Tuesday, March 31, 2009

London, Paris, New York…Birmingham…everyone talk about Frankmusik.

Wonky Popster Frankmusik popped into Brum on his Live and Lost Tour (sponsored by Crackberry) last Sunday. The idea is that poor Frankmusik was dumped in Scotland with £20 in his pocket and just one week to get back to London using only the help of his fans. Kerrrrrazy. Along the way he had to set up and play a series of impromptu gigs too. Brave soul. Amazingly he seems to be on the verge of success and hasn’t (so far) been abducted by someone who collects earwigs and lives with an imaginary friend called Purple Pete. His Brum set was short but very sweet with a piano airing of the lovely 3 Little Words, a Postal Services cover and Better Off As Two (during which he endearingly forgot the words). Despite the Crackberry link it’s a nice story – I’m all in favour of breaking down the barriers between fans and bands – and have mucho respect for anyone who has the balls to risk his or her life at the hands of complete strangers. Oh…great songs too. Altogether now…‘Frank you for the musik…’

Friday, March 20, 2009

Barringtone / Colonel Fabien / Is I Cinema @ The Rainbow, Friday 20th March 2009

It's Friday. Officially the sexiest day of the week. Can you think of any sexier days? Nope. Exactly. For those of you who are lucky enough to still have a job...all nine of you...it signals the end of the working week. For the other 68million of us (and rising) it's a good excuse to have a couple of pints of glider and chill out...even more than we have done for the last five days.

First up Is I Cinema. Why the name? I love this story. It appears that one of the band was on the tube in that there London place when a gang of rudies caught him giving them a passing glance 'Oi blud! Whatcha lookin at? Is I cinema?' Genius. So much for the name, whaddabout da music? Well, as the lovely Greg (Sound Bar / sometime Rainbow soundman and all round sound man) pointed out they've got a bit of a Radiohead feel. Which they have. I like the 'head. Despite some of the posturing and grand gestures (pay us what we want for our album..we don't care...yah boo and sucks to you) they are one of the most impressive mainstream bands of the last 20 years. Is I Cinema has a similar sense of introspective retrospection together with a sparse but well used musical palate (nope, once again I have no idea what I'm on about). I love the quiet loud quiet stuff, witness Little Owl. The lyrics stand up to closer inspection too (stuff about Twin Peaks and Watchmen - 'the original comic book, not the film') and Is I Cinema could well have what it takes to become (wait for it)...a main feature. Ba ba ba bahhh ba ba ba ba bahhh (that's the old Pearl and Dean music...for anyone under the age of 40). Oh, they seemed like darn nice people too, giving Ian (Mr Sound) thanks for fixing one of their guitars with a soldering iron. Is there no end to his talents?

Next up Colonel Fabien, thy name is jazz. If you've read my Finley Quaye review you'll have seen my mutterings about the 'jam'. Whereas Fin's set had a little too much noodling in places, the Colonel get the balance just right. There's enough complexity to keep even the most ardent jazzaphobe entertained (i'm sure I caught snatches of the Simpsons theme tune and Take Five in there) and the band look, as well as sound, the part. It's unfair to single out any one member for praise as they all impressed me, but the drummer's solo was simply awesome. Only a particularly agile octopus on speed could compete. It's the second time I've seen them and I'm looking forward to the third time already. Experimental jazz they may be, but it's an experiment that works.

Finally, featuring one (or more?) of the blokes out of Clor, Barringtone. I liked Clor (remember 'Danger Zone' and 'Love and Pain'?). I bought the album. Oh yes...and you know how rare it is that I part with my cash. Clor were always a little odd and I'm glad to report that Barringtone maintain that tradition. Barringtone's debut single, Snake In The Grass is a like The Young Knives jamming with Frank Zappa. It's bonkers, but danceable, rocky and jazzy, punk and post punk all at the same time. I hadn't really picked up on it at the time but George (one of the lovely people behind Kamikaze!) pointed out that Barringtone are an XTC (I lurve XTC) sort of band - clever and arty but really engaging all at the same time. Just cop a listen to Technollipop - the soundtrack to some oddball arcade game from the 80's - or how about the Devo-esque Salad of Despair (what a great title). Like I say, it's clever stuff, simple on the outside but, like an onion, many layered...and it makes a great soup too. Quite. I think I need a lie down...

