Archive | February, 2017

The Dears – Leeds Brudenell Social Club (February 26, 2017)

Tags: ,

The Dears – Leeds Brudenell Social Club (February 26, 2017)

Posted on 28 February 2017 by John Haylock

The last time I saw The Dears, inflatable breasted page three girl Jordan was in an indifferent public battle with Gina G for the chance to represent the UK in Eurovision, Prince Charles had announced his intention to marry the very beautiful Specsavers model Camilla Parker Bowling Green and small sweary Eminem was number one with Like Toy Soldiers.

The Dears

The Dears

That was what seems like an eternity ago, but was in fact February 2005 to be precise and somehow our paths have long since diverged. They were promoting the No Cities Left album back then, which promised much but criminally failed to garner public attention. Dears one, fickle useless public nil.

What a pleasant surprise then to see that this fine Montreal based ensemble led by husband and wife Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak are still creating epic and grandiose soundscapes.

The Brudenell in Leeds is a strange venue, part wheeltappers and shunters club, part mini 02 Arena. With a pizza wagon in the car park it is the Ritz of the North.

As support bands go Plants and Animals were magnificent. They won everybody over with their twisting, turning urgent popscapes. Coming out of Halifax Nova Scotia via The Dears birthplace Montreal they inhabit a similar musical world, full of restless inventive song structures with subtle melodic undertones. With a focus on tracks from their most recent album, Waltzed in from the Rumbling, their all too brief set was a fiery precursor to tonight’s main course.

Opening with one of the highlights from the new album (Times Infinity Vol 1) The Dears plummet head first into We Lost Everything and I Used To Pray for the Heavens to Fall. It is akin to falling into an abyss of sound, with chiming guitars and the impassioned vocals of Lightburn hypnotising and disorienting the listener into submission. It is a joyous surrender and something they do time and again throughout the evening. As the vocals get more desperate, the guitars get heavier, the mood darkens before exploding, subsiding and emerging triumphant on the other side.

The Dears' Natalia Yanchak

The Dears’ Natalia Yanchak

This new album really is a grower and they continue with the haunting Face of Horrors, another wonderful addition to their oeuvre.

At one point Murray is to be found amid the crowd roaring his heart out like a caged rock and roll tiger. There’s no half measures with this guy, who is two parts Otis Redding, one part Kurt Cobain.

Then it is Natalia’s chance to destroy your heart, from behind her trusty Roland keyboard she sings lead on a desolate and pessimistic new number called Onward and Downward. The chorus of which goes as follows ‘in the end we’ll die alone’. Yes, I think they’ve been listening to Joy Division again. But it is delivered so beautifully as to render it heartbreaking.

The songs spew out thick and fast. Whites only party, Hate Then Love, and a tremendous version of There Goes my Outfit from Gang of Losers.

5 chords is resurrected from Degeneration Street and they even stretch back to No Cities Left with Who Are You Defenders of the Universe.

I was trying to pinpoint their sound for the uninitiated, and was going to suggest Pixies meet Elbow. But no, that is bollocks, that is not right. For the life of me I can’t think of a suitable comparison. The Dears are so individual I can’t think of anyone who sounds anything like them.

After the gut wrenching Onward, the band leave the stage and Murray goes all acoustic on us, with A Reading of the Second Part.

This comes as a welcome breather before they go stratospheric with the 22 Death of All the Romance.

Love The Dears, times infinity.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

Share

Comments (1)

Glastonbury Calling (February 25, 2017)

Tags: , , ,

Glastonbury Calling (February 25, 2017)

Posted on 27 February 2017 by Joe

Some of the south west of England’s best acts were out in force at Glastonbury Calling, the annual eclectic, one-day festival now in its second year.

With Glastonbury pubs The Hawthorns, The Riflemans, Market House and King Arthur involved, as well as the larger Assembly Rooms and Bocabar, it was as much a showcase of the town’s wealth of venues as its array of talented musicians.

It was the pub venues where we focused our attention, starting at The Hawthorns. Complete with newly knocked through wall this town centre venue now offers a two tier view of the stage.

