Archive | November, 2016

Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band – Glee Club, Nottingham (Nov 27)

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Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band – Glee Club, Nottingham (Nov 27)

Posted on 28 November 2016 by Joe

We are in the presence of folk royalty tonight watching Eliza Carthy, the daughter of two legendary pillars of the English folk scene, Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson.

As befits a royal occasion her subjects are many and vociferous, loyal and ready to dance like drunken dervishes.

I counted around 11 in her big band. They were difficult to add up as they were all over the place. How they all managed to get onto the Glee Club stage without major pedestrian congestion I don’t know.

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On stage there were cello players, fiddlers, two drummers, a bassist, a lead guitarist and a horn section. It was a remarkable sight and a no less remarkable sound.

Amidst the throng were members of The Availables, Mawkin, The Emily Portman Trio, Blowzabella and the fantastic Sam Sweeney from Bellowhead.

Eliza Carthy got these guys together in 2013 to promote the Wayward Daughter album but such was their chemistry they undertook, collaborated and created the forthcoming album Big Machine. A more appropriate title you’d be hard pressed to find, everything about this tremendous band is big.

It’s a tremendously exciting reinvention of traditional folk, subverted with an energy and brash aesthetic not usually associated with a musical genre more known for its pipe and slippers and a finger in your ear. The word brash comes to mind.

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They open with Devil in the Woman, a glorious riot of fiddles and ensemble joy.

Seat belts are on and the set just whizzes by. Gallant Hussar from 2005’s Rough Music was an unexpected joy. There’s time for Ewan MacColl’s Fitters Song and Hug You Like a Mountain by the criminally under rated Rory McLeod.

The new single Fade and Fall was magnificent. At one point Eliza Carthy invites a young chap onstage to do some of that there rapping that the kids do nowadays. He was called D J Dizraeli and helps out on You Know About Me, which offers a rare positive slant on the refugee crisis.

The encore is wild. A rousing version of the Cobblers Hornpipe (I kid you not) and the band are bouncing around and obviously having so much fun it’s ridiculously infectious. At the end an exhausted Eliza remarks on her ample bosom ‘best not do any more, if these things go off I’ve got three weeks washing in here’.

The big machine, well oiled, steaming and so hot you’ll need gloves.

Support tonight came from Eliza’s cousin Marry Waterson, the daughter of the late Lal Waterson. Marry is joined by David A Jaycock, a wonderfully sublime musician and vocalist with the deftest of acoustic guitar touches.

Marry’s voice is a more traditional one, deep, resonant and beguiling. They perform tracks from their new highly regarded album Two Wolves. Very nice it was too and so nice to hear The Watersons’ classic song Some Old Salty as the encore.

 Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

For more information about Eliza Carthy click here.

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Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers – Rock and Roll on Bones

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Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers – Rock and Roll on Bones

Posted on 25 November 2016 by Sarah Robertson

Tom Mansi and the Icebreaker’s Rock and Roll on Bones is my album of the year so far.

His gravelly purr of a voice, which oozes depth and character, is the epitome of the blues rock genre, effortlessly painting an image of interminable touring, excessive whisky consumption and a broken heart or ten.

His voice is also supported by the freshest writing I’ve heard in a long time and I’m stunned that I could have so easily missed this album, the band desperately lacking the profile they deserve.

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Mansi’s unique writing is a rarity in an increasingly homogenised market, with even the most seemingly alternative names micro-managed and marketed by their corporate record labels.

But there’s none of that nonsense here. This is pure unfiltered talent.

The trio that make up this band met at school and have been playing together for nearly 20 years in one form or another.

‘We’ve been playing together for longer than we haven’t,’ Tom Mansi told Neonfiller. This is the trio’s fourth album but the third under the name Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers. I asked Mansi, if they’ve been together for such a long time, how did this album come about?