Finley Quaye / Burnside @ The Rainbow, Thursday 19th March 2009

Soon be Christmas...Ho Ho Ho! Actually I shouldn't joke about it, what with the 'credit crunch' and all that I daresay the shops will soon be clearing the unsold easter eggs and replacing them with mince pies. If it can happen, it will happen. But let us cast aside thoughts of 'figgy puddings', jolly St Nick and Iceland Frozen Party Platters (48 pieces for just £4.99...yum...squirrel foreskin in batter Vicar?) and instead turn our attention to bluesy rockers Burnside. Unusually there's three vocalists in the band, each one of whom is more than capable of doing 'the biz'. There's a touch of Alt Country to some of the tracks, a slightly baggy indie feel to the performance and the whole thing works particularly well when Jonny and Des (I think) back Robbie (who has the bluesier, stronger voice) on vocals. You can listen to Microdots (a live recording) on their space but, to be honest, last night's performance sounded a whole load better so you'd better go and see them live instead.

On to our headline act. Do you want jam on that? A whole load of jam. Jars and jars of the stuff. Oozing all over the place. Thick, sticky jam. Jam doughnuts...without the dough...or nuts. Jamjamjamjamjahhhhhh. Yes, tonight was a bit of a jam. A smaller band than I was expecting, just Fin on guitar, a bass player, drummer and keyboard dude (who didn't seem to do much keyboarding). Of course reggae (like jazz and prog rock) has a reputation for drifting off into a bit of a jam, the success of all this relies on having a central force to really jam around. At times tonight it worked really well (the opening Voodoo Chile jam hit the spot) and we certainly weren't short changed in terms of the set length (a good hour and a half). At other times the jam wandered into a bit of a noodle, a bit too mellow for some of the audience I sensed. Unsurprisingly a chilled out version of Sun Is Shining got the best reception of the night and, had we all been in a field in the middle of summer with a pint of glider and a spliff the size of a draught excluder I feel the noodling bit would've made a lot more sense...

Still, a good night all round and a rare chance to see a Brit winner up close and personal. Jam anyone?
(picture courtesy of the lovely Shakeypix Photography)

Friday, March 13, 2009

I've got the Quaye...I've got the secret.

Remember this? Yep, Finley Quaye with THE sound of summer a few years back. Well, he's back (actually I'm sure he's never been away but I think this is the first national tour for a while) and he's playing The Rainbow on Thursday 19th March! Listening to some of his newer material he's moved more towards his rasta reggae roots and, with the promise of a full live band, this gigs gonna be especially 'irie'. I understand that tickets are selling as fast as a bagful of skunk at Glasto (now that's fast) so, if you want to go, head over to The Ticket Sellers right now.

The Foxes / The Turns / The Vehicles / The Carpels @ The Rainbow, The Thursday, The 12th of The March, The 2009

Yes, yes, yes...lots of bands with 'The' in their names. Of course no one can beat the very great The The (ask your grandparents pop kids)...whatever happened to them eh? First up The Carpels. I've jested more than once that I'm sooooo old now I have boxer shorts with more years under their belt (as it were) than some of the bands I go to see. Often it's for pure comedy value. Tonight though it was probably true. That says much about my wardrobe...in particular my underwear department. Happily The Carpels were anything but pants, fusing a Foals-ish feel with a little bit of that old Buzzcocks spark. Math Punk anyone? It brings much joy to my aging heart that more bands are now being influenced by the some of the artier, edgier groups of the last few years. I've nothing against straight up Oasis flavoured rock (well...I have, but let's leave that debate for another day), but what any avid music fan craves is VARIETY. Delivering just that The Carpels are already a good band, punching way above their weight lyrically and musically. Ones to watch.

