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Album Review: The Wombats – Glitterbug

 
By on Monday, 27th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The Wombats Glitterbug album coverI was first introduced to The Wombats when I was 15. I was trying to convince my friends I was a bit emo because I liked The Black Parade, knew all the words to ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ and bought Kerrang! once or twice.

When The Wombats came along with their ‘Guide To Love Loss and Desperation’, telling me to ‘Dance To Joy Division’ and ‘Kill The Director’, it was a surprise when I found these likeable lads from Liverpool on repeat on my iPod (one of those big clunky ones). The Wombats have the ability to write instantly recognisable and likeable pop music and for a few years they continued to, before disappearing into obscurity in the way other successful bands of that time had, a la The Kooks, The Hoosiers and The Zutons. Lots of bands with ‘The’ at the start it seems…

But then, showing a remarkable resilience, to *not* stay dead. The Wombats returned with ‘This Modern Glitch’, an album that despite leading with probably the weakest single of the bunch – the melancholy ‘Anti-D’ – was crammed to the nines with incredible pop music. ‘This Modern Glitch’ remains, to this day one of the best modern pop albums released since the turn of the millennium. Don’t dispute it. Seriously, don’t bother. Can you think of a record with as many pace changes, singalong anthems and dance floor killers? Nope, don’t bother, there isn’t one.

So when the mysterious #yourbodyisaweapon emerged, you can only imagine the excitement. And to my joy, the track that followed was superb. Murph’s stingingly brilliant lyrics remained while his brilliant ability to make love and breakups sound as sordid and morbid as can be was evident throughout. It also had all the trademarks that The Wombats had honed on ‘This Modern Glitch’ and remains a tune that will bury itself inside your brain and refuse to get out.

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So, my hope for ‘Glitterbug’ grew and grew, before the eventual release this month. Thinking if ‘Your Body Is a Weapon’ is the start, then this record is going to be crammed full of goodies like their last. Annoyingly, and I suppose somewhat predictably, ‘Glitterbug’ hasn’t lived up to expectations. But that’s where I’ll stop with the naysaying, as with any other band this would be a good record. Not just a passable album, but one to be proud of. Such was the weight of expectations after the heady heights of ‘This Modern Glitch’.

‘Glitterbug’ opens with the woozy ‘Emoticons’, casting a cynical gaze at the world of dating in the 21st century where” ‘all these emoticons and words, try to make it better and only make it worse”. Songs ‘Greek Tragedy’, alongside ‘Give Me a Try’ and ‘Your Body is a Weapon’, are probably the only songs with the kind of verve and catchiness seen on ‘This Modern Glitch’. The breakdown on ‘Greek Tragedy’ will have indie discos from Liverpool to Lincoln going berserk, whilst ‘Be Your Shadow’ is the kind of self-deprecating brilliance we expect from Murph.

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On the flipside of the coin, I thought ‘Headspace’ was the band taking the mick ake the first time I listened to it. The lyrics are childish, the dreamy setting the melody places it in makes it sound like poor ’80s synth pop and “I feel feel feel like a disco ball” just sounds bloody stupid. ‘Pink Lemonade is a sceptical look at a night out with a pissed girl, which I’m sure any British bloke has had to deal with. It’s about as endearing as you’d expect. The record identifies a clear change from the bouncy pop goodness The Wombats have become known for. Moving from dancing jubilantly in “that bar in Tokyo” to more crass admissions like “there‘s no greater sight than you in your underwear, removing mine”. Sadly, Murph, while you’re often brilliant, there’s a line and you’ve crossed it there.

The final track ‘Curveballs’, in just name, probably sums up how I feel about ‘Glitterbug’. It’s a curveball: something The Wombats have thrown at us. I’m just still not sure whether it’s just my high expectations making me disappointed with this record, or whether it’s actually the fact ‘Glitterbug’ just isn’t all that good?

Certainly, this shouldn’t be the end of The Wombats. Not at all: Murph and co. still remain relevant, as even when they aren’t trying they can pull out fantastic pop music, a brilliant live show and a horrendously loveable mop of Liverpudlian loveliness. It just hasn’t clicked with ‘Glitterbug’. But after their last effort, I think they’re allowed to try again. Don’t you think?

