Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stars / Apostle of Hustle / Destroy Cowboy Birmingham Barfly Monday 28th January 2008

I really like the Barfly as a venue. It always feels like you're going somewhere. Deep down into the belly of some old warship or something. Which is perhaps appropriate given the sonic missiles (you can see where I'm going with this right?) fired at us by Destroy Cowboy. Another strong set by DC (no 'Hey' this hiss...but a stunning 1000 Candles) with a level of attack and power that topped the previous gigs I've seen them play. DC don't take the easy route, which shows a level of ambition that all too few bands have these days. Most telling of all is that they were right up there with both touring bands in terms of performance, material and sound quality. Cowboys by name, professionals by nature (this is what NME is missing by not snapping me up you see...).

On then to Apostle of Hustle part of the sprawling Canadian 'Broken Social Scene' (lead singer is BSS's lead guitarist I think...I'm not sure...the Scene is all broken up and shit you know...). Really liked this lot. Nuts, but good with it. Shades of Zappa in places, mixed with a bit of Foals and a touch of Vampire Weekend. So Jazz tinged Math rock Afro beat then. I particularly loved the Eazy-E tribute song.

Somewhat lacking in songs to dead rappers, but with more than their fair share of lush, melodramatic, Postfab Sprout-ish (cos' they came after Prefab Sprout right?) songs of love, loss and everything in between came the mighty Stars. Opening with your most famous song (Ageless Beauty) is always a brave move but Stars carried it off with another beautiful set played with the same passion and honesty that I saw last year. When an 11pm curfew finished the gig early the band promised to play on outside in the car park...they did too, delivering a couple of acoustic numbers surrounded by die hard fans (they all wore string vests and kept shouting yippekyaaahmotherfucka) singing along in perfect harmony. Simply delish.
PS: Do you like the picture? I'm available for weddings you know...I'm joking of course...unless the money's really good.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dexy's Midnight Nibbles

Okay. Bit of a random one this. But, as a resident of Bearwood (for those unfamiliar with the 'wood it's couple of miles from Birmingham, thanks to some bizarre stoned planning bod in the 1970's it actually falls under something called Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council...then this Council of assholes - the same people presumably who spent £54million on an arts centre that went bust before it opened - and the Post Office declared Bearwood no longer existed...don't get me started) I couldn't let this go unmarked. The Little Nibble Cafe, on Bearwood High Street, has been repossessed and shut down. Why does this matter? Why is it on music blog? Well, The Little Nibble was namechecked on one of the greatest records ever made 'This is what she's like' by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I've never been to The Little Nibble (so I guess I can't moan and grumble about it shutting down too much) and I'm only presuming it's the same The Little Nibble in the song. But I seem to recall reading an interview with Kevin just a year or two ago that said he'd been there recently and they still made a cracking cup of tea (so you can safely assume that it is...and not just a Little Nibble tribute cafe in the same way that The Cavern in Liverpool has jack all to do with the Cavern that The Beatles played in). Anyway. It looks like it's about to vanish, no doubt to reopen as another mobile 'phone shop, Poundland or 'Amusement' Arcade. Shame. I always used to look through the steamed up windows and imagine Kevin and the band plotting world domination back in the late 70's over a cup of tea and fried egg sarnie. So, here's to The Little Nibble, Dexy's, proper cups of tea and steamy cafe's... Oh, and Bearwood too. It does still exist. Fuckwits.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Allies / The Vehicles / The Leonards The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 25th January 2008

Give me a K...give me an A...give me an M...give me a...oh you can see where I'm going with this. Yes, it's Kamikaze! time once more. A bit like Hammer Time...but without the Hammer bit (MC Hammer...oh, you know, chappie with floaty trousers on). First up, a band without floaty trousers on, but still looking pretty dapper with a singer in a neck tie, The Leonards. All the way from Rugeley, Staffordshire, the aforementioned singer must be one of the most bounciest frontmen in music history. Their set got stronger as they went on, with a clutch of hearty anthemic indie rock tracks (especially Stop, Elaine and Heroine) which nodded in the direction of early Embrace or Gene in places. Perfect 'ave it!' music.