Second on the bill, The Vehicles, have played The Rainbow a fair few times. Once again they delivered a solid New Wavey set, the highlights of which being Bright Young Things and The Best Things Come to Those Who Wait - both of which are available right now on their MySpace pagey. Third up, The Turn, had a touch of The Verve about them. Lead Turn Carl's got a good rock voice, well suited to the material and the rest of the band provided the perfect backing, tight but capable of rocking out when duty called.

The highlight of the night for me though was The Foxes. I've been semi-following them for a couple of years now. I bought their original Lover Killer EP (now fetching £500 on ebay...well it might be soon...) and was impressed when they all jacked in their day jobs to follow their dream, setting up their own label along the way. That was waaaaaay back in 2006. How time flies. Now I've jacked in my day job (well, it's been jacked in for me) and The Foxes have made the hallowed pages of NME. What's more they're about to release a new single penned in tribute to the master of mirth himself Mr Bill 'theworldisfullofcocksuckingwhores' Hicks (RIP). There's something very British about The Foxes, a 60's twang to the music that has echoes of The Kinks at their punkiest or even early Beatles. It's just a twang, but it's there. The venue wasn't full but the band put their all into it (the lead Fox's vocal seemed stronger too), just as they have done every single time I've seen them and they've now got a set full of instantly loveable hits. Aside from the music (which is great) I respect the whole ethos of the band. They're putting in the thousands of miles and hours (working as a covers band to help fund the whole shebang), slogging all over the world and now (fingers crossed) it's starting to pay off. It's a real shame that there ain't no mainstream music show no more...you can just see The Foxes on TOTP. That's the kind of big lift that they really need/deserve. But, who knows? With the Bill Hicks single buzz building they may yet 'out fox' the music biz altogether...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Amanda Palmer...because you need her in your life.

A lovely video that I came across during my long dark trawl through t'web...in it Amanda gets drunk, raped and has an abortion. All in the name of art obviously...watch and learn. Amanda I salute you...and your painted on eyebrows.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rumble Strips / Wet Paint @ The Rainbow, Monday 9th March 2009

The third in a short season of Monday gigs at the 'bow (although, being unemployed, 'Monday' doesn't mean much at the moment) saw the mighty Rumble Strips unveil tracks from their forthcoming album. First up though, Alt Grungsters, Wet Paint (brave choice of name there guys...you can just hear vindictive little reviewers lobbing that back in your face), formed from members of Absentee (who I've heard of) and Economy Wolf (who I haven't). A nice thrashy set with a fair few catchy numbers, pick of the bunch being Save The Whale...in which the band advise the whale to 'get a job'. Whooah there Wet Paint, it's hard enough for me to get a job, you don't need to go around encouraging whales to start applying for work too. I mean, how the hell are they going to fit into their local Job Centre Plus eh? What sort of job could a whale do anyway? Bouncer? Librarian? Pole dancer? I'd stick to the music and cut out the careers advice if I were you. Wet Paint's debut album, It Rots, is out now...unemployed whale's get a 50% discount.

