Sunday, December 30, 2012

George Barnett and the Ninth Wave / Jack The Lad @ The Sunflower Lounge, 29th December 2012

It’s always an odd time between Christmas and New Year. Most of us are still recovering from turkey overdose (quite literally going ‘cold turkey’) and desperately necking those chocolate liquors that always seem to find their way into the house somehow (who buys those things?!), eager to stave off the inevitable return to work and the horror that is...JANUARY. Urgh. Bears have the right idea, hibernate through the whole darn thing and wake up just as the daffs are daffing and the bees a buzzing. That would certainly explain the absence of bears at last night’s gig but a surprisingly decent number of humans managed to rise from the sofa...and ruddy glad they were too I bet.

Openers Jack The Lad are a relatively new name in B-Town but after just a handful of gigs they’re remarkably polished with, as one member of the audience enthusiastically announced to me after their set,  an album’s worth of material that she’d happily purchase. And we all know how rare that is these days. Lead singer and songwriter James O’Gorman (21 years old...I said he was 18 the last time I reviewed ‘em a couple of months ago...blame my dodgy research assistant) has a natural knack for penning catchy tunes with a pop sensibility that simultaneously embrace a pretty wide range of influences, from full on rock right through to rub a dub ska. Lyrically he neatly captures some of the joy and pain of today’s youth without coming off all Morrissey, in fact there’s a joyful soul tinge to his vocals especially on two of the set’s best numbers, In It For Himself and the hollered for encore Welcome To My City...both of which you can catch on their fledging  website

You know what? If Birmingham had one of those Sounds of 2013 list thingies Jack The Lad would unquestionably (blimey, that’s a big word for me...) be right up there. Ones to watch...

Writing about George Barnett makes me sound a little like one of those nutters who stand on street corners preaching the apocalypse. He’s good. He’s damn good. Lordy raise your hands into the air brothers and sisters he’s the second coming! Oh alright, maybe that’s going a little too far but last night, in the distinctly compact Sunflower Lounge basement, he and his band (big up the Ninth Wave!) delivered yet another of their stadium  worthy performances dishing out tracks that already sound like classic hits to the faithful. Musically and lyrically George is a mercurial (in a good way) talent, a child of the shuffle generation who’s happy mixing bits and pieces from a dozen different genres and dropping in all sorts of references from the cultural (Debussy) to the more mass appeal (Glastonbury in June). What’s clever is that he does it all so well, creating a music that’s capable of lifting the soul (if you’re feeling particularly poetic) or just getting your head nodding like a Churchill dog (if you’re not). Kicking off with a sprightly Lone Rose (which tonight culminated in a particularly enthusiastic cowbell and drums freak out) and ending with the reflective message to future 17 year olds (the age George was when he penned all this stuff), 17 Days, all it took was for you to shut your eyes and you’re right there in the O2 Arena surrounded by several thousand mobile phones waving in the air and a bloke selling programmes at £20 a pop. Don’t believe me? Listen to the debut album, full blast right now.

Each time I see him something else catches the ears, tonight Light That Fire, tribal drumming meets Queen-esque sing-alongs and Chic funky guitars, stole the crown. Great to hear College Kids again too (originally written and recorded when he was just 16), a bombastic rock ‘n’ rap rebellion against some of life’s not so great expectations, “If you wanna waste five years baby you can do it with me”. 

Trust me my friends, five years with Mr Barnett would be anything but a waste of time. I doubt any record labels will read this but if, in the unlikely event that it somehow gets through to them, here’s a New Year’s resolution for you. Sign George Barnett and the Ninth Wave right now before someone else does. In return for this tip all I ask is a private jet and unlimited supply of peanuts and vin rouge for his first gig at Madison Square Gardens. Just for once do believe the hype...

PS: Just a last word on the sound last night, courtesy of soundman Greg. A good soundman can make or break a gig and Greg undoubtedly made last night as great as it could be. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Chris-Mix!

As is traditional here at Hearing Aid mansions I've dug out a couple of darn fine funk mixes for your Christmas pleasure. First up Dr Rubberfunk who last did one of these way back in 2007. Five years later...and, heck, it's been worth the wait!

And here's another beauty from the delightfully named Roche Brasiliano. Funkier three two week old turkey meat!

Merry Christmas y'all. x

Thursday, December 20, 2012

9-5 @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Wednesday 19th December 2012

It’s panto season! On no it isn’t...oh yes it is...oh no it isn’t etc. Whilst most theatres are rolling out the traditional panto the New Alexandra has something a little different on offer, the musical adaptation of Dolly Parton’s finest hour (and 50 minutes), 9-5. Actually if you use your imagination there is a little panto link in there somewhere, with the lead male character making the perfect villain and the three key female roles starting off as distinctly downtrodden before triumphing, Cinderella like, and living happily ever after. Hurrah!

