Archive | March, 2014

Young Knives – The Haunt, Brighton (March 20, 2014)

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Young Knives – The Haunt, Brighton (March 20, 2014)

Posted on 28 March 2014 by Dorian

Watching the Young Knives bassist (excellently still using the moniker ‘The House of Lords) setting up on stage I found myself imagining a scene from a US college comedy film. A smartly suited square, hair neat and side parted, arrives at a party, he is socially uncomfortable with the behaviour but reluctantly takes a drag on a spliff offered to him. The film fast-forwards a few weeks and the same character has long unkempt hair, a patterned shirt worn open over a band t-shirt, cut-off jeans and trainers.

Young Knives

Having only seen Young Knives once before, at the ill-fated Beachdown festival in 2008, I wasn’t aware of the band members radical change in style. However, looking at more recent images it looks like this may be one of the many changes that came with the band’s radical stylistic shift on last year’s album Sick Octaves. This was an album that ranked in our top 20 for the year and was an album that contained (in the words of our reviewer) “lots of weirdness and ethereal shit”.

Unlike earlier dates on their tour in 2013 the set-list wasn’t exclusively dedicated to the Sick Octaves album but it certainly dominated the set. The second song, a spritely version of ‘Love My Name’ from their previous album, ended with an extended repetition of the “the party’s over” refrain. This seemed to act as a bridging point between their first phase (albums one to three) and their new darker phase.

Visuals (on a projection and several monitors around the stage) accompanied the songs and supported some of the more theatrical elements of the performance. The new sound of Young Knives isn’t totally at odds with their old sound but it is certainly drawing more on the dark side of their personality and making far more use of synth sounds and noise than their traditional fans might be used to.

The late 70s is still the key influence on the band’s sound, but where XTC and Gang of Four may have been the lazy comparisons earlier in their career PIL and mid-period Wire are closer reference points here. There is a new groove to their sound and that helps hold things together when they threaten to get too weird or atonal. This is still a pop band, even if their take on pop is unlikely to attract a mass audience.

Just prior to playing a brilliant version of ‘Something Awful’ vocalist/guitarist Henry Dartnall can be seen at the side of the stage struggling to pull on a winged back-pack. Towards the peak of the song the wings are extended, their impact perhaps not quite was envisaged in the design, their crooked angle making them look a little sad. It is a Spinal Tap moment, but one that seems to fit perfectly with this least conventional of the post-punk revival acts.

‘Marble Maze’ is one of my favourite songs from the album and sounds great live, with a deceptively funky bass line supporting the desperate sound of the songs vocals. Kudos as well to Oliver Askew who provides excellence rhythms throughout the set and holds the more esoteric moments together brilliantly.

The evening’s encore includes a version of ”The Decision’ from their debut album, and rather than jarring with the rest of the set it reminds you what an odd band they always were. Their current career trajectory may not bring them a larger audience, and unlikely to see them back in the charts, but long may the oddness continue.

By Dorian Rogers

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John Howard – Live at the Servant Jazz Quarters

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John Howard – Live at the Servant Jazz Quarters

Posted on 27 March 2014 by Joe

It seems like an age since I listened to a live album. Was it The Woodentops’ Live HypnoBeat or perhaps U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky?  The mists of time have been cruel to my memories of the art form.

So after a couple of decades hiatus it’s been a revelation to once again enjoy a live album and remember just why they can be so good. The artist to drag me back is John Howard, who had a couple of decades long hiatus of his own between his 1970s singer songwriter career and a critically acclaimed comeback around a decade ago.

John Howard

John Howard at the Servant Jazz Quarters

Recorded at the Servant Jazz Quarters in the heart of hipster East London late in 2013 this features his gig supporting emerging songwriter Ralegh Long, who is a fan and recent collaborator of Howard’s (see our review of the whole night here).

With a set list spanning both his 1970s and recent catalogue he has carefully weighted the performance to appeal to both fans and those catching one of his rare gigs for the first time.

The overwhelming reaction from both camps must surely have been that Howard is, for want of a better phrase, a proper artist. He plays and sings seemingly the right way. I don’t mean that other newer acts are not good or can’t sing, or are somehow not right. But Howard is a rare beast in being classically trained with a vast breadth of experience from playing 1960s folk clubs to recording in Abbey Road. This experience oozes across the performance, especially his stunning vocals in the set’s only cover version, David Bowie’s Bewlay Brothers.

