Friday, May 31, 2013

Kids Interview...Of Monsters and Men!

Is the Icelandic accent the cutest thing in the world? Possibly. They sound like pixies. Sexy pixies. Er...anyway...Hearing Aid chums Kids Interview Bands have just caught up with Of Monsters and Men's...deep breath here...Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. Olivia wisely resists the temptation to give that one a go. And, 'cos it's Friday and the sun's shining...yes...the  freakin''s an OMAM classic to get you in the mood for the weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pete Williams...Live!

Just come across this lovely clip of Pete Williams (an integral part of the new Dexys line up of course as well as a fabulous solo artist) playing live in Denmark Street. If you've not heard his debut solo album SEE, you're missing a treat. Here's a taster:

Somehow another of his bands, These Tender Virtues, had passed me by until now too. Thank the Lord for You Tube eh? Enjoy...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Prepare to be's Indietracks 2013!

Delighted to be going along to Indietracks this year having heard some great things about the previous ones. The line up's an indie fan's wet dream with an all too rare chance to catch bis (the lovely Manda Rin is about to become a mummy too, so this may be their last gig for a little while) along with the fabulous Camera Obscura, The Pastels and, celebrating their 21st anniversary, Helen Love! Whoo and indeed hoo! Here's a taster from just these four...

Tickets are just £72 (click here) for the three days which includes unlimited rides on the steam trains on The Midland Railway Butterley, the unique home to this equally unique festival. Top tracks guaranteed all round then eh?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tribes / Superfood / The Brute Chorus @ The Institute, Thursday 23rd May 2013

WARNING: This review contains the words ‘Britpop’, ‘Menswear’ and ‘Oasis’.

The video for The Brute Chorus’ Death Came Walking Parts 1 & 2 (I've refrained from popping it up here) isn’t for the squeamish, featuring as it does buckets of fake blood splashed liberally all over the distinctly hirsute band members (fake blood and hairy chests...urgh...not a great look). Happily this evening the only bodily fluid in evidence is sweat, as the group crank out their particular blend of rockabilly, blues and pop. Sporting a modest quiff and rather fetching moustache lead singer James manfully does his best to get the crowd going, strutting about, lunging and throwing shapes, his vocals a mix of Lux Interior meets Billy Childish...with a little 50s Elvis thrown in for good measure. There’s a touch of cabaret about it all from time to time as James ramps up the energy but hell, you’d rather your frontman give it some welly than just stand there like a lemon eh? Good dirty fun. 
The buzz around Superfood right now is roughly as strong as a nuclear powered vibrator (that’s some buzz), mainly down to their swaggering debut single, Superfood which shamelessly plunders Britpop’s early golden era for inspiration. They’ve cannily kept all of their other stuff offline for now and whilst a support slot on PEACE’s last tour have thrown up one or two other shaky live recordings on You Tube there’s still very little out there to judge ‘em on. The Britpop vibe’s pretty strong throughout tonight’s set (Mansun, Blur, Supergrass, Menswear, Longpigs, Dodgy, their spiritual granddaddies The Beatles) and I’m guessing that we’re far enough away from the backlash to see the whole era as a pretty good time for British music, ripe for the plundering. Sure there were some bad records made, some chancers who landed record deals when they didn’t deserve to and the whole thing descended into a bit of a farce but that’s true of any musical ‘movement’. Superfood aren’t merely Britpop revivalists though, they add their own special ingredients (blueberries and quinoa perhaps?), a touch of slacker rock, a twist of grunge and just the merest hint of psych. 

With the exception of set closer Superfood none of the songs played tonight have been heard much in public but they’re all pretty much instantly catchy. It’s unsurprising that local heroes PEACE are fans and it’s pretty much equally certain that Superfood are set for similar success.

