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 on it and then you have to scroll back up to the top to see the video...I'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 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' 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 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 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 ('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 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.

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 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 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 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 just Reverie. It seems like they've not quite settled on that 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 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 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.

Stars / Lily Fraser Monday 1st October 2007 Barfly Birmingham

What better way to start the working week eh? Yes, I do work. I don't just sit here crafting these words day in day out. You couldn't tell could you? Opener Lily Fraser, stripped back to just a guitarist and the lovely Lily herself (they normally have all sorts of other folk playing with them) has one of those distinctive voices that, at times, recalls a bit of Bjork, a touch of Beth (Gibbons of Portishead fame) and little Kate (Bush...of Bush fame)...but different to all three. Ranging from gentle tracks like Too Scared to Miss to rock out ball busters like Alive she was an absolute treat from start to finish and seemed to win over pretty much the whole crowd. No mean feat on a Monday evening. As this was just a double bill tonight Stars had a good hour and a half to play with and, by jupiter (that's a planet isn't it...not a star...hmm), they played a stellar set (what, you expect me not to put lots of star puns in's my blog...). Watching them I kept thinking of Deacon Blue...which isn't a bad thing. The Blue had a fine line in dramatic pop with a slightly dark edge (listen to's a heartbreaker) and Stars have that same feel. I've seldom seen such a genuine band. They really, really seemed pleased that we'd all turned up. With tracks as great as The Night Starts Here and Ageless Beauty (both of which are even better live than in recorded form) I was bloody pleased that they turned up too. Just a beautiful, beautiful night of music.

PS: If you're quick you can listen to the whole of their new album In Our Bedroom After The War at their My Space thingy page stuff.