By Mary Chang
on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 6:00 pm
Broken Bells, the rock duo comprised of James Mercer and Dangermouse, released their second album ‘After the Disco’ back in February. Both their self-titled debut and this latest LP have allusions to space travel and otherworldly pursuits, so it makes sense that their latest promo for ‘After the Disco’ track ‘Control’ would have old film clips of space, crop circles and UFOs. Interestingly, that pink dodecahedron thingy on the cover of ‘Broken Bells’ also makes several appearances. Even more randomly, clips of Mercer and Burton play are included, as are computer-rendered images of the two as an ‘unknown organic compound’. Huh? (I’m also wondering if the surviving members of Joy Division will sue for the usage of what seems to be the rippling waves of the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album…) Watch the video below.
Martin’s Day 1 roundup from
Kendal Calling 2014 is here.
There’s no doubting the scale of The Ramona Flowers‘ ambition – theirs is all big reverb and hanging guitar notes, large-scale emoting and words like “bittersweet”. There’s a common comparison with U2, which is fair enough, but in comparison the Flowers seem a touch lightweight: at least U2 managed to write about politics before moving on to songs which can be played at weddings. ‘Brighter’ is a spacey affair which manages to tick all the boxes of swirly, effected guitar, emo-pained yet meaningless vocal meanderings and a stadium-friendly drum track. Does the world need another bunch of U2 wannabes? Probably not, but the experience is pretty exhilarating while it lasts. Steve Bird is a strong frontman – which basically means he knows how good he looks and plays up to it – and the rest of the band bang out the massive tunes with competence and enthusiasm. If, like Professor Peach, you “like ‘em big”, then The Ramona Flowers are where it’s at.
Amber Run (another set, another meaningless two-word band name) belong to that most dreary of genres: Quiet-Loud-Folksy-Rock-With-Big-Crescendos-And-Wide-Eyed-Faux-Innocent-Vocals. Even if this was your very first introduction to the wonders of live rock music, you’d still be forgiven for thinking “is that really it?”. ‘Spark’ has a pointless refrain of “let the light in”, repeated ad nauseum – a defining feature of the QLFRWBCAWEFIV genre. ‘Noah’ has all the other tropes – mildly ironic orchestral baubles (in this case, xylophone) and vowels stretched to the very limits of decency. They’re not as irritating as Eliza and the Bear, although that’s like saying syphilis is preferable to AIDS. Both to be avoided as much as practically possible.
We Were Evergreen do their thing, which is to be very funky and French indeed. We’ve covered them before at Deer Shed Festival (read about this year’s appearance here), so there’s no need to go into detail about their virtues again here, except to say that TGTF had a chat with them afterwards, so watch this space for that.
Thank goodness for Findlay, who can be relied upon to be a proper rock star. There’s more attitude in her slight frame than any number of mopey, reverbed boy bands. ‘Your Sister’ is even more acerbic live, the minimal band (another example of the current superfluosity of bassists) rocking hard to an ancient blues riff over lyrics heavy with innuendo. She breaks out the overdrive microphone for ‘Greasy Love’, which is still a very naughty piece of music, its references to sweaty sex just about as raunchy as rock gets right now, and its music is as dirty as its lyrical content. A new track called ‘Stoned and Alone’ is unleashed with the order, “if you’ve got a spliff, smoke it now!” to the raised eyebrows of security staff; what a rebel. If there’s a girl doing better blues-rock than Findlay right now, call the Guinness Book of Records.
Catfish and the Bottlemen pack the Calling Out tent, punters squelching around in boggy puddles on its periphery, desperate to catch a glimpse of a band that are shaping up to be the next big thing in mainstream rock. The stars were all aligning for their Kendal performance – their album about to drop, it was frontman Van McCann’s birthday, and he’d just exclusively revealed to TGTF that he’d like CATB to be bigger than Oasis. Fair enough. And on the evidence of today, their trajectory is indeed inexorably upwards. Their songs are adventurous yet simple: big choruses, hooky melodies, modestly sweary of lyric yet innocent of eye. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, no novel song arrangements, no obscure instrumentation, just a wall of guitars and an endearing mixture of humility and genuine cool from McCann. Back in March last year, TGTF declared “anyone pondering the future of British guitar music should add Catfish and the Bottlemen to the list”. Come 2014, not only are they on the list, they’re fighting hard to be at the top. Care to bet against them?
