Wednesday, February 27, 2008

(Kings) Heads Up

Birmingham seems to be all of a buzz with new and newish venues at the mo. The Island Bar, the Sound Bar, the 'all new' Que Club, talk of the owners of the Barfly buying the Sanctuary and rumours of a long delayed move for the Academy to the site of the old Dome...

I can now add another one to the list...The Kings Head, Bearwood. Yes...Bearwood! Many moons ago I remember some drunk bloke on a bus telling me that The Kings Head used to have gigs in its basement (not sure if they did, or if he'd just been sniffing Jif). At the time The Kings Head was a bit...okay...a down. It had been renamed Q or something equally dismal and seemed to be aiming for the sort of clientele who think Diamond White is a bit posh. Then it closed down for months and was heading for a bad case of the arsonitus. Instead someone decided to spent £1.5million turning it into a 'gastro' pub. Why am I telling you all this? Well, it seems that Mr Drunk Bloke On The Bus was sort of right. There is a music venue there, upstairs though, and it looks...well, judge for yourself...pretty pucka eh? Strangely, although it's due to open in early March, there's no sign of a line up yet. It would be bloody brilliant to get the kind of eclectic line up that the Hare & Hounds seems to attract...but who knows what their policy going to be. I'll keep you posted...or if you know more than me you can keep me posted instead.

PS: After writing this I stumbled on Brumbeat, a site that mentions the Kings Head as a venue in the 1960's. It's a fascinating snapshot of 'swinging Brum' and highlights just how many great venues we've lost over the years...well worth a look. Jimi Hendix and Englebert Humperdinck on the same bill at the Odeon, New Street anyone? (this actually happened in 1967...jeez).

PPS: I couldn't get a picture of the venue on here 'cos the Kings Head site is all in Flash and stuff...whatever the hell Flash is...hence the picture of Flash Gordon...obviously...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

XX Teens / The Courtesy Group / Magnifikatz / Betty & the ID Rainbow Digbeth Friday 22nd February 2008

WooooWoooo WooooWoooo WooooWooWooWoo...that, for the less nerdy amongst us, was the Dr Who theme tune, for tonight Kamikaze! takes us on a mind bending trip through time, space...and the back passage of The Rainbow (don't worry , all will become clear, either that or this will be the most irrelevant intro to a gig review that I've ever written...and that's saying something n'est ce pas?). What's that? The TARDIS has landed (see, I told you it would be okay)...let's open the doors and see who's there.'s Betty & the ID (not in the ego and the...). I'd not seen Betty before. Not sure which one she is, but they're a damn fine garage rock combo, with hints of Stereolab in places and psych pop noodlings in others. Vale Onslow (presumably named after that motorbike shop which was run by the same bloke for about 100 seriously...he was 103 when he died) in particular blends all kinds of good stuff that makes you want to buy a vintage British motorbike, sniff magic markers and razz it down to Brighton to mash up a few Teds.

Oooh quick, here comes a Dalek, let's hop back in the TARDIS and see what else we can find (see, this ain't getting at all tiresome is it?). Hold on...we're coming in to land again. Out we get...oohh we've left the 60's behind and now we're in the 50' behive yourself...(seriously, I don't get paid for this you know....). Look, it's those Magnifikatz...hell yeah. Furious straight down the line rockabilly complete with bequiffed lead singer Nate and backing from the fellow Katz that's as solid as a 54 Coupe De Ville. Nice moves too, oodles of energy and muchos knee trembling. Wrap your ears around Lonesome Train (a cover of the Johnny Burnette Trio classic unless I'm very much mistaken...ha...that's got you hasn't it?) and you can just taste the rootbeer.

