Monday, October 31, 2011

trioVD - 'X' hits the spot...

If you need waking up cop a listen to this track from Leeds based metal math jazz (experi)mentalists trioVD, it’s the kind of noise you’d get if a jazz band and metal band went on a two day speed bender together. For that added epileptic touch why not try watching the video at the same time eh? Bonkers but really rather brilliant n'est ce pas? It’s made me see Tulisa is a whole new light...

They’ve got an EP out on Naim Edge on 14th November. Entitled X it’s to the current judging panel on everyone’s favourite ‘talent’ show. Tulisa’s the maddest one but Barlow comes a close second. Life imitating art imitating life etc.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Man Like Me / HEARTS / Resistant Regime @ The Rainbow, Friday 28th October

It's Friday! The clocks go back this weekend! An extra hour in bed. Hurrah! But then again it gets dark at lunchtime. Boo! I don’t know about you but I always find the effort required to prise my sorry old ass off the sofa to go out to a gig increases exponentially (yes, I’ve been reading the dictionary again) once BST does one for another year, especially given the dazzling entertainment on offer on telly these days. Is every area of Britain going to get its own ‘reality’ show? Where’s Birmingham’s eh? I vote for calling it ‘Taking It Up The Brum’, an in depth look at the lives and loves of the strange creatures that inhabit Broad Street. Watch with amazement as ‘Big’ Steve cops off with Cheryl from Accounts on a work’s night out, hide behind the cushions as Kylie, Tracie and Stacy totter unsteadily between the rows of illegal ‘taxis’, trying to negotiate a trip home for a handjob (do you know how hard it is to get jizz out of a Primark boobtube?) and pluck out your own eyeballs at the vision of some old biffa in a thong flashing at Nick Owen enjoying a cheeky half of real ale at Spoonies before vomiting all over the fruit machine. ‘Taking It Up The Brum’, come on Channel 5, let’s make the magic happen.

Anyway, happily The Rainbow is as far away from the festering river of filth that is Broad Street as you can get in the City centre and tonight’s bill kicks off with the slightly scarily named Resistant Regime. This is the kind of music you get blasting out of pimped up rides down the mean streets, beat heavy, lyrically edgy and in thrall to the great gods of rap. A bit of a Birmingham collective they’ve got some decent sounds and words going on with Take Notes and Everyday (shades of the great Ice T’s It Was A Good Day in there) really hitting the spot. I’ve said it before...and I’ll probably say it again...but whilst Birmingham’s clearly a bit of a hotbed of talent when it comes to the whole rap/hip hop thang there’s still a bit of a disconnect between the core live music scene in the City and dudes like this though. Kudos to Birmingham Promoters for giving them a slot. Let’s see more of it eh?

Next up HEARTS (in CAPITALS...that’s most IMPORTANT). Last seen supporting Cults earlier in the year at the Hairy Hounds I’d kind of forgotten how good they were. A boy/girl synth/guitar duo with a little Crystal Castles/The Knife/The Kills in the mix they blend the rocky element with the more clinical electro feel better than most bands I’ve seen. The female vocalist is blessed with one of those voices that sounds slightly detached but capable of conveying strong emotions at the same time, adding in the odd Florence-ish flourish for good measure. Pick of the set once again was the piano driven Ice, an instantly catchy piece of atmospheric rock n’bass.

Finally and, finger on the pulse as ever, a new name to me despite having been around for a few years it’s Man Like Me. As soon as I found out that they were dudes who’d bought Jona Lewie’s antisocial anthem You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties back to life I was pretty much sold on them. A quick trawl through You Tube uncovered some of the most fun tunes laid down since Madness went one step beyond. Rap, brass, synth, joyful laugh out loud piss taking lyrics...what’s not to like. Sure their tongues are embedded firmly in their cheeks for a lot of the set but who says music’s gotta be serious all the time? Boy, we could all do with a laugh right now eh? That being said, whilst some of the tunes sail pretty close to the rocky cliffs of ‘novelty’, they manage to be catchy without making you feel all, you know, dirty inside. A neat trick if you can do it. In fact, a little like fellow rap jokers America’s Ugly Duckling, they’re sort of cool despite all that larky humour.

From the instant the three of them bounced onstage The Rainbow was Party Central. Recent single Peculiar, a wry look at how fast things change (how old are this lot...late 20’s?...jeez, you should try being 117 like me), is arguably the best thing they’ve ever done. A crotch thrusting, hip shaking, hands in the air party banger it’s a glorious mix of tropicalia, rap and brass with just the merest snatch of grime for da kids. Seriously it has to be a contender for single of the year. Chucking such a massive TUUUUUUNE into the set so early might’ve backfired but to be honest the three of them put so much into the live show that there was no danger of peaking too early. The core duo of Johnny and Pete provide the jumping around rap stuff, with the Tigger-ish Johnny gradually stripping off as the night wore on (steady now ladies), whilst (and I’m not sure if he’s a full time member of the band or not) a third dude adds more of a soulful vocal. Looking at some of their other live gigs there’s sometimes up to 7 of them up there, with live brass really adding to the party atmosphere. Tonight that was all on a backing track but it would be churlish to deduct points on this score...I can’t imagine it’s easy carting a brass section around the country in the back of a van. Still pretty fresh to my ears Oh My Gosh and encore London Town came across like old mates but, to be honest, even the stuff I’d never heard has that same kind of instant appeal.