Next, and a second viewing for me, The Vehicles. Twitchy New Wave with a slight Postcards Records kind of edge in places, they also reminded me a bit of Maximo Park tonight as well. As I'm rather fond of 'the Park' this was all good (listen to Trouble In Paradise in particular). The acid test for me when I see a band for the second time is do I remember the tracks from the first time I saw them. Were they memorable enough to lodge in what's left of my brain? Well, The Vehicles passed this test with flying colours.

Finally for tonight The Allies. I've written about them loads of times already. They are one of the best bands in Brum. One great singalong track after another, pacey, tight and as energetic as a bag of kittens on speed. I saw them last night supporting Yeti and The Foxes in The Barfly (a much bigger venue than The Rainbow) and they nailed it, just like they did tonight. Hoovering up all sorts of influences from The Libertines to The Zutons, The Pogues to The Clash then spitting them out in one great glorious gobful, The Allies have bucket loads of potential. For my money Ain't No Love Lost (bringing in the fiddle and accordion) remains their best track 'cos it's just so different and refreshing to hear. It's a bloody great end to the set too, but when the music's this good who wants it to end?

Yeti / The Foxes / The Allies / Mayday! Barfly Birmingham Thursday 24th January 2008

I don't like January. It's cold. Bits of Christmas still lie around all over the place. Tree corpses line the streets and everyone's just that bit fatter and poorer than they were a few short weeks ago. It's also normally pretty grim for gigs. Thank the dear lord then for this bill which helped remove a severe dose of the bah humbugs. It all kicked off with Mayday! Styles of music go in phases. Right now we're in the Arctic Monkeyissic age. There's nowt wrong with that. It sure as hell beats the Coldplaydium days. But the bands that will survive and adapt are the ones with that something extra. And I think Mayday! have it. There's a complexity to the music that's not immediate obvious...but it's there. Their lead guitarist in particular (Stuart I think) plays a big part. I'm no guitarist (hell, I'm no anything) but he seemed pretty darn good. The tunes have that nice touch of humour and honesty about them, they're well sung and backed and, although an afro don't make a band, Josh is one cool bassist...

Next up The Allies. As I saw them on Friday night too I'll leave my musings on them to the review after this one (betcha can't wait eh? Betcha slavering with excitement. No? Oh well, please yourselves).

This brings me on to The Foxes (pictured...well one of them is anyway). Ahhh The Foxes. I have high hopes for this band. In my humble opinion they're part of that great lineage (yes, lineage...go on...look it's the right spelling and everything) that goes back to the early Beatles (Hamberg era), through to The Kinks...on to Squeeze...The get the picture. Catchy, timeless, English pop. It's the second time I've seen them and the extra gigs under their belts were obvious. They're now one of the most polished live bands I've seen for ages, the set list feels like a greatest hits already and I can honestly see them up there wowing massive festival audiences across the land. Plus...and this is a massive plus in my book...they're bloody nice people who are doing it right. Gigging like billy o (that's gigging a lot, not gigging like Billy Ocean...I imagine he has big limos and stuff), self promoting and spreading the word by putting on damn fine shows. If you only go to one gig this year make it one with The Foxes on.

Last up, Yeti. I'll be honest. I didn't know a great deal about them other than the fact that one(John) was a Libertine. I've never really forgiven The Libertines for appearing really, really early at a Birmingham Academy gig some years back. I forget who they were supporting, but it was before they were famous. I hate missing any band on the bill, so generally get to a venue sometime after lunch (I jest, but you get the picture). Anyway we get to the venue at something like 7.45pm (normally the first band won't come on until 8.15 at the earliest) and the Libs were two songs from the end of their set, playing in front of an audience of about three people. This has absolutely nothing to do with the review of course, but since when has that stopped me eh? Right then, Yeti. Really very good. I've seen Dirty Pretty Things and Babyshambles, but I'd rate Yeti as the best of the post Libs lot. They're not as obvious as the other bands. More '60's West Coast of America than West London (or wherever the hell 'Albion' was supposed to be). A grown up The Little Ones if you like, with some glorious vocal harmonies that scream long summer days and even longer nights. Music to listen to on an 8 track whilst cruising down Highway 61. I'm loving the album sampler for upcoming release The Legend of Yeti Gonzales (surely the only album with a track dedicated to Shane McGowen?) and, if there's any justice left in the music biz, people will sit up and take notice when it's released. You get the feeling that the best is Yeti to come (I'm sorry, I can't help myself).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cool as folk...