Like the movie it’s all set in the dim and distant past, 1979, when sexism in the workplace was the norm and the most that female employees could often hope for was a job as a secretary (okay, so Maggie was running the country but no one wants to remember that). I guess that given our current economic woes most people would probably give their right arm for that kind of job right now but we’ll gloss over that eh? 

Photo courtesy of Simon Annand

Our heroines, the tough cookie Violet, the ample bosomed blonde Doralee (no prizes for guessing who she’s based on) and the recently dumped Judy are all, in one way or another, wronged by their boss Franklyn J Hart. Boo! Hiss! After discovering that he’s fiddling the books, as well as trying to fiddle with the lovely Doralee...ahem...they spot their chance for revenge and, well, you’ll just have to go and see the show.

The story’s a perfect vehicle for musical treatment and the producers have done a great job of capturing the look and feel of the 70’s with some remarkably simple but effective staging and oodles of period costumes. If there’s a worldwide polyester and nylon shortage we’ll know who’s to blame. The casting’s equally strong with Jackie Clune toughing it out as Violet, Amy Lennox all dollied up as Doralee and Natalie Casey making the perfect mousey Judy. 

Photo courtesy of Simon Annand

Casey in particular delivered some stunning vocal performances, most noticeably in Act II when her character finds that inner strength to reject her slimeball ex's advances. Girl power 70s style. 

Photo courtesy of Simon Annand

Ben Richards was suitably sleazy as Hart, maintaining that air of superiority and testosterone fuelled aggressiveness even when trussed up like a turkey whilst the legendary Bonnie Langford (who’s seemingly been performing since she was a twinkle in her granddad’s eye) drew some of the biggest laughs of the night as the, scrap that...lust struck Roz. The sight of Ms Langford in stockings and suspenders, legs akimbo, will stay with me for many years to come. Kudos too for Lori Haley Fox’s delightfully drunk and dishevelled Margaret, a relatively minor role that she made a real highlight. Oh...and Dolly of course. Yes, the Backwoods Barbie herself was there. Not in person obviously but via some pre recorded footage beamed onto a screen above the stage. It’s a simple device enhanced by some split second timing that made it seem like she was commenting on the action going on down below. She’d taken the time to record a small section that mentioned Birmingham too, typical of that legendary Southern charm of hers I guess.   

The songs (some of which were culled from the film and Dolly's albums, others composed specifically for the musical) really helped to build empathy with the characters and the choreography was a cut above the standard musical fare with some particularly lively ensemble numbers and one or two ambitious lifts that really wouldn't be out of place in a Strictly final.

Put it all together and you have something as instantly loveable, warm hearted and endlessly entertaining as Dolly herself. If you're looking for a fabulous night out Christmas presents don’t get much better than this Birmingham.

9-5 is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until 5th January 2013 then off on tour across the country.  Dates right here y'all. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hearing Aid is 1000!

Blimey. When I started this blog way back on the 28th August 2006 I had no idea if I'd write more than a dozen posts before jacking it all in. But here we are, 6 years later, at post number 1000. That's a helluva lot of posts my friends. Oh my aching fingers. Without getting all sloppily sentimental about stuff though it's all down to the people with real talent, the ones that actually make the music. From the tiny gigs where the band members have outnumbered the crowd (yep, there have been a few) to the mega festivals and arena shows I've enjoyed every single second of it. So thanks to everyone who's read a post (especially anyone who takes the time to comment), all the promoters (a huge big up to Carlo @ Birmingham Promoters - that dude's done more for music in Birmingham over the past few years than most), record labels, photographers and PR bods (oh yes, and Mrs B, you've got her to blame for me carrying on with this. Ha!). Wonder if we'll make it to post number 2000 eh? Oh lordy...

George Barnett - Where The Devil Sleeps

Wow. This is EPIC. With a capital E. Yep, one of 2012's best new talents George Barnett caps off the year with a brand new single, all 6 minutes of it. It's like a mini symphony, outplaying Coldplay, swerving majestically past The Verve and sprinkling in more great moments than the average album. Good grief. If this dude doesn't become a huge star next year then frankly the human race is doomed. DOOMED I say! So there.

Unbelievably you can catch him at a special gig at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 29th now available. There's your Christmas present dilemma sorted.

PS: Oh yes, by the way he wrote, played (everything apart from the strings) and produced it all himself too. Incredible...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Castrovalva / Exit International / Mount Fuji / Wrestling @ The Sunflower Lounge, Saturday 15th December

Ho ho ho. Whilst Christmas may mean carols, hymns, X Factor nonsense and Cliff singing about ickle baby Jesus to most of the population happily some people are still fighting the good fight, musically speaking at least. So a Santa’s sack full of respect to Distorted Tapes / Rhi Lee for putting together four bands that well and truly stuff most of the musical turkeys around at this time of year. Not Cliff obviously. Cliff is God. No...really...he actually is...a tramp outside Wetherspoons told me.  