You know what, in some ways Man Like Me could be the spiritual descendants of Madness. Both are sons of Camden and both have that rare knack for fusing social commentary with bouncy, fun pop songs. Whilst Suggs and co took the sounds of Ska house parties onboard Man Like Me are inspired by the pirate radio era...jungle, drum and bass, rap, grime and all that schnizzle. But, just like the Nutty Boys, they bring something fresh and unique to it all. Hell, let’s not overanalyse it. Right now Man Like Me are the ultimate party band, a three man jukebox stuffed full of pop gold. The best night out in town? Could be...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Doll And The Kicks...RIP

Sad news reaches the Aid about the demise of Doll And The Kicks. Happily they're not dead or anything...but sadly as a band they've decided to call it a day after 7 'unsigned' years.

They're one of far, far too many bands who genuinely deserved to 'make it' (whatever 'it' means these days)but who, for whatever reason, have ended up being passed over in favour of, in my humble opinion, lesser (but perhaps more lucrative in the short term)talents. A bloody nice bunch of people too.

Oh well, what can you do eh? At least, for anyone who's seen them live, they've given an all too small bunch of people some particularly memorable nights.

Good luck to all concerned and shame on the 'music biz' for getting it wrong...yet again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Man Like at The Rainbow...this Friday

Loving this track at the moment. Man Like Me's Peculiar is a poptastic mix of Madness, Vampire Weekend and Talking Heads. And if that's not enough to float your boat they were the people who breathed new life into Jona Lewie's seminal Always In The Kitchen At Parties for that Ikea ad too. You know...this one...

Happily they've made it out of the kitchen, well I'm assuming they have as they're appearing at The Rainbow this Friday night. Either that or its all round to Jona Lewie's place...bring your own bottle, no shagging under the stairs and if you have to be sick please don't do it in the fishpond.

Tickets from Birmingham Promoters for a mere fiver right now (more on the door).

Michael Kiwanuka / Vijay Kishore / Tara Chinn @ The Yardbird, Tuesday 25th October 2011

What a bill. What a bargain too. Free. That’s a bargain in my book. Yep, thanks to the good folk at Birmingham Promoters tonight’s show presented three of the best voices in the business right now, for absolutely bugger all. Result.

Despite a self confessed obsession with melancholy songs (most of which seem to about break ups and crappy men) Tara Chinn’s set left me feeling like I’d been wrapped up in a duvet and fed chocolates for a week. That’s a very good thing by the way. She’s got a soulful, jazzy tinge to her voice, perfectly suited to the anthems for the broken hearted that form the core of her self penned material. All of the songs impressed but it was Cigarettes and Gin that stole the show. With echoes of the legendary Patsy Cline and Billie Holliday it’s the greatest song Amy Winehouse never wrote and tonight Tara’s vocal on this track just dripped tears. Beautiful stuff.

Next up the angel voiced Vijay Kishore, arguably one of the most understated talents you’re ever likely to see. Whilst most singers, especially ones as special as Vijay, would kick off their set with a bit of a “Hello The Yardbird, how ya doin’ out there...nice to see you...looking good etc”, Vijay just wanders on and begins to strum his guitar like he’s tuning up or something. It’s only when he opens his mouth that you know the set’s underway. Even then you’re not sure. Maybe it’s this lack of razzamatazz that’s holding him back (come on, let’s face it, he should so much bigger than he is right now)? It certainly isn’t his voice. Vijay’s blessed with one of the most heavenly male vocals on the planet, imagine a more angelic Jeff Buckley crossed with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and you’ve got some idea of the sound. Seemingly lost in music throughout yet another stunning set you get the impression that singing’s a kind of therapy for him. Anyone who tunes in to listen might well feel the same way...

