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With rapturous and resounding aplomb, New York band Cymbals Eat Guitars have returned with ‘Pretty Years’, an album filled with tracks filled to the brim with rhapsody. From the first track ‘Finally’, no prisoners are taken in their quest for complete domination of mind and soul. Beginning with a guitar playing the song’s main chord sequence alone, the track all of a sudden bursts into life as the rest of the instrumentation joins in. A reverberant guitar line creates a vast space that is occupied by every instrument vying for your attention, it’s a perfect opening that gives the record immediate traction. This is quickly followed by ’Have a Heart’, a perfect encapsulation of youthful mistakes that are forgiven over time. Musically, it’s slightly more subdued than its predecessor, but its chorus makes a lasting impression: catchy, memorable and most of all, striking.
The sound of the instrumentation throughout the album is one that appears raw on the surface, almost clumsy. However, just below this, there’s a distinct cleverness as each layer comes together to create appealing melodies and hooks. ‘Wish’ features an overbearing saxophone that sounds crude but the song would be amiss without it, while ‘Close’ relies upon delicate use of synthesiser to build the darker soundscape which gives the track a dark dominance.
On ‘Dancing Days’ is where Cymbals Eat Guitars show they can also slow things down and bring delicacy to what they do. A light, pattering percussive introduction leads into the verse that goes through the motions with no real fanfare, but once again, it’s the chorus that gives the song its true weight. Curving away from the melody and into a more euphoric setting, the lyrics oppose this euphoria and almost with finality: “Goodbye to the dancing days, goodbye to the friends who fell away, goodbye to the pretty years”. A song that is evidently about growing older and feeling your time here speed away, Cymbals Eat Guitars prove they have depth as well as the ability to craft catchy music.
Urgency is restored with ‘4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)’. Kicking straight in after the calm of the previous track finishes, it becomes clear that the album itself is influenced by leading man Joseph D’Agostino processing the idea of growing old and reflecting on past times. ‘Beam’ enters furious punk territory, a refreshing move for its position on the album, near the end, it renews the record’s vigour all the way up until the crescendo that breaks into screaming vocal chaos from D’Agostino.
Once again not adhering to musical similarities, ‘Mallwalking’ is another slow, almost dreamy track. The song takes on another retrospective stance, seemingly referring to a dream D’Agostino had after the Columbine Massacre, doing so with perfect clarity. The slow percussive crawl that takes the song forward is broken as the guitar cuts through with a sharp and alert riff, making sure that this break in proceedings doesn’t cause CEG’s audience lose interest.
The most interesting aspect of the album is how each track has its own voice. They never sound like they’re from a similar vein. You find yourself nearing the end of the record and it doesn’t feel like it’s been an uninteresting slog, which too many albums sadly can. ‘WELL’, while not one of the strongest cuts, still has a draw that keeps you enthralled. At first it appears to refute the rest of the album’s appeal with its slow pacing, but suddenly it comes into its own during the bridge section toward the climax. With layers of soft piano lines and dreamy guitar riffs, it suddenly breaks down and collapses in on itself.
Album finales are where the previous hard-fought and built atmosphere can be lost. So the traction that pushes the listener to this point needs to capitalise on the moment and create a lasting impression. ‘Shrine’ opts to use a more subdued but nonetheless effective approach. The longest cut on the album, it doesn’t go for the immediacy of prior tracks but goes for a more progressive and building movement in the music. Never really reaching a climactic point, it falls away into a rapture of noise, nearly the opposite to the opener of the album. It does the job, leaving you feeling that you want more, so you listen once again. It’s a perfect move that ensures you have a complete experience and shows the power an album can have when it’s crafted to its full extent. A full on experience, ‘Pretty Years’ will help you get through the ageing process and the nostalgia that comes with it.
‘Pretty Years’, the fourth album from New York City’s Cymbals Eat Guitars, is out now on Sinderlyn Records. For past coverage of Cymbals Eat Guitars on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 6:00 pm
Australian electronic duo Empire of the Sun have returned and in a big away. The ‘Walking on a Dream’ stars are gearing up their long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s ‘Ice on the Dune’. ‘Two Vines’ will be released on the 28th of October on Virgin EMI in the UK and Astralwerks in America. As should be rightly expected from the flamboyant pair and their past video creations, ‘High and Low’ is a grand expression of what looks like the latest enchanted fantasy world they’ve created. It’s discovered by accident by natives, so the question is, will they join the band in their amazing world? Looks like we’ll have to see in the next chapter of Empire of the Sun’s story to be revealed. What ‘High and Low’ below. Admittedly, we haven’t written much about the duo in a while, but you’re more than welcome to reminisce on our past coverage through here.
Veteran Northern Irish rock band Ash are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album ‘1977’ with a live tour, on which they’re playing the album in its entirety, along with a few more recent favourites. On the North American leg of the tour, they’re visiting a mix of small and mid-sized venues, but surely one of the smallest on the list was Rips Bar in Phoenix. Rips is a stand-alone club tucked into a residential area just northwest of downtown Phoenix, away from the hustle and bustle of other Phoenix venues and with an extremely relaxed vibe that seemed to suit Ash perfectly.