As the set progresses another collaborator, Robert Rotifer, joins him on stage to play guitar and provide backing vocals for Don’t It Just Hurt. This track was covered recently by Rotifer on a compilation for his Gare Du Nord label, which  he set up last year with Long and Ian Button.

Button also joins the set midway through on drums, along with bassist Andy Lewis, and the trio, with just one morning’s rehearsal, give Howard’s songs a welcome full band feel.

Some on stage banter remains on the album and is all the better for it, with Howard’s north west of England accent sounding endearing and friendly as he jokes about Radio One shunning him in the 1970s and reminding Button that if in doubt do a drum roll.

This intimate gig is a great example of how the live album still has an important place in our music collections.  This is specially the case for an artist like Howard, whose performances are such a rare treat.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Metronomy – 02 Academy, Bristol (March 24, 2014)

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Metronomy – 02 Academy, Bristol (March 24, 2014)

Posted on 26 March 2014 by Scott Hammond

Since Metronomy’s Joseph Mount recorded 2006 debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5,000 You Owe) in the solitude of his bedroom, the project has since undergone a steady evolution that has resulted in a present day incarnation barely decipherable from these humble beginnings. Incrementally picking up musicians along the way, 2011’s The English Riviera was Metronomy’s first album featuring a full band line-up and it received near unanimous acclaim for its sunny, 70s Californian style pop. Follow up album Love Letters was released exactly a fortnight before tonight’s show, and its placing at number 7 in the UK has seen the achievement of the band’s highest chart position to date.

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Wearing matching maroon jackets and dark trousers, except drummer Anna Prior who has the concession of a somewhat more feminine code of dress, the group start off with three tracks from the new album; title track ‘Love Letters’ is the last of these and, featuring a Motown influenced chorus delivered by a four way vocal, is enthusiastically received.

‘The Look,’ is the first track of the night to induce instant recognition as it begins;  a large cheer emerging from the crowd at the commencement of the song’s distinctively sprightly keyboard riff. Affection for tracks from The English Riviera is further apparent as ‘She Wants,’ with its backbeat guitar stabs and funky bass, produces more rapture from the audience at its intro.

Despite being relatively new as an ensemble, today’s Metronomy outfit is an efficient and fluid live music-making machine; this is evidenced in the band’s members occasionally varying their roles throughout. Olugbenga Adelekan stands out with the snappy grooves of his swaying, insouciant bass playing and his rousing high pitched vocals on tracks such as ‘Corrine’ infuse Mount’s melodies with a healthy amount of soul. Elsewhere, recent addition Michael Lovett capably shares his time between frenetic keyboard figures and sweet guitar jangles while Prior shares lead vocal duties on the gorgeous, acoustic guitar driven ‘Everything Goes My Way.’

Dispensing with the slightly gimmicky push lights that the band used to stick to their chests during performances, the current Metronomy live experience is nicely enhanced by the introduction of a synchronised light show that combines effectively with some of their high energy, danceable electro-pop tunes; during the instrumental breakouts on songs like ‘Holiday’ and ‘The Bay,’ these photic additions provide the stimulating air of a synth powered, communal disco.

The buoyant audience chanting of the letters that spell out ‘Radio Ladio,’ is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of their lively, sustained enjoyment while the considerable amount of youth on display sees to it that, for the majority at least, the Tasmin Archer reference during ‘The Upsetter’ is one completely lost in the ether. Following a forceful demand for an encore, the band return for three more tunes, the last being ‘The Most Immaculate haircut,’ during which Mount individually implores appreciation for his talented cohorts who make up Metronomy ’14.

Having toured various U.S arenas in support of Coldplay, Mount  has expressed his disinterest at emulating the heady commercial heights of Chris Martin and co. His decision to follow up The English Riviera with sessions at the notoriously retro, analogue surroundings of Toe Rag Studios in order to record a more insular and less accessible 4th album hints at this ethos. To evolve and challenge, rather than attain populism, seems to be Mount’s way. Now a cohesive five piece, Metronomy can only evolve further from here.

 by Scott Hammond

 

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The Voluntary Butler Scheme – A Million Ways to Make Gold

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The Voluntary Butler Scheme – A Million Ways to Make Gold

Posted on 24 March 2014 by Joe

After the damp squib that was 2011’s electronica focused  album The Grandad Galaxy, Voluntary Butler Scheme (aka Rob Jones) is back with a big fat old horn section and crucially his sense of fun.