Right, onwards, back to the TARDIS let's set the date for the '70's. Ooooo, bit of a bumpy landing...oh bugger we've just landed on The Courtesy Group...sorry. They seem okay though, which is a good job because I love The Courtesy Group. The last time I saw them (18 months or so ago) they seemed to have a bit of a Fall kinda tinge. Now there's a nice shade of Captain Beefheart in there too. That's not to say that they sound anything like anyone or anything else. Lead singer Al is one of the most engaging frontmen in music, not just locally but anywhere. And, in guitarist Hidehiko, they've got themselves a seriously impressive musician. Preferring to spend most of his time in amongst the audience Al is as much a poet as he is a singer (in fact he has a spoken word alter ego 'Godfrey Salter and his invisible Ducks'...I once saw him scare the bejesus out of an audience at The Glee Club...brilliant). I've still yet to get grips with all of his lyrics but it makes you feel like someones taken the top off your head and mixed up your brain with a big wooden spoon. Which is, believe it or not, a very, very good thing.

Right ho, off we go again, back into the bloody TARDIS...let's set the dial for the 80's...or is it the 70's...or maybe the 90's...or the whatever the hell this decade is called. Here we are, but who's outside, oooh they look a bit's the XX Teens...not the Xerox Teens anymore...'cos Xerox didn't like them copying the name...oh the irony. The lead singer is as deadpan as they come, carefully intoning his words whilst the rest of the band make a foot twitchingly fine new wave / art rock racket all around him (the synthy bits are pretty Radiophonic Workshop in places too...just listen to For Brian Haw). Curiously the lead Teen reminded me a bit of Bob Dylan back in the early 60's...but a Bob Dylan that had hopped in our TARDIS and landed in New York in 1978...and had sex with The Ramones...and Talking the same time. But that's probably just me. If you don't know the name XX Teens, you soon will. New single, and set highlight, 'How To Reduce The Chances Of Being a Terror Victim'...the bastard son of 'Wear Sunscreen' and 'Thou Shalt Always Kill ' set to be one of the most naggingly catchy tunes of the year (loved the drumming bit on stage last night), hopefully giving XX Teens the exposure they deserve. So there we go. I can finally ditch the tossing TARDIS...what's that're going to do what to me with that sonic screwdriver...AAAAAGGGHHHH!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Elle S'appelle / Go Faster>>> / Sunset Cinema Club Barfly Birmingham Tuesday 19th February 2008

It was ball shrinkingly cold, which could explain the lack of a crowd for what was, in my humble opinion, one of the hottest gigs of the year so far. After all both Elle S'appelle and Go Faster>>> have been tipped for great things and local boys Sunset Cinema Club are darn fine. We got to the venue at around 7.30 (knowing it was going to be an early start) and seemed to be the only people there. Happily the folk in charge had moved the gig to the 'back room' and a steady flow of hardy explorers (those of us who had braved the sub zero temperatures) enjoyed an intimate show with three cracking (I've gone all Wallace there...I'm's been a long life) bands. First off Sunset Cinema Club. I don't think I've seen them before, certainly not in the days of the 'Aid...and I'm fairly sure I'd remember them as they were a gloriously shouty, twitchy, power pop treat. They've been compared to The Pixies and I can see the link, but they've got a funkier edge...shades of early A Certain Ratio perhaps. Sunday Best is a brilliant track, bloody brilliant...I particularly liked the cheeky wink to Duran Duran's Girls on Film at the start. Nice. It's great to see a band that obviously enjoy performing as much as I enjoyed watching them. The three voices worked really well together too. With Jonny Foreigner (a band with a similar feel) starting to really break into a wider audience, SCC should, could and will be next. Cos I say so. There, I got through the whole review without mentioning the fact that they're named after an old porn cinema...nothing wrong with that, I like old porn...not granny porn...that's just wrong...oh dear...I'll stop there...

Next up, with added >>>...Go Faster>>>from Liverpool>>>which is Capital of Culture 2008>>>after beating Birmingham...I forgive them. Brilliantly blending the classic pop of bands like Bis, XTC and The Inspirals with shades of Maths rock superstars in waiting, Foals, Go Faster>>>thrashed about on stage with enough energy to bring me out in a sweat (which, considering the cold, was some achievement). On She Starts Monday I actually thought the drummer was going to drum right through the floor into the earth's core itself. Fast, furious stuff. Again, as with SCC, the vocal interplay was spot on. It's so hard to get this right, but Go Faster>>>go for broke it rich (mixed metaphors...I love 'em). The in between song banter was class too...from Kerry Katona porn to melting Heather Mills' leg and on to obscure references from Only Fools and Horses (Garrrry?) that's a set and half.