The Rumble Strips. What can I say? They're one of (far too) many bands who deserve far more success than they've enjoyed so far. Wake up people! Unlike many of these bands though it looks like they're going to have another (well deserved) chance thanks to their forthcoming Mark Ronson produced album. Naturally tonight's set saw an airing for much of this new album and, I have to say, these tracks generally stand up really well to the older, tried and tested Rumbles classics. It's always tricky getting a fix on stuff on the first listen but, as with the debut album Charlie's soaring vocal gymnastics remain a key feature (that boy has soul) and the songs retain an air of frustration and regret that the world just ain't as it should be. Opening number, and new track, 'London' is a case in point. 'Why can't I love you in London?' yearns Charlie against a keyboard driven backing that, I sense, might be more of a feature on the new album proper (as opposed to the brassy feel of the debut). Predictably the crowd went wild for old faves Motorcycle, Time, Alarm Clock and Boys and Girls In Love (which saw Charlie plunging into their adoring arms only to be carried aloft then safely returned to the stage...what a nice audience) and the whole band remained as tight, fresh and passionate as they seemed when I first caught 'em back in '06. Tonight was the very first night of a tour that's taking them all over the place. So there's no excuses. If you get a chance to see them, take it. Rock n'soul just doesn't get better than this.
Setlist: London / Backbone / Time / Raindrops / Walk Alone / No Soul / Happy Hell /Douglas / Motorcycle / Only Person / Running On Empty / Cowboy / Daniel / Girls and Boys.
PS: For much better pictures than the ones I took of the gig check out DRW Images and Shakeypix Photography's sites...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Miss Halliwell / King of Conspiracy / Dead Fish / The Concept: Mk @ The Rainbow, Friday 7th March 2009

Gig three at the 'bow this week. I am officially moving in soon. I've secured a spot just behind the toilet bowl in the gents loos. It's a bit smelly, but it's home. Sadly, thanks to West Midlands Transport and their new policy of making you wait for hours before a thousand buses all cruise along at the same time, we arrived at the death of the first band's set. They were called The Concept: Mk and seemed to make a good noise but, alas, I can't give a full set appreciation. A quick listen to their MySpace thingy and free CD that we were handed towards the end of the evening reveals a progtronica (there I go again, inventing genres) vibe.

Next up The Dead Fish, notable for the lead singer's cod Rasta accent in between songs and Stone Roses meets The Clash meets Campag Velocet feel. When they hit their groove it all came together quite well.

If I'm skimping on the details of the first couple of bands it's because I want to focus on the last two (and my typing finger gets sore if I witter on for too long). Third band of the night...all the way from Paris...in France...over the water and far away...King of Conspiracy. This was a simply brilliant set, combining a Hives-ish garage rock feel with a twitchier Foals edge. The drummer was on the verge of exploding from start to finish. Seriously, I've rarely seem anyone put so much into a performance, quite complex patterns too...not just bashing away like a nut job. Nice use of the cow bells by the lead singer too...you've gotta love the cow bells...and a voice that tears a ruddy great hole in your eardrum then procedes to play basketball with your brain. It's all too easy to become jaded if you go and see loadsa bands but someone like King of Conspiracy can chip away all those years and make you feel 17 again. I take my beret off to them. Tres, tres bon (NB: me and Lady Baron have just had a big debate about whether 'bon' should be 'bon' or 'bonne'...answers on a postcard to 'The Baron, Back of The Toilet Bowl in the Gents Loos, The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham).

Finally, featuring (I believe) someone from my home patch of Bearwood, Miss Halliwell. The last (and indeed only) time I've seen them they supported The Fall (their spiritual ancestors)...at the request of the godfather of grumble himself, Mr Mark E.Smith. That's a big deal in my book. They deserved it too. Now, boosted by two new members, they're an even more powerful proposition, the clattering music more closely matching lead singer Matthew's bizzaro lyrics. At times he looks like a man possessed, a wirey young preacher ranting to anyone who'll listen...'Cucumber cucumber cut out the middle bit', 'the leaves on the trees are looking at me', 'people from the Midlands shouldn't be allowed on TV'...these are just some of his observations. And who am I to disagree? I've never trusted those leaves. Like The Fall you'll either love it or hate it (I've rarely met someone who isn't Marmitasised by The Fall) but, if you value something a little different, Miss Halliwell richly deserve to be clutched to your bosom. Check out their only MySpace track The Rash and judge for yourself...or I'll get Mark.E.Smith to visit you in the wee small hours.