It’s been interesting reading some of the comments about Tribes recently, they’re roughly divided into two camps, “terrible woeful hipsters making dull uninteresting music” and “Cool as fuck!” NME gave the band’s new album (Wish To A Scream...out May 30th) a fairly withering review but NME often says shit just to get a reaction these days so we’ll ignore them eh? What they do deliver (Tribes that is...NME stopped delivering anything 20 years ago) by the bucket load are one hands in the air, grab your sweaty mate and jump around anthem after another. Tonight’s set kicked off with The Clash meets The Levellers of When My Day Comes, singer Johnny Lloyd (sporting a black leather jacket with tassels on and an equally shaggily retro haircut) giving it his best anguished rock star vocal. A sizeable portion of the crowd lapped it up from the very first note and within a few songs an impressive pit opened up in the middle of the room. As the gig progressed it was easy to see the appeal. There are some great riffs, angsty outsider lyrics and reliable verse chorus verse song structures giving you just enough of a breather to get ready for the next bit of bouncing up and down. 

They may look back to the late 60s/early 70s for their influences but they’ve picked well with recent single Dancehall moving from Tom Petty territory into a Lynyrd Skynryd style rock out, whilst Sons and Daughters could almost have been a lost Springsteen cover. Looking round the faithful (and most of the people here tonight fall into that category) Tribes’ fans are clearly a pretty devoted bunch and it’s impressive just how many people have already memorised the lyrics to the new stuff. Johnny repays the love by hanging over the barriers, pressing the flesh (always a brave move) as a hundred or so moist teenage hands desperately reach out to him. Okay, so they might not be the coolest band around and some of the tracks might be a little bit beige in places but there’s some good honest rock in there...witness Exhibit A How The Other Half Live, one of the set’s highlights and a song that’s clearly benefitted from the band’s decision to record the new album in LA (maaaaaaaaan). It prompts the biggest mosh of the night, messily proving that there are still plenty of people willing to join this particular tribe.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Har Mar Superstar...don't call it a comeback

I love this dude. Whilst I can't remember the name of the band he was supporting (The Datsuns?) I can most certainly recall the first time I saw Har Mar Superstar live. Already balding (this was probably ten years ago?) and on the chunky side he was wearing a cape and (I think) a silk jumpsuit. I'd never heard of him before and I'm guessing no one else had at this gig either. He looked like a comedy act but he was shockingly good, dropping dirty beats on classics like Power Lunch and Baby Do You Like My Clothes. The latter title took on new meaning when he stripped off, performing much of the show in a pair of pants that left very little to the imagination and rubbing his sweaty frame against any willing ladies...there were one or two (like I say he hadn't yet become the sex symbol that he briefly was during his party years). In the intervening time he's released some great stuff and guested on Neon Neon's first album, Stainless Style. Now he's back with more of a soulful and sophisticated track, Lady, You Shot Me, channelling the classic soulsters of the 60s and doing a remarkably good job of it. Needless to say he still can't resist getting his belly out...and why not eh? If you've got it flaunt it.

PS: Here are a few other classic Har Mar moments...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tom Peel...the album!

The legend that is Mr Tom Peel releases his brand new album on Monday May 27th and, rather than send out just another boring old Press Release, he's recorded his own unique sampler thingy. As with anything Tom Peel records it's frankly essential listening, as is the album itself, another great collection of indie/folky/quirky stuff ("Most of the songs are about girls" he observes, slightly ruefully) fizzing with Tom's unique view of the world. If you join his Subscription Club the whole darn thing's FREE too! Whoop!

The album's also being released on Speech Fewapy Records via itunes, spotify, amazon and 7 digital - with physical copies available over the Summer. Mutes

Birmingham based self proclaimed  bedroom-gazer Mutes has a brand new EP out entitled...suitably enough given its minimalist feel...EP. Recorded in his bedroom on a few days off from work (I wish I was half as productive...) it's five atmospheric tracks that move from the echoing simplicity of Hope, etc through to the jangly shoegaze indie of M.P.D.G and on to the ambient soundscape of Inhabitants. Ending with Smother, a delicious melding of lo-fi vocals and hypnotic electronica, it's an impressively understated collection that gently works its way into your head...huge spliff optional. Mutes-iful stuff.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Skaters / Dumb / George Barnett @ The Rainbow, Sunday 19th May 2013

It seems slightly perverse that George Barnett’s tonight’s opening act, especially given the fact that his cover of Daft Punk’s new single Get Lucky has (at the time of writing) racked up an incredible TWO AND A HALF MILLION hits on You Tube. Still, it doesn’t seem to trouble him and once again he delivers a set full of hits in waiting that blow most of the current chart guff off the face of the earth. From the cowbell extended clap along version of Lone Rose through to the light pop funk of Cassi and on to the Queen’s We Will Rock You meets hip hop of Light A Fire Barnett bounces around the stage in the same relentless (and seemingly effortless) way in which the music seems to pour out of him. 