Last up, and frankly a huge surprise to catch someone so obviously on the cusp of massive success at a freebie gig on a damp Tuesday evening, it’s Michael Kiwanuka. You might’ve heard one of two of his tracks already, especially the folky I’m Getting Ready and Tell Me A Tale (the twin highlights of tonight's set)...which sounds so authentically 70’s on record you’d swear it’d just been unearthed by some obsessed crate digger in the US. Bringing a little reggae, a little folk and whole load of soul to the table Kiwanuka’s music’s a much needed salve to these troubled times (as I write this the European...and quite possibly the global economy...seems on the brink of total collapse). In other words it’s a case of right sound, right time and, whilst it’s far too early to herald his as yet unreleased debut album as a classic, judging by tonight’s set the signs are good. Kicking off with the distinctly Bill Withers-ish I’ll Get Along (Michael makes no secret of the fact that Withers is a huge inspiration to him) its laid back charm and his easy delivery chill the stressed out soul and warm even the coldest hearts. Unusually for a gig (especially a freebie) the packed out room was generally as quiet and still as St Paul’s, not many artists these days command (or receive) that kind of respect. Of course this is a bit of low key tour, warming up the world for the full on Kiwanuka experience at a later date no doubt, so all of the songs were stripped back, just Michael on guitar and his buddy on bass. Without its frankly top notch Van Morrison meets Stax production Tell Me A Tale was still awesomely fine but I couldn’t help yearn for the icing on the cake. Perhaps that’s the only mild criticism I can level at tonight really (the upside is that get to hear the voice as naked as newborn), I kept wondering just what all of these tracks are going to sound like on record (or with a full that’s a mouth watering prospect). Get that right and, with these songs and that vocal, you’ve got a debut that’s going to be well worth raving about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Summer Camp - Better Off Without You

Breakup songs...dontcha just love 'em eh? So much more interesting that all that lovey dovey guff. From the Human League's Don't You Want Me to Cee Lo Green's Fuck You the breakup's a rich throbbing vein of pain, hate and regret. Brilliant! Summer Camp's latest release (yes...I know it's been out a while but I'm a bit slow sometimes) is a frankly essential addition to the greatest hits of breakup ever, fusing a bit of surf twang with a twist of 80's pop and just the right dash of venom. Like all great breakup songs it's as catchy as a dose of the clap following that instantly regrettable one night stand revenge shag too. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Foxes – Last of Many

There are two ways of looking at this album. On the one hand you can listen to it purely on its merits as a collection of songs. On the other (and this relies on knowing a little something about the band itself) it’s two fingers to the ‘traditional’ music biz, general apathy, the ups and downs of life and giving up on your dreams. Either way, it deserves your ears. I first saw The Foxes live a few years back (2007 I, tempus fugit). An instantly likeable bunch they already had a good half dozen classic sounding tunes, taking in influences from a range of truly great Brit bands, everyone from The Kinks to The Small Faces, XTC to Joe Jackson and, more recently Noel Gallagher' Flying Birds.

Packing in the security of their day jobs they boldly set off to play America on a shoestring and a prayer, then came back to do the same across the UK, putting in the hours as a covers band (weddings, bar mitzvahs, 100th birthdays parties etc) to pay the bills. Okay, so perhaps they’re not the first band to take such a risk but the fact that they’ve stuck with it, for years now, well, that’s something I genuinely admire. And, judging by their grin inducing, foot tapping, head nodding debut album it’s all been worth it.

From the early Beatles on speed wig out of Suzy all the way through to the album’s climax, the brooding meltdown of Sorry To Leave You the album’s jammed full of one classic sounding track after another. There’s something really accessible about it all. Listen to Sweet Little Wonder for instance. It’s what your granddad would call “proper songs with proper lyrics”. That’s not a criticism by the way, putting out an album that’s going to appeal to several generations of music lovers is a shrewd move (no doubt honed by their alter egos as a covers band). Lyrically much of the album seems to be inspired by the life and times of lead Fox Nigel, boredom, poverty, regret, bitterness, love/hate, a bit more bitterness (I do love a bit of bitterness) ...all human emotion’s on offer here folks, often wrapped up with a dash of wry wit. Musically it’s pure British pop gold, from the Oasis meets George Harrison of the aforementioned Sweet Little Wonder to the spiky Joe Jackson new wave era feel of Send Me Nothing.

Perhaps in the current climate (folk bands, female singer songwriters, copycat rappers and...good grief...Dappy) this album’s a little out of step. Who cares? The band’s done what they want, the way they wanted and in an age where far too many are willing to do whatever it takes to ‘make it’ (is it me or has the X Factor descended...tough, I new lows recently?) that’s a really, really refreshing thing. Last of Many? For a whole bunch of reasons I really hope it’s not...

Last Of Many is out on The Foxes own label (naturally), Room 10, on 5th December.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Joanna Briggs – Balloons EP

As a Midlands based kinda dude I’m always three flavours of chuffed when I hear something or someone new from‘hood. It’s even better when it’s being released on a Midlands based label too. Imagine the moistness (actually don’t, that’s a bit grim) when this dropped into my bulging inbox (steady now) then, a new EP on a Birmingham based label – LoveRock!Records – from a Midlands artist, singer songwriterJoanna Briggs. Balloons is an eclectic mix of tracks kicking off with the equally eclectic Spiders, part electro, part rock, part folk it’s an odd mix in many ways, jerking twitchily from one genre to another, but it's all the more refreshing for it. Elsewhere, Free has a nifty funk driven bass line, lush strings and some gorgeous, gorgeous vocals. Nice O’Jays reference in there too. Arguably the highlight of the whole thing though is the EP’s final track, the piano lead Another Lover. Just under three minutes long it’s the kind of track that the lovechild of Tori Amos and Stevie Wonder might well come up with. And if that’s not intriguing enough to get you to have a listen then there’s no hope. As a showcase for Joanna’s talent it’s an impressive debut, top marks for the production too. Balloons and party poppers all round in fact.