Finally, Elle S'appelle, who, quite rightly have been tipped for big, big things by people with taste. One catchy tune after another, sweetness and light one minute, achingly honest lyrics and heart ripping vocals the next...Andy and Lucy's voices just work so well together. A few years back I saw an equally special band called Dogs Die In Hot Cars (RIP), and Elle S'appelle have a similar strength. Let's hope that this time the people of Britain wake up and stop buying one fucking X factor single after another AAAAAAAGGGHHH! These are proper tunes you can listen to again and again and find new bits in, clever little chord changes, fruity keyboard flourishes. Just take a listen to Little Flame, She Sells Sea Shells, Mariappa....just gorgeous pop loveliness. Je suis d'amore.

Gig of the year so far.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Late Of The Pier / Video Nasties / Slagsmalsklubben Bar Academy Saturday 16th February 2008

You might recall me banging on about Late of the Pier, late last year (oooh a rhyme so I was looking forward to tonight's gig. Suffice to say it was rammed, right from the outset, with a healthy crowd of arms in air young folk going seven shades of mental for...bear with me here...let me get this right...Slagsmalsklubben (there's a little circle thing over the second a...but I can't do that...unless someone knows how...answers on a piece of plywood please). I must admit that I've never heard of Slagsmalsklubben before, but they're a real treat, a smorgasbord of Euro disco, Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre all played by a row of 'mad for it' Swedes waving their hands in the air, like they just don't care. Sure, some of the music sounds like it could be the soundtrack to Super Mario Goes Clubbing (or should that be Klubben?) but it all made sense to me last night...enough to make me buy a CD (that and the fact that I didn't fancy trying to spell their name without some reference material).

Next up, Video Nasties...oooh scary. Actually, they weren't. I think they're Swedish too, but based in the UK. Musically they're a little bit punk, a little bit rock, a little bit indie...there's a strong hint of The Strokes here and there too (cop a load of Stereo). It was a nice bit of rough after the sweetness of the Slagsmalsklubben set, played with plenty of oooomph and jizz, and I found myself jigging up and down in a manner that us sad middle aged men have perfected (this'll be you in a few years pop kids ha!)

That left the main event, Late Of The Pier, a band responsible for one of THE records of the noughties, 'Bathroom Gurgle'. Given the style of music, the fact that the gig was sold out and the general yoofulness of the audience I knew it was going to get sweaty, but I can't stand being at the back of gigs...or the middle...there's just no I threw myself into the whole thing and pogoed along like someone's dad. The pop kids didn't seem to mind, bless 'em. Anyway, the music. It's a glorious retelling of the 80's by people who probably weren't even born until the very end of the decade. In my humble opinion the 80's were bleeping brilliant, not in an ironic 'ooooh look at that hair, what were we thinking' kind of way either. It really was the last great era of pop, with a level of experimentation and sheer insanity that we'll never see again. Adam Ant, Boy George, Madonna (when she was American), Jacko (before he was a crackpot), Prince (before he was a squiggle), Sal Solo, Marc Almond, Thomas Dolby, Heaven 17, The Human League, Duran Duran, Billy MacKenzie, Yello, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, ABC...I'm going off on one, but you get the picture. Well, for my money Late Of The Pier, have that same spirit of experimentation that makes clever pop special. 'Bathroom Gurgle' is undoubtedly their 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Several songs in one, vocal acrobatics, different movements, wibbly bits...genius. Why the hell it wasn't number one for the whole of 2007 I'll never know. 'Space and the Woods' is pure Tubeway Army, with that brilliant dirty synth sound. And forthcoming single 'The Bears Are Coming' has Bow Wow Wow bits of drumming mixed with mental Dolby-esque 'She Blinded Me With Science' style theramin-ish wig outs. By the end of the set I was a sweaty mess...inside and out...but happy that I'd just witnessed one of the first big bands of 2009 (it seems to take a year or so for the really good bands to cross over - witness Gallows, Foals, The Gossip etc...unless you've been on X Factor that's just the way it goes)...and one of the best bands of the 80's too. Which is some achievement.