Anyway, first up Wrestling. Nope not Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks (showing me age here) Wrestling...the band! The music’s nicely melodic in places, making a neat contrast with the screamo vocals, and not even a raging sore throat could stop the band’s main vocalist from screaming up a lung tonight. Now that’s dedication to the cause my friends.

Next up Mount Fuji (formerly Conquistadors) weaved together some impressively complex guitar noodling and percussion to come up with a truly unique and rather awesome take on Cat Stevens’ Matthew and Son...Mathrock and Son anyone?   

You lika da bass? Yeah, me too. Chances are your head will spin off with sheer joy at the sight and sound of Exit International then. Ditching guitars for a pair of basses and adding a machine gun drummer to the mix the Welsh trio blew a large bass shaped hole through the crowd’s vital organs tonight coming across like At The Drive In / QOTSA with 50,000 volts up their ass. 

Yep, that good. It’s dirty, it’s heavy, it’s loud...the unholy trinity of proper rock...but with some naggingly catchy bits that you can imagine 100,000 kids screaming along to (just listen to the singalong la la la la la la la la la’s in Bowie’s Ghost for’s like Kaiser Chief’s for big boys ‘n’ girls). They won the lyric of the night award too with “Oh my god I’ve fucked everybody and now I’m left with you”. Hallmark Cards ought to snap that one up for Valentine’s Day.

Top that? Now there’s a challenge. One band’s up to it though, Exit’s tour buddies (lordy, imagine the debauchery) Castrovalva. There aren’t many unique bands around these days. It’s not really their fault, pretty much everything’s been done to death, but Castrovalva have a bloody good stab at putting a fresh twist on stuff, smashing together synths and samples with some viciously vocodered vocals, brutal bass (like Flea on methamphetamine) and the kind of dirty drumming that’s probably banned in 17 states in the US. Add Leemun, a dude who spits rhymes like a kid with ADHD and looks like Har Mar Superstar’s kickass cousin (Hard Mar Superstar?), and you’ve got something pretty freakin’ special. Tonight was bassist Tony’s birthday and he celebrated by playing his ass...and other “My balls are dripping down the side of my leg” he observed after one particularly frantic piece of guitar abuse. Sweet. Leemun meanwhile was leaping all over the place, in the crowd, on the crowd, up the crowd, scaling the staircase railings and bringing 15 flavours of mental to the show. Things ended in suitably chaotic style with Tony getting sprayed with several full cans of silly string...dude looked like he’d been jizzed on by a dozen horny clowns. Who needs laser beams and pyrotechnics eh? So what do you call this then? Hardcore grime rave? Thrash rock rap? Lord knows. Who cares? Castrovalava just might be one of the one exciting...and hell, let’s say it...FUN...bands in Britain right now.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pete Williams / Daytona Lights @ The Hare and Hounds, Thursday 13th December 2012

You’d have to say that 2012’s been pretty good to Pete Williams. Deservedly so too. As part of the recently reanimated Dexys he’s shared the pretty much universal praise showered on both the new album and the series of truly heart warming shows that have wowed crowds around the world. And, more importantly as far as tonight’s concerned, he released his debut solo album, SEE, too...after a mere thirty years or so as a performer. It was certainly worth the wait though. Coming hot on the heels of recent support slots for The Proclaimers this latest festive solo gig capped things off nicely.

First up though Daytona Lights who, in a novel pop will eat itself kind of way, seemingly formed a few years ago then chose to join the cast of Channel 4’s teen soap Hollyoaks playing “partially fictionalised versions of themselves” before leaving again to continue pursuing life as a proper real life band. Got that? Good. If all that sounds a little gimmicky relax, they’re actually a cracking live band with a stack of instantly likeable tunes. 

Musically there’s a little of that Vampire Weekend style afrobeat in there but with a rockier edge. The endlessly energetic lead singer’s perfected that rock n’roll sneer too, lending the whole thing a little more grrrrr (yep, that’s a technical term) that you might expect given their CV. Never heard of them before but found myself wanting to dig out their album, which is all too rare these days. Judging by new song, Midnight Beach, played live for the first time tonight, they're on a bit of a roll right now too. Ones to watch. 

Despite the bone chilling coldness of the night and all the usual insanity of the season Pete and band had pulled in an impressive crowd for which he seemed genuinely grateful, repeatedly thanking us all for making the effort. Okay, sometimes hauling your ass off the sofa to go to a gig is a little bit of a mission, but when you know you’re in for something special even the evils of the number 11 bus (tonight’s treat including a dude arguing with himself in between smoking crack...nothing says festive like a rock of crack eh?) pale into insignificance. Comparisons with Dexys are impossible to avoid so let’s get them out of the way first. Pete was, of course, in Dexys back in the day and has featured in both the 2003 reunion and this current rebirth. There’s a touch of Rowland’s influence to Pete’s vocal...or is it the other way round? Who knows? Who cares? Musically too there’s that classic soul feel, albeit more refined and a little jazzier/funkier in places than in the Searching For The Young Soul Rebels days.