Cop u later.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Let's get ready to Rumble...Strips!

Okay, another must see gig at The Rainbow. This time it's the simply showstopping merchants of soul n'roll...The Rumble Strips. I've see 'em before a few times and they've never been anything less than awesome. Hints of Dexy's Midnight Runners, raw 50's rock n'roll and enough brass to restore the nuts to a dozen frozen monkeys (at the very least), they're touring to reveal some of the songs from their forthcoming Mark Ronson assisted album. Yes. Mark Ronson. The man with the midas touch. I hope and I pray that this association will get the band the kudos they so richly deserve. You've got the chance to find out if all my praise is worthwhile (as if you'd doubt me...) by popping along to the gig this Monday, the 9th of March at The Rainbow.

PS: It's the first night of the tour too...they'll be all fresh and sweet smelling.

PPS: Tickets are available here!

Ipso Facto / Hatcham Social / Poppy and the Jezebels @ The Rainbow, Wednesday 4th March 2009

Second Rainbow gig of the week, I really must get a room there...it would all be so much easier. Perhaps I could curl up under the Grillfellas grill? Or there's a little space under the stage, I might have to lose about 9 stone to fit under there, but that's a minor quibble.

First band of the night were local indie wonderkids Poppy and the Jezebels, an all girl four piece who've attracted almost as much press for their look and fashion sense as their musical output. Since I last saw them a year or so ago at the Glee Club they've certainly come on musically and now seem to be honing more of an early 90's flavoured indie sound (hints of Stereolab, Add N to X and Blur plus an echo of the lovely Polystyrene in the vocals). No Nazi Girls tonight, but tracks like UFO (their last single) and a rather ace new one called Rhubarb and Custard (which has lodged firmly in my brain for the last 8 hours or so) more than made up for it. I still get the feeling that they're not totally at home on stage but hell, as I've pointed out before, they're only in their teens and, for a band this young, they've achieved oodles more than most. What's really important is that they're clearly developing and gaining the confidence that will turn a good performance into a truly great one.

Next up Hatcham Social who, to my ears at least, offered a fresh take on the kind of clever, arch pop that Orange Juice squeezed out back in the day. The lead singer even has a touch of the Edwyn Collins about his vocal too, that slight waiver and almost operatic quality. It's indie heaven...proper indie...back when it meant something...a world of 7 inch singles and John Peel...ahhhh (drifts off into an age induced reverie). New album 'You dig the tunnel, I'll hide the soil' (how indie is that title?) is out on March 19th and, on tonight's showing, is heartily recommended.

Finally, Ipso Facto. I have a confession to make here, father forgive me, for I have sinned. I have a 'thing' for girls in black. So four sexy (PC-ness be damned) girls in black, playing a goth tinged set...well, it was pretty close to heaven...albeit a very dark heaven, with cobwebs, vampires, those bloody big spiders with hairy legs and black eyeliner for all. The lead Facto, Rosalie, has a Siouxsie edge to her voice (again, heaven for me) and the whole thing is propelled along with meaty drumming, throbbing bass and graveyard keyboards. Have a listen to standout track and set highlight 'Six and Three Quarters' (on their MySpace thingy) and you'll see what I mean. Now, where did I put that black eyeliner...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Marmaduke Duke / Airship @ The Rainbow, Monday 2nd March 2009

Last Monday we had the lovely Joss Stone, this Monday we get men in tights and gimp masks. And they say variety is dead. More of the men in tights later, first up Airship. Despite being a gig goer of some 20 years or so...and despite knowing that loud often comes after quiet...I still get that tingle down the spine when the guitar noodlings and soft dreamy vocals explode like a cat in a microwave (obviously putting cats in microwaves is wrong, wrong, wrong). So it was with Airship, a Manchester band who seem to be attracting a bit of a buzz in t'press with a Mercury Rev tinged rock sound (and shades of really early Idlewild too). Anthemic choruses, a fair degree of thrashing about and a lead singer who manages to make long hair look cool again. Well worth a listen.