NB: In a nod to the old skool (and 'cos I didn't want my new camera to end up inside a 15 year old boys rectum...'cos of the moshing...nothing sexual...pervert) I took my trusty 3.2 megapixel beast instead and thrust it in the air for a few desperate shots. Amazingly one or two came out! I also have a fine collection of heads, so if you ever need closeups of someone's head I'm your man.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hype Hype Baby

Ever keen to remain at the cutting edge of the global music blogging thingy I've added another widget to go with the stunning video wall and Pig Radio link. It's for The Hype Machine...possibly my favourite music website (apart from this one obviously...this is gold dust eh? Well sawdust then...oh christ...alright...just dust...). For the uninitiated The Hype Machine is an MP3 blog aggregator that's been around for ages. It sends lots of little robots out into the web to listen to all of the MP3's that people with far more time than me upload onto their music blogs and sticks them all on one ruddy great big site. Then you can go onto The Hype Machine, type in the name of your favourite artiste...let's say Chico....and voila, it brings up all of the Chico tracks for you. If you have some sneaky recording software you can then record them and bring down the record industry, rip off artists and generally be a very naughty boy/girl/transexual. Hurrah!

Anyway, this widget thingy is supposed to keep updating itself with the latest tracks that have been uploaded. So when you've had enough of me you can vanish off and listen to all kinds of weird and wonderful shit. Might I suggest you also check out (if you haven't already fallen in love with it) the Hercules & Love Affair track, 'Blind', featuring the lovely Anthony (without the Johnsons), 'Elvis' by These New Puritans is pretty ace too (ace? ace? what am I, 12? Jeez...jeez?...what am I 16? Oh deary me....that's more like it....72).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lucky that my breasts...

...are small and humble, so you don't confuse them with mountains. Now that's a lyric eh? After several years of not hearing Shakira's mighty opus I can't escape it...or her...not that I'd want to of course. That nice Mr Branson has given all of his loyal Virgin Media customers free "Music On Demand" for the whole of February so we can watch oodles of music videos for free, instead of forking out 75p a pop. That includes the lovely Shakira writhing around in mud and wiggling her hips and things...

Now the NME, which is swiftly becoming a musical version of Heat (as opposed to this site which is swiftly becoming a version of Dirty Old Men Monthly), informs us that Shakira has just sold one of her bra's for £1,500 to raise money for charidee. In a vague effort to make all of this perving even vaguely music related, nay cultural even, have a butchers at the Spanish version of the Whenever, Wherever video or Suerte as she calls it. Bless.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

This Love Affair / Liner / The Lionhearts / Fix Monday / News Street Adventure The Rainbow, Digbeth Friday 8th February 2008

Greetings. Welcome once more to the fully Sharia compliant Hearing Aid Kamikaze! review. We've got a lot to get through this week...5...count 'em...5 bands for a mere £4. Now that's value...and value it was...a damn fine night kicked off by the frankly brilliant New Street Adventure. One of the things that ticks me off with some bands is the paucity of their lyrics (yes, paucity...I've come over all Jane Austin...she didn't mind) but the Adventure have some crackers. Tales of rugby playing toss bags, chavvy girls, late nights on the town...all observed with a nice street poet kinda wit. I really like the lead singers voice too...reminds me a bit of the dude from Flamboyant Bella. The band have a Jam-ish kind of quality (not the fruit based conserve, the Mod lot...oh you got that...sorry), tight, energetic perfomers with a real flair for classic pop songs. They do quiet, reflective stuff just as well...check out Runaround. Colour me impressed (that means I was really impressed...really, really impressed...zigazig ahhh...).