Speaking of which he dropped a couple of new songs into the set this evening, Falling and Crowd, the latter you can easily see becoming an arena staple one day. All too soon it ended with the carpe diem anthem for teens everywhere, 17 Days, a song that becomes all the more poignant the older you get. Having seen George a few times now I can really see the buzz building. Before the gig a couple of young ladies were singing Lone Rose in the bar and after the show a healthy stream of fans were chatting, buying CDs and getting them signed (this is pretty unusual for a support band). Judging by the endless torrent of positive comments on You Tube (to his own stuff as well as that cover version) it’s frankly inconceivable that he won’t be snapped up by a major label any day now.  

Next up Dumb, another of B-Town’s bright young things (although I first saw them way back in 2009 trading as The Carpels). There’s a bit of an indie grunge edge to them, like The Smashing Pumpkins jamming with...well...Peace. Isn’t it freaking great that we can start referencing some Birmingham bands for a change eh? 

Their best track so far and recent single, Dive, marries angry guitars with the lead singer’s slightly pissed off nihilism and they’ve retained a little of The Carpels' math rock heritage for an added twist. Neat.  

Headliners Skaters (featuring ex Dirty Pretty Things/Paddingtons and Dead Trees members) have come a long way this evening. All the way from Noo Yawk in fact. Huddled slightly menacingly at the back of the stage before the set, wearing parkers crudely personalised with the band’s name and a selection of their song titles, they seem to be planning some sort of gangland attack. Happily they keep their assaults to the audio variety cranking out some decent garage / pop punk with tracks that really wouldn’t sound out of place on The Strokes’ first album. “Did you guys get your fucking roasted dinners?” drawled singer Michael Cummings, earning himself a bonus point for cultural awareness. Recent single I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How) and last year’s Schemers both dripped with classic New York cool and attitude inspiring a trio of up for it dudes at the front to pogo enthusiastically...happily without showing the band’s singer just what a half digested “roasted dinner” actually looks like. It was all entertaining enough (and the band got better and better as the gig wore on) but, and maybe it’s just me, was the conviction really there? Hmmmm. Leaving the stage to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing might just be the ironic answer to that one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Public Service Broadcasting / The Grafham Water Sailing Club @ The Institute, Saturday 18th May 2013

They might not be the first group to have ever used samples from vintage films (older readers may recall through an ecstasy addled haze that The Prodigy started off their career by sampling that old Government ad advising kids not to go off with strangers...possibly using ‘charly’ in an entirely different context altogether) and I’m pretty sure there may have been a few others (answers on a postcard please...). But whereas these bands have often just used the odd sample to flavour one of their tracks Public ServiceBroadcasting (the band) are building their entire career around them. It’s a neat twist, enhanced by the duo’s adoption of stiff upper lip monikers – J. Willgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth – and their distinctly vintage live shows.

First up tonight though the rather more forward looking The Grafham Water Sailing Club, honorary members of the B-Town massive. I say more forward looking because, unlike PSB who often hark back to the 1940s and 50s, GWSC only delve back as far as the late 70s and early 80s for their more post punk / early synth inspiration (think Gang of Four and pre H17 split Human League jamming together after the phattest joint this side of Camberwell).

It’s a hypnotising mix as the band, once again clustered around their glowing ball of light on a table, provide the perfect soundtrack for a retro futuristic road movie that’s probably going on inside their heads. Another impressive showing for one of B-Town’s more original prospects.  