Next up...and the last band of the night...Marmaduke Duke. I have to admit to being a bit of a Maramaduke Duke virgin. My knowledge of the two bands from whom the core Marmaduke Duke line up springs from (Simon out of Biffy Clyro and JP Reid...him out of Succioperro) is also sketchy to say the least. However, I now know this - The Marms, described as a 'conceptual rock band' are, quite frankly as mad as a BSE infected cow on LSD. Wearing tights, feathers, masks, capes and a dash of lippie, the band came on to the stage together with a character know only as The Duke. Dressed in a pair of glittery leggings, a white tux jacket and the sort of mask that only belongs in horror movies where teens gets slashed to pieces, his sole role is to pace the stage, freak out the audience and, presumably, murder a few of 'em after the gig. Nice work if you can get it. The music? Oh yes, I nearly forgot that bit. It's a curious blend of out and out rooooooooockkkk (the nearest I can come to is System of a Down) and damn danceable electro, Everybody Dance for example could be the bastard twin of Datarock's Fa Fa Fa. There was a fair bit of mosh action (I stayed out of it tonight, I didn't want to risk turning my back on The Duke for one second...slash, slash, slash...dead), oodles of insanity and odd soft, reflective moments (a track called Heartburn could almost be a lighters aloft anthem...sadly The Duke nicked all the lighters...he needed them to incinerate the pile of bodies building up on the tour van). If you like bearded men in make up, feathers and masks, hard rock, electro pop and serial killers as much as I do, you'll have a cracking night (if you are a bearded man who likes wearing make up, feathers and masks why not get in touch for fun...and maybe more).

NB: On second thoughts, don't. Lady Baron might not approve...masks freak her out.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Deekline and Wizard - meaty, beaty, big and bootyful

Funny things, letter boxes. Most of the time they're (in the words of the old Yellow Pages ad) just there for the nasty things in life...bills, bills, more bills and ads for dodgy sounding take-away joints (Mad Donor...Pizza The Action...that kind of thing) who'll deliver even dodgier sounding food at 3am. But, once in a while, you get something that lifts the heart and soul. Today a CD landed on the doorstep of Baron Towers that did just that. The product of Deekline and Wizard it's a bewitching mix of soul, rap and disco - think classic Soul II Soul meets Stereo MC's in a warehouse party with Stevie Wonder and you'll be someway there. Opener Bounce and Rebound is an uplifting piano led ragga crank jazz hybrid (you know how I love inventing genres...'ragga crank jazz', that has to be one of the best so far) that's a perfect kickstart (love the female scatting) to an album that's never anything less than 'booty shaking' (check out 'One In The Front'). Happily I have rather a nice booty...no, you can't see it...I'm not that kind of boy...although a cheeky 'webcam' sideline could be a nice little money spinner to see me through my current phase of unemployment...

Anyway, away from visions of my butt (nice though it may be) and back to the music. It's the kind of album that Bassment Jaxx would love to make, cool as fuck but danceable too, with enough of a commercial edge to see it crossover to the mainstream without alienating the uber hip. And that's no mean feat. What' s really refreshing about this album is the use of 'live'/ 'real' instruments together with a dazzling array of vocalists from all over the shop. The press release that came with the album highlights strings from Bulgaria, gospel from the US, Canadian MC's and an Oud player from Iraq. I'm reminded in places of the great Ofra Haza (one of the first 'world' artists who successfully fused Middle Eastern flavas with a more Western beat), echoes exist in 'Baila Baila' for example - one of the standout tracks from an album that has more than it's fair share of 'em. In fact you could say it's guaranteed to get you in the 'oud'...geddit...oh never mind...

Back Up, Coming Through by Deekline & Wizard is out on April 13th on the Against The Grain label.