the band is as polished as you'd expect after wowing the States for a few years and Tony The Beat is a dirty pop whore of a track. And we all love a dirty pop whore...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fair Enough...

Just returned from a record fair at the NIA in Brum and it got me all misty eyed over ye olde days. Not too long ago record fairs were full of people drooling at the mouth at the prospect of some rare Right Said Fred 12 inch promo. They would happily fork out big money for that A-Ha picture disc and give their right arm for the limited edition Deacon Blue tour EP. Okay, I jest slightly, but if you want a snapshot of the state of the music industry (from a commercial rather than artistic perspective) just take a trip to your local record fair (assuming there is one) or HMV/Virgin. HMV seem to be on some kind of suicide mission. Faced with rapidly dwindling sales (heavy competition from the supermarkets as well as downloading) they've come up with a great plan to aid recovery...they're going to put up their prices. Nice one fellas.

Anyway, back to record fairs. Picked up some real bargains (and I'm a bastard for a bargain). Brand new albums from The Bird and the Bee, Shockrock (Wall of Sound - stuff like CSS, Infadels, The Gossip), The Ripps, The Fall, The Little Ones, Mutemath and an EP by The Destroyers (a Birmingham 14 piece Eastern European influenced band much beloved by myself and fellow blogger Russ L)...all 50p each. The new Gruff Rhys Album for a mere £3 and a 3 CD Jah Wobble compilation for a fiver. Some dude was selling off a load of stuff from a old recording studio and had a pile of signed records from such household (admittedly an old household) names as Madness, Depeche Mode (including Vince Clark), The Jam, Human League, The Police etc for £3 a pop. Silly money. Of course, that's all this stuff is worth in these days of 'digital'. In fact most of the dealers (generally older folk nursing thermos flasks and each other)looked on the edge of topping themselves. It's all a bit sad really. I'm the first to admit that the world of the web has opened up more genres of music than I can shake a (glow) stick at, but there was something about the old fashioned way of doing things that, I don't know, just made the whole music thing that bit extra special (although anyone who would want to give up a world in which you can listen to pretty much anything ever recorded at the click of a mouse to return to the days when there was only vinyl and 'cassette' would have to be barking). For people of a certain age the question 'what was the first record you bought?' transports you magically back to the time you first parted with a huge sum of money for a small bit of plastic that somehow contained music (I think mine was Golden Brown by The Stranglers in 1981...I was very young then...obviously). Will people in the future remember their first download? I doubt it. The music business in general today now seems to be a lot more dispsable than it ever was too. There's little room for artists to grow and develop. The media isn't helping. NME in particular seems hell bent on shoving as many new bands into each issue as they can and hoping that one or two will stick. I predict that before too much longer we'll have a daily music chart, bands will get signed and dropped in the space of a few hours and you'll get paid to take stuff away from record fairs. HMV will obviously start offering mortgages so you can afford their CD's. Hmmmm...if it can happen, it will happen.

No point to this post really, just felt like waffling for a bit on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks for sticking with it...if you still are...if you aren't you smell of wee. Ha! Anyone who wants to show off how cool their first record was is free to post it in the comment bit...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pull Tiger Tail / Ali Love / I Say Marvin Birmingham Barfly Tuesday 13th March 2007

Part of the MySpace Bleep Bleep Tour (answers on a postcard please...) currently calling at a venue near you...unless you live in the Outer Hebrides...the night was kicked off in fine, enthusiastic style by Cornish pop pixies I Say Marvin. They were called Marvin and the Gayes (wonder why they changed their name?) and have been getting some pretty impressive press over the last 12 months, in particular from Messrs Lowe and Lamacq. I can see the appeal. A bit new ravey in places but with some chunky powerpop guitar chords thrown into the mix. They have a song about that whale that got lost, swam up the Thames and was then hauled aboard a boat before being beemed across the world's media...Jade Goody I think it's name was...anyway, it's got a nice little baroque-ish piano bit in it which says to me that they might go off into all sorts of strange directions given the chance. And lo - I hereby give them that chance.