He attributed a number of things. Escaping from a fast-paced London lifestyle before the birth of his first daughter was one, he said. ‘I just had time to write, plus the writing was done with the bass rather than guitar so the tracks were written in a more stripped down way,’ he said.

The album was also kick-starter’, so its launch was paid for by multiple donors rather than a label.

‘We knew people really wanted it,’ said Mansi. No doubt the band’s recent residency at Shorditch’s Blue’s Kitchen supported this endeavour.

The recording process was also different from their previous efforts, with each of the tracks recorded live. ‘Our dynamics (on the album) are completely natural, we all sang and played at the same time. And I think recording live makes it more of a music experience than a process,’ Mansi said.

The album opens with the title track ‘Rock and Roll on Bones’, a funk swing styled track that offers a taste of interesting history. It describes a time during the Soviet era when Western music was banned, explains Mansi. ‘They bootlegged rock, pressing it into whatever they could find, including ex-rays that could be carried around easily.’

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There are multiple stand-out tracks on the album, No Comment scoring high on my chart along with the devastatingly sexy Heartbreak Hooligan. The phenomenal bass-lead melody of Year as a Ghost is as brilliant as it is earie, Mansi sounding like a modern-day Jim Morrison with his convincing sorrow and genius poetry. No wonder the band included the lyrics on the album sleeve.

Little Black Box follows suit with brilliantly surreal marine-based analogies for problems in love, guitarist Paul White using a playful special effect to support the underwater theme.

While these three men have been playing together for a long time, this album is clearly a significant breakthrough, Mansi describing it as the album they’ve always been waiting for.

My only criticism is that while the writing is original, there is some formula to their presentation with the trio relying on White’s guitar playing to carry the album touch more than they should. But luckily for us listeners, for now it’s a formula that works brilliantly.

By Sarah Robertson

For more information about Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers visit their site here.

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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (Nov 21, 2016)

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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (Nov 21, 2016)

Posted on 23 November 2016 by John Haylock

Warning contains plot spoilers. If you only see one Victorian themed punk band this century make sure it’s The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, whose whole repertoire consists of a set of hard core punk tunes (with added Cockney knees up) all based around Victorian England.

Their flawless execution makes them world leaders of what is commonly known as Steampunk, a catch all title that includes literature, art, and fashion (goggles an optional extra).

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This is the third time we have seen them. On previous occasions we watched them play to a bunch of scientifically bemused kids in the children’s field at the Greenman Festival. Then to a mad drunk crowd at Bearded Theory Festival.

But this was the first time we have caught them in a small, intimate venue and what a difference it was. We were treated to a more expansive set list and a great sound (shout out to the Rescue Rooms mixing desk crew!).

Visually arresting guitarist and very funny stand up comedian Andrew O’Neill looks more rock ‘n’ roll than Guns ‘n’ Roses and Van Halen combined.

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing bassist Marc Burrows on the other hand is either very fit or on steroids. He jumps around like a bloody madman, bashing out some mighty rumbling bass riffs. The drummer Jez Miller keeps a low profile but maintains the engine room perfectly. He’s at the back probably multi-tasking and doing a sudoku puzzle.

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Andy Heintz is the focal point and probably the most heavily bearded person in the room (apart from the woman to my left). With his long black coat, top hat and cane (not to mention the saw) he’s like a demonic grizzled and slightly pervy ringmaster in a punk rock circus.

Their lyrics are just so inspired. You don’t know whether to laugh or headbang (so I do both).

There are songs about inadequate sewerage systems, kids up chimneys, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Stephenson and yet amidst all the surreal shenanigans there is pathos and sadness tucked away inside numbers like Poor Georgie, How I became an Orphan and the brilliant This House is Not Haunted.

As part of the encore The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing cover The Kinks Victoria, a song so blindingly fucking obvious it went straight over my head.

You might think its all a bit of a novelty act, but the underlying themes of some of these songs still prevail: poverty, illness, class warfare and moronic, monarchist flag waving twats. There are resonances and echoes down the ages.