Featuring members of Richard Hawley and Imelda May’s groups Pete's band is a particularly impressive and experienced line up of musicians and they’re as tight as a disgraced banker (but oh so much lovelier) from the very first note of the show’s opening number, the reflective but instantly addictive Reconsider This. At the heart of the whole thing is Pete himself (tonight wearing a rather snazzy white suit...always a snappy dresser) a hugely loveable performer unveiling an exceptionally strong songbook that’s been deftly hewn from life’s various ups and downs...births, marriages, deaths and pretty much everything in between. 

There’s some incredibly emotional stuff in there, most notably this evening the poignant tributes to his dad in Are You Listening? and old mate, Jimmy, in the emotional encore Suddenly Shattered and Pete more than does 'em justice with some terrifically testifyin’ vocal deliveries and the odd gloriously theatrical flourish, no doubt inspired by the more vaudevillian version of Dexys that he’s such a huge part of these days. Sure you can sit back and just enjoy the tunes and performance but he’s written some great lines, take the boozer’s regret in Until We Empty Off This Bottle, “You drink from the bottle and the bottle drinks back” for instance or the old(er) man’s lament “where once there burned a flame now there burns an ember”. Powerful stuff. 

Between song banter and a deliciously self deprecating wit provided plenty of chuckles too though and like all the very best gigs it just left you...seasonally Oliver Twist-like...wanting more. Let's hope 2013 delivers eh? A true musical gem.   

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Layers - It Feels Like Christmas Now

Tricky things Christmas songs. Get it right and they sum up that Christmas spirit in just a few brief minutes, invoking an almost Pavlovian response and inspiring an uncanny yearning to stuff things every time you hear a really great one. Kirsty and The Pogues, The Waitresses, Slade, Wizzard, 17...(oh alright then, Cliff too) what would Christmas be like without 'em eh? Happily the last couple of years have seen a bit of a rebirth for the Christmas song, following a lull not doubt caused by the near certainty that whoever won X Factor would automatically get to number one. Tom from Editors (trading as Funny Looking Angels) made a fine effort in 2011 with The Christmas Song and Goodnight Lenin have pitched in this year with the equally lovely A Winter's Night. Now Layers have just thrown their Santa hat into the ring too with an effort that manages to be as sentimental as The Snowman one minute and as rocking as Rage Against The Machine's honorary Christmas song...Killing In The Name Of the next (10 out of 10 for the video too). A neat trick eh? I ruddy love it. With bells on. And what's this? Oh my oh my...if you've been a good boy or girl you can catch Layers - hopefully doing this track - live this Saturday night at The Sunflower Lounge with Castrovalva and Exit International too!    

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Gig-a-low Down w/c 10th December 2012

A trio of treats this week as the ‘Savile’ ‘enquiry’ goes after a man in a red suit with a dodgy beard and an apparent fetish for bouncing kiddies on his knee...

Tuesday 11th December

The Hives @ O2 Academy – Swedish garage rockers who, amazingly, celebrate their 20th anniversary next year. Bee there...ho ho ho (I could write Christmas cracker jokes...)

Thursday 13th December

Pete Williams @ The Hare and Hounds – This dude’s debut album (crafted after 30 odd years in the music biz) is one of 2012’s hidden gems. You may know him as part of the reanimated Dexys line-up (he was in one of the first incarnations of the band too) but trust me, you really need to see him take centre stage.

Saturday 15th December

Castrovalva / Exit International / Layers @ The Sunflower is going to get messy. Rock, hip hop, synths, enough BASSSSSSSS to blow up all your internal organs...and that’s just the headline band. One of the few Christmas Parties actually worth turning up to. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Saint Motel - Benny Goodman

Right, it's nearly the weekend. We could all do with a feel good tune/video to get us in the mood...for whatever it is that we fancy doing. And I've got the perfect track right here from Saint Motel. Hands up if you know how this kid feels? Yep, me too. Enjoy...


Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Semi Regular New Music Round Up Thingy w/e 7th December

Lordy it’s cold. I fear bits may start dropping off soon. Important bits. Can’t we have the Summer we missed out on this year now instead please?  In the absence of sun try this instead. They ain’t Cuban, they ain’t brothers and none of them are likely to become president but if their blend of J5 meets Har Mar Superstar doesn’t bring a smile to your ass then nothing will.

Deerhoof + Silver Apples = this irresistibly wibbly robots go bonkers in an 80s arcade mash up. Brilliantly nuts.