Time then for Mssrs Willgoose and Wrigglesworth. It was always going to be a challenge making such sample heavy stuff work well as a live event, after all most of the voices you’re listening to have been dead for the odd decade or three (I’m guessing that some of the music is pre-programmed too). PSB tackle this with an imaginative stage set featuring a hoard of old TV sets that show the videos for the tracks, in front of which the band adds live instrumentation (guitars, drums, keyboards, banjos...yes...banjos). It works surprisingly well, even if your eyes are frequently drawn more to the tellies than the living, breathing musicians in front of you. Who can compete with the strong jaw of Trevor Howard or the small but perfectly formed lip weasel of David Niven though?

Somewhat unusually the band maintains radio silence throughout the gig as well, preferring to rely on pre-recorded snippets to address the capacity crowd. “It’s great to be in...” pause whilst Mr Willgoose finds the button with the right sample “...Birmingham”...cue appreciative cheers from the audience. It’s a brave move...just imagine if he’d pressed the Manchester one by mistake eh? 

The band’s best tracks to date all get an airing tonight...or should that be air-raid-ing as both London Can Take It and Spitfire both hark back to World War II. It’s strangely moving watching the grainy black and white images on the screen featuring people who went through such unimaginable horror on our collective behalves and, whilst they obviously never imagined becoming unwitting stars of a 21st century electronica duo’s act, I imagine they’d be pleased that they were still being remembered some 70 years on. 

It’s not all doodlebugs and chocks away though, Signal 30 melds American road safety clips to a, suitably enough, driving QOTSA soundtrack whilst Everest is a gentler beast, building to a sound of wonder as our hero, Sir Edmund Hilary, bravely scales its peak night after night, as frozen in time as the ice that surrounds him.

Part history lesson, part gig, part night at the flicks, an evening with Public Service Broadcasting all adds up to a pretty unique experience. With their self declared mission being to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future” I’d say tonight was a clear case of mission accomplished chaps. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Funke and the Two Tone Baby / Sam Sallon at Ort Cafe, Thursday 16th 2013

It may have been open for a good year and a half now but this is the first time I’ve been to Ort Cafe. Yes I know, slack eh? It’s a pretty chilled out space too, just across the road from Moseley Baths and a mere 5 minute bus journey (on the number 50) from Birmingham City Centre. Part community centre, part cafe, part gig venue and part hangout for the various colourful characters that occupy Moseley’s hinterlands it’s the kind of place that makes you at least 23% cooler just by knowing about it. All of which makes it pretty much the perfect setting for tonight’s gig headlined by one man blues explosion, Funke and the Two Tone Baby.

First up though Sam Sallon, a singer songwriter with a distinctly late 60s early 70s vibe (both musically and appearance wise) together with a wonderfully clear vocal delivery and enunciation. You don’t often see the word enunciation in reviews do you eh? It’s worth mentioning in this case though as Mr Sallon’s an impressive lyricist too, arguably up there with Cat Stevens (surely an influence here?) and the late greats John Martyn and Nick Drake for writing deceptively simple but thought provoking songs, perhaps best demonstrated this evening in the enchantingly sublime You Are Home. 

Beautiful stuff. Even after 20 odd years of gig going I’m constantly amazed at the sheer volume of talent...and we’re talking real talent here...that far too few people ever get to see or hear. Stick these songs on vinyl, rough it up a bit, disguise it as a lost 70s classic and you’d have the musos working themselves into a frenzy over it.

Headliner Funke and the Two Tone Baby (all one man incredibly enough) is a nothing short of a beatboxing, folk, blues, rock whirlwind. I’m frankly still exhausted just thinking about the gig a good 12 hours or so later. Using two mics and a variety of FX pedals and gizmos he builds up tracks live, playing with himself (...steady now) in a gloriously organic freeform style. It’s like a modern version of those one man bands with the dudes who had a foot operated drum on their back, a harmonica round their neck and a guitar with a cymbal on it. It’s also outrageously good, the sort of thing that would give Jack White an instant...and possibly fatal...stiffie. Stomping the floor so hard it shook the bottles on our table he launched into some blazing harmonica powered blues in a set that rarely dipped below what could safely be described as full on. Demonstrating the kind of co-ordination and nifty footwork that most premier league footballers would happily sacrifice their diamond encrusted hot tub for he blended hints of Waits, Beefheart and Beck on one of the set’s standout tracks (and recent single) Cecile’s Song, a primal funk blues banger. Appropriately enough he covers a Waits track too, 2.19, wryly observing that audiences in some parts of the UK have absolutely no idea who the hell he is. I blame the parents. His masterpiece (to date) Battles is a brooding beatbox beast of a track and tonight he beats the hell out of it, working up a significant sweat in the process (no mean feat given the unseasonably nippy weather outside). Encore, a fabulous blast through Paint It Black, capped off a hugely enjoyable set and, with a gentlemanly doff of his hat Funke left us all to catch our breath. Trust me, no one will put this baby in a corner...  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wooden Horse ride again...