Ali Love treated us to his own particular brand of white boy funk next. Fans of new rave anthem 'Lost in the K hole' will probably be surprised that much of his other stuff is more funk-like. I was. Vincent Brain reminded me a little of Syd Barret...probably 'cos it rhymes with Arnold Lane. Then you've got a song like Post Modern Blues...more Dylan-ish. Hmmmm...I'm guessin that Mr Love has been in a few bands before and is bringing his various musical influences together in one neat package. I quite enjoyed it all too, although I think it confused some of the audience who were possibly expecting full on 'K-hole' action (that sounds like a particularly disturbing kind of film genre doesn't it?).

Headliners Pull Tiger Tail generously dished out My Space glow sticks, and yes, I too waved one in the air. I apologise to no one. I can new rave like the best of 'em...ahem. In my humble opinion they've produced some of the best tunes of the last few months and have the kind of sound that could well find favour in the cooler parts of the US of A/B or C. Let's Lightning has shades of Killers Mk1 (before they discovered country) whilst Mr 100 Percent has that great chugging Supergrass guitar bit followed by some lush soaring vocals...and stuttery bits. Animator was probably the highlight of the set for me. Just that bit more urgent than the recorded version, with added grrrrrrrrrr. Maybe someone was pulling the tiger's tail? Anyway, this makes it to my list of great gigs of the year...which is already getting a bit out of hand. Damn it. Where are all the shit bands? People are going to think I like everything. I wonder if James Blunt is touring? That should do it...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fillmore Gears / Prospect Lane / Smart Soutane / A chappie with a beard who didn't tell us his name Bar Academy Friday 9th March 2007

Slightly hungover and in the grip of a nasty attack of the plague I made my way to the Bar Academy to catch one of the weekly Rise (up and coming local bands) events. Doors were due to open at 8pm so, being the good little boy that I am, I duly arrived on time. There were a few others loitering around when we got there. The time ticked by...members of various bands came out and went back in again...and the time ticked by...years passed, centuries even...mankind evolved and became one giant brain...still the doors remained closed. I exagerate (slightly), it appears that the 'doorman' hadn't turned up and they couldn't open the doors until he did. In my weakened state I decided to go home and eat a kebab instead. I even got as far as the bus stop but then decided that wussing out just 'cos I felt like death wasn't very rock and/or roll. So I returned to the music hungry masses waiting outside. By the time I got back someone had decided to pretend to be a doorman and we were all allowed in. Hurrah!

As the entire gig was now running a trifle late (so late in fact that the custard on top of the trifle had started to go off...) the first artist was already on when we got upstairs. Very good he was too. Male singer songwriter with a really strong voice playing slightly bluesy material. Pity most of the audience were ignoring him. Their loss. I'm afraid I didn't get his name (or maybe he didn't want us to know...perhaps he is a spy in real life...that's it...yes...a singer songwriter spy who woos his lades with his lush voice and mysterious beard). Seriously though I really enjoyed his set so if you know who he is/was let me know so I can link him (unless he really is a spy...).

Next up were Smart Soutane. A new name to me. They've got some cracking tunes but I think they were having some trouble with the monitors tonight 'cos the vocals were a little off in places (it can't have helped rushing on just 2 seconds after Mr Mysterious had finished). Musically the set was very strong, a bit Housemartin-y in places, a little alt-country-ish in others.

Prospect Lane were next. Regular readers will know that I rated them just a few weeks ago when they supported Ghosts and they were just as good this time round. They're able to carry off quite a wide range of different material really well. From the slightly Moddish / Oi! 'Fickle' to the more moody stuff like Ghosts (the track this time, not the band...reminds me a bit of Geneva...the 90's band, not the place...confused yet?).