I’m not sure what Darumasanga means (whacking each other off in public conveniences judging by the video) but Parakeet’s new one has a pleasing Breeders meets Cocteau Twins meets Shonen Knife kinda feel. Play it loud and increase your coolness by at least 46%. Actually make that 48%.

In a similar but more noise poppy vein wrap your ears around the new one from Big Deal.

Finally it’s a little old but it’s a little new too, yep the new single from Friends Va Fan Gor Du does indeed “give me a naughty feeling”. Not in a Max Clifford kind of way but still...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Doing It For The Kids...

If you've not dropped by our chums in the US yet, Kids Interview Bands, pop over today and catch up with a whole bunch of great interviews...the likes of which you just won't see anywhere else. I can heartily recommend Electric 6 and Grouplove but every single one's worth a watch. Hell, it beats doing that report or completing that spreadsheet doesn't it eh? It's a neat way to catch up with some great US bands that haven't made it over here yet. I'm quite taken by Youngblood Hawke at the moment...

Keep your eyes peeled for some UK interviews from the Kids Interview team coming soon! In 3D! Possibly...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Goodnight Lenin / Dan Whitehouse @ Birmingham Cathedral, Saturday 1st December

Rapidly becoming something of a Christmas institution here in Birmingham Goodnight Lenin’s festive shows are as much of a sign that Santa’s on his way as Noddy Holder yelling “Itttttt’ssss Chrissssstmassssss!!!!!” down your ear ‘ole. Clearly the word’s got around too as tonight’s gig was sold out a while back and with a small but perfectly formed section of the Cathedral’s choir warming the cockles with a selection of Christmas hymns the place was packed to the pews in time for opener Dan Whitechristmas...whoops...sorry...getting carried away with the season there...Dan Whitehouse

Dan’s been wowing audiences around these parts since before ickle baby Jesus was a twinkle in Mary’s eye. It seems that way at least and he continues to impress with a fine set of self penned songs and an emotionally open performance that filled the cavernous cathedral beautifully. In fact it’s arguably the perfect venue for his soaring vocals and hymns to love, loss, and longing. Set highlights The Fire Of Lust (“And it burns like a bastard my friend”) part Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, part David McWilliams’ Days Of Pearly Spencer and My Heart Doesn’t Age, inspired by chats with his Gran showcase Whitehouse at his best, a darn fine chronicler of that tricky blighter...the human condition.

How long’s it been since Goodnight Lenin’s first show? Three years or so? Since then they’ve played Glasto a couple of times, toured like troopers, released some beautiful EPs and honed an album’s worth of material that’s just been recorded with legendary producer John Wood (the dude behind Nick Drake’s seminal releases). Not too shabby eh? 

Tonight was a celebration of all they’ve achieved so far. Having had the pleasure of seeing them perform a dozen or so times it’s now relatively easy to distil what makes them such a great band. Lyrically there’s the kind of ‘old head on young shoulders’ wisdom that marked out Neil Young (who’s openly acknowledged as a real influence) as such a talent way back in the day, with many of their best songs focusing on the passing of time...something which you’d expect to be a million miles away from the thoughts of a bunch of guys in their early 20s. 

Then there are those spine tingling three part harmonies between John, John Joe and Liam (with the occasional addition of the deeper voiced bassist Matt...I’d still like to hear more of this), showcasing the kind of connectivity that only comes from years of singing, drinking and living together. 

There’s always some great self deprecating banter too, which lifts the mood between the more sombre numbers, shedding light and laugher where, just a few moments before there were tears. “Thanks for coming along tonight, it shows that 5 talentless shits from Northfield can do something!” reflected Liam after one of their strongest tracks, Edward Colby, one man’s life brilliantly summed up in song. 

It’s a neat bit of ying and yang, reinforced by the moments when the band rock out...which they did tonight in spectacular fashion. Drummer Sam was on fire tonight (fireman Sam you could say...oh dear...forgive me...) making full use of the venue’s wonderful acoustics to beat the bejesus out his kit when the moments called for it. 

Highlights spilled out of the set like Christmas pressies from a sack with a beautiful acapella mash up of Ballad Of A Leaving Man and Wenceslas Square which suddenly exploded in all its full on amplified glory. This was swiftly followed by new track, Repetition, another of the Lenin’s more reflective numbers this time looking at mind numbing working weeks in an office, stretching away as far as the mind can imagine. Don’t do it kids! Join a band instead! Or win the lottery. Either will do.

The addition of Hannah (pictured  above in the background with John Joe) and Kate to tonight’s line up also proved to be a real treat, making the string parts infinitely more orchestral and much richer, the musical equivalent of adding a generous glug of brandy to a Christmas pud. Ode To Rebellion in particular really benefited from this added firepower, edging it closer to something more symphonic and earning one of the biggest cheers of the night. Another new song, New Electric, again seemed to flesh out the Lenin sound a little more, with a naggingly insistent opening keyboard motif giving way to another full on rock out. Lenin’s Horse With No Name? Could be.