Hearing Aid favourites and country blues behemoths (yes, behemoths) Wooden Horse play another intimate gig at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath. We went to the last one and had a mighty fine time (imagine the last bit in an American drawl...a mighhhhtyyyy fiiiine tiiiime...see, much better). Here’s the review! Anyway it all takes place on Sunday 26th May, you can also catch the Horse at a special Folk For Free gig at the ICC on June 27th (so much more civilised than Glastonbury). Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming soon...Lenin Rock The Rep

It’s nearly time for Goodnight Lenin’s first headline show for 6 months and they’re recently been hinting at a slightly rockier feel. They’ve always been at their best when...hell I can’t think of a better expression here...rock out a little, so this is a frankly mouth watering prospect. Check out this bad boy filmed at 2012's Moseley Folk Festival...

This is a warm up show for their appearance at Glastonbury and, as with that lovely Mr Eavis' shindig, their gigs routinely sell out now so I’m not sure if you can still get a ticket but it’s well worth a shot. Unlike Glastonbury you're unlikely to end up rolling around in the mud after smoking a funny fag from that Scouser you met outside the Hare Krisna tent...who knows though, let's see what happens eh?   

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Get Lucky this Sunday...

Calm down, I'm not promising you a quickie up the back alley...although let's see how things go eh? I'm anyone's after a pint or two of Old Rosie (seriously...anyone's). Nope, I'm talking about the chance to see the You Tube conquering George Barnett together with hotly tipped B-Town band Dumb and lo-fi garage poppers Skaters  (see below for a flavour of each) in the mighty Rainbow (well it's mightier than it was...check out the free retro arcade games) this Sunday, May 19th.

In case you've been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks Mr Barnett popped up a cover of Daft Punk's new single, Get Lucky, on You Tube a couple of weeks back which has, to date, received nearly 2million hits. It's also (whisper it) better than the original. The even better news is that George has oodles of wonderful self penned stuff too. Oodles. Try these for size...

Tickets for the whole shebang just £6.50 in advance from our chums at Birmingham Promoters!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tom Copson / Patrick Duff @ The Flapper, Sunday 12th May 2012

It might have been distinctly uninspiring outside The Flapper tonight (unseasonably nippy and just a trifle moist) but deep in the bowels of this legendary Birmingham boozer and gig venue Patrick Duff (for newcomers yes, he was the lead singer of critically acclaimed late 90s alt rock band Strangelove) is once again delivering the sort of set that makes you glad you’ve got ears. If that sounds a little over dramatic just go and see him first (by the way he's supporting The Blue Aeroplanes on their June tour).

On the surface he’s simply a gifted singer songwriter with a guitar but he sprinkles each and every song with something truly special, from the primal howl at the climax of opening number No Man’s Land right through to the improv mouth trumpet solo during set closer Three Little Monkeys. Plucking songs from his solo albums (the third’s recorded and funding is currently being raised via PledgeMusic for a very special vinyl pressing) this evening, like all of Patrick’s sets, took you through pretty much the full range of human emotions from the resigned collective despair of Fucked and on to the resurrection shuffle of Dead Man Singing. It’s pure, raw, powerful stuff sung by man who knows the highs and lows of modern life better than most, an artist whose rich history (both person and ancestral) echoes throughout each and every note and it my humble opinion...simply magical. 

After a number of years in the wilderness (literally – he lived in some woods for a while – and metaphorically) now really seems like something of a rebirth for him with a new manager, Nick, clearly as passionate about Patrick's talent as...well...I am.