Of his three albums so far this is by far the superior. It has the whimsy of his debut, At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea, but also a collection of poptastic tracks to rival the two great singles, Do The Hand Jive and To The Height Of A Frisbee, that came from the otherwise dour Grandad Galaxy.

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Brain Freeze, with its awesomely danceable riff, is just one of many highlights, as is opening  track The Q Word, which starts off a little like Postal Service or even Sufjan Stevens’s Age of Adz tracks, before this album’s trademark brass bombast kicks in midway through.

Looking for Nearby Water also stands out. This McCartney-esque track must surely have emerged from a few listens of the ex-Beatle’s early solo work. Another to catch the ear is my favourite, That’s How I Got To Memphis, which is Sixties pop with a good dollop of Gene Clark style heart.

The brass section is one of the main stars here but remarkably this has not been provided by a hired ensemble. It is Jones himself, who learned the trumpet, tenor and baritone sax via Youtube tutorials.

There are a few versions of Jones around; talented home studio artists producing slick, fun pop that  may get used in ads and on TV to pay the rent, but whose work will largely go unrecognised. Jones and Jim Noir are the best at it and are still plugging away thankfully despite  the bitter irony  that so few will hear their wonderful, accessible pop music.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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Nick Harper – Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, UK (March 14, 2014)

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Nick Harper – Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, UK (March 14, 2014)

Posted on 19 March 2014 by Lisa Pike

Atmosphere. It’s important, and that’s why many artists have performed songs on the subject – Joy Division, Kaskade, Russ Abbott… Ahem. The atmosphere at a gig is almost as important as the performance itself and ambience can play a huge part in the experience. This is where the Floral Pavilion has disappointed in the past. It feels sterile – like the kind of place only attended under some kind of duress – school prize giving, sixth form poetry recitals and such.

Support was provided by Al Roberts, who made a feeble attempt to meld comedy with music and regrettably failed on both counts and did little to belie the fear that the gig might fall short of expectations. A shame, since effort had obviously been made to give the slot to a local artist. Mercifully the act concluded and the main man took to the stage amid the usual cat-calls and good natured banter that one has come to expect from a gig hosted by le Harper.

Nick Harper 500

If there was anyone who could overcome the taint of pre-conceived venue notions, it was always going to be Nick. He’s a phenomenal powerhouse of a live act, possessing a formidable vocal range and impressive guitar playing skills that have always translated better in a live environment than on his recorded output. Opening with a chunky and powerful version of ‘Building our own Temple’ I breathed a sigh of relief. The light show was muted, there was dry ice and Nick was on superb form. Throwing in a few ballads, including a very touching song for his daughter – jarringly pre-ambled with a quick burst of a jokey improvised tune about bedroom tidiness, there was a definite focus on his mellower side (not a bad thing, as he really can do extraordinary things with his voice).

‘Riven’ is Nick’s latest album, released in October last year, and the gig was also an opportunity for us to hear a couple of tracks, including one belter of a number which took in a trip through the French countryside with a fossilised academic by way of an illicit moonlight trip up a bell tower to ring the bells. All of this built around a startling rumination on the physics of time. Naturally a well-timed joke about the ingestion of mind altering substances went down well here. ‘Jucy Fruit Girl’ was another highlight, a great story-song linking an inventory of discarded attic detritus and a teenaged kiss in a cupboard.

There were times when he could have comfortably segued comfortably into any Jeff Buckley song (as he frequently has in previous gigs), and there was even an opportunity to work in the passing of Tony Benn into ‘Evo’ – his tribute to the Bolivian activist and politician. The audience were actively encouraged to participate, offering song suggestions which Nick was happy to oblige and even taking trips to the bar to keep him in beer, with one resourceful punter managing to rustle up a pint after the bar closed at the disappointingly early time of 10 pm. The organic nature of the performance, tied together with intelligent and well constructed introductions, as well as his ability to wing it on the fly that ensures a devoted following of fans who love the unexpected twists frequently taken when spending a night in Nick’s company.

Time and family seem to have mellowed Mr Harper, but this is no criticism, and with impressive encore performances of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ and a corking ‘By My Rocket’, taking him right down to the wire with the curfew, no-one could argue that middle age has left him soft and flabby.