Headliners Fillmore Gears appear to be doing more gigs than I am at then moment (and all I have to do is stand there tapping my foot like a middle aged lothario). Godammit they put on a damn fine display of classic, rifftastic blues rock. Lead Gear Pete even sounded a little (dare I say it...oh what the hell) like a younger Sir Robert Of Plantingham. Damn fine guitar from Mak, solid bass and drumming from Dave and Andy...if you're looking for an ace band to add to the list of great current Birmingham rock acts (I'm thinking acts like the Big Bang and Coptor here), Fillmore Gears are worthy peers (no, not piers, you're just being silly again). With the success of a band like Wolfmother, Fillmore Gears have a really good chance of making it. Constant gigging is the secret with music like this. And that's just what they're doing. The reputation will spread, the band will gel as tight as a gnats chuff (?) and with a bit of luck Birmingham will have some new Rock Gods. Hell yeah!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gruff Rhys / Voice of the Seven Woods / 9 Bach Glee Club, Birmingham Tuesday 6th March 2007

For once we managed to get a front row seat at the Glee (a major plus point unless you have no legs as the seats are DVT-inducingly close to each other) - hurrah! This joy was further compounded by the haunting beauty of 9 Bach. There are normally loads of them but tonight we had the pleasure of just 2 of the band (2 Bach you could say...but then you would wouldn't you?). Sung entirely in Welsh, with a brief summary of the key points before each track, it reminded me of just what a beautiful, mysterious kind of language it is. The female vocalist had one of those voices that you could just dive into and splash about in (oh dear...I'm off again). It actually made me want to learn the language just so I could enjoy the songs even more...but then, in a strange sort of way, not being able to understand the words never really bothers me that much. A well sung song communicates on a different level n'est pas?

Voice of the Seven Woods was on next. Strong shades of John Martyn, perhaps even a harder Nick Drake in places. Such was the speed of his fingers across the geeetar that his hand resembled a spider on acid. Yes. Acid I tells ye.

Someone else who might possibly be familar with a range of chemicals (endorsed by spiders or not) is Mr Gruff Rhys. Here to promote Candylion (a simply brilliant album) he had a whole table full of toys and musical instruments which he played, sampled, picked up and put down again...all whilst singing in that unique voice of his. Photos were banned so you'll have to imagine the scene, but he resembled a slightly stoned office worker whiling away a Friday afternoon. He makes it all look so easy and laid back, but bloody entertaining at the same time...I could just watch and listen for days. Talking of which the highlight for me was the final track of the night, Skylon, a 14 or so minute epic (even longer tonight I think) about a bomb on a plane. It's the sort of track that just goes round and round, on and on...a tantric track in fact (with a Sting in the tail - boom boom!). Sublime and surreal at the same time. Gruff Rhys then - super and furry (well, he's got a bit of a beard and shaggy can see where I'm going...mad possibly?).

Monday, March 05, 2007

Gallows / The Scare Birmingham Barfly Sunday 4th March 2007

Hardcore punk. Two words that strike fear into the Daily Mail readers across the land. I, on the other hand, read Ferret Felchers Monthly and have no such prejudices. Another Sunday gig (damn, damn, damn...) but, like all the rest, this one was well worth prising my lazy ass off the sofa for. First up were Aussie locals The Scare (they're from Oz but now live in Birmingham...the mad fools) who delivered a punk blues kick to the groin and much needed enrichment to the soul. Kiss Reid (Kiss? Really?), lead vocal Scare delivers a powerful mix of Jagger at his best and a possessed preacherman, strutting the stage with aplomb (ha...first ouevre, now aplomb! There is such a word isn't there...yes...well if not, there is now). Reminded me of (ciminally underrated Birmingham legends) Coptor in places. This is a very good thing.