From a familiar name to a new one, although 28 year old Tom Copson has clearly been winning over some impressive fans with none other than Seasick Steve stopping by one of his busking gigs and hanging around for 20 minutes or so before inviting him to his own gig later that day. If it’s good enough for Seasick...

Opening with an inventive folked up version of Cameo’s classic Word Up was a great way to start the gig and, whilst the venue may have been less than packed out (oh the perils of a self promoted Sunday night gig on a wet and windy May evening in Brum), it was enthusiastically received. It was on the self penned tracks that Tom’s forte really becomes clear with an impressive vocal range and power that’s clearly benefited hugely from his busking days. 

Pick of the set included Treehouse, a dreamy vision of a future lived with the girl of his dreams, a VW campervan and a treehouse. I can relate to that (not sure that my swimming pool sized enamel bath would fit in there though) and Prayers For Benjamin. It’s on this latter track that Tom digs out the omnichord, an obscure instrument from the 80s favoured by, amongst others Brian Eno and Nick Rhodes (now there’s a pairing I’d like to see). It’s a really great song (even without the omnichord), written I believe for a friend in the grip of the debilitating illness of ME and sung tonight with the sort of passion that, would such miracles resist, might just result in a cure. 

The homage to...and warning against...the joys and pains of the demon drink in Uncluttered Spaces gave Tom another chance to showcase that impressive 4 octave vocal range of his whilst giving all of us who like a pint or three a moment of reflection. With some strong songs and a voice to match it was a really enjoyable set, capping off an intimate evening that really deserved more of an audience.

PS: Tom’s new single, Moments, is out today on iTunes.     

Friday, May 10, 2013

John Grant / Ásgeir Trausti @ The Institute, Birmingham Thursday 9th May 2013

For lovers of beautiful vocals and glorious lyrics tonight’s pairing of the fairly recently rediscovered genius John Grant and relative newcomer (although at just 20 he’s already one of the hottest names in his native Iceland) Ásgeir Trausti was a soul lifting treat from start to finish.

I’ve written before about Iceland punching well above its weight, musically speaking at least, with Of Monsters and Men notably making huge waves across the world last year. Now Ásgeir Trausti’s trying his luck. Don’t go expecting any ‘hug yer mates la la la singalongs’ here though, Mr Trausti’s an altogether more introspective soul, but no less moving. Trausti’s vocals soar into the air, icily fragile yet strangely comforting all at the same time. The music moves gently from a traditional folky feel through to the kind of sound that’s made stars of James Blake and Alt J whilst the vocal has glorious wisps of Buckley (Jeff), Hegarty (Antony) and Guðmundsdóttir (Bjork to her mates). On That Time invoked the spirit of Simon and Garfunkel at their haunting best whilst Burden Wears Me Down’s bold and inventive use of space age synths nudged the set in a surprisingly different direction.

During the set Trausti revealed that John Grant’s (who now lives in Iceland himself) helped him translate his latest album into English but the Icelandic versions are somehow more magical, even...or maybe can’t understand a word of them and are left to focus purely on that voice of his. This was certainly the case on set closer Leyndarmál (I think this was the name of the track...apologies, my Icelandic’s not as hot as it should be), which blended Ásgeir’s folk roots and magical sounding mother tongue to the kind of gentle beats you  might find on a lo-key Hot Chip track. Beautiful stuff.

It’s fair to say that John Grant’s been through the mill a bit. Okay, a lot. Okay...a hell of a lot. Some of it’s self inflicted, the addiction to drink and drugs as well as a habit of falling in love with the wrong dudes (Grant’s openly gay). His first band, The Czars were critically acclaimed but seemingly imploded after failing to make a living. There followed a five year silence before Grant returned with the career reviving Queen of Denmark album which was widely hailed as an instant classic. Building on this 2013’s seen the release of Pale Green Ghosts, something of a radical change of direction no doubt encouraged by the involved of Birgir Þórarinsson from electro poppers Gus Gus. 