Words and pictures by Lisa Pike

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Gare Du Nord Records Live Showcase

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Gare Du Nord Records Live Showcase

Posted on 13 March 2014 by Dorian

We at Neon Filler are delighted to announce that we will be presenting a showcase of brilliant acts at Brighton’s Latest Music Bar on May 1st 2014. (Go here to buy tickets)

Heading the bill is Rotifer, who played at our Oxjam benefit back in 2012 and released one of our favourite albums of 2013. Joining them on stage will be Gare Du Nord records lablemates Papernut Cambridge and Ralegh Long, both of whom are firm favourites on this website. Completing the bill is the soon to be legendary Five Thieves who will be debuting songs from their forthcoming album at the gig.

Rotifer

Rotifer

Robert Rotifer was born in 1969 in Vienna, Austria, played in various local bands since the mid-eighties and dropped out of University to become a full-time music journalist in 1992. He made an album with his band The Electric Eels (no relation to the legendary punk band of the same name) in 1995, and in the same year became one of the co-founders of Radio FM4, an alternative young music station that turned out to be hugely influential in Austrian pop culture.

Playing as Rotifer, a band that now features Ian Button on drums and Mike Stone on bass, he has released seven albums. the most recent of these, The Cavalry Never Showed Up, may well be the best of his career.

Find out more and listen here.

Papernut Cambridge

Papernut Cambridge

Ian Button plays drums in Rotifer and his many other credits include Thrashing Doves, Death In Vegas and Go Kart Mozart. Papernut Cambridge is the band name he operates under with a rotating cast of supporting musicians. Their debut album was a pretty unique record and the excellent 5D-EP followed this year.

“Papernut Cambridge the name of a band I dreamed about once. They were playing a gig with another band called Elvis Breakdown… this is the first actual incarnation of them in the real world.”

Find out more and listen here.

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long is an English Songwriter who has released two EPs, Sprawl and The Gift. His debut album is expected in 2014. This pastoral debut features a cast of collaborators including Tom Dougall of Toy, string-arranger Louis-Philippe, Jack Hayter (ex-Hefner) and A Little Orchestra.

He impressed our reviewer when he played with Darren Hayman and John Howard last year.

Find out more and listen here.

Five Thieves

Five Thieves

Five Thieves are a band based in Brighton, England with a debut album planned for release in 2014 on Innocent records.

Jack Strutt provides vocals/guitar and BB MaXX brings the lead guitar, they will be playing with a band of guest musicians on May 1st.

Find out more and listen here.

The details

The gig is on May 1st at Brighton’s Latest Music Bar. Doors at 8pm with the first band on stage at 8.30pm.

Latest Music Bar | 14 – 17 Manchester Street, BN2 1TF. Brighton | View Map

Tickets are £5 in advance and £6 on the door.

Click the image below to buy tickets on line:

If you are going to join us on the night then why not make yourself known on the Facebook event page?

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Withered Hand – New Gods

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Withered Hand – New Gods

Posted on 12 March 2014 by Joe

I feel like I’ve really missed out after only discovering Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, in 2013. This Scottish indie singer songwriter’s debut album Good News came out a whole five years ago and since then he’s built up a small but influential following, with Frightened Rabbit among his fans.

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All it took was one track, Black Tambourine, released last year and one of the standouts on this his second album, to grab my attention. I was so impressed that we immediately plonked him on our Top Acts to Watch out for in 2014 list ahead of the album release. To save our blushes we haven’t been left disappointed, New Gods is packed full of beautifully crafted songs. At times heartfelt and folk, but most of the times packed full of  catchy hooks and radio friendly singles.

As a comparison, New Gods’ sense of looking ahead while reflecting on the past, all delivered with a clever turn of phrase, reminds me of Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue releases, which put music to the words of Woody Guthrie.

From the opening track Horseshoe, through to Black Tambourine, Love Over Desire and the jaunty King Of Hollywood you’ve already got four great singles and the album is barely half way through. The middle section is typified by a slower pace, particularly on the beautiful California and Between True Love and Ruin, before the album ends in triumphant fashion with the sing along Heart, Heart and the bombastic horn section finale of  Not Alone.

But despite all these great, catchy tracks the real star isn’t the songwriting it’s Willson’s honest voice. He sings like he means every word and as a result has delivered one of the year’s best albums.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Getting Ready for The Great Escape

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Getting Ready for The Great Escape

Posted on 09 March 2014 by Dorian

May 8th 2014 will see the start of the ninth Great Escape festival in Brighton and I’m already getting excited. The festival has built each year since 2006 and, with 400+ acts playing across 35 venues, it is the premier multi-venue festival in Europe and deserves comparisons to SXSW.