Ash’s three band members went largely unnoticed by the bar patrons as they set up on the indoor stage at Rips. Meanwhile, the small crowd in the venue were treated to the opening act on the outdoor patio. Local folk-rock band Avery were just getting started when I found my way outside, and they came as a pleasant surprise ahead of Ash’s unabashed punk rock stylings. Avery’s lineup features singer/songwriter Mariah DeRaet on lead vocals, her smoky timbre uniquely accompanied by cellist Allison Galbreath at the front of the tiny stage on this night. The cello adds a deep sense of yearning to Avery’s lovelorn lyrics, as you can hear in their single ‘Hospital Call’ just below.
Back inside the bar, Ash were nearly ready get back to ‘1977’. Or, more precisely, back to 1996, when the album was actually released. I was buried in my own classical music studies at university in 1996, and thus I missed out on the album the first time around. But anyone with even a passing interest in UK or Northern Irish bands will have heard of Ash, and editor Mary assured me that they were not to be missed live, so naturally my interest was piqued. Unfamiliar with the songs on ‘1977’, I had assumed that the title referred to songwriter Tim Wheeler’s birth year (also, coincidentally, my own). But in the course of doing some pre-gig homework, I discovered that it also paid homage to the release date of the movie ‘Star Wars’. which is referenced in the album’s opening and closing tracks, while other bits of 1970s pop culture are mixed into the middle.
The audience, though still small, had grown a bit while I was outside listening to Avery. I hadn’t expected to see many longtime fans of the Northern Irish indie rockers at this gig, but there were, in fact, a handful of dedicated Ash fans milling about wearing the band’s t-shirts. There was no need to crowd the stage in a venue as small as this one, but we did all creep a bit closer as frontman Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray tore into ‘1977’ opening track ‘Lose Control’. They hit their stride early on, even with the more pensive tones of ‘Goldfinger’ and moreso in the higher energy of ‘Girl from Mars’, and it must be said here that McMurray certainly got his workout in during this set, pounding relentless rhythms throughout.
The sound quality inside Rips was surprisingly good, given the small size of the venue, and mid-album tracks ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Oh Yeah’, were especially energetic. Despite the almost complete absence of between-songs chat, or perhaps because of it, the band’s momentum from those tracks carried through to the end of the ‘1977’ set, which Wheeler announced as the final album track ‘Darkside Lightside’.
A true encore might have been overkill in this tiny venue, but luckily Ash had more to offer. Following the ‘1977’ sequence, Wheeler paused again to introduce the band’s debut single ‘Jack Names the Planets’ before the band added a few newer songs to round off the set. One enthusiastic punter squealed out for a song called ‘Default’, and Wheeler seemed puzzled for a moment, until he realised that she meant ‘Dispatch’, from Ash’s most recent album ‘Kablammo!’, which came out last summer. This would have been a more familiar song for me as well, but alas, the band weren’t prepared to play it, opting instead for another new track, ‘Let’s Ride’ before closing with ‘Burn Baby Burn’ from 2001 album ‘Free All Angels’.
They may not have had a large number of fans in attendance in Phoenix last weekend, but Ash most certainly won a new fan in me with their combination of punk energy, deft melodicism, and engaging stage presence. If you’re like me and ‘Kablammo!’ was your first real exposure to Ash, I strongly recommend browsing through their back catalogue for the gems you might have missed.
Ash will continue the North American leg of their ‘1977 – 20th Anniversary Tour’ with larger shows in cities including Chicago, Washington, DC and New York through the start of October. They will bring the tour to the UK in November and December; those live dates are listed just below. A full listing of Ash’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Web site. TGTF’s previous coverage of Ash is right back here.
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Friday 11th November 2016 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Gloucester Guildhall
Saturday 10th December 2016 – London Roundhouse
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Manchester Ritz
Monday 12th December 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Aberdeen Garage
Thursday 15th December 2016 – Glasgow Garage
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
“What are you going to do about it?” That, my friends, is Isaac Holman’s rallying cry in Slaves’ latest single ‘Spit It Out’. On the surface, dripping with barely veiled contempt, it sounds like a lad’s standard response to a mate’s whinging about the problems in his life. In these trying times of a declining world economy and the lack of upward mobility available to youth, this kind of whinging is common and depending who you talk to, increasingly justified. The interesting part about this song is it’s not just railing on, being loud and obnoxious just to be loud and obnoxious. Holman continues, “maybe you should put yourself / in someone else’s shoes / try hard not to dwell upon / decisions that you choose”.
Hmm. So maybe Slaves have indulged in a bit of philosophical thought since their 2015 bracing debut ‘Are You Satisfied?’, eh? One wonders if being nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize impressed on the Tunbridge Wells duo the need to contemplate beyond unbridled menace. For their energetic, uncompromising manner onstage, the pair – Holman on lead vocals and drums and Laurie Vincent and guitars – have become firm favourites on the live scene. Their always raucous gigs and festival appearances have garnered impassioned overtures from fans and casual observers alike. A common complaint about ‘Are You Satisfied?’ was that it lacked the energy of their live shows. So how does ‘Take Control’, their new long player out Friday, compare? If you’re judging this album by sheer loudness, it should receive an A+ and then some.
