Archive | March, 2018

Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

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Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

Posted on 28 March 2018 by Joe

Thirty years have passed since Dinosaur Jr got together. Since then they have split up, reformed and are still selling out venues, with this London gig no exception.

Having seen them at the Reading Festival back in the early nineties, it was an interesting contrast, and a reminder of why I had mixed feelings about them last time.

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Dinosaur Jr’s lead singer and chief guitar noodler J Mascis is, if possible, even more static that he was back then. He seems an isolated figure onstage, and not helped by the contrast between him and the more exuberant performance of bass player Lou Barlow.

This juxtaposition makes this seem like a solo act with the drums and bass as back up musicians. This is not to underplay the contributions of drummer Murph and Lou to the band’s sound, but the rather odd impression created by the onstage dynamics.

I’m guessing this is unintended rather than planned. J is clearly friends with both support acts and presumably the other guys in the band. His is undeniably, however, a somewhat awkward stage presence.

Ironically, he seemed much more relaxed when strolling on to play guitar on the last song of opening band Easy Action’s set.

Their frontman, hard-faced, angular veteran punk rocker John Brannon, cups the microphone in his hand whilst spitting lyrics at the crowd, mixing hardcore, punk and metal with an industrial edge; they are enthusiastically received by those who arrive in time to catch them.

I catch five of their songs, their final song on which J plays guitar, is the shortest of an excellent, rather intense set and like all of tonight’s bands they are great.

Easy Action are there to remind us of the hardcore punk influence inherent in Dinosaur Jr. Meanwhile, next on the bill,  Stephen McBean from Black Mountain, gives us a taste of J Mascis and co’s  West Coast Country psychedelic roots.

When McBean first came onstage his rather shambolic appearance and lack of introduction made me think he was the roadie tuning up for him. He proved be a far more engaging performer than J and played a solo set using a mixture of backing tapes and looping delay effects to build psychedelic country soundscapes that belie his mild-mannered appearance.

His voice, crystal clear, is youthful, like a garage band from the 1960’s, and some of his songs are stunning. I particularly liked his second number with its Byrds-esque guitars crashing in like broken glass onto the sun-kissed vocal melody.

Dinosaur Jr arrive onstage with the classic Thumb, reassuring their fans that there will be plenty more good songs to come. It’s mid pace melancholy wrought through the band’s virtuoso musicianship, and only held back in my opinion by the venue’s rather indifferent sound (this was something of a bugbear for me).

The vocals weren’t clear enough for any of tonight’s acts, and I would be reluctant to come here to see a band again. Next time I’ll see Dinosaur Jr in a venue with a low ceiling and a solid sound system. That being said, they are still fantastic.

There’s an amusing interview with J on YouTube where a seven-year-old child asks him if he is a “guitar god”. J says, “No”, but based on tonight’s performance it would be pretty difficult to disagree.

J plays guitar like few others, intricate and effortless, it really is something to see. I can’t think of a better guitarist I’ve seen.

Lou Barlow is all hair and beard, the two merging into one shaggy head. Lou wins the Dorian Gray award for looking at least ten years younger than J or Murph. Maybe that’s why they kicked him out back in the 90’s?

Murph, the ever present with J throughout Dinosaur Jr’s history must be the hardest working drummer in show business, rock solid all night without missing a beat. His lack of hair perhaps a sign that there is some stress in slackerdom.

Dinosaur Jr play three of four songs from the new album (all very good), before misfiring the start to “Feel the Pain”, and then going into “Out There”. The crowd go nuts.

And, there is an odd contrast between the Droopy inspired stage persona of J and the hundreds of middle aged men going ape-shit for his music.

As one of those middle-aged men, hearing “Out There” played live makes me feel thirty years younger and want to cry simultaneously. It is a masterpiece and the only song to beat it is the next song, the previously teased, “Feel the Pain”.

It’s wonderfully crafted, with its jarring opening allied to its heartfelt lyrics and swinging bassline and the sheer abandon of the chorus make this song a masterpiece. I glance bemused at the crowd surfing and moshing to my left.

From there the band revisit their back catalogue, with songs from Green Mind, Bug and You’re Living All Over Me, with the latter dominating the selection, particularly the encores.

This, the band’s first album is a little unfamiliar to me, and perhaps a number of their fans, certainly the tracks from Green Mind and Bug, get a better reception from the audience.

Perhaps the band like playing these tracks as they remind them of more innocent times, or perhaps they still have a few copies of it they’d like to shift taking up scant storage space in their houses, and they figure playing tracks off it at their shows may stir their fans to seek out these unsold copies.

If the Greeks have taught us one thing, it is that Guitar Gods are likely to be capricious tricksters toying with mere mortals, so either could be true.

The crowd at the show are an interesting one, there seemingly aren’t that many lively bands going about any more, and whilst I am not tempted to join in, it’s great to see the crowd respond to the band with the heady release of a stag weekend.

Just before the encore, I saw a guy staggering about looking for his mates with four pints of beer in his hands. Thus, tracks like Freak Scene and The Wagon get rapturous receptions.

Before the final encore, Lou Barlow, tongue in cheek presumably asks for requests.

If you shouted out for “Raisans” then you got your wish. I heard a lot of people shouting for “Get Me”, and on that note there weren’t many slow songs, I was rooting for “Not You Again”, but at times you just have to take what the Gods give you.

By Gavin McGarvey

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Guided By Voices – Space Gun

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Guided By Voices – Space Gun

Posted on 23 March 2018 by Dorian

2018 is proving to be a pretty excellent year for the 1990s. The Breeders released All Nerve with the classic Last Splash line-up (easily my favourite album of the year so far), Yo La Tengo came back with their best since And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (a 2000 release, but recorded in 1999) and Superchunk sound younger than ever on What A Time To Be Alive.