At times it was like a history lessons with guitars, or The Time Team on acid/gin. For example, half way through the set Marc performs one of his tunes called Princess Charlotte. I learnt more listening to that than in five years at secondary school. Hey! educational punk rock is the future.

What did the Victorians ever do for us? Apart from subjugate large swathes of the sub continent, popularise cock-rings and preside over the emergent industrial revolution, they inadvertently created one of the most innovative bands on the circuit.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Arborist – Home Burial

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Arborist – Home Burial

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Joe

While the palette used by Northern Ireland act Arborist is Americana, their debut album offers so much more.

It’s not just there are other genres coming through, from piano balladry and traditional folk to rock and pop. There’s an atmosphere here that makes it sound so unlike any Americana music I’ve heard. It’s haunting, uplifting, sad and exciting all at the same time.

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This is perhaps best shown on second track Dark Stream. This seems to combine all of the above genres, all held together by some lovely brass flourishes. Imagine a colliery band on tour of the Appalachians and I guess you are somewhere near this sound.

Andrew Bird’s recent releases are perhaps the nearest comparison to this debut by Arborist, which is led by songwriter Mark McCambridge. Both have gone back to America’s traditional folk for inspiration to create wholly modern releases, full of interesting instrumentation.

There’s even the Breeders’ Kim Deal here. She drops by for backing vocal duties on the band’s first single Twisted Arrow. Deal is both setting up Arborist well for publicity but crucially is here because she and McCambridge know her vocals fit perfectly.

Another point of reference is Leisure Society. This is particularly the case on the wistful pop of A Man of My Age, which is one of many standout tracks on a debut album of rare consistency and quality. I Heard Him Leaving also shows McCambridge to be a songwriter of some note. It’s lyrics and music oozes with the pain of a broken relationship and even hints at murder balladry through the brief glimpse of  a kitchen knife

McCambridge and co are a band not to be underestimated and certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as merely another Americana act.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

For more information about Arborist and Home Burial click here.

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The Damned – Rock City, Nottingham (November 13, 2016)

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The Damned – Rock City, Nottingham (November 13, 2016)

Posted on 14 November 2016 by Joe

‘Is she really going out with him?’ – so goes the spoken intro to The Damned’s early classic single New Rose.

After nearly 40 years, she’s still with him, no longer new, in fact she’s slightly worn and frayed and hobbling a bit but still full of beans for her age, a bit like The Damned really.

On the way into Rock City we saw a poster for this year’s forthcoming Nottingham panto, namely Jack and the Beanstalk starring the legendary Chuckle Brothers. Thinking back on this, perhaps it was an omen.

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Dave Vanian

The Damned were one of the most dynamic of the first wave of UK punk bands and certainly the first to get a punk single out.

Released on October 1976 New Rose beat The Sex Pistols and The Clash to vinyl by months. Clocking in at just 2.44 seconds of careering Stooges inspired lunacy, New Rose came out on the hugely influential Stiff label and was produced by none other than Nick Lowe.

Their debut album was released three months later in January 1977 and our hearing was never the same again.

They still doggedly soldier on despite only containing two original members, frontman Dave Vanian and the incomparable Captain Sensible on guitar.

But the other guys in the band sure make up for those missing in action. Indeed their main keyboard player, the brilliantly named Monty Oxymoron has been with them for twenty years and he now looks like a reject from the set of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

Let the loony-toons begin, with no support they went for the stealth set, the not so well known numbers first, greatest hits later option.

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Captain Sensible

Sparks only began to fly well into the set, Disco Man and Just Can’t Be Happy Today recaptured some of their early career magic. Waiting for the Blackout was a blast, Eloise as you can imagine was received with huge cheers.

For the first half of the show I had deep reservations, amidst all the banter and jolly japes they almost become a parody of punk rock. God only knows what their younger selves would have thought if they could see themselves now, older, gurning like twits on speed, arsing about and doing an impromptu version of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.