Joanna Briggs - Balloons by LoveRock!Records

Balloons is out now on LoveRock!Records.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Miles Kane / Folks @ HMV Institute, Tuesday 18th October 2011

Still only 25 years old Miles Kane’s now in his forth incarnation having started out in The Little Flames before becoming a Rascal then a Last Shadow Puppet (with his best bud Alex Turner). Now he’s trying the old solo approach, albeit with an impressive band behind him (including Eugene McGuiness...himself a fine solo talent), a couple of Cherry Ghost son of Beady Eye’s drummer.

First up though, Folks, fronted by rock god in waiting Scott Anderson. Long hair, leather jacket, tambourine superglued to his hand, he’s part Rod the Mod, part Steve Marriott...with a voice to match. Songwise the highlights included the Verve-ish We Are All Dead and the blues / rock of My Mother. The undeniable highpoint though was Say Something, which Scott claimed they’d only just written last week. It’s got all the makings of a classic, big phat meaty bits, heartfelt bits, catchy bits, singalong’s a bit brilliant.

With the room pretty much rammed I’d positioned myself up on the balcony next to a small but vociferous trio of young ladies, one of whom made her intentions quite clear, “Oimgonnafoooookyoumileskane” she screamed as he appeared on the stage. As chat up lines go it’s not the most sophisticated approach but full marks for effort eh? Lest he was in any doubt she went on to flash her bra at him now and then during the set too. I didn’t know where to look. Well, that’s a lie but anyway...back to the object of her affections. You can see the appeal. He’s got a real old skool pop star swagger, coming to the front of the stage during the opening number and pulling off the kind of guitar hero pose that Elvis used to strike before he deep fried and ate Memphis. The crowd go three shades of mental and a small but vigorous moshpit breaks out in the centre of the room. If Paul Weller’s the Modfather, meet Miles, the Modson. Sharply dressed and immaculately coiffered (at least he was at the start) he’s got the kind of voice (and look) that perfectly suits the 60’s feel of the material, albeit with a hint of Liam Gallagher’s sneering vowel stretching delivery. Looks are important of course but it wouldn’t mean jack if he didn’t have the tunes. Happily (with a little help from his friends) his solo album’s stuffed full of ‘em. Kane, of course, is from Liverpool. So it’s hardly surprising that the ghost’s of that city’s most famous sons haunt some of his stuff. I’m not just talking about the obvious ones either. You can trace influences of Gerry & The Pacemakers on stuff like Counting Down The Days for instance. Every single track goes down a storm, from the well known stuff like Rearrange (Beatles meets The Faces) and the edgy mod foot stomper Come Closer (during which a couple of audience members do just that, spilling over the barriers straight into the loving arms of the security) through to arguably the night’s highlight, a new track called A Woman’s Touch. Imagine The Jam doing a Northern Soul track and you’ll have some idea of what it sounds like. Could well be the big hit he’s looking for. An attacking cover of The Beatles Hey Bulldog (from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack) sees Miles paying his dues, with fine support coming from the criminally underrated Eugene McGuiness. Encore, Inhaler, prompted such wild moshing that a fair number of the crowd probably needed one and then he was off, presumably persued by a young lady on heat. Run Miles, run!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is the resurrection...

So, The Stone Roses are back! I guess how you feel about this depends on your age. For anyone who was around and interested in music back in the early 90's it's probably a pretty big deal.I Am The Resurrection remains one of my favourite tracks of all time, mainly down to that ruddy funky break just before the 4 minute mark before the whole track drifts off into mind melting 60's meets 90's workout. Just glorious.

On top of a pension busting world tour they're promising new material as well. Should be interesting. When they split up there was a general feeling that they'd blown it, big time, let's hope they get it right on their third coming eh? In the meantime dust off your baggy jeans, dig out your Reni hat and cop a listen to 8 minutes and 15 seconds of musical...ahem...ecstasy.

PS: Confirmed dates include Manchester's Heaton Park, 29th and 30th June. Ebay ticket touts must be creaming their grubby little selves already.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lite / Maybeshewill / IO / Dying Giant @ The Flapper, Sunday 16th October

Is post hardcore (for the tidy purposes of this review let’s make the sweeping generalisation that all of tonight’s band were/are post hardcore) the new jazz? I only ask ‘cos there was plenty of head nodding and beard stroking going on this evening and, like jazz, the music itself has a similar level of complexity that you either get or...well...don’t. Stripped of vocals (pretty much all of tonight’s tracks were instrumental) this is music that you need to LISTEN TO rather than just passively absorb. Do that and it all makes a hell of a lot more sense.