DSC_0280

Flipron

As host to the town’s regular open mic event as well as local artists’ gigs, Hawthorns is  a home away from home for many of the acts. This includes Glastonbury based Flipron, who on the day eschewed their usual four piece psychedelic pop band persona to present a lounge set, involving singer and songwriter Jesse Budd and Joe Atkinson on keyboards.

It was a stripped back feel that worked particularly well, bringing their late 1960s psychedelic side to the fore and saving the more 1990s indie rock aspect for another day.

Among highlights was Orpheus Inconsolable, a whimsical ditty from their Gravity Calling album that features some splendid Roger Whitaker style whistling and could have come straight out of 1967. Mingers in Paradise, from 2006’s Biscuits for Cerebus album and about aging disgracefully, also worked well in this laid back set.

Gilda Parade

Gilda Parade

A quick five minute walk took us to a polar opposite gig, the windowless back room of The King Arthur where Bristol heavy rock trio Gilda Parade were churning out tracks, such as their 2015 single Devil in Me, at a rate of knots.

Yes, they are full of the rock clichés, such as wearing shades indoors. But with self deprecating banter it was clearly partly tongue in cheek. They offer far, far more than mere clichés too across their tightly played set full of jerky rhythms and dramatic stops and starts.

Next up, back at The Hawthorns was Glastonbury based Duncan Batey, winner of the 2012 Somerset Songwriter competition and playing tracks from his impressive 2013 EP Blindsided.

The arrangements, featuring Dan Shaw on double bass and slide guitar, and Gerry Barnett on cello, brought out the melancholy, thoughtful side to his songs. This also gave his impressive vocals the chance to shine across a passionate set.

Duncan Batey

Duncan Batey

The Rifleman’s was the venue for our final Glastonbury Calling act of the afternoon. This is one of Glastonbury’s oldest pubs, with a 16th century bar at the front and a warren of rooms stretching out back.

Taking the pub’s schedule from afternoon to the evening was Owl in the Sun, a Somerset based quintet that features two married couples among its members. But the similarities with Fleetwood Mac stop there as they put in an entertaining set blending Americana with gypsy folk and jazz.

Owl in the Sun are one of those bands that I challenge anyone to dislike. Their set was fun, engaging and full of beautiful vocal harmonies. It also finished off with one of the best flute solos I’ve seen live.

Owl in the Sun

Owl in the Sun

There was plenty more to go into the evening. Bristol reggae act Laid Blak headlined the Bocabar’s list, DJ sets were carrying on at The Market House and the Assembly rooms featured The Truthseekers, Safehaus and Lazy Daze among others. In total more than 40 acts took part.

One of the main points I take away from my day was how great it was to see every venue busy and full of smiles, with the crowds out in full force, eager to hear new music and see familiar acts alike.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Glastonbury Calling already, as this one day event continues to impress and make its mark on the west country’s already famous festival scene.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Chuck Prophet – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (February 19, 2017)

Tags: , ,

Chuck Prophet – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (February 19, 2017)

Posted on 21 February 2017 by John Haylock

Lip smackin’, hip shakin’, speaker bustin’, rock ‘n’ roll motivatin’, soulsavin’, jive talkin’, fancy shoe wearin’, heart liftin’, mind driftin’, string bendin’, mind sendin’, foot tappin’, hand clappin’… ladies and gentlemen I give you the hardest working man in showbusines – Mr Charles William ‘Chuck’ Prophet.

Fresh from an unexpected appearance on daytime TV politics programme, The Andrew Marr Show, Chuck and his band The Mission Express are here in the UK to save your ragged arse souls and light your blue touch paper.

IMG_4779

They are also promoting their excellent new album, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, named after the cult 1960s rock ‘n’ roller. This is Chuck’s umpteenth release or is it fifteenth (I cant quite remember)? It’s fantastic obviously.

Since the break up of the band that made his name, the legends that were Green on Red, Chuck has ploughed the fields of rock ‘n’ roll for you, unearthing musical nuggets and groovy tunes along the way. With Stephanie Finch on keyboards, vocals and inspiration, always there as his constant muse, they travel the globe with a never less than amazing band of musicians to deliver high-octane, crowd-friendly boogie.