Regular readers...sorry reader...of this blog will recall my fondness for a touch of the old folk (oh dear..that sounds like I have a fetish for being felt up by OAP's...we'll let that one pass), 'all around my hat' and 'a hey nonny no'...that kind of thing. I've also got a bit of a thing for Billy Bragg (again, nothing sexual, although he does have kind of a cute look). So imagine my delight (there, now I've turned into someone who writes in to the Daily Mail) when I spotted a mini folk tinged season (billed as English Originals) at Birmingham's newly revamped Town Hall and featuring the bard of Barking himself. It all kicks of with BB on Friday 25th April (showcasing his first new studio album for 6 years - Mr Love & Justice), Seth "fiddle about" Lakeman on Saturday 26th and a positive ladyfest of folk featuring, amongst others, Norma Waterson on Sunday 27th. Be there and be square.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Electric Animals / Murdoch / The Archives / Soldier The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 18th January 2008

My first gig of the year and the second Kamikaze! of 2008. Shame I missed last weeks, it sounded like a blinder with the mighty Envy and Other Sins headlining what was, I have been reliably informed, the most popular one yet (they had to resort to turning people away at one stage...latecomers to future nights be warned!). Anyway on to this evenings entertainment. Most of tonights bands displayed a similar level of talent for good, solid, straight down the line slightly blues infused rock, kicking off with Soldier. I watched Slade in Flame last week. If you've not seen it it's a classic 1970's movie telling the story of a band called Flame (played by Slade). Based on Slade's real life rise to the top it reminded me of the rich rock history that bands like Soldier are part of. The Midlands always seems to have been a rock city. More than any other genre, it's the defult setting for a lot of Midlands groups. The ghost of Led Zepp clearly stalks the rehearsal rooms like...a big stalking thing. But then if you're going to take your inspiration from somewhere, Planty and Co ain't a bad place to start. Anyway, I digress, Soldier have class blues rock riffs a plenty and would be a much better bet for your gig dollar than any lame ass Oasis tour this year (I'm not sure if they are touring this year, maybe Liam could get in touch and let me know...?). Listening back to their My Space tracks they come across as more bluesier than last night, I think it's the harmonica, which didn't make much of an appearance last night. Shame. We want harmonica! Lots and lots of harmonica. Hell yeahhhhhh! (I tried to type a harmonica noise but failed at try it).

Next up, The Archives. By the sounds of it this is a band that's been through the wars a bit. Their songwriter and lead guitarist upped and left just as they were starting out and it's taken them a while to regroup. By all accounts they've only been gigging with this line up for a few months, so tonight was a good performance.

Murdoch had a bit of a technical nightmare bless 'em. Some 'amp' related issues I think. It was a shame because when they were able to get going they started to build up a decent head of rocky pop steam. But then the technical gremlins struck again and it was all a bit stop/start. I'll go and see them again soon for a fairer assessment (check out 'Caught in the Spotlight' on their My Space page for a better idea of their sound).

Finally, and the best band on the night, Electric Animals. Their vocalist has a bit of the Steve Marriot about him, they've got a pretty decent keyboard player who adds that little extra to the sound (check out Just Plain Stupid for the proof) and despite having a stand in bassist (good job fella) they were as tight as a gnats chuff (and that's tight). They're still looking for a full time bass god by the way. Aspiring blues rocksters walk this way...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Yo, yo, yo...