We cover the event each year and our experience in 2013 was of a festival that is getting better with age and one that has a more interesting line-up on show each year.

Kelis

2014 already looks interesting with Albert Hammond Jr, Kelis (pictured), Wild Beasts and Jon Hopkins being among the bigger names that have been announced so far. But as any veteran of the festival will know the recognisable names, as enjoyable as they might be, are not what this event is about. What it is about is new music, seeing someone brilliant you’ve never heard of play above a pub, or outside the library or in a launderette.

For every band I plan to see I discover two new favourites over the weekend, and miss twice as many again. You can see the enormous list of acts announced (so far) on the Great Escape website and buy tickets here.

In advance of the festival we’ll be posting about line-up additions on our Facebook and Twitter pages and we’ll publish a list of ten acts to watch out for a few weeks before the festival (see our ten from  2013 here).

By Dorian Rogers

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Alpaca Sports – Sealed With A Kiss

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Alpaca Sports – Sealed With A Kiss

Posted on 06 March 2014 by Joe

Why would anyone set out to provoke a reaction of “well, it’s alright I suppose” when they release an album? This is the question that rolls around in my mind as I listen to the sadly unoriginal debut from Alpaca Sports.

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Full of the usual indie pop C86 references and lyrics like “I used to kiss her just for fun”  and “every tear is a lesson learned” there admittedly isn’t a terrible track on this album. Trouble is there’s nothing that truly excites either. The nearest it comes to raising heartbeats is She’ll Come Back for Indian Summer, which is a great pop single but seems lonely, surrounded by the other nine, far weaker tracks.

There are hints of a more innovative band underneath. The violin  on Just Like Johnny Marr is good and a little different. But overall I guess they didn’t get the memo, that admittedly is still in my head, that indie pop bands are allowed to be original. I get the crushing sense with this album that I’ve heard it way too many times before.

We saw them at the Indietracks Fesival last year and they seem like nice people. They were enjoyable live as well. But compared to bands at that event such as Making Marks, who blend country sadness with pop expertly, Alpaca Sports are in serious need of a spark of originality in the studio to elevate out them of the bubblegum blandness they have found themselves in.

But if you like your bands to sound like lots of other bands and don’t really care what blokes like me think then do check them out. There’s a good band somewhere in Alpaca Sports. I do hope they discover their own sound though before getting into the studio again.

5/10

By Joe Lepper

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Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit

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Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit

Posted on 04 March 2014 by Dorian

Motivational Jumpsuit is the first Guided By Voices album since “drumgate” and as such slightly less of a classic line-up album than their previous post-reunion releases. Changes on the drum stool aside this is an album that continues the general style of the last four releases and may well be the strongest of the bunch.

Motivational Jumpsuit

At first I struggled with the album, it seemed very straight and focused but lacking in anything to really grab my attention. Coming back to it a few weeks later my response couldn’t have been more different. To start with the album opens with ‘The Littlest League Possible’ a perfect 80 seconds of psyche-punk-pop reflecting on being a cult musical concern. It is followed by ‘Until Next Time’ which proves to be one of those proper lo-fi low off-key gems that could be on pretty much any GBV album since the band started.

Importantly, because it indicates a confidence in Pollard’s writing, this album has a couple of bona fide classic singles. ‘Vote For Me Dummy’ may be the albums key track and sounds like a lost recording from the ‘Earthquake Glue’ album. (It is the common wisdom that the original “classic line-up” albums are where to go when listening to GBV and that things went downhill after that line-up split. I tend to disagree. Sure Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are brilliant but I love Mag Earwig, Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue almost as much. I’d take them over the last classic line-up album, Under The Bushes Under the Stars, any day of the week.)

The other great pop single on the album is ‘Planet Score and even has a video starring Breaking Bad’s Matt L. Jones. This song is one of those alternative reality chart hits that makes me wish I had control of the Radio 1 playlist.

Tobin Sprout also has a lot to offer, he has fully settled back into his role on these albums, playing Colin Moulding to Pollard’s Andy Partridge. The wistful 60s influenced ‘Jupiter Spin’ alone makes his contribution worthwhile. His songs add a balance to Pollard’s tracks and that is one good reason why this line-up of the band works so well.

Even as a committed fan I sometimes struggle to keep up with, and process, Pollard’s frenetic output.  There are likely to be more GBV albums coming this year and keeping up is my problem and not theirs. If the next album is as engaging and fresh as this one then bring it on.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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