Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster / The High Society / The Indigos @ The Rainbow, Saturday 20th December 2008

Mr Rock meet Mr Roll. Mr Roll, this is Mr Rock. Way back in the glorious technicolour 1950's this is, quite possibly, how the future of music began. Anyone who was at last night's show would have plenty of reasons to celebrate the meeting of Mssrs Rock and Roll (no, I have no real idea of what I'm blathering on about either but it's more fun that starting a review with 'First up the Indigos' though isn't it?). Oh. Alright then. First up The Indigos! I'd seen them once before - a solid performance with hints of brilliance. Tonight though, they nailed it. Pure and simple. No question. 100% musical gold. Quite how bands change in a matter of months is a question that scientists are working on right that Hadron Collider thingy...but sometimes it just happens. Deep, Zeppy riffs, dark bass, booming drums and Ian's (pictured below) suddenly quite ominous vocals (has he been gargling Satan's jizz?) all came together in one big tight package of ROCK. I hope the live recording of last night's show does justice to it all (Teeth and Play in particular were awesome). It's destined to go down as something special. Last time I thought The Indigos would just go on to be another good local band. Now, I really think they could be contenders...

Next a band that, if the world were a fairer place, would be busily bedding super models, selling out stadiums and hoovering up huge bags of coke in their own private jet - The High Society (pictured below). As it is we are genuinely lucky to have them around. Watching them last night I imagine you'd have got the same sense of excitement from watching, say, the New York Dolls back in the early days...or Iggy and The Stooges. Yes, they are that good. It's strange that so many people only really get excited about bands when the media is salavating all over them. It's oh so safe to pitch up at the LG (Lord God help us all) Arena and watch some big overhyped tosh for £30 a ticket plus booking fee plus tosh tax plus delivery charge plus plus plus...blah blah blah...but so much of the best, most exciting music is being made in much smaller venues by bands like The High Society. If you wanted to create the perfect glam rock supergroup you'd struggle to beat The High Society. Maxi B is a rock superstar. Drummer Ash (who's also in the Black and Reds) is the best drummer I've seen in 20 years of gigging and Martyn, Topper and Glen look, sound and complete the dream line up. I'm in love. The set was fast and furious, like fucking up an alley...and every bit as satisfying. Revenge, The Stripper, Bettie is a Pin-up...bang, bang, bang. It feels good. Maxi ended by tossing his mic into the audience as if to say over to you...think you can do better? No one picked it up. No one could.

After all that the headliners had a tough job to do. But that's the thing about great gigs. Each band inspires the rest. The night just keeps building and The Eighties B-Line Matchbox Disaster finished the job off before (almost literally) destroying the place. I'd not seen them before. I'd only heard a few tracks...Mister Mental in particular stood out. Musically they're goth rock with added -abilly (that'll be gothrockabilly then). It's a curious mix in places but it just works brilliantly. Within the first few notes a good natured mosh pit had broken out and this continued through the entire set. Moshing (basically shoving each other around, bouncing about and trying not to break a limb) must look quite odd if you're not involved in it. I have to admit it is a little odd, but it actually enhances the music, adding the physical to the aural and visual experience. That's my justification for behaving like an overgrown teenager...and I'm sticking to it. A decent pit looks after each other (picking up the dead and dying from the floor) and not banging into anyone who doesn't want to get involved. That seemed to be the case last night. The band themselves were...and I hate to use that word again...awesome. Lead Box, Guy, regularly flung himself into the pit of bodies (singing all the way) only to emerge slightly more bedraggled each time back on stage, whipping the crowd up into even more of a frenzy. He's got a bit of a Pete Murphy (Bauhaus) touch to his vocals in places one minute, then a growling yelp the a possessed high priest of rock. The rest of the band meanwhile, grind out one punishing slab of noise after the next. Kaboom. Last night's set contained (amongst many other classics) In The Garden, Love Turns to Hate, Mission From God, A Man For All Seasons, Mister Mental...just perfect musical madness (you can check out most of these on their MySpace page). I'm bruised, one of my vertabrae is in a slightly different place and I can still taste the sweat, but then that's what Mr Rock and Mr Roll would've wanted eh?

Happy Christmas dear readers!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Envy & Other Sins / The Heathers / Mr Bones and the Dreamers / Tom Peel @ The Rainbow, Digbeth Thursday 18th December 2008

My oh my....Christmas is taking it's time this year isn't it? Happily we have the annual Envy & Other Sins Christmas bash to keep us all going - a musical figgie pudding (whatever that is). First up Tom Peel. Last time I saw him I was very, very drunk. This time I was (sensible chap that I am) very, very sober. Would it take the edge off? Not a bit of it. Tom's a delight. Like a Lonnie Donnegan for the 21st Century (and boy does the 20th Century need a Lonnie Donnegan). Folk, bluesy tales of biblical bods and a ukelele...only Tom could make it work. But work it does.