They are the tightest but loosest gang of motherfuckers this side of Bobby Fuller’s gravestone.

A roll call of finest moments unfolds including We Got Up and Played, In The Mausoleum and Wish Me Luck, which included a sit down chat with the audience.

IMGP5904

Crowd favourite Temple Beautiful goes down a storm, then there’s the irresistable You Did ( Bomp-Shooby Dooby-Bomp) complete with a heart stopping guitar solo.

There’s also choice cuts from the new album, including the title track,  Jesus was a Social Drinker and a tearing up the place Bad Year for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

He even finds time for a Leonard Cohen cover Iodene, from Death of a Ladies Man and a nod to the Bobby Fuller Four themselves with a cover of Let Her Dance.

Two very exciting sweaty hours of rootsy blues sounding like it was fed through torn speaker cabinets and delivered by a band so cool you could almost forgive Americans voting for Trump (but not quite).

We stayed till Chucking out time. Boom and indeed boom.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

Share

Comments (0)

Frontier Ruckus – Enter the Kingdom

Tags:

Frontier Ruckus – Enter the Kingdom

Posted on 20 February 2017 by Joe

Michigan’s Frontier Ruckus have stepped up a gear on this, their fifth album. Their usual indie charm is still evident, but they’ve added sophisticated string arrangements too, as they take a melancholy look at suburban family life.

frontierruckas

For songwriter Matthew Mills there is plenty of source material,  with his own father’s struggles to keep hold of the family home after losing his job and having to rely on disability benefit.

Modern suburban ‘Netflix’ families are also a focus. This is particularly on opener Visit Me, where they are seen through the windows across the city outskirts in the “sweat pants” watching the “season finales”.

Other high points include Our Flowers Are Still Burning, which features a sardonic video with the band finding bleary eyed solace in their friendship the morning after a house party.

I first heard Frontier Ruckus through their debut The Orion Songbook, which erred far more on the side of Americana than this release.

But here bassist, musical saw and melodica player Zachary Nichols proves exemplary as a string arranger,  bringing a chamber pop feel to this consistent album.

This consistency is perhaps the album’s greatest strength.  From start to finish the quality of music is high, as the sweeping strings bringing a sense of hope to American family life.

Given the turbulence of recent political events in the US, hope is something they will certainly need to cling on to in the coming months.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Glastonbury Emerging Talent – Acts To Impress So Far

Tags: ,

Glastonbury Emerging Talent – Acts To Impress So Far

Posted on 17 February 2017 by Joe

For the fifth year running I’m spending February helping the Glastonbury Festival organisers unearth some new talent as one of 40 music writer judges involved in the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition.Glastonbury2017

Over this month I’ll be sifting through around 100 tracks and video clips of UK and Irish acts to find three to put through to the next stage in the competition – a place on a 120 strong long list.

This will then be whittled down further to a short list of eight acts, who will compete at a live final at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to win the top prize of a main stage slot at this year’s festival.

The winner also receives a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize to help develop their career and two runners up will receive £2,500 from PRS.

As with the previous three years I like to focus on some of the acts that have caught my ear so far during judging and are in contention to become one of my three.

Here are some that have grabbed my attention so far.

Palm Honey

Every now and again the British indie scene needs a pick-me-up and Reading’s Palm Honey are just the band to do it.

This psychedelic pop quartet are full of fuzzed up fun and buzzed up ballsy rock and offer something for everyone with their self titled style of “experimental, alternative, noisy, psych-gaze pop”.

Their soundcloud clip of the track I Can Try impressed me and then when I saw their video for the single You Stole My Blackout I was hooked.

Already they’ve earned national attention with the Guardian writing about them and this week BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens played their track ‘Stick the Knife’ to further boost their profile.

Nicholson Heal

Bristol based singer songwriter Nicholson Heal is at home playing with a brass wielding six piece as well as on his own with just his guitar and beautiful voice. There are obvious comparisons to the likes of Elliot Smith but for me he is most akin to Canada’s Woodpigeon.