6/10

The Wombats’ third studio album ‘Glitterbug’ is out now on 14th Floor Records. For more on TGTF on the band, go here. Below is an NME interview Murph did with NME about the LP.

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Single Review: Tall Ships – Will to Life

 
By on Friday, 17th April 2015 at 3:00 pm
 

The video to Tall Ships new single ‘Will to Life’ plants images of families in the street throwing coloured powders at each other in an explosion of shades. It’s the kind of portrait that plants itself right at Tall Ships’ door, as their explosive, chiming riffs conjure up the smells and chaos that seems to be associated with the Indian festival of Holi, a time celebrating creation and renewal by Hindus all over Britain, effectively rejoicing in people’s verve for life. So it’s rather fitting their new lyric video goes hand in hand with this stunning tapestry of music and religion: I can just imagine an explosion of colour around the band as the first riff drops.

In essence, what Tall Ships have managed to show, and in just 4 minutes, is an evolution from where they were on ‘Everything Touching’ (arguably the best prog record of 2012) to where they are now, on their way to becoming a force in 2015. It’s a gorgeous track full of vitality and energy, bursting at the seams with quite simply a will *for* life. If you were a fan of their debut and of course, the blissfully insane beast that was ‘T=0’, then you’ll be pleased Rich Phethean, Matt Parker and Jamie Bush haven’t departed from the slightly unhinged formula which made you fall in love with them.

OK, they’re the umpteenth Brighton–based outfit to get to that difficult second album, but they’re not a flash in the pan, that’s a dead cert. With a strong semi-underground following, Tall Ships are going to be pulling up roots this year, as ‘Will to Life’ is the kind of song which will see their live set really take off; well, if Phethean can guarantee he can hit these high notes on stage…

It’s got singalong credentials and is off the wall enough to get the bods at 6 Music falling over their gillets. It’s the kind of song which will have you spilling that seventh pint of Carling from your plastic cup, whilst you wave your hands above your head. Whether this is going to a breakthrough is yet to be seen, but it’s obvious Tall Ships are coming out all guns blazing with this record. And I love it.

8/10

Tall Ships’ upcoming single ‘Will to Life’ will be released on a 7″ on the 25th of May on Too Pure Singles.

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Mumford and Sons at Reading/Leeds 2015 – uninspired?

 
By on Wednesday, 25th March 2015 at 10:00 am
 

Do you remember between the ages of 15 and 18(-ish) when you’d sit glued to the antipodean drawl of Zane Lowe on a dark night around the middle of February? Waiting in awe to discover which titan of popular culture would be gracing the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds? You sat there ready to tweet, Facebook and text your friends about which clashes you were gutted about and which ones were glaringly obvious: I mean who WOULDN’T want to catch Black Flag over Arcade Fire on the Main Stage? They’re a punk rock institution, for god’s sake!

Now, regrettably in drips and drabs, before the bill is inevitably leaked by some cretin on Reddit, the line-up seeps out producing excitement levels tantamount to that first sleet of February. The kind of sleet where it starts and you think it’s going to snow, but instead it just dusts your porch for 5 minutes, then just goes back to being incredibly cold. That kind of faux-excitement.

Now coupled with the lack of a spectacle, we’re subjected to the damp squib that are Mumford and Sons headlining the Main Stage. A band who’ve released two mediocre albums that has led to them headlining Glastonbury and making inroads into the U.S. market that only Harry Styles and co., alongside Mumford, could dream of. Yes, I liked ‘Little Lion Man’, and it’s sure to provoke a pretty good reaction. But did anyone see the tame, lacklustre set the band threw out at Glasto? I did. You can drag out as many string quartets as you want, but when you’ve only got two records of material to run from, it’s never going to shock or surprise, let alone entertain.