Next up the 7 headed hydra that is Mr Bones & The Dreamers. There's a magic ingredient here. Like the sixpence in a Christmas pud (or should that be 0.2 wait...0.1 bugger) the hidden treat in Mr Bones is the violin! Oh yes. I do love a bit of fiddling and, whilst the rest of the band make a mighty fine noise, the violin is the fairy on the tree (feeling Christmassy enough yet?). Stylistically there's a bit of The Levellers, Waterboys and The Decemberists - anthemic stomp alongs with more thoughtful lyrics than your average bear. Lead Bone, Ryan, has a fine voice too, almost choral in places tonight and it all rocked along jolly well.

Third band of the night were the all new and improved Heathers (now with added Rachel!). Having split with Dave, their former lead singer, Rachel - regularly seen (wo)manning the doors at the weekly 444 Club stepped up to da mic. This was their first show together so you might expect it to be a bit shakey. But it weren't. Rachel has the voice, the moves and a rather sassy stage presence. Hell, this was their FIRST gig together! Colour me impressed. Shades of The Cardigans, Edie Brickell (according to Lady B) and (the late, great) Beautiful South in other words clever, catchy pop that many bands would give a kidney for. I'll be fascinated to see how they develop from here...

Finally, the main event, Envy & Other Sins. After winning C4's new band contest thingy and a £1m record deal the 'NME' turned against the group and went all sniffy. But then, the NME today is a sad shadow of it's former self - a tired comic that's full of posters, ads, letters about how one band is 'like well shite' and another is 'ohmigodsoamazin' and very little else. I stopped buying it (having been an avid reader for 20 years) after they tried to attack Morrissey again for no good reason (I believe he's in the process of suing them...good). Anyway, the point is that (there is a point here somewhere), Envy & Other Sins were a darn fine band before the contest (I ranted about them on this very site a couple of years back) and are every bit as good today. I'm not a fan of talent contests, but I recognise their appeal to viewers and participants. To diss anyone purely for winning one of these shows is a very, very bad thing. Envy deserved to win and they deserve to 'make it'...whatever that means these days. Highness is a cracking track. Genius indie pop. They have style, grace and flair (plus rather nice standard lamps and a stuffed pheasant). And they seem to be genuinely nice chaps. Whatever happens record label and press wise they must...stick two fingers up and do their thing. If the internet is doing one thing it's gradually rubbing out the mass media and putting some vague degree of power in the hands of the public. The mass media don't like this. It's a clear case of envy...and other sins. No Prodigal Son tonight, but a lovely cover of Jona Lewie's Stop The Cavalry more than made up for it. I can feel my bells start to jingle right now...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Puppini Sisters (and a rant or two) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham, Wednesday 10th December 2008

I really, really want to like the Town Hall. Really I do. It's a magnificent building, one of the few remains of our once great city. But it just lacks something. Every gig I've been to there feels like a school assembly. I assume the seats come out and maybe they've done some standing gigs there already. Maybe that would help? Certainly tonight would've benefitted from being able to stand and jiggle around a little. I had audience issues ( it just me?) tonight too. Namely four women in front of us. Row D seats 2,3,4 and 5 if you're reading. Yes. You. No it is not alright to lean across your mates during the gig cackling and chatting. Nor is it okay to start texting people in the middle of a gig. Clearly you don't get out much. That's a shame but, given your selfish behaviour and clear disregard for anyone who had come to listen to the band - and not your shrieking - maybe that's a good thing n'est ce pas? Next time stay at home please and watch Little Dorrit, X Factor or whatever it is that people like you do when you're not irritating the fuck out of me.