The trouble with starting off a night so strongly is that a lot of the bands can then seem a little bit of a let down. Happily we had a fix for that...Fix Monday in fact (clever link eh? I'm a professional...don't try this at could all go horribly wrong). Fix Monday are special, life affirming even. They've got some lovely vocal dynamics going on in the band (have a listen to I Change for example), the best moment by far though was when the band came off the stage and performed an acapella track. I love stuff like that. It's hairs on the back of the neck time. Despite a few chatterers (why go to gigs and talk?do you not understand the go to a gig to LISTEN to the bands....aaaaggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh) and a DJ with twitchy fingers it was a truly great moment.

Two down, next up The Lionhearts all the way from Cardiff. Could we keep up the standards set by the first two bands...oh yes. There's a touch of The View about The Lionhearts but, for my money at least, this lot are a hell of a lot stronger. Yellow Star Cafe in particular is just such a great track...simple, but catchy as hell. They've got a nice folky feel but with an oomph that drives along the music at just the right pace. There's a mandolin too...why do so many bands ignore the huge range of instruments available and just stick to guitar, drum, bass? More mandolins...more strings...more something different like The Lionhearts and the musical landscape would be a much richer place.

I've seen Liner before...back in October 2007...anal? Moi? Anyway, if we were giving awards for the most energetic perfomance of the night Liner would win hands down. Lead Liner Alex had that kind of Kevin Rowland kind of intensity that Dexy's had back in the day. The bit where he span round and landed on his knees towards the end of the set would've crippled most frontmen. As I recalled last time they've got some really strong songs and Diamonds stood out once more as being one of the best. I'm delighted to report that this track has been picked to feature in the new Sharon Stone movie "Whoops don't look up my crotch", that's not right..."The Year of Getting to Know Us". So clearly the good folk of Hollywood read The Hearing Aid too...hi ya fellas...need any writers? I won't go on strike...promise. I'll even make the tea. And fetch you mountains of me...we'll do lunch. Er...right...Liner then. Hollywood beckons and, all joking aside, I would love this track to be picked up by US radio (and I think it could well be). Will Liner be the next big band to come out of Brum? Watch this space.

Finally, and the fifth band of the night (that's value etc etc), This Love Affair. I recognise this lot...but not the name....hmmm...hold on...ahhhh right...they were The Brite Lights last time I saw them. I sense ambition with this lot. They're going right for the U2 epic stadium rock crown, knocking over that bloke who thinks he's a hedge...(oh the Edge...right...that makes a lot more sense). Listen to Turn The Page. There...see what I mean. They hit the spot too. I'd love to see them on a really big stage with a massive PA behind 'em. That's their natural territory. Bono-issimo.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Kudos to the Budos

Ahhhh the funk. You can't beat a bit of the funk. I'm no funk soothsayer but I'm sensing a bit of a revival (before anyone says anything, yes I'm sure the funk never went away, but it's been a bit quiet of late...maybe it had a cold...albeit a funky one). Blame/thank Mark Ronson in part for his use of the Dap-Kings for much of Amy's Back to Black album perhaps. Whatever the reason, the funk is once more alive and well, not only in Birmingham's very own Anyone For Shark? but also, it seems, in a thriving New York based scene. Home to the aforementioned Dap-Kings and Miss Sharon Jones, appearing soon at The Yardbird(April 13th I think) - yet another cool looking local venue that I've not yet been to - and the frankly awesome Daptone Records, I've also come across these dudes...the Budos Band. Check out their My Space tracks. Damn that's some funky shit...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Kate Goes / Vix n'the Kix / Bom & His Magic Drumstick / Anyone For Shark? / The Sugarfoot Stomp DJ's Rainbow Digbeth Friday 1st February 2008