With their run of festival performances this summer, Suede have pulled off one of the most profound comebacks in recent memory. Not only are they generally regarded as being, if not quite the inventors of Britpop, then certainly the trailblazers, they have managed to resurrect a career that was in danger of becoming a footnote in pop music history – a blazing start followed by a long tail of increasing mediocrity. No longer. Following their superb comeback 2013 album ‘Bloodsports’, Suede have crafted a live show utterly worthy of a headline slot at any event in the world. Even (whisper it…) Glastonbury. Mumford and Sons? Give me a break.
After an appropriately long wait, a shadowy figure emerged from the depths of the stage to the mournful piano strains of ‘The Next Life’, a hugely brave move in front of a Northern festival crowd known for its rowdy enthusiasm. Impressively, the crowd was hushed and reverent as Brett Anderson knelt, almost foetus-like, his cracked falsetto hypnotising them into silence. A beautiful moment of Kendal history. But in a blink it was gone, replaced by a romp through 20 years of Suede history. They played more than half their debut album but just a single track from opus ‘Dog Man Star’, perhaps reinforcing this author’s opinion that, good though ‘Dog Man Star’ is, it’s ‘Suede’ that is a true pop-rock masterpiece, with the perfect combination of punk, pomp and peroxide, and much more relevant in the live arena.
There’s four tracks from ‘Coming Up,’ demonstrating just how valuable the first Oakes-written Suede album is to their back catalogue. The move to single-word song titles (‘Filmstar’, ‘Lazy’, ‘Trash’) neatly summarises the fresh, efficient, to-the-point Suede 2.0 which emerged from the ashes of the ‘Dog Man Star’ sessions – such songs are remarkably fizzy, electronically-enhanced shocks of guitar pop that still sound fresh and vital today. We also get this writer’s favourite ever Suede song, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, never released on a non-compilation album, but a perennial live favourite, a dystopian singalong with a similarly worrying video.
There really isn’t a comparable story in pop to that of Richard Oakes. Plucked from nowhere as a schoolboy with a penchant for playing Suede songs in his bedroom, his mimicry of Bernard Butler was astonishing then, and his ability to write original guitar parts in the true Suede style is nothing short of a musical miracle even now. His recent portliness may not be true to the skinny Suede style of old (Anderson, however, remains as sticklike as ever), but is at least a visual reminder of the years that have passed since his joining. Despite what many longstanding fans may want to believe, Oakes has been in the band almost three times as long as his predecessor, and is the true sound of modern Suede.
The high-water mark for Britpop reunions is arguably Blur’s performance at Glastonbury in 2009, with perhaps an honourable mention for Pulp at Primavera in 2011. The difference here is that Suede aren’t just doing a one-off gig or two, this tour has been going for the best part of a year, featuring several festival appearances. This a proper career reboot, and with a new album slated for 2015, Suede are proving that they’re not happy simply with inventing Britpop. They want to reinvent it too.
More from Martin on Kendall Calling 2014 will be on TGTF soon.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 12:00 pm
Arguably, it has only been in less than the last 20 years that the dynamic hard rock duo (with minimal or no electronic intervention live, mind) has emerged not only as a potential but an entirely viable business proposition. Naturally, given the success of the now-defunct White Stripes and the currently riding high Black Keys, the media are quick – not to mention lazy – to compare Royal Blood to both. However, as easy as it would be to compare Ben and Mike to Dan and Patrick, there is one major difference.
Bass guitar vs. guitar.
You’re talking to a bass player, so there is no contest here for me. However, for the rest of you reading this who don’t share the joy and wonderment of playing bass, I will spend the rest of this review convincing you why Royal Blood’s self-titled album out this week is a major step forward for rock music in the 21st century and why you need this album. For starters, if you’re the kind of person who easily gets impatient and hates albums that seem to drag on forever, this one is predictably short. Mike Kerr (vocals / bass guitar) and Ben Thatcher (drums) aren’t the kind of guys to beat around the bush. For that reason alone, it’s a good “starter” album for those who don’t buy albums or haven’t bought an album in its entirety for a long time (*cough* pirates *cough*).
If you’ve been following the Royal Blood story for a while, three of the best tracks – ‘Out of the Black’, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Come On Over’ – will be familiar to you from their appearance on previously released EP ‘Out of the Black’. The title track of the EP will probably be best remembered by this summer’s festivalgoers for Thatcher’s machine gun-style beats that usher in the song; they partner up remarkably well to the vitriolic, man scorned lyrics: “so don’t breathe when I talk / because you haven’t been spoken to / I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it / but a trigger for a heart beating blood from an empty pocket”. Contrast this later to ‘You Can Be So Cruel’, which is also filled with angst but in a self-harming, lonely manner, while recent single ‘Figure It Out’ wades into the muddy waters of relationship-based confusion.