Anyway. The music. The Puppini Sisters are a wonderfully entertaining trio of ladies who 'swing up' all manner of modern (and ancient) tracks. Last time I saw them at The Glee Club (a much better venue for them) they were able to connect with each other (and the audience) far more successfully. Tonight, spread out across the large stage area, it was a lot harder to get the closeness that brings the whole thing to life. Actually they are far more suited to some dark, velvet lined bar with an intimate layout, loads of candles and a nice bottle or two of claret. They'd have been perfect at Ronnie Scotts (RIP) on Broad Street for example. There's some Big City Plan going on in Birmingham at the moment. Much to my shame I haven't really bothered to find out about it all. I think it's something to do with making Birmingham the city it could (and should be). More 'interesting' venues is a must. Bollocks to noise pollution. The city needs more venues. Let's convert the old derelict buildings that lie all over the place. Spend some of the £65million wasted on the Public and give artists, performers and budding business folk subsidised space. Pedestrianise Digbeth High Street (from the Rainbow downwards) divert the traffic down the sidestreets and make Digbeth the artistic centre is deserves to be. Get the tram system going. It ain't difficult. It ain't complicated. It doesn't need a ten year debate. Just wake up and do it. Hmmmm...this is less of a review and more of a rant today isn't it? Oh well. After the break the four 'people' in front of us seemed to lose the will to live (maybe they realised they couldn't vote anyone off?) and gave up gabbling to each other. The sound quality seemed better too and the night redeemed itself - just. It wasn't the Sisters fault. They were, as ever, superb. It just didn't suit them. Maybe The Old Rep would make a better setting next time. Or how about The Electric Cinema? The Glee's fine too. As for The Town Hall...I want it to do well but I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe its just not for me...

Monday, December 08, 2008

TV On The Radio / The Big Pink @ The Academy 2, Sunday 7th December 2008

Boo! Hiss! Damn Sunday gigs. In the middle of Winter too. The temptation to sit at home in the warm watching the Antiques Roadshow and supping a litre of Port is oh so strong. But - being pure rock n'roll - I squeezed myself into the old thermal cod piece and - stopping briefly for a rather fine hot apple and rum at the quieter bit of the German market (just in front of the library) - got to the venue a good hour or so before the start of the gig...plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere...and stick to the floor.

First up, The Big Pink. Blending the Jesus and Mary Chain - driving, fuzzy guitars ahoy - with a distinctly Glasvegas feel The Pink seemed a little subdued and miserable at first but soon hit their stride, peaking on their final track Dominoes...which I actually really liked. There's a nice contrast going on in there between the male and female vocalists and the addition of some dark electronica make them well worth a listen. Their MySpace page has to be seen to be believed...but it er...seems to feature young boys with hard ons (oh...that's why they're called The Big Pink...) and a - I can only presume - made up tale of abduction and murder. Not quite sure what's going on there but I'm sure it's all in the name of art young boys were harmed in the making of the site right?

Moving swiftly on, tonight was all about the men themselves TV On The Radio. They've been on and off my radar for a few years now but tracks from the current album, Dear Science (in particular Golden Age - like Prince with a hard on - and Dancing Choose) put them firmly in my sights (musically speaking...I'm not about to pop a cap in anyone's ass). I was ready for a good gig but hadn't realised just how darn funky they can get. Then again they can go a bit metal too. And soul. Rap too. Oh...shoegaze even. It's like a musical pick and mix. A living breathing record collection of someone with real taste. One of the lead vocalists,Tunde, has to be a strong competitor for the hardest working man in showbusiness. Twitching and grooving across the stage like a man possessed he was drenched in sweat after the first number and kept it up (oooer missus...) all the way through a glorious 90 minute set. The other main vocalist, Kyp, reaches the kind of high notes that the even Bee Gees would kill for. Together the harmonies can be simply awesome. Even the venue (the 'Academy' '2') and the bleeding cold couldn't stop it from being a great night. Influences? Hmmm, loads. But I was hearing Outcast and Living Colour in there with a dash of Yeasayer, a bit of Scissor Sisters...all kinds of great shit. They have to be strong competitors for one of the best live acts of the year and are not to be missed if you have a chance to catch 'em live. They're playing over in Australia in January - I might pop over. It would actually be worth the effort.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Release Roundup December

As Birmingham's number one music related site...uh...oh...alright then, Bearwood's number one music related site, I'm in the enviable position of being sent all manner of musical goodies from lovely record labels and their equally lovely PR type people. It's a music lovers (and cheapskates) dream I tell ye. There's been a veritable flurry of stuff recently, so here's my pick of the bunch.

First up - and a truly big deal for anyone with even a passing interest in late 70's / early 80's industrial electro - the return (after a decade away) of Sheffield's mighty wizards of sound, Cabaret Voltaire (pictured)! Oh yes. Well, not strictly a true return. The new release is a remix project, taking Maori dubsters Kora's latest album and cutting it up with a bucket load of old skool industrial tunage (yes, tunage). On the whole it's a pretty successful mix, still dub heavy but with now with a darker dance edge. Whoohahahahah. Top tracks Skankenstein and Burning work particularly well. Gutted I missed Kora when they played in Brum last month 'cos they sound awesome, but the press release promises a Cabaret Voltaire tour in the new year. Perhaps they can hook up as joint headliners? Just a thought. Anyways up, the album's out on the 15th December (the perfect pressie for your industrial dub lovin' Auntie know how she loves her dub...she's a bitch for that dub...remember her Lee Scratch Perry knickers?) on Shiva Records.