Closing with the suitably seasonal A Winter’s Night (the title track of the band’s current EP) – “It’s like Slade with minor chords” quipped Liam – capped off another magical Lenin Christmas show. 

Who knows, with the right roll of the dice next year and the success the album deserves, it may even be the last time they’ll play here. The LG Arena just won’t be the same though eh? 

Pictures courtesy of the lovely Shakeypix aka Richard Shakespeare

'SEE' Pete Williams at The Hare and Hounds

Anyone who saw the triumphant Dexys’ shows across the country this year will be familiar with Kevin Rowland’s main male musical foil, Pete Williams (who was in an early incarnation of the band and hopped back on board during their brief 2003 reboot). What they might not know is that 2012 also saw the release of Pete Williams’ debut solo album, SEE, a stunning piece of work that (whisper it) I actually prefer to the new Dexys stuff. Heinous I know but cop a listen to this and you might see what I mean.

I was lucky enough to be there for his Glee Club gig in February (review here) and it’s one of the standout shows of the year, oozing the kind of heartfelt honesty that’s all too rare these days. He's a hugely underrated artist at the moment and SEE’s just waiting to be discovered as a classic but trust me, it will be. Now for the good news. He’s playing an intimate gig at the Hare & Hounds with a full band (featuring members of Richard Hawley, Imelda May and Robert Pla's bands) on Thursday 13th December (tickets here).  Do your ears, heart and soul a favour and (to paraphrase that nice Mr Lennon) give Pete a chance. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Smaller Than Usual Semi Regular New Music Roundup thingy – 30th November 2012

Just time for a trio of new tracks this week, I blame the weather. It’s darn cold up here in my Gimp Loft. First up sexy ladies (Eli and Fur) playing some dirty electro...or vice versa. The choice is yours.  

Next London trio Elephant 12 channel the spirit of Rage Against The Machine in the kind of track you want to play in your office at full blast on a Monday morning but don’t have the balls to. Not unless you’ve won the lottery at the weekend that is...or unless it’s your own office I guess. In which case you could probably dance around naked with a Barbie doll up your ass and no one could do a darn thing.  

NB: Can't embed this track for some reason but here's the link. You're welcome...

Last up some breathy psych pop from Railbird, sounds a little like Kate Bush getting it on with Yeasayer...and that’s good enough for me.

Ta ra m’luvvers! x

The Gig-a-low Down - w/c 3rd December

December already. How did that happen? Answers on a mince pie to the usual address (that’ll be the nearest Wetherspoons). Here’s the pick of next week’s advent-tastic gigs in B-Town.

Monday 3rd December

Martha Wainwright @ HMV Institute – cut this woman and she’d bleed music...and blood obviously...but it would be musical blood. Support comes from various bits of the Broken Social Scene too.

Tuesday 4th December

Electric Six 10th Anniversary Tour – they wanna take you to a gay bar...for a nice cocoa and a lie down. 10th anniversary tour? Jeez I’m old.

Wednesday 5th December

Beans On Toast – Frank Turner endorsed drunk folker plays freebie gig at the Yardbird. Blowjobs optional.

Thursday 6th December

Arrows of Love / Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes / Skull TV @ Hare and Hounds – grungey apocalyptic rock with support from London 5 piece, support comes self appointed musical magpies Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes and experimental rockers Skull TV. Tickets here...a fiver...bargain.

Friday 7th December

Pip / Kate Tempest @ HMV Institute – Thou Shalt Always Go See Scroobius Pip...and Kate Tempest too, ‘cos she’ a fly Janis Joplin.

Saturday 8th December

Rebellion Xmas 2012 @ Ballroom - featuring Cocksparrer and Rancid plus a gazillion other bands who’ll probably make your ears bleed. A frankly incredible punk all dayer. Band name of the event goes to Gimpfist...closely followed by Bruce Tality. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Scroobius Pip - man of the Mo-ment

Rebelling against the temporary moustache growing trend bought about by the annual Movember event, but still wanting to support the cause (mens' unmentionable bits and pieces), hip 'n' hirsute  poet and all round speaker of sense Scroobius Pip decided to climb MOunt Snowdon and give himself a MOhawk. Predictably the weather was pretty shocking and he narrowly avoided falling off the darn thing the vid for yourself and pop over to make a Mo-nation / donation when you've finished. What a dude.