A lot of people avoid hard rock albums on the sole basis that they think it’ll be cacophonous chaos, as if it’s impossible for hard rock to be melodic. Kerr manages to conjure amazing things from his bass guitar as well as be an entirely commanding frontman with his voice. Throughout the album, Kerr puts his voice through its paces and comes out as a winner. On ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Little Monster’, he is the convincing bad boy ready to melt the rock girl’s heart. (Yes, there were quite a few gals at their DC show fawning over both him and Thatcher. I had to open and close my eyes a few times, wondering, am I really at a hard rock show?)
The punishing yet melodic bass guitar playing from Kerr also deserves proper credit. When I first started playing bass, my mother asked me how bass differed from guitar; my response was, “you know how drumming doesn’t have notes? Bass is like playing drums; you’re playing rhythm, but with melody.” That explanation doesn’t really hold water when you’re describing Kerr’s skill on the axe. On ‘Come On Over’, if your ears can’t discern the lower register of his bass, you’d swear it was someone like Slash ripping it on his Les Paul. The authoritative bass riff on ‘Loose Change’ doesn’t beg for your attention, it requires it as you get sucked into the groove of the song.
Interestingly, one of the standouts of the album is ‘Careless’. In the lyrics, Kerr plays around with the nuances of ‘careless’ vs. ‘care less’ and during the verses and bridge, the bass takes a quieter backseat (for Royal Blood, anyway), letting the powerful chorus speak for itself. As the album closes, you can’t help but sense that Royal Blood’s road to becoming as big (or bigger?) than Led Zeppelin seems assured. Thatcher’s thudding drums, as about as gentle as a pneumatic drill, is paired with the sexy bass line of ‘Better Strangers’ and Kerr’s pained yet mesmerising wailing. In a word, awesome. Resistance is futile, my friends.
Royal Blood‘s self-titled album is out now on Warner Brothers. If you’re quick, you can catch Kerr and Thatcher playing live for Steve Lamacq on the 29th of August in the BBC 6music kitchen (I’m being serious) here.
Independent record label and promoter Communion Music has just announced the line up for the second part of its biannual New Faces tour, which will take place this November. The bill includes elusive solo artist FYFE, South London singer/songwriter Kimberly Anne, Oxford pop quartet Pixel Fix (pictured above), and Nottingham five-piece Amber Run, whose track ‘Pilot’ is featured in the video below.
Tickets for the following dates are available now through the usual outlets, but if you’d like a little bonus, grab your tickets from MusicGlue via Communion’s Web site. Each ticket purchased that way will come with a free EP download containing a sample track from each artist.
Monday 3rd November 2014 – Brighton Green Door Store
Tuesday 4th November 2014 – Bristol Louisiana
Wednesday 5th November 2014 – London St. Stephens Church
Friday 7th November 2014 – Oxford Art Bar
Saturday 8th November 2014 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Sunday 9th November 2014 – Nottingham Bodega
Monday 10th November 2014 – Leeds Holy Trinity Church
Glasgow indie rockers Casual Sex have announced their new double A-side single as well as a short list of UK tour dates for this October. The single, which includes two contrasting tracks called ‘A Perfect Storm’ and ‘Pissing Neon’, will be officially released on the 6th of October via We Can Still Picnic Records. You can take a listen to ‘A Perfect Storm’ below the tour date listing. Tickets for the following shows are available now.
Monday 6th October 2014 – Glasgow CCA
Tuesday 7th October 2014 – London Sebright Arms
Thursday 9th October 2014 – Inverness Hootananny
Friday 10th October 2014 – Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre
By Mary Chang
on Sunday, 31st August 2014 at 10:00 am
Zola Jesus now has unveiled the promo video for single ‘Dangerous Days’, the first from upcoming album ‘Taiga’, scheduled for a 7 October release. I was wondering where the title of the LP (the word for a snowy forest) was going to come into things, but that was before I laid eyes on this promo. Although the environs where the video was filmed look pretty cold, Nikita Danilova’s vocals seem warm on this tune. Watch the promo below.
Catch Danilova on tour in the UK in October and November 2014.