Yes, Marcus Mumford has been brushing shoulders with Elvis Costello and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, but are the band any closer to releasing any new music? It doesn’t look that from where I’m sitting… In fact, coupled with Metallica’s booking, that’s two artists headlining the Main Stage who are likely to release a grand total of jack shit this year. Quite similar to Blink 182 last year as well; this smacks of bands being booked simply to bump up the bank balance before other projects. Is that what we should be expecting from £200+ worth of tickets? It’s an example of where those behind Reading and Leeds have fallen into the same trap that other festival bookers have done in the past. Going for what they assume is a safe booking over a genuine wild card contender, someone who can come on stage and be THAT SET that people are still talking about a decade on. Can you really see yourself in 10 years’ time telling friends and colleagues about a rousing rendition of ‘The Cave’? No, me neither. We all know that Sonisphere are just treading water until they can justify booking one of either Slipknot, Iron Maiden or Metallica again. It’s all just very safe. But why should festivals stick to what’s safe? (OK, so yeah, profit margins, but they aren’t cool.)

It’s probably unfair to just focus on where the institutions that are Reading and Leeds have just gotten it wrong. In 2013, the bookers got it ABSOLUTELY right. Biffy Clyro topped the bill on the Sunday, off the back of the incredible success of their most recent release, their double album ‘Opposites’.

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Up until then they’d punctuated the middle of the roaster, teetering on the edge of doing better, but never receiving the backing to rise farther up. In 2013 though, the bookers at Reading and Leeds after a few 7/10 shows at recent festivals took a gamble; they elevated Simon Neil’s threesome of slippery pliant Scotsmen to the lofty heights of headliner. The result was arguably the best headline performance at Richfield Avenue in 2 decades. Every song was an anthem, every ballad a soulful sing-along, every riff a rollicking ripper (try saying that at the end of a festivals worth of stale Strongbow and warm vodka). It was a rousing success and elevated The Biff to the kind of heights that now has them touted as potential Wembley Stadium headliners. Now of course while Noel Gallagher “can’t live in a world where Ed Sheeran sells out Wembley Stadium”, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing this sweaty topless threesome – what an image – screeching their balls off at the venue.

That’s the kind of effect a strong, edgy booking can have. That’s what can be achieved by going against the grain. It can stick in your memory and affect the careers of the artists involved. What does Mumford and Sons headlining Reading and Leeds mean? Probably a better turn out for the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage, if I’m honest.

The head honchos at Reading and Leeds should take a leaf out of the books of groundbreaking festivals books like Bestival, Secret Garden Party or Latitude. Exclusive sets from out-of-the-ordinary acts like OutKast or The Chemical Brothers are far more likely to excite and inspire sales. In a time where pockets are pinched and times are tight, you’ve got to do a lot to encourage your average tweenager to spend £200 on a festival ticket and not a week-long blowout in Malia spent grinding on strangers whilst sipping on buckets of Red Bull mixers.

 

Single Review: Hooton Tennis Club – Jasper

 
By on Monday, 23rd February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

When we talk about surf pop, the mind often wonders to the heroes of the genre – The Beach Boys, Eddie and the Showmen and The Astronauts. Now in the 21st century, you turn to bespectacled teenagers looking awkward by the sea like Wavves, Best Coast and of course those kings of melancholy and tight jeans The Drums. Well, we’ve got a new addition to that triage, in the shape of Hooton Tennis Club, who come from that surfing capital of the world, Liverpool… Yeah. Not so much, unless you like bobbing around the algae off the back of the tour boats whilst trying not to catch E. coli or Ebola.

Their new single ‘Jasper’ was recorded at fellow Liverpudlian Bill Ryder-Jones’ mother’s house. So you’ve already got the image of an incredibly low budget recording effort, which makes for a very laid-back tune. That’s what ‘Jasper’ is, in a nutshell. It’s not brash, brazen or the band trying to be anything they’re not. There’s something distinctly languid and almost quintessentially English to the melancholic tones of Hooton Tennis Club. The single is a delightful slice of off-colour pop music. It’s Khal, Haz, J. Dean and Uncle Ry’s debut single and marks the band as one of the up-and-coming indie starlets for 2015. They’re not in the Royal Blood mould, but I can’t see the populist Radio 1-friendly rock market not getting on board with the four-piece.

What I can see though is the soundtrack to stoner sessions in basements in Soho, or chill-out vibes on a patio in Brighton as eight Bird’s Eye own brand burgers sizzle on the barbecue. The band have taken a leaf out of Teenage Fanclub’s books in their songwriting, to good effect. Now it remains to be seen whether after Jasper, whether Hooton Tennis Club can go and discover their own verve and sound…

8/10

Hooton Tennis Club’s debut single ‘Jasper’ is out today on Heavenly Records.