When they first started back in ‘76 they were mad, bad and took no prisoners. There was an air of menace about them, but the years have robbed them of that and now we have a punk rock panto, albeit with some bloody good tunes.

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They conclude with a riotous Smash it Up, but then declare to everyone’s delight they are going to do the debut album. Now this is what we want.

Damned Damned Damned was such a pivotal album, one that still stands the test of time (unlike Monty). Those tunes, Neat Neat Neat, Fan Club, See Her Tonight, Feel The Pain and of course New Rose, which was glorious.

They finally get round to I Feel Alright. Iggy would have approved whole heartedly, and it gives the Captain the opportunity to shine with his guitar skills, peeling off some tremendous solos and at one point balancing a feeding back guitar on his trademark red beret clad head.

Yes, the heart of The Damned still beats, just slightly slower and a little more irregular than 40 years ago. There’s probably a defibrillator waiting in the wings somewhere, but at least its still alive.

Chuckle Brothers need not apply. Not just yet anyway.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth

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American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth

Posted on 10 November 2016 by Joe

Hopefully this is second time lucky for American Wrestlers’ Gary McClure, once of Manchester band Working for A Nuclear Free City and now living in St Louis.

After the Manchester early 90s-inspired pop act wound down in 2013 McClure met his American wife Bridgette Imperial, moved across the Atlantic and while working in a warehouse created this debut album under the name American Wrestlers.

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The assumption is that going from being in a band to working in a warehouse brings with it a degree of humbling and introspection, which is exactly how Goodbye Terrible Youth sounds. It has a homespun feel as if McClure is pouring his heart out into his bedroom recording equipment. But the songs themselves are big, full of distorted guitar, catchy hooks and choruses. Its a winning blend.

It also has a lovely vintage feel. This is especially through the keyboards on the excellently titled opener Vote Thatcher as well as Blind Kids. With McClure’s slightly nasal vocals (I like them by the way, that’s not a criticism) both these American Wrestlers tracks sound like OMD letting their hair down for a moment.

Twinkling indie pop is there too, on the 80s indie pop influenced Give Up, among many potential single.

What appeals most is the sense that love has gone into the lyrics, production and melodies. These have  no doubt been hammered out in between shifts at the warehouse. When an artist creates something that you can tell they are proud of it almost flows through the music to the listener. That’s happening here.

I felt hooked in from the first bars of the intro of Vote Thatcher right through to the final keyboards on closing track Real People.

With Bridgette on keyboards, bassist Ian Reitz and Josh Van Hoorebeke McClure’s project American Wrestlers is now a full band, which has been signed by the respected label Fat Possum for good reason judging by these tracks.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about American Wrestlers click here.

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John Howard – Across the Door Sill

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John Howard – Across the Door Sill

Posted on 07 November 2016 by Joe

This may just be John Howard’s best album to date. It’s just so wonderfully simple, featuring only his time-capsule preserved voice and piano.

Apart from simplicity why else does it work so well? For a start, his vocals are excellent and deserve to take centre stage. After his first ultimately doomed pop career in the 1970s a two decade hiatus followed. This allowed his voice to be preserved, tonsils tucked away in a jar (perhaps by the door Eleanor Rigby style), ready for his comeback.

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This latest release from John Howard also works because his soundscape skills and home production techniques learned in recent years have meant he can really go to town on vocal layering. At times there’s an entire Howard choir involved and they sound sensational, giving it a dream like quality throughout.

There’s also a strong sense of freedom on this record, making him bold enough to let the songs carry on until he feels he’s done with them. In two tracks it take more than nine wonderful minutes for that to happen.

To release tracks of such length you really need to nail the songwriting and here he does that well with the piano providing a hypnotic, film score rhythm to the vocal melody. The track Outward in particular has that in abundance with its dark, foreboding piano reminding me of the music to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s stairway to heaven scene in their 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death. The layered vocals really work well here, giving an added, angelic quality.