Headliners, Gallows, have already attracted a fair bit of press for their incendiary live shows...but would they live up to the hype? Well, in a word, YES. I'm sure I saw lead vocalist Frank paw the ground like a bull before the set started, a clear indication of things to come. And come they did. On spotting the metal barriers designed to keep us, the crowd, off the stage he shouted "I'm not fucking having this" and leapt over them. A circle gathered around the new stage on the 'dancefloor' and he launched into one of the most powerful sets I've ever witnessed. Describing it is difficult, but I imagine it's a little like being caught up inside a tropical storm. He 'owned' every inch of the venue, whilst still delivering vocals that you could actually understand (not a prerequisite of a good punk gig, but impressive none the less). The songs have a lot more to them than first meets the ear too and, whilst they're 'hardcore' to the bone, there's a strong enough melody to win over a much wider audience. Suffice to say I moshed to the best of my ability (despite promising myself to remain a suitable distance from the madness) and had a bloody fantastic time (as did Mrs Baron which, considering she hated Selfish Cunt - a similarly provocative performer, was a major surprise). Frank, by the way, is a bloody lovely bloke too. Intelligent, passionate and as REAL as they get. Full marks for the NIN / Trent Reznor jokes (you had to be there) and for gobbing on the ceiling then catching it back in his mouth as it did what gravity dictates. What a night. Legends in the making.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Los Campesinos! / Sky Larkin / Johnny Foreigner / Kate Goes Birmingham Barfly 2nd March 2007

Gig number 11 (or 12...hell I'm losing count already) saw another foursome bill (see what I did there, four bands...foursome...yep...) starting with Kate Goes. For the record I love Kate Goes. Seriously. I defy anyone to watch them and not feel happier about being alive. I've written on more than one occasion is a classic song...up there with whatever you want to put it up there with, Boom Shadilak is genius (kind of Birmingham Hip Hop in places)...goddamit there's just something so right about everything they do. They seem like the nicest people on earth too. Kate Thompson veers between child like innocence and knowing all too much about the human condition. Vocally too she's capable of hard ass screams and soft, sweet melodies (brilliantly supported by Beth, Bird, Joe and Susie). In fact. and I'm going out on a bit of a limb here, if Syd Barrett was a girl in 2007 he would be Kate Thompson. I urge you all to support this band 100%. THEY WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER.

Next up were Johnny Foreigner (also from sunny Kate Goes...ha...take that Manchester...second city my arse) who were super, smashing and, indeed, great. Lead male Johnny did lots of thrashing around and reminded me (vocally speaking anyway) of the chappie out of Bromheads Jacket. Musically they're all spiky/punky bits with punchy chords and rather impresive drumming from Johnny drummer. Female Johnny added an ace counterpoint (yes, that's counterpoint...I think it means she made a good contrast with the male vocals....but then I could be could be something to do with industrial steamcleaning) too. All in all a mightily impressive set from yet another great local band.

Not quite so local, but also ace, were Sky Larkin. Kind of like Pattie Smith on the 'erb or Sophie Ellis Bextor (when she was in The Audience...great band...what happened there?) crossed with early Orange Juice (the band...not the vitamin C orientated beverage). Keepsakes is a plinky plonky (second use of the phrase plinky plonky in this review...) organ driven humdinger (god, where did that come from?) and Molten hits a really great beat mid song before breaking into an indieish thrash.

Headliners Los Campesinos! are, lest you forget, one of my tips for the top in 2007 and tonight they fulfilled their promise by the bucket load. They're a bit like having a dozen cool mates come round your house, turn off your CD player (or MP3 if you're down with 'da yoot') screaming "we can do better than that" and then proving that they can by delivering tune after tune of uplifting, harmony stuffed anthems. If you love Arcade Fire but wish they had a bit more oooomph Los Campesinos! are the band you've been waiting for. Or, as the band put it on their My Space site, it's just pop music and, when it's this great, that's a good enough description for me. The fact that Mrs Baron and I ended the evening by beating each other round the head with Los Campesinos! balloons from the sheer glee of it all (the Strongbow had nothing to do with it) says a lot for how good this evening really was.

One has to question why people are wiling to fork out £800 for a Take That ticket when you can get to see four ace bands for a fiver but there we are. So far this year I have been blown away by how many excellent bands there are out there. No one has pissed me off with a half arsed set, the standard of 'muscianship' has been pretty brilliant and the sort of bills that local promoters are putting on are hard to fault. Sunday evening sees me risking my life, sanity and lower limbs at a gig by new punk sensations Gallows. Wish me luck...