In the recording of ‘Take Control’, they enlisted the help of a punk and hip-hop A-lister and founding member of the Beastie Boys Mike D, who upon hearing ‘Are You Satisfied?’, was excited to work with an act with an ethos all too familiar to him. “I feel right now the world needs an album like this. Something that is more raw, more alive and less polished. I was impressed with the band’s strong point of view. They actually speak their minds about social topics.” Mike D features prominently on ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, a growly number punctuated by shouts – including what sounds like the indignant screams of a man getting his legs amputated, eep! – and rapid-fire, melodic verse. At the most basic level, this song can be interpreted as a reflection of our dog-eat-dog world. These are tough times, but Slaves’ message is best summed by Mike D’s own line of “now get your shit together, brother”.
This is a pair of blokes who are not satisfied with merely laying waste to your ears. You might not like their music. But you have to give them credit for trying to inspire their young fans to feel something. To do something positive. Taking a less confrontational angle, using a new wave robotic drumbeat to great effect, Slaves go off script on ‘Steer Clear’. Holman trades verses with Baxter Dury on the tune with the cautionary phrase, “please don’t kill yourself / behind that steering wheel / I don’t really know who I am / but I need to keep it real”. On the throat and axe-shredding ‘Same Again’, Holman gives it his all in an almost maniacal manner, struggling with the mundaneness of everyday life that appears to be stifling him. But in Slaves’ usual way of sticking it to the man with their thundering sound, he insists with angrily yelled words “I’ll get the next one!” This is a man who won’t be licked as long as he’s got blood pumping through his veins. It closes out the album on an inspiring note. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.
Still, Slaves are never in danger of taking themselves too seriously, and that’s fine by this editor. Some days, you just need an album you can blow off some steam to and have a laugh with after a trying day. ‘Angelica’, one of the songs recorded on Beastie Boys’ vintage equipment, has the hilariously memorable rhyming couplet, “Angelica, she’s a bloodsucker!” Naturally, this song with a dirty guitar groove is about a village bicycle-riding maneater. The offshore account holding, out of touch millionaire (“he’s been dying since the day he was born / boxes of watches that have never been worn“) are mocked in ‘Rich Man’.
Except for a few rare moments, like a freight locomotive, ‘Take Control’ is loud and pretty much never lets up. This is not the kind of album you should be listening to if you have anger management issues. It’s too bad that summer festival season is another 8 months, because this is exactly the kind of music to incite a mosh pit. Please enjoy responsibly.
‘Take Control’, the sophomore album from Kent punk duo Slaves, will be out this Friday, the 30th of September on Virgin EMI.
The Sad Song Co., solo project of Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls drummer Nigel Powell, will be on tour this October, in support of Powell’s third solo album ‘In Amber’. The LP was released back in August after a successful PledgeMusic campaign. You can check out the lyric video for album single ‘Legacy of Love’ just below the tour date listing.
Tickets for the following shows, where needed, are available now. Powell will also tour with Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls in November and December; you can find those live dates listed here.
Friday 7th October 2016 – Oxford Sofar Sounds
Monday 17th October 2016 – Leicester Firebug
Tuesday 18th October 2016 – Derby Maypole
Wednesday 19th October 2016 – London Monarch (free show)
Thursday 20th October 2016 – Chippenham Old Road Tavern (free show)
Saturday 22nd October 2016 – Manchester Star And Garter
Sunday 23rd October 2016 – Bristol Stag And Hounds
Northern Irish alt-rockers Two Door Cinema Club have announced a run of UK tour dates to ring in 2017. The UK tour will follow the release of Two Door Cinema Club’s forthcoming new album ‘Gameshow’, which is due for release on the 14th of October via Parlophone Records. Editor Mary recently featured the latest single from the album, ‘Bad Decisions’, as our Video of the Moment #2185.
Live dates in Northern Ireland have yet to be announced for this tour, but the band have hinted at them on their official Facebook. Tickets for the following shows will go on general sale Friday the 30th of September at 9 AM. Those in the know can get in on the presale tomorrow from this page, Wednesday the 28th of September, at 9 AM. In the meantime, you can peruse TGTF’s extensive past coverage of Two Door Cinema Club, including a live review from earlier this year, right back this way.
Tuesday 24th January 2017 – Birmingham Academy
Wednesday 25th January 2017 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Saturday 28th January 2017 – Manchester Apollo
Monday 30th January 2017 – Leeds Academy
Tuesday 31st January 2017 – Newcastle Academy
Thursday 2nd February 2017 – Liverpool University Guild of Students
Friday 3rd February 2017 – Glasgow Barrowland
Saturday 4th February 2017 – Glasgow Barrowland
Monday 6th February 2017 – Southampton Guildhall
Tuesday 7th February 2017 – Bristol Academy
Friday 10th February 2017 – London Alexandra Palace
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