There is space for one traditionally structured pop song, In Pig and Pies, which comes in at a relatively concise four minutes. The Howard choir really gets going here as the decades cascade past in the lyrics. It reminded me a little of Howard’s track from You Shall Go To the Ball, The Deal, which also channelled the spirit of Denis Wilson so well.

We have said it before that Howard may be one of the most independent artists we have encountered in our six years of reviewing. Part of this is because he’s experienced the constraints of the 1970s music industry so revels in the freedom that internet promotion, self production and independent labels can bring.

Across the Door Sill is another great example of an artist playing to his strengths, of vocal ability and songwriting, and carried out very much on his own terms.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

John Howard – Across the Door Sill is released on Occultation Recordings in November

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P J Harvey – Brixton Academy, London (October 30, 2016)

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P J Harvey – Brixton Academy, London (October 30, 2016)

Posted on 01 November 2016 by John Haylock

The first of two nights in Brixton, on a relatively small, although geographically wide tour, P J Harvey brought her highly anticipated show to a fevered and adulatory sell-out crowd on a beautifully mild, autumnal evening south of the River Thames.

The Academy is an old building full of  character and atmosphere.  Rather like the Tardis it is bigger on the inside than on the outside, with a capacity of just under 5,000 it proves to be an ideal stage for what is ultimately a theatrical show; a fully immersive and spellbinding visceral experience, as Polly fuses rock ‘n’ roll and visual dynamics with calculated precision.

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In much the same way that the late David Bowie transformed, chameleon-like, over his career,  P J Harvey has similarly become different personas over the years.

Initially brash and formidable yet inspiring and empowering, she has morphed into a more sublime, enigmatic and multi faceted performer.

From the confident stride of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and Uh Huh Her, through to the damaged ghostly waif of White Chalk and now more recently a politicised and objective observer of a world in flames with Let England Shake and the current work Hope Six Demolition Project, she has blossomed into one of the most creative and intuitive singer song-writers on the planet.

Always fascinating and forever inventive she is the woman who fell to Earth, a beautiful avenging angel, our fifty foot Queenie who knows Steve Albini  AND Nick Cave.

So tonight, before an imposing geometric backdrop and discreet lighting, her (very) large band walked single file with great solemnity to their instruments. Polly entered last in line to great cheers and they ignited proceedings with Chain of Keys, one of the standouts on the new album, which dominates tonight’s performance.

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Chain of Keys swooned (as do I), soared and roared with its lovely melody and tremendous vocals. Passionate renditions of the Ministry of Defence and the vibrant title track ensued.

After this she traveled far and wide over her not inconsiderable back catalogue.

Is This Desire was an object lesson in hurt, Words That Maketh Murder stunning,  complete with hand gestures, mime and a stage presence so captivating that grown men are seen to weep.

An absolutely riveting version of Bring You My Love, with long time collaborator John Parish was worth the admission alone. It proved a desolate rumination in the key of unrequited.

The two-drummer set up was thrilling on The Wheel, never has the phrase ‘heard it was 28,000’ been shouted by so many so loudly.

Ministry of Social Affairs then had Terry Edwards blowin’ up a hurricane on a white sax.

Down by the Water was another mesmerising re-imagining of one of her most revered songs, all the time  gliding across stage, Elfin-like, with dangerously thin arms and expressive body movements.

Yet rarely if ever showing any emotion on her face she looked almost android, a human but not human. Live she is almost otherwordly.

Let England Shake and especially This Glorious Land were exceptional too.

The encore contained a very pleasant surprise, Highway 61 Revisited from the classic Rid of Me album.

As for Fifty Foot Queenie, it was a howling banshee of female sexuality, it took on a life of its own, and at one point I’m convinced it tried to shag me.

Utterly fucking fantastic.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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