First up Dying Giant. Playing just two tracks (granted, each one lasted around ten minutes) they’re masters in the art of ‘the build’, with gentle strumming rising to a crescendo of piledriving noise. HELL YEAH! An impressive performance from the whole band but special mention to the drummer who managed to move seamlessly from funk to military to rock beats, in the same track, but still made it all sound coherent. One of the most attentive crowds I’ve seen in a long time gave ‘em a suitably ‘giant’ whoop at the end of it all too.

Next up IO. Again, as seems to be the vibe in the post hardcore scene, their tracks burn, flicker, fade, then burst violently back into flames again, helped along by the occasional Beelzebub screams of their lead singer. With an array of FX pedals that looked a little like the control panel of the Starship Enterprise the band set up and explored an alternative universe which, in my deranged mind at least, is filled with giant machines that mince up the human race to use as fuel (maybe they could start with Wayne Rooney?). But then again that could just be me. Their current album, Materioptikon, collects some of this evening’s best track together and is heartily recommended, not least because it offers, in my amateur opinion (I’m no hardcore/post hardcore/ expert...can you tell?) someone new to the genre a pretty accessible intro into the whole scene.

Before the headliners, Lite, who came all the way from Japan, it was time for Maybeshewill...who came all the way from Leicester. Clearly local favourites the already packed room swelled a little more at this point. Moist. In addition to the three guitarists who twisted and thrashed about in some kind of demented union (this is a good thing by the way) Maybeshewill use odd snatches of dialogue (from old movies I’m guessing) which adds a little more richness to the traditional post hardcore pallette. It’s used sparingly but it lends the music more of a filmic quality. Keyboards add, at various times this evening a jazzy, almost synth pop vibe and, on more than one occasion I was reminded of odd bits of Mike Oldfield’s gazillion selling Tubular Bells. Hmmm...Mike Oldfield as the daddy of the post hardcore scene. Now there’s a wild theory. New song (hell, they were all new to me) To The Skies From The Hillside moved from noodly tranquil bits to full on doom rock riffs, changing pace more often than Kanye West changes his socks (368 times a day apparently).

Last up Japanese four piece, Lite. After a couple of endearing false starts (one of the guitarists had a bit of a tuning issue) and a brief thanks to the crowd for coming (bless), the band proved themselves to truly be masters of time and space. Nope, I’m not talking Dr Who here, it’s the precision with which they play and the way they allow the music to ‘breathe’, using moments of silence to punctuate tracks in a way that I’m guessing few bands would or could attempt. More math rock than post hardcore the sound’s a little more complex than anything else on offer tonight and the natural sense of timing and rhythm (downright funky in places) was frankly unbelievable. From the sparse piano playing to the immaculately executed riffs and drummer’s staccato machine gun ferocity it was a close to musical perfection that you’re likely to get in their genre. Pick of the night (I think it was called Image Game) showed the band at their best, the use of timing and space fused to a surprisingly accessible track. Elsewhere the band inspired a bit of a clap along (how often does that happen as these kind of shows eh?) and the bassist even threw in a bit of slap bass. Brilliant...Level 42 meets math rock. The band last played The Flapper in 2006, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another five years for a return visit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oxjam Brum Takeover 2011

Violet spill blood (literally), sweat and beers for Oxjam 2011

31 artists, 7 venues, one raise loadsa cash, dosh, it what you will...for (cue 70’s DJ voice) charidee. Yep, some of Birmingham’s finest gave up their Saturday to physically and metaphorically rattle the ol’ tin, giving warm hearted punters the chance to catch up with a pretty dazzling range of genres...everything from the gentle and acoustic to the LOUD AND THRASHY.

As with most of these multi-venue jobbies it’s impossible to see everything and a date with 6 Music’s Stuart Maconie (not literally, although he’s a fine looking man) took me away from the action for a while in the early evening. What I did see of it all was confined to two venues, Cafe Blend (an upmarket coffee shop near the Mailbox) and The Flapper (slightly less upmarket, but none the less one of my favourite venues in the whole wide world). First up at Cafe Blend, Louise Petit, a sweetly voiced singer songstress who bravely battled against a cackling punter (clearly either unaware that someone was performing or just plain ignorant) to deliver a beautiful ukulele powered set of originals and covers (including The White Stripes classic I Think We Are Gonna Be Friends). With the country twang of Raindrops at Sea and the footstomping homage to love, Marry Me, the name might be petit but the talent’s a whole lot bigger.

After a quick break another chance to see Young Runaways (replete with the Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra...both of them!) who’ve just recorded the song of their career (so far) in Closer, a soaring brass gilded pop folk classic (it was released as an EP last night). With a couple of covers, a wonderful run through Fleetwood Mac’s Second Hand News and a spirited Message To You Rudee, and the unveiling of a rather fine new track from the next EP (they don’t hang around this lot eh?), Room With a View, they deserve to be...oh I can hardly bring myself to type it...what the hell...a...runaway success. Yes, you’re right, there was no need for that was there?