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(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #341: Gengahr

 
By on Wednesday, 18th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The name Gengar for anyone between the ages of 10 and 25 will probably only conjure up one image: a giant purple ghost whose unevolved form would not stop giving you grief as you went through Lavender Tower, and had that kind of mischievous, possibly paedophilic grin painted on its face. After sufficient airplay on the BBC’s specialist music outlets – BBC 6 Music and Huw Stephens’ programme on Radio 1 – Gengahr (see the difference) may bring an altered image into your consciousness.

The North London four-piece are fronted by Felix Bushe, a man who’s not afraid to take on the sublimely creepy in his lyrics (and videos for that matter): take ‘Powder’ for example, it’s a chilling almost Addams’ Family Values take on your classic ’80s flick. They’re supported by BBC Introducing in London on their wee jaunt to Austin, Texas and that automatically will hand them some clout in the hazy heat of the desert. They’ve already impressed at festivals in the UK with their morose take on indie-psych pop, with audiences at Worthy Farm, Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park all seeing the allure of this indie band.

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They’ve got the backing of some serious names as well, after sharing the bill with both Dry the River and alt-j and opening for the latter at none other than the O2, they’ll not be daunted by much that is thrown their way. They’re also releasing their debut record this year, so with a trip to SXSW on the cards, it’s undeniably a crucial year for the band if they really do want to evolve from a BBC Intro buzz band to an act with some real hype and credibility. They’re also going to be showing their faces at The Great Escape in Brighton and at a few festivals across Europe like the Best Kept Secret festival in Holland, so it’s likely that their name is going to be out there during 2015.

What are they about? Well, it’s indie noir, if you can conjure up that. The kind of music that you’d expect to see underpinned by a video of a man in a purple smoking jacket, with a twirly little moustache, puffing on a strong mahogany pipe. Are you there yet? No! Well how about this – a morose mix of electronic guitar phase mixes, which are reminiscent of ’70s pop combined with layered vocals and dark sultry undertones.

They’ve caused a stir in the UK and around Europe and now it’s time to see whether audiences in America are going to be captivated by Genghar. Catch them next month at the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music night Wednesday, the 18th of March, at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas.

 

Preview: 2000 Trees Festival 2015

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015 at 9:00 am
 

We’ve all done it. Looked at that empty field down the road on a stuffy summer’s day, with a can in one hand and said, “yeah, I could put a festival on and that place over there would be fucking great. All my favourite bands would play, on the cheap of course, tickets would be tuppence and the cider would blow your bloody head off”.

Of course the difference between most people and the legends at 2000 Trees is that they bonny well went out and did it. And do you know what, it’s gone great.

2015 is set to be the eighth year where revellers descend on sleep Gloucestershire for some folk, fun and fornication and a whole whack of the best UK rock you can get your ears around. This year’s event takes place 9-11 July.

The first announcement for this year’s bash sees rejuvenated six-piece Deaf Havana topping the bill to make their bow at the festival. It’s been a while since the band stopped singing about ‘Friends Like These’ and moved on to a smarter, more mature sounding edge. In fact, their most recent record, Old Souls is testament to their transformation, into the UK’s very own Gaslight Anthem. Sure, James Veck-Gilodi may be one of the harder to like frontmen in Britain at the moment, but if one thing has gone down well at Upcote Farm in the past, it’s been a wholehearted, air-grabbing singalong. Just ask Mr Turner, he’s got a camp named after him. With the assets in Deaf Havana’s armada, it’s pretty obvious these guys will go down brilliantly at Trees.

Joining them on the bill are Arcane Roots, who will have likely be releasing their third studio album this year and went down incredibly well at last year’s bash. That aside, they fulfil the criteria for a Trees band perfectly: just under the radar British talent with incredible riffs and even better beards. Leeds trio Pulled About By Horses, another of those bands whose chaotic live show will surely ensure a rapturous reception from the Trees faithful, is also scheduled to appear.

Lower down the bill are the fantastic, Frank Turner-endorsed Solemn Sun who hail from that part of the woods. So you can expect the kind of hometown heroes welcome they’ll get. Tickets are currently £87 for the 3-day weekend plus fees. For more information, visit the 2000 Trees official Web site.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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