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. 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, 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 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 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 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's the best much better than 173...and don't get me started on, 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 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.