His is one of the most impressive entries I’ve heard across the five year’s I’ve been involved in the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. Love that brass section too on the track Lacuna.

Oxygen

There are a fair few The xx influenced bands around but Maltese siblings Kurt and Katia Abela, aka Oxygen, stand out from the pack with their polished carefully crafted take on dramatic pop. With songs written by Kurt and composer Janelle Borg they list Ed Sheeran, Broods and Daughter among their influences and are proud to wear their heart on their sleeve, “due to the intense emotion they portray in their music”, so says their PR blurb.

Where so many acts of this ilk fall down is to overplay the emotion. But Oxygen’s understated delivery and seemingly genuine passion for the music shines through. A very good Glastonbury Emerging Talent entry.

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (1)

Glastonbury Calling – One Day Festival in Somerset

Tags: ,

Glastonbury Calling – One Day Festival in Somerset

Posted on 14 February 2017 by Joe

Bristol reggae act Laid Blak and the indescribable Flipron are among the acts playing at the second annual Glastonbury Calling one day festival in Glastonbury, Somerset.

This year’s event takes place on February 25th and involves around 40 acts across six venues: The Riflemans, The Hawthorns, The Assembly Rooms, The Market House, The King Arthur and The Bocabar.

Profits from the event will go to community radio station Glastonbury FM.

Glastonbury Calling

Highlight’s include an afternoon set (14:30 -15:15) at the Hawthorns Hotel by Glastonbury based Flipron. Describing them is tricky so here’s our latest stab at it – psychedelic pop band, trapped inside a fairground organ and forced to use the power of punk to fight their way out. Others have settled for the more sober “eccentric English rock”.

Laid Blak (The Bocabar, 22:30-23:30) are another highpoint, with the Bristol band currently one of the most talked about British reggae acts, with support slots for among others, Ed Sheeran, the Wailers and Lee Scratch Perry, under the belts.

Festival organizer and Glastonbury FM presenter Ian Liversidge said: “We want to highlight the variety of great new music from the west and show off the cracking venues in the town and show that the town is always full of great music

“We love the early part of the year as there is so much music coming out and we intend to get a jump on the summer festivals and show it off. This year we have an amazing line up over all of the venues and are chuffed to have the legendary Laid Blak headlining the Bocabar.”

Tickets for Glastonbury Calling are available in advance for £10 from Bristol Ticket Shop, Jaywalk Guitars, The Bocabar and The Hawthorns Hotel, or can be bought for £13 on the day.

For more information about Glastonbury Calling and stage times visit here.

Share

Comments (0)

Ben Watt & Michele Stodart – Nottingham Bodega (Feb 12, 2017)

Tags: , , ,

Ben Watt & Michele Stodart – Nottingham Bodega (Feb 12, 2017)

Posted on 13 February 2017 by John Haylock

I guess this is what they call intimate, 130 people wrapped up against the bitter cold outside, squeezed into a reverential huddle around a small stage and warmed by flowing ale and some of the most gorgeous tunes I’ve heard for many a month.

Once upon a very different time and place there was a boy girl duo who went by the name of Everything But The Girl. They were utterly sublime and wrote bedsitter soundtracks so laid back as to be invisible. You’ll probably remember Missing with its dance vibe especially.

Ben Watt and Rex

Ben Watt and Rex

But that was a long time ago. One half of the duo, Tracey Thorn, now scribes for The Guardian and has written her obligatory autobiography. Ben Watt, on the other hand continues to record and tour, hence this little soiree in Nottingham.

But before he takes to the stage, we are graced by the presence of Michele Stodart, the Magic Numbers bassist who is carving a name for herself on the Americana circuit and has two solo albums under her belt now.

With just a beautifully strummed acoustic guitar in an all too short a set she takes us down some twilight lit road

Initially she’s a little nervous but soon overcomes any jitters and by her own admission most of the tunes tonight are of the love torn relationship variety from her latest album Pieces.

Tracks Come Back Home, Ain’t No Woman, Will You Wait and Just Anyone Won’t Do are all meticulously executed, with faultless heartbreaking vocals and a deft touch on her guitar.