History lesson over on to tonight’s gig and the crowd was unusually reverential, giving Grant and co a warm welcome before...yes...shutting the fuck up. It’s sad that this is noteworthy but so many gigs these days are ruined by inane chatter, people texting, people filming the darn thing on their shitty mobile phones, people doing their freakin’ tax returns...but anyway...tonight, for a change, people actually LISTENED. After a few notes of opening number You Don’t Have To you could see and hear why. The man can sing. Sure, lots of people can sing. Grant can SING though. 

The voice has a similar gravity to the legendary Scott Walker coupled with...bear with me here a moment...the heartbreaking tone of the late, great Karen Carpenter. Just me on this one? Oh...okay. Anyway, like many of the tracks on the new album You Don’t Have To blends Grant’s vocals and lyrics to a synth heavy soundtrack that veers from the chilled out (as on this song) to the downright dirty fleshpot disco meets HI NRG of Sensitive New Age Guy (pure Soft Cell). 

You can tell just by looking around (and from overhearing some of the comments at the end of the show) that this shift in direction from his stuff with The Czars and on his debut solo album has perhaps unsettled a few older fans but, as a relative newcomer to all things Grant, I frickin’ loved it. Long term Grant-ites were well served tonight too though with Marz and Queen of Denmark both making it into the main set and all five (yes FIVE...count ‘em) encore tracks coming from his debut album.

Throughout the set Grant was pretty chatty, bantering with the good natured shout outs from the audience (“A blowjob for the person who guesses the name of the next song”), spinning the odd celebrity tale (his Ernest Borgnine section was hilarious) and paying tribute to recently departed friends. It’s the lyrics that really do the talking though and you could probably write a decent dissertation or two on them. I’ll skip that for now, suffice to say that he’s bastardise one of his own tracks...the greatest motherfucking lyricist that you’re ever gonna meet. It’s raw emotional stuff (full of self love, self loathing and all points in between) and, to return to the Scott Walker links, there are distinct echoes of Jacques Brel in there for good measure. 

Lovers of Mr Brel will know that’s high praise indeed. Fusing all this to dance beats is, quite frankly, genius and as the single (and one of tonight’s predictable highlights) Pale Green Ghosts demonstrates the results are stunningly original. Strong competitor for gig of the year.

Setlist: You Don’t Have To / Vietnam / Marz / It Doesn’t Matter / Pale Green Ghosts / Black Belt / SNAG / Ernest Borgnine / Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore / GMF / I Hate This Town / Glacier / Queen of Denmark

Encore: Sigourney Weaver / Where Dreams Go To Die / TC & Honeybear / Caramel / Chicken Bones

Patrick Duff. This Sunday. The Flapper. Birmingham.

As post titles go this isn't the cleverest but I just want to make it as clear as possible that one of the most honest, passionate performers you're ever like to see is playing The Flapper this Sunday (May 12th). Tickets just £4 available here (and on the door if you're lucky). If you've been here for a while you'll know I'm a bit of a Patrick Duff fan so I'll let my previous reviews do all the 'selling' here.

Patrick's also currently sourcing funding for a full release of his beautiful new album Visions Of The Underworld via Pledge Music. Recorded live, with no overdubs, sonic tweaking or any of the other stuff that can often drown out the soul of great music it's as close to hearing him live as you'll get. And that, my friends, is very special indeed.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Them Wolves go wild in the country...

I do love a disturbing video. And this one's pretty twisted. It needs to be though, as its soundtrack is the new single from the triple headed noise monster that is Them Wolves. The whole thing makes you feel like you're being chased by a horny Beelzebub intent on rogering you senseless with a bass guitar...choppy hyperactive riffs give way to a heavy grinding, thrusting piledriver of noise as the whole thing shudders to a frankly glorious climax. Makes Black Sabbath sound like The Saturdays.

PS: This is the first track taken from Them Wolves' (seen here plotting world domination) debut EP - German For Duke - due out on June 24th via It's Just Noise and Distorted Tapes. Bring it on...