Next hotly tipped deck abusers Cassette Jam with no less than four mixes of their new track Don't Lose Control, a dirty electro banger that's destined to end up on more than one or two trendy dance comps next year. Fans of Erol Alkan and Kavinsky will love it. Get ahead of the Jones' and pick up the original - it's out now on Pieces Of Eight Records (for the record - pieces of eight or otherwise - my favourite mix is the Loose Cannon's one - sounds like Flat Eric on acid. Niiiiiiice).

Finally - for now - the return of Plump DJ's with the frankly vocodatastic Beat Myself Up. Featuring the catchy line 'I keep on fucking thiiiings up' (don't we all?) it too has a distinct Flat Eric vibe (that armpit squelchy bass bit), mixed up with naggingly catchy Jacques Le Cont style electro madness. It comes with an acapella version of the vocader bit which is strangely addictive...I think newsreaders should have to use a vocader to read the news. The world might be as depressing as a night out with Cheryl Cole / Tweedy / Cole (who curiously seems to be attaining the level of adoration normally reserved for people who discover a cure for cancer whilst rescuing an old lady and her cat from a burning tree) but it would sure sound as funky as hell. Beat Myself up is out on Finger Lickin' Records on 26th January 2009. That's nearly two months away...ha...munch on that scenesters!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shit and Shine / The Courtesy Group / Mills & Boon @ The Rainbow, Monday 1st December 2008

Itttttt's Chrissssssstmas!!! Well, nearly. So what better way to celebrate than a bit of meat inspired madness courtesy of our old friends Mills & Boon. No masks this time round (maybe they were in awe of Shit and Shine's) but plenty of tunes to get Linda McCartney spinning in her grave. They kind of reminded me of a cross between System Of A Down and Jethro Tull tonight. Don't ask me why. I have no answers. That's Google you want there...or those annoying 18188811888 people.

Next up, and a band who no doubt have many answers, The Courtesy Group. Whether he's playing to a bloody great warehouse full of people or a more select gathering Mr Courtesy himself, Al, always gives it some welly. He wore a rather fetching nylon dressing gown tonight, the sort favoured by grannies, and did plenty of his trademark wandering around the room bellowing his cut up words of wisdom at folk. In a better world The Courtesy Group would be feted by the tastemakers. I only hope that their forthcoming album hits the spot and gives them the respect they're due. Despite hearing Brick House Blues a million times I still loves it, especially the way it goes all deedoodeedeedoodoodoo. That's a particularly good bit. They played a splendid version of The New Beef tonight too (imagine The Small Faces on crack)...possibly in honour of Mills & Boon (it's a whole meat thing you see). I believe Al lives in Bearwood too - God's own country - which makes The Courtesy Group my 'local' band. Hurrah!

Finally, Shit and Shine. I've seen a lot of bands in my time. Oh so many bands. Yet only one band has ever done an entire set of just one track. That honour belongs to Shit and Shine. For the uninitiated the band consists of two guitarists who wear blue masks and bunny rabbit ears (think the Blue Man Group crossed with that strange creature from Donnie Darko). They have drummers too. Three tonight but I've heard tales of up to 20. Oh...there's a chappie with an oscillator (email me the correct spelling and I'll send you some fudge...not really...not unless you want some which case you can damn well buy it yourself) box too. But he seemed very very verrrrrrryyyyy drunk. The drummers all played the same drum beat over and over and over and over and over and over and over get the picture. The blue guitar bunnies tortured their instruments and Mr Drunk Oscillator man wibbled a lot. It was all rather strange but, after the first 15 minutes, quite hypnotic too. Like being in a womb...albeit a womb inhabited by terrifying blue bunnies, drummers and drunk blokes. You know, we need more groups like Shit and Shine. I'd like to see them on X Factor. It's the kind of music we need in 2008. Nightmareish but sort of reassuring at the same time. Everything's turning to shit, but shit can still shine. We are the world. We are the Children. We are the ones who make a brighter day so let's start singing...and shitting. I can't think of anyone that they sound like...but they've got a bit of a Krautrock feel. They also skin their fans and hang their hides on the wall. I'd like to think so anyway. Oh, I liked the bit when one of the blue bunny men seemed to stamp on the drunk dudes head then jam him down the gap between the stage and the wall too. Nice touch. Shit and Shine then. Loud. Repetitive. And blue.