PS: Scroobs out on tour now with a Birmingham date at the HMV Institute on Friday 7th December - support comes from the equally awesome Polar Bear and Kate Tempest. Tickets here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

American Idiot @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Monday 26th November 2012

Okay, hands up who was expecting Green Day to come up with a musical? Their 2004 album American Idiot may have been a bit of a concept piece originally but still, it’s a pretty big leap to transfer the whole thing to the stage. Capturing the energy that comes with this kind of music in the more gentrified setting of a theatre was always going to be a bit of a challenge too. The producers have responded by packing a helluva (as they say in the US) lot in to this show. From a set’s that’s liberally festooned with flatscreen tellies through to a cast that literally throw themselves into their respective roles, tumbling over staircases, flying all over the place on wires and dancing their asses off with the kind of unselfconscious energy that neatly recaptures the kind of energy you want from a punk gig.  

At times it’s a bit of an ADD sufferer’s wet dream, with the tellies blaring messages out at you whilst the cast spin off in a dozen different directions but I guess that’s the point. We live in a world with a million and one distractions, most of which are (intentionally or otherwise) there to keep us neatly anaesthetised to the stuff that really matters (surely one of the band’s key messages here?).

Like many jukebox musicals the plot’s fairly simple. Three young men living in the fictional Jingletown all want to get the hell out of there. On the verge of leaving one guy gets his girlfriend pregnant and stays behind, one dude sets off in search of a rock n’roll lifestyle and the third ends up joining the army...arguably three different forms of idiocy to the one that they’re all rebelling against in the first place. This lays out three different stories to follow and there are some fairly graphic bits in the show that put it poles apart from your usual musical fare (the odd bit of shagging, plenty of shooting up and the odd amputation and novacaine induced hallucination...I’m betting you won’t get that in the new Spice Girls’ musical...sadly). None of its overtly gratuitous though and in the context of both the music and its themes it works well to capture the kind of nihilistic lifestyles being portrayed. Okay, amateur analysis over, is it great night out? Yep, you bet. From the first blast (surprisingly loud for a theatre) of the theme song American Idiot at the opening of the show through to a surprisingly emotional 17 guitar full cast version of Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) there’s not a dull second. These are some of Green Day’s best songs too and even casual fans will appreciate hearing stuff like Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, 21 Guns  and Wake Me Up When September Comes up there on stage. Regular gig goers might feel the urge to leap up and try to form a circle pit in the aisles during the more upbeat numbers and it might have been nice to get some of the cast off the stage and in amongst the audience once or twice (a little cheesy I know but a good way of recreating that punk gonzo spirit a little more) but American Idiot successfully brings the musical kicking and screaming into the 21st century. 

With a youthful all American cast it feels authentic and Alex Nee impressed as the Billie Joe Armstrong channelling Johnny whilst his drug dealing nemesis St Jimmy managed to be devilishly addictive in the hands of Trent Saunders. This really is an ensemble piece though and the show’s at its best when they’re all up there, thrashing about like there’s no tomorrow (kudos to Steven Hoggett for some inspired moments of choreography). You’d be an idiot -American or otherwise - to miss it...

American Idiot’s at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 1st December before transferring to Hammersmith Apollo for a brief run (December 4th – December 15th). 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Gig-a-low Down, w/c 26th November 2012

Monday 26th November

American Idiot @ The New Alexandra Theatre (runs until 1st December) – Okay, so this ain't really a gig but, direct from Broadway, Green Day’s hit musical of the hit album promises to take punk rock where it’s never gone before.

Tuesday 27th November

Laura Mvula @ The Hare and Hounds – hotly tipped Birmingham vocalist plays the kind of intimate gig people will cut their ears off for this time next year.

Thursday 29th November

Evan Dando and Julianna Hatfield @ HMV Institute – acoustic versions of hits and misses from The Lemonheads, Blake Babies and their own solo stuff.

Friday 30th November

Boat To Row / Misty’s Big Adventure / Young Runaways / Charlotte Carpenter @ O2 Academy – Folk loveliness meets musical mayhem as the old skool (Misty’s...bless ‘em) meet the new (everyone else).

Saturday 1st December

Goodnight Lenin @ Birmingham Cathedral – now more of a tradition than Noddy Holder yelling “Ittttttt’ssssss Chhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrristmasssssssssss!” the Lenin warm yer cockles just a few months before the release of their debut album.  The gig’s already sold out but you can always stand outside and drink mulled wine with the Goths of Pigeon Park.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Semi Regular New Music Roundup Thingy – w/e 23rd November

There’s an insect crawling across my screen. WTF? Shouldn’t they all be dead by now? I have enough trouble surviving the winter and I’ve got woolly things to wear and hot drinks and stuff. Maybe he’s (I’m assuming it’s a ‘he’, it looks like a ‘he’) come to check out this week’s new music thingy eh? Right, let’s see what he makes of this, Glitch from fuzzy luvvy Graham Coxon approved posters The History of Apple Pie.

Hmmm...he’s still crawling, do insects dance? Bees do don’t they? This ain’t a bee though. Not sure what it is. Anyway, let’s try this on him, an electro goth  protest song about female circumcision (seriously...) from Ulterior. Sounds a bit like Carter USM in a really, really bad mood. 