So, it would be odd (given the band’s insane release schedule) if Guided By Voices didn’t have an album out this year as well, one that continues to celebrate the sound that Robert Pollard and his rotating support cast have been endorsing since Same Place The Fly Got Smashed first marked them out as a band to watch back in 1990. The album, Space Gun, is the third by the current line-up and might be the best thing he’s recorded under the GBV moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.

Space Gun

It opens with the title track, a song that has a real timeless quality and could have been on any GBV album in the last 30 years. It is pretty great and would sound amazing as the set-opener at a live show, sadly something we are unlikely to see in this country soon (if ever).

From there on in it is a flow of uncharacteristically consistent songs, there is little in the way of filler here and none of half-formed snippets that can frustrate the casual listener. The hit rate is high here and there are half a dozen potential singles scattered across the album’s 39 minute run time. The title track and ‘See My Field’ have already been released as singles but ‘Colonel Paper’, ‘Grey Spat Matters’, ‘Flight Advantage’, ‘Daily Get Ups’ and ‘I Love Kangaroos’ would all sound great on the 6 Music playlist (don’t hold your breath). Of these the latter is one of the  most surprising songs, 3 minutes of soft guitar pop that remind me what a huge REM fan Robert Pollard was when he started the band.

I know the obstacles that this band presents to new listeners, dozens of albums and some fairly challenging listens amongst them. I’ve not reviewed one of their records for a few years, it seemed a rather fruitless exercise that was unlikely to tempt new listeners. Please Be Honest was a test to even the most ardent fan and August By Cake (despite being pretty brilliant) was sprawling and scattershot. How Do You Spell Heaven last year was much more focused and consistent, and Space Gun is perhaps the culmination of that journey back to “classic album” status.

This is a very listenable record by a band at the top of their powers, well worth less than 40 minutes of your time. Play loud.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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You Want Fox – Reverse the Curse

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You Want Fox – Reverse the Curse

Posted on 21 March 2018 by John Haylock

The annals of rock ‘n’ roll are littered with Foxes. Foxey Lady, Fleet Foxes, Samantha Fox and now You Want Fox.

Comprising of Colette Elton  (drums and gin) and Natalie Caulton (bass and gin) they sound more like a five-piece band than a mere duo and have more song hooks than a hook based shop in Hooksvilleshire.

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Their’s is a joyous, and dare I say it, harmonious sound. Their combined vocals are so catchy you’d have to be a right mardy-arse not to revel in them.

Natalie’s Fender Jazz bass sounds like a full on rifferama lead guitar, all fuzzy and lovely, and Colett’es drumming is precision perfect rather like her higher pitched vocals.

There’s so much to enjoy on this this second album featuring eleven tracks of nursery rhyme grunge.  From full on opener Tooth for a Tooth to the brooding Dirty Little Damsel, every damn song is a little earworm.

Black Heart sounds like The Ronettes backed by The Ramones and is as tremendous as that sounds.

You Want Fox’s latest single Liar Liar ought to be number one on all major continents, again it all comes down to airplay. DJs get your fucking act together. Stop playing Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and bang on some You Want Fox.

If you’ve seen them live you will be gagging to hear all this in a sweaty bar and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. They are one of the best Nottingham bands in years and their audiences always vociferous will lap this up, as will I.

You Want Fox tell me they have a prestigious London gig in November as part of Loud Women Present, at the legendary Hope and Anchor in that, there London-town, so all you hipster bods can get your fix of Fox.

Currently unsigned, these girls are getting fed up waiting for Sony to make the call,  so if you’ve got a record label, shitloads of money and a roster that needs improving then I suggest you check ’em out.

Get cursed!

by John Haylock

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Insecure men – Nottingham Bodega (March 10, 2018)

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Insecure men – Nottingham Bodega (March 10, 2018)

Posted on 12 March 2018 by John Haylock

Ok. So, Insecure Men’s name may not be particularly inspiring (although on further reflection, it is rather good).  But live these young men are if not a revelation in the biblical sense at least incredible in their own very sweet way.

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My initial response to their debut album was one of contemptuous dismissal. Why the fuck was this banal cruise round the Med on a Saga holiday music being so lauded?

Yet something drew me back and after half a week spent in its cheesy company I have seen sense and predict that Saul Adamczewski and Ben Romans Hopcraft have crafted a piece of work that will be one of the years most insidious and lovable albums of 2018.

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So live, can they cut it?

An affirmative YES based on this performance at a rammed Bodega. From the get go with nary a guitar riff in sight we are singing along, swaying and dancing badly. The opening number, Cliff has Left the Building, has us all captivated, sounding like The Beach Boys headed by Syd Barrett.

There are so many influences going on here. Early Velvets and a touch of glam rock on the startling Mekong Glitter. This is a song introduced by Saul as a tune about sex tourism. We all whooped (apart from the politically correct misery arse who had a go at my mate).

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Teenage Toy is lovely and the new single, I Don’t Wanna Dance, ironically made us dance. They played the whole album although on a slightly personal note I missed one of my favourites, Ulster, when I went for a pee. But apart from that, no quibbles.

They are visual treat as well, sartorial to the max, baggy golfing trousers white socks, a beret and a pleated grey dress. The music, the look (like an explosion in a Dexys Midnight Runners’ factory) as well as the the arch and very knowing lyrics, combine to create something quite subversive.

I am sure the crowd who attended tonight will be gifted with the foreknowledge that they saw Insecure Men in a small club in 2018 before the band played a blinder in a rather large field in Somerset in 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the next Pulp.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Debs Anderson.

More information about Insecure Men can be found here.

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