Okay, here's another one for you. Yo Majesty. I got to love the Majesty last year thanks to our friends at the mighty Pig Radio via some live versh of their 'Club Action' track ('fuck dat shit' indeed). I'd kind of forgotten how much I loved it until seeing them mentioned in yet another one of those bands to watch in 2008 features (I remain the only person to big up the Sparks...ha!). Anyway, what are they like? Well, kind of old skool female rap, clear ESG influences here and there, more than a dash of Salt-n-Pepa and snatches of Prince (with a track called Kryptonite Pussy perhaps 'snatches' isn't the best word to use...but then again...). It's all winningly homespun in places, sounds a bit like they recorded bits in their bedrooms late one night after, no doubt, some gin and juice. You can't beat a bit of gin and juice can you eh? Oozing sex (hmmm again not the best choice of don't want your sex to be oozing do you? Spurting maybe, but not oozing...), attitude and a nice slice of humour on the side (check out Leather Jacket) they'll give Missy a run for her money (and quite possibly put several bra manufacturers out of business). Yo and have a listen...(clever eh? No, you're right...)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Something of a phenomalie...

From the Streets to Sway, Estelle (new album coming soon - see, informative as well as entertaining eh?) to Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip and Lethal Bizzle (two...or should that be three...of my live highlights from 2007) UK hip hop's been going through a bit of a purple patch recently. We're finding our voice a little more, mixing it up like a bunch of bad muthas. It's this blending of US flavas (I promise I'll stop talking like this in a moment) with UK influences that's producing some of the freshest sounds around (last time...I promise). That's what makes one of my latest tips for the top in 2008 such a ear munching treat. Straigthoutta Hereford, The Anomalies have been been around for 3 years or so but really seem to have hit their stride in the last few months with Radio 1 support from the holy trinity of Lowe, Whiley and Lamacq (for Employee of the Month) and a tour with Messers Sac and Pip themselves. It's a real case of Thou Shalt track Bamboo Beats (out in Feb) in particular is a glorious mash up of Fatboy beats, whacked out vocals, J5's old skool vibe and a little Kid Carpet style madness for good measure. Catchy as the norovirus, but altogether more enjoyable, it's a perfect slab of bouncing UK hip hop at its very best. They're touring the UK throughout February (check out their My Space page thingy for dates) before touching down at The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath for one of the excellent weekly Wednesday night Platform Promotions gigs on February 29th. I'm prepared to bet that if you don't have a good time then you're clinically dead. So there.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The bite stuff...

Finally got round to checking out hotly tipped New Yoikers Vampire Weekend, a curious, but strangely attractive, blend of Ladysmith Black Mambazo style African rhythms and 80's New Wave. They're playing England...well, London, on the 17th January (it's sold out, naturally) before scarpering back to the US of A. Well worth a listen make it even easier I've installed them on the amazing video wall to the left of this rubbish. For the really busy amongst you, with your Blackberrys and the like, I'd recommend checking out A Punk on their My Space page for a quick blast of classic Vampire. What's that? No...thank you...the pleasure is all mine.

All in all...

...this is a picture of my wall. Okay, it's not a very interesting picture of my wall but it represents a great leap forward (oh alright then...a minor stumble forward a step or two) for the Hearing Aid. I have a new camera. Yes. After making do with the mighty Pentax 3.2 megapixie (dunno what pixies have to do with it...), 3 x optical zoom behemoth for the last few years I've upgraded to some 8 megapixie, 18 x optical zoom monster. Whether this improves the laughable quality of my pictures remains to be seen, but this wall is one of the very first shots I've taken with it. Arty eh? Look at the texture, drink in the composition. I like to see this picture as a comment on modern life. I will call it "Aspects of a child's reality after it has awoken from a deep sleep # 1"...or perhaps just "Wall". Aside from the Pink Floyd link (hello Mr H if you're reading this...the Hearing Aid embraces the Floyd...whatever next? Zappa? Yngwie Malnstein...buggered if I can spell his bloody name) this has jack all to do with music but hey ho. 'Normal' service will be resumed soon.