Ner ner. Ner ner. Ner ner ner ner. Ner ner ner ner ner ner nerrrrrr nerrrrrr. Shark anyone? (yes that was my attempt at trying to write the theme tune to Jaws...obvious really). Welcome once more fellow travellers to the grave to another episode in the continuing adventures of Kamikaze! and bien venue (I think that's French for something) to Anyone For Shark? Well, yes please, me for one. Anyone For Shark are a flesh rippingly awesome blues funk collective, a killer Bees if you like (the band the Bees, not the honey producing furry critters...although the lead singer was sporting a little facial fuzz...maybe he really is a bee in disguise?). Hot damn these guys are funky when they get in the groove - listen to Onepoundsfifty on their MySpace page. Awesome. The talent we've got in our fair city never ceases to amaze me, and AFS are right up there with the very best. Gigbeth organisers are you listening? Anyone For Shark? on the main stage...headlining...on the opening excuses. Not for the last time this evening I found myself prising open the old wallet to buy a CD...

Next up Bom & His Magic Drumstick (check out his MySpace page...genius). They say there's a fine line between madness and genius. Bom takes this line and twists it into strange animal shapes, like those balloon modelling people. Then he brings these animals to life in a weird, never ending scary tale that continues at every gig he does. I saw him a few years back and remember that he divided the audience into two camps - those who love the eccentricity of it all and those who find keep muttering 'What the fuck?' to themsleves and he did the same tonight. Suffice to say I fell into the former camp. The vision of Hilary Clinton's smile spreading so wide that her head splits open revealing a giant arachnid with laser beam eyes that does battle with a huge mad mouse will stay with me for ever...

After the madness of King Bom, we were treated to the magnificence of Queen Vix and her Kix. Regular readers will know how much I love this band - great vocals, classy pop with a grungy underbelly and lashings of glamour - and last night's set was another fine performance with, I think I'm right in saying, two new tracks - Hero and Radio. It's good to hear some new stuff - now we need the album. What's that? They've done one? It's coming out in the spring. Oh deep joy. They're gigging a fair bit over the next few weeks so you can get yourself a Vix and Kix fix too.

Finally Kate Goes. Fittingly tonight Kate went over the Rainbow ('cos it was at the Rainbow Pub...clever eh?). If you've not seen them before (what have you been doing darlings?) at each gig Kate (the lead singer's called Kate) and the band 'go' somewhere by dressing up in home made costumes. A sort of musical Mr Benn...or Miss Benn in this case. I was lucky enough to see and be entranced by their first ever gig (I think) at the Jug of Ale a while back. From the very few lines of Heartbeat I knew they were special and lo...they are. Finally the rest of the world is catching up and they've just done a Radio One session with someone called Huw Stevens (whatever happened to Dave Lee Travis?). It's hard to describe what they sound like, but imagine the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band taking over Sesame Street and you might be close. Capable of sounding as sweet as an angel or as kick ass as Amanda from the Dresden Dolls (bits of the vocal and keyboard stuff reminded me of the Dolls in places) Kate is a lyrical genuis. If the only song she'd ever written was Heartbeat that would be enough...but she keeps writing the stuff. It's deceptively simple but then some of the best music ever written is just that. From here on in Kate Goes wherever she and the rest of the band want...
I keep forgetting to mention the DJ's who play at Kamikaze! every week...which is most naughty of me. This weeks lot, The Sugarfoot Stomp DJ's, were one of the best we've had so far too. A million miles away from indie disco, and a gloriously refreshing change, they specialise in an altogether classier era...the 1920's - 1960's. Your Doris Day's and Edith Piaf's, Big Bands and exotica...that kinda thing. Respect due for playing the Mohammed Rafi track from Ghost World too (it's on their My Space page) - Bollywood meets Gene Krupa...simply divine (may I recommend a bit of Patti Plinko and her boy next time as well...not strictly 1920's - 1960's but darn fine...). You can catch them at The Bulls Head in Moseley on Thursday 28th February...or hopefully at Kamikaze! again soon (that's a hint by the way). Until the next time then...altogether now...'We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when...'