Fast forward a few hours and I’m plunged into the screaming world of Violet, a post hardcore band from Derby. One vocalist sings, the other does his best to rip what must be left of his throat, into ribbons. I rather liked it. Loud, trashy and as energetic as a nuclear power station on meltdown they delivered one of the most rock n roll moments I’ve seen in a while when the screaming bloke accidentally smashed into the nose of the bassist. Pretty soon a torrent of blood was dripping down his t-shirt, over his bass and splashing onto the floor. Did this stop him headbanging like a loon? Nope. Now that’s rock n’motherfunking roll. Ultra violet.

After a crack team of cleaning specialists had mopped up several litres of O positive Conquistadors punk math rocked the place. The self penned stuff was great but they surpassed themselves with a math rock cover of Cat Stevens Matthew and Son (Mathrock and Son anyone?). Quite brilliant.

Next up God Damn, a testifying blues grunge prog rock pop (yes...pop...) metal thrashup...and if that sounds like a pretty awesome combination you’d be right. It is. Their theme tune God Damn, veers recklessly from brooding noodly bits to full on aural assaults, toying with your senses like a bulldog with a kitten. Neat. Wigger does a similar trick of luring you in with a gentle opening section before kicking in your ears with some dirty bruising guitars. Makes Queens of the Stone Age sound like pussies. A (skull) cracking performance.

Last up Romans. Like the night’s opening band, Violet, they use the dual vocalist approach, with bare chested drummer Denny providing the screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaam element. Around this throbbing heart the band’s lead guitarist and bassist (who did a staggeringly good job in his first gig with the band) provide some surprisingly intricate flourishes, icing the kick ass cake. Whilst it ain’t a new trick the ying and yang of the two vocalists works particularly well. The contrasts are as black and white as you’ll get with the ‘singer’ having a pretty decent harmony and the ‘screamer’ tearing his tonsils out whilst drumming the bejesus out of his kit. So furious was his drumming that he lost a stick part way through a song (hell...maybe it just disintegrated) but kept on playing without missing a beat. Nice work there fella. Given his showmanship (and vocal role) I’d like him up front but it’s a minor gripe. When they hit their stride, on the smash hit in waiting Coffee for instance, like their historic namesakes, they’re a frankly unstoppable force.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mo’ new music

In a distinctly unusual, ‘keeping to my promises’ shocker, here’s another batch of new music coming out over the next few weeks. Share the love people, share the love...

First up, seemingly less of a new band, more a’s Metamono. Consisting of Paul Conby (Bomb The Bass), Jono Podmore (The Shamen) and ‘fine artist’ Mark Hill they’ve produced this handy little video to fill you in on

Musically it sounds like a bizarre experiment between the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, early Human League and one of them Krautrock bands. Depending on who you are this will either get you slightly moist or send you off to the shed to sand off your ears. Anyway, they’ve called it ‘analogue technopop’. Easy listening it ain’t, but if you fancy a soundtrack to your complete mental disintegration I can heartily recommend it.

METAMONO - TAPE EP from Metamono on Vimeo.

Next, and somewhat less challenging, it’s ex Zero 7 songstress Sophie Barker with a suitably autumnal take on The Cure’s A Forest.

Sophie Barker - A Forest by Cannonball_PR

‘Delay soaked pop’ (that’s what it says on the press release) anyone? Edinburgh’s PET release their second single Middle Child Syndrome on 7th November and it’s a bit of an angsty cracker. Booming drums, wailing backing vocals and an anguished lead wrapped up in a bit of a 60’s psych anthem. Ace. It’s backed by a broodingly sludgy cover of Shocking Blue’s Love Buzz (as covered by Nirvana) that should give old grunge heads an aneurism too.

I’m just loving this right now. The Bandana Splits. Ricky Dee. Doo Wop girl band heaven. How cute is this?

I can’t find a ‘proper’ video for this White Denim track but this isn’t a bad live version...if you can excuse the slightly shaky camera work...but I’m guessing the dude shooting it wasn’t meant to be...

Finally it’s From The Kites of San Quentin (seriously...where do they get these names from?) a Mancunian collective with a bit of a Portishead/Moloko/ Massive Attack thing going on. Their Mitochondria EP is out on 11th November but i’m streaming the bejesus out of it right now. Lead track Stoopid does a particularly good job of mashing up old and new skool flavas (I’m sooooo street it hurts) with a bit of a late 90’s meets 2011 dubstep vibe. Here’s an ancient video of the band to whet your appetite.