PPS: Pre-order it here....they're promising it'll give you a guaranteed "raging erection"...which should give the ladies out there a bit of a surprise...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Midnight Tango @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Tuesday 7th May 2013

Go back a decade or so and it’s unlikely that this sort of show would actually exist. Such is the huge popularity of the Beeb’s Strictly Come Dancing though that you’ll now find a number of its professional dancers cha cha cha-ing out and about on tours of their own (on top of the ever popular post season celeb arena shows). Of course part of the Strictly appeal is watching the celebs tackle the dances (with varying degrees of success). Stripped of this element how would a ‘proper’ dance show compare for sheer entertainment value? Wisely the producers have tapped in to the sometimes more light hearted element of Strictly with the addition of a comedic old couple who run the bar that acts as the setting for the entire show. Brilliantly played with real pathos by Tricia Deighton and Anthony Renshaw they bookend the show, starting off as the archetypal bickering man and wife who’ve been married forever and a day before gradually rediscovering their love as Vincent and Flavia’s own relationship is tested in the sizzling bar room setting. Ahhhh bless. 

Speaking of the setting the set itself – an authentic looking old school Argentinean bar – is particularly convincing and given the unseasonably warm temperatures outside it didn’t take a huge amount of imagination to believe you were in Buenos Aires rather than Brum. As it’s there all the time there’s also substance to it that multi-set shows lack and I was half tempted to wander up on to the stage for a cheeky rum or two after the performance...

It’s the fusion of music and dance though that everyone’s here to see though and thanks to the show’s band Tango Siempre (an existing group that’s been playing tango music across the world since 1998) the accompaniment is more than a match for the world class dancers. Acclaimed violinist Ros Stephen drives much of the music, teasing some truly exquisite (and downright sexy) sounds from her instrument. The band’s joined by caramel voiced singer Miguel Angel on some of the numbers too. Born in Puerto Rico he’s perfectly at home at the heart of the show and, although I didn’t understand a word of the lyrics, you don’t need to a degree in Spanish to get what he’s on about. Ahem.

Vincent and Flavia are well known to millions of course and the heat between the pair is enough to melt the glasses behind the bar. 

The other dancers are every bit as impressive though and at times it was difficult to know which pair of gazelle like legs being wrapped around which pert, manly bottom to watch. 

What little I know about great tango is taken from Strictly’s gloriously camp panel of experts but newcomers to the whole thing couldn’t fail to be impressed by the sheer energy, co-ordination and passion in every twirl, twist and embrace. One dancer in particular seemed to melt backwards under a chair in the kind of move that would keep a chiropractor in business for life. Sexy, funny and passionate, Midnight Tango’s a surprisingly accessible dance show with more than enough going on to entertain even Strictly non believers. Tan-go and see it...or, to put it another way, Cacace it if you can. 

Midnight Tango is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until May 11th before tangoing off on tour across the UK. Dates here

All photographs courtesy of Manuel Harlan.

Hustle over to the Hare!

Birmingham based Hustle! Records host another of their darn fine nights at the Hare and Hounds this Saturday night (May 11th) featuring Jake Bullit, The Bluebeat Arkestra, Dubcherry & Midnight Bonfires. 

Tickets are a mere 4quid in advance! Bargain. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Matias Aguayo - El Sucu Tucu

In a desperate attempt to tear myself away from watching a trillion covers/mash ups of the new daft Punk single (trust me, after in depth research I can categorically assure you that the George Barnett one is the definitive version) here's the rather spankingly great new track from Chilean born ex Closer Musik dude Matias Aguayo. This'll wake up the neighbours...

Thursday, May 02, 2013

George Barnett gets lucky...

Oh boy, this dude is so talented it hurts. Yep, George Barnett's done another of his bedroom covers that put most studio recordings to shame. This time it's Daft Punk's new one Get Lucky. Better than the original? What do you think? Enjoy...

PS: George plays The Rainbow in Birmingham on 19th May...and the O2 Arena this time next year if there's any justice in this world. Trust me on this one.

PPS: Dude put the vid on You Tube a couple of days ago and it's reached over 115,000 hits already. Ka-boom.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May-d in Brum

If you’re anywhere near Birmingham/B-Town/Brum or whatever else you want to call it at the moment don’t forget that tomorrow night’s the May Brum Notes Magazine launch party thingy. Here's a taste of what you're in for...