She really is a superlative artiste. We meet her afterwards and we find gratifyingly that she is as lovely as her songs; a more personable musician you couldn’t find.

Ben Watt is equally as mesmerising. A thoughtful, intense gent in his cap and stubble. He is every inch the troubadour accompanied tonight by the finely bearded Rex on double bass and occasional harmonies.

I knew immediately that we were in for a treat as soon as I heard the slight echo on his guitar, the bass and those lovely vocals it reminded me of the many times I saw the late John Martyn with Danny Thompson. THAT, my friends, is a comparison I don’t often make!

Songs from all stages of his career, from North Marine Drive and 25th December through to the current album Fever Dream, which I consider the highpoint of his songwriting career to date.

Also featured were a few songs from last year’s Hendra, the title track of which Ben described in upsetting detail. He wrote it in response to the death from cancer of his half sister. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

Moving regularly from guitar to keyboards he performed The Levels and a stupendous version of Gradually, New Year of Grace, Spring and Fever Dream.

All this combined for a set permeated with artistry, love and hope.

I was so impressed I bought two of his books as well.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

Share

Comments (0)

Surfer Blood – Snowdonia

Tags:

Surfer Blood – Snowdonia

Posted on 06 February 2017 by Joe

It is perhaps inevitable that Surfer Blood’s latest, Snowdonia, will be remembered less for its catchy, powerful tracks like ‘Six Flags in F or G’, and more as an album to emerge from tragedy.

Coming after last year’s death of guitarst Thomas Fekete, at the age of just 27 from a rare form of cancer, this is a tough album for any young band to have to make.

Surfer_Blood_-_Snowdonia

They’d be forgiven for hurriedly churning it out to get back on the horse, but instead they’ve created a tour do force that is a fitting tribute to their departed friend.

Perhaps one of the reasons this is such a good album is that for the first time since their stunning 2010 debut Astro Coast, lead singer and chief songwriter John Paul Pitts has taken a tighter rein, writing and mixing it alone with the new line up in mind. This includes greater vocal layering featuring guitarist Michael McCleary and bassist Lindsey Mills, who has replaced original member Kevin Williams.

This focus on vocals is important as it was Pitt’s gigantic voice that made them stand out from the rest of the indie rock crowd back in 2010.

Among the high points are the aforementioned Six Flags in F or G, a Pixies-esque stomper, and the joyously catchy opener Matter of Time.

Another is Taking Care of Eddy, which channels the Ramones to offer an affectionate tribute to an elderly relative  of Pitts’ girlfriend.

Their tragic year is not sketched over though. Final track Carrier Pigeon, deals with cancer, specifically Pitts’ relationship with his parents following his mothers’ diagnosis with breast cancer. Despite such heavy subject matter it emerges as one of the most radio friendly pop tracks.

With 2013’s more downbeat Pythons and 2015’s 1,000 failing to impress me, this album feels like a return to form for the Florida act and certainly their best collection since their debut.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

Tags: , ,

Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

Posted on 03 February 2017 by Joe

Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this latest, ambitious release

On previous releases he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop.

Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop.

MMD1400

Of course it wouldn’t be a Mile Me Deaf release without some left-field caveats to it.

It is pop with a massive alien, psychedelic twist, as the album is a loose collection of tracks about the end of the human race. But you’d never know its content was so dystopian with a sound more akin to a Flaming Lips festival headlining set, with its mish-mash of infectious melodies supplemented by a rag-tag collection of riffs, loops, twists and turns.

This is best typified on lead single Blowout, which follows the same successful template Tame Impala have pursued in recent years – make them dance, make them feel weird.

Then on Shibuya+ he hands lead vocal duties over to Katarina Trenk, and another great single is born, as he channels the spirit of Bristol’s early trip hop scene.

Among other high points is Headnote#2, which has a neat Massive Attack shuffle to it and a fantastic rock film score middle section.

The klaxon has sounded, its now up to you and a bit of luck to make this the hit it deserves to be.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Mile Me Deaf visit their bandcamp page here.

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here