Monday, October 10, 2011

NME Emerge Tour featuring Wolf Gang / S.C.U.M @ The Academy, Friday 7th October 2011

It’s NME Emerge Tour time once again and the venerable (but pretty crap these days to be honest) old institution dishes up some new bands for your delectation and delight. Tonight was supposed to feature the lovely Niki & the Dove but I believe she had some family related business to attend to and was unable to play. Shame. Happily S.C.U.M made it though, bringing their particular brand of floppy fringed gothy tinged ice pop to the masses. Lead singer Thomas Cohen comes across a little like the lovechild of Nick Cave and Brett Anderson with the odd dash of Bowie thrown in for good measure. Was that a bit of a Bowie / Ronson thang going on when Thomas knelt down in front of the band’s guitarist? Could be. Whatever the references (for the record they’ve namechecked Throbbing Gristle, Ghosts and Liars), the hazy vocals, sparse synths and distorted guitars added a neat dreamlike quality to the set, with Cohen sinuously writhing barefoot (now that’s brave...can you imagine the bodily fluids that end up on the average venue floor?) across the stage like a viper. They’ve been around in one form or another for three years now but their debut album, Again Into Eyes, has only just come out (on Mute, suitably enough given their synth fetish). Fans of everyone from Jesus and Mary Chain to, more recently, the mighty O Children would be well advised to check it...and them...out.

“I like the fact that there’s TV on in case we get a bit boring” observed Wolf Gang’s Max McGelliott referring to the TV’s scattered across the Academy’s walls. He needn’t have worried. Wolf Gang (initially Max’s solo project) are a pop lover’s delight with a seemingly endless line in catchy, anthemic choruses all taken from their rather fine debut album Suego Faults. I’m not a fan of Coldplay (hell, that’s an understatement) but I’ll grudgingly admit they do anthemic pretty well. Wolf Gang have the same kind of knack, minus the preachy, whiney shit. Just check out The King And All Of His Men. Awesome eh? You've got to love the whoohoohoos. If you’re looking for reference points, good luck to you. There’s a bit of Foster The People in there, some Stars, a little MGMT (before they went a bit nuts, bless ‘em), Duran Duran (Close In For The Kill is pure Le Bon and co) and even a dash of Queen (on Midnight Dancers for instance). Max is a natural frontman, as cute as a pixie (actually he looks a bit like a pixie) and, despite the relatively small crowd, committed to giving it 100%. Some particularly enthusiastic bouncing around by one or two (new?) fans at the front showed he’s clearly getting something right. Ending the set with bombastic recent single Lions In Cages it’s easy to imagine this particular gang getting a hell of a lot bigger.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock - Chronolology

Robyn he one of the most underrated musicians around? Judging by this, his first proper ‘best of’ collection in his 40 year career, you'd have a pretty convincing argument there. His devoted fans (and they do seem to be a particularly devoted bunch) would probably argue that everything he does is his best and that such a compilation is therefore redundant. For the more casual listener though here, at last, is a ‘best of’ and, given that it’s been carefully selected by the man himself it’s probably as definitive as you’re likely to get. Then again, as Robyn puts it, “Chronolology is one of many possible orbits through my world, see where it takes you..."

I’m a relative newcomer to Robyn’s work (given his limited commercial success I’m guessing most people are), only really taking the time to check him out in the last year or so. For some reason I had him pinned down as a ‘difficult artist’ but, surprisingly, a lot of the tracks on offer here are (whisper it) quite poppy, albeit a slightly twisted form of pop occupying a world obsessed with sex, death and creepy crawlies.

Embracing his time as a Soft Boy, Egyptian and one of the Venus 3 the whole thing kicks off with the distinctly punk/new wave I Wanna Destroy You (from all the way back in 1980). Grrrrrrr. It’s a cracking track, dripping with vitriol and raw energy but still pretty tuneful at the same time and, if you glean only one thing from this review, that’s the big point a better world Robyn Hitchcock would be a bone fide pop star. Only The Stones Remain could almost be a track by The Fall, with Hitchcock adding a distinctly Mark E Smith-ish “ah” to some of his vocals. God this is great stuff...and we’re only at track three. I Often Dream Of Trains channels the spirit of lost genius Syd Barrett before Robyn ramps up the weird with a surprisingly upbeat little ditty entitled My Wife and My Dead Wife. Take a bit of Bowie, a subtle reggae beat and some Psychedelic Furs, mix it all up in a cocktail shaker and...well...that’s as close as I can get to it. What do you reckon?

Bonkers but brilliant n'est ce pas? Time and again, track after track you find yourself thinking why the hell isn’t this stuff better known? Even the more low key tracks, I Feel Beautiful for instance with its rather lovely glockenspiel groove, has enough going on to hook you in. Bringing things almost up to date the album ends with Goodnight Oslo, a track from 2009’s album of the same name by the Venus 3 (with REM’s Peter Buck lending his distinctive guitar to the whole shebang). Genius. So, is Robyn Hitchcock one of the most underrated musicians around? Download this gem of an album and judge for yourself.