Imagine Cornershop getting jiggy with classic era Jackson 5 and Laurence from Felt’s follow up project Denim...the results would possibly sound like this frankly grin inducing new single from Brum’s very own TheVoluntary Butler Scheme. What is it with Birmingham at the moment...we seem to be on a bit of a roll right now. Even the insect liked this one...I can see him shaking his little insect butt now. Awww...bless...

Scuzzy surf pop anyone? Check out French Films’ Convict, purpose built for cruising down Californian beach fronts looking all cool and indie-ish. Pity I’m stuck in Birmingham then eh?

Oooooh this is good too, at least it is if you like a little Hall and Oates style glossy 80’s pop courtesy of Night Works If you don’t then you’re probably better off sticking knitting needles in your ears. Not recommended but hey, it’s a free world right?

Right, that’s it for another week. Judging by the insect the pick of this week’s tracks was The Voluntary Butler Scheme. Good choice. Maybe we should put it in charge of the Country? Couldn’t do a worse job eh? 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Goodnight Lenin sell out!

Nope, Northfield’s finest haven’t licensed their music to Coca Cola, accepted that One Direction tour offer or agreed to appear nude in Front magazine (not yet anyway).  They have sold out Birmingham Cathedral for their annual pre Christmas gig however, which is rapidly becoming something of an institution here in B-Town. Not even Mary and Joseph can get in now...ho ho ho. The gig coincides with the release of the band’s new EP A Winter’s Night (coming out on Static Caravan), I’ve heard it and it’s ruddy brilliant (check out the awesome Free School remix too if you get a chance).   

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wooden Horse @ Kitchen Garden Cafe, Sunday 18th November

It takes a lot to prise my lazy ass off the sofa on a nippy Sunday evening but the lure of an intimate night of quality Americana in the Kitchen Garden Cafe did the trick. After a typically miserable journey on the bus of the damned (aka the number 11) – just a 35 minute wait this time, cheers ‘Travel’ West Midlands – the Kitchen Garden Cafe was a particularly welcome sight. I’d not been here before but it’s a lovely venue, a real gem tucked away down York Road just a spit away (and on the opposite side) from the Hairy Hounds. Being a cafe and bar there was a superior choice of booze on offer compared with most gig venues, some nice ciders and a decent selection of wines too. Yeah I know...I’m a booze ponce. Sue me.

After settling down in the front row with a generous glug of Merlot Wooden HorseWorcester duo Jamie and Ben, took to the floor (there’s no stage, like I say this is an intimate place) for the first of two sets. Both of them are clearly huge Americana and blues fans, evidenced by the impressive diversity of tracks that they covered over the next couple of hours or so and their obvious talent for penning equally strong material that stands up really well against the US imports. Having caught them at Moseley Folk Festival back in September, playing a brief set, tonight was more Wooden Horse – The Director’s Cut, a twenty plus collection of tracks played with real heart‘n’soul. Jamie’s a fine vocalist, equally at home with the blues belters or gospel tracks as he is on the more introspective stuff whilst fellow Horse Ben (and his seemingly endless supply of guitars) has a wonderfully instinctive playing style that makes it look deceptively easy. Tonight they had a little added boogie woogie too courtesy of a guy called Stuart / Stewart (delete as applicable...I forgot to check the spelling), which fleshed out some of the tracks nicely. For anyone unfamiliar with the blues a night with Wooden Horse is a fine introduction with some real crowd pleasers sprinkled in, whilst the more knowledgeable aficionados will appreciate the quality of the performances and song choices. Pick of the first set included a spirited rendition of I’ll Fly Away (from the gazillion selling O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack) and the self penned testifyin’ Hell Ain’t Going home, which manages to be both bluesy and darn catchy at the same time. The latter track in particular saw Jamie and Ben at their very best, with Jamie’s vocals exhibiting a bourbon barrel richness (y’know, that smoky warm feeling) and Ben plucking the bejesus out of his instrument.

After a bottle of wine we plumped for a hot chocolate and brownie. Yeah, how freakin’ rock n’ roll eh? Set things up nicely for an equally rich second half of the show though with arguably the band’s best track to date, Yonder Calling, which rattles along like a freight train on a mission. It ain’t all belting it out and stompin’ along though and the poignant He Was A Friend of Mine proved the duo’s equally at home pulling on the hearts strings as they are getting the feet tapping. A joyful clap along to Will The Circle Be Unbroken and a radical reboot of JJ Cale’s Crazy Mamma (featuring a snatch or two of the Baby, Please Don’t Go for good measure) capped off a hugely enjoyable evening all round. Didn't miss that sofa for a second! 

Pictures courtesy of the lovely Richard Shakespeare aka Shakeypix