Chronolology is out on October 25th on t’interweb.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sweet Sweet Lies – No One Will Love You (Like I Do)

Like a bit of the old chamber pop eh? Chances are you’ll love Brighton based Sweet Sweet Lies then. The band release their second single, a rather lovely hybrid of The Divine Comedy meets Devotchka, No One Will Love You (Like I Do) on October 31st (through Something Nothing Records) and it’s accompanied by this rather sweet little video. More waltzing in pop that's what I say. Never mind getting your kit off in fields and scaring the bejesus out of little old Irish farmers Miss Rhianononon, strap yourself into a big fluffy dress and get waltzing m'luv. So much classier. Anyway, while you’re at it why not check out another of their tracks too, The Day I Change, a little darker but still rather gorgeous.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

TEETH / Seams / Neon Asylum @ Vudu, Monday 3rd October 2011

A rare night of firsts this evening. First of all the first time I’d seen any of the bands on the bill (that’s getting to be a rarer event these days) and secondly the first time I’d ever been to tonight’s venue, Vudu (formerly Mint and...unless I’m very much mistaken, Pagoda Park about 100 years ago...). Birmingham seems to have been blessed with new venues recently, what with the old Academy reopening as The Ballroom (giving us three new/old venues back) a few weeks back and the similarly three roomed HMV Institute last year. Vudu’s mainly a club but there’s a great room set up for gigs here too, replete with a gut wobbling sound system (and it takes a lot to wobble my gut these days).

First up this evening Neon Asylum, one man and his laptop unveiling the fruits of many nights knob twiddling back in his bedroom. you’re just being smutty. There’s a bit of an old skool 90’s rave feel going on here and, given the awesomely 'bangin' tunes' it was a real struggle to resist pulling some shapes. No one wants to see a middle aged man throw shapes so I made do with some mild hipster head nodding instead. “Hello, I’m Kanye West” muttered Mr Asylum after a couple of tracks, given his recent bonkers rantings maybe Kanye should start saying “Hello I’m Neon Asylum” instead eh? I suggest the two of 'em hook up, Kanye Asylum...I can see it now.

Next Seams. Unlike Mr Asylum Seams is a little more chilled, favouring glitchy skittering builds up to his full phat dubsteppy beats (the kind of sounds that would give James Blake a good shoeing). A crush of fans at the front witnessed an aural artist at work, with one or two tracks recalling a similar master of sound, Ryuichi Sakamoto, at his very best. As a visual show there’s not much to it (I guess you could employ a VJ to add a little something), but with sounds as gorgeous as these it’s probably best just to shut your eyes and let your imagination do the work.

Finally, TEETH, a lively three piece fronted by Californian no-raver Veronica So. Comparisons with Crystal Castles have been made but, to be honest, you could equally lob in riot grrrllllllllllll bands like Bikini Kill too and a healthy dash of Late Of the Pier. The key to stopping this kind of stuff turning into a bit of a shouty mess (not that there’s much wrong with the odd bit of shouty messiness) is having some decent tunes and happily TEETH have more than filled that particular cavity. See Spaces, with its naggingly insistent synth line and steel drum style flourishes really hits the spot whilst Care Bear draws you in with some sweet n sparse old skool keys before beating you into submission with pile driving bass and nutty knob squelching (again...cut out the smut already). Now that’s the ‘bite’ stuff (bite stuff...geddit? oh alright then).

Monday, October 03, 2011 Vudu

Yes, tonight hotly tipped shouty oddball electro trio TEETH (allegedly Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite band...strange but true...maybe he’ll pop along?) play Birmingham’s Vudu club. Attracting comparisons with everyone from Crystal Castles to Throbbing Gristle they’ll probably force your brain out your ears like one of those play-doh sausage machines but hey, it’s Monday night so that’s a very, very good thing. Support comes from synth tickling beatmaster Seams and sonic mentalist Neon Asylum. Essential. Tickets (a mere fiver) from our good chums at Birmingham Promoters or, I imagine, on the door too. Selectah! (nope, no idea why I wrote that, I blame the heat).

Back to the 80's with Force Majeure

After hitting you up with some new music last week let’s turn the clock back a quarter of a century or so with this little know gem (hey, I love the 80’s...I can't help it) from Bristol’s Force Majeure. Released in 1984 it’s one of the most 80’s tracks I’ve ever heard, cramming in drum machines, synths and some of that poodle hair rock guitar that was massive back in the day. I love it. Seriously. Why the hell wasn't this on the Karate Kid soundtrack eh? What makes it even better is the (recent) video that goes with it, an emotive series of grainy photos of the band playing live, on tour, mucking about... for anyone over the age of 40 it’s a real nostalgia trip, if you’re a little younger this is what your parents used to get up to...

The band itself was from Bristol and formed in 1983 (from the ashes of a post punk group, The Agents), before disbanding (no doubt in a blaze of hairspray) in 1989. By the looks of some of the photos they seem to have had a decent enough following for a while and were signed to Hansa, Japan’s record label. According to Wikipedia they were even guided by Howard Jones’ management for a while too. Brilliant, how ‘80’s can you get? Anyway I’ve been listening to this track on repeat for around an hour, so now it’s your turn. I warn you though, it's seriously addictive. Enjoy.