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When I listen to Young Guns, I expect pompous, bloated choruses that set the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Ridiculous inflated drops which chug with the kind of thud of a jet engine on a Boeing 747, perhaps with some strings littered in the background for extra gravitas. Their upcoming single ‘Daylight’ disappointingly delivered on only one of these expectations, this being that there were a few strings thrown onto it for good measure.
Young Guns, when they arrived on the scene, were hailed as a traditional alternative rock outlet. The kind you’d find every 3 months on a cycle on the front page of Kerrang!, looking moody and telling their interviewer, “this album almost tore me apart”.
‘Daylight’ is the work of a band trying to evolve and become something new, but sadly stumbling at the first hurdle. The opening sounds like a mix of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’, and the rest has a painstaking late ‘90s boyband feel to it. Now, okay, pop punk and alt rock has always walked a fine line between what’s alternative and cool and what’s mainstream and boyband-y, Blink 182 being the obvious example. On ‘Daylight’, Young Guns tiptoe on the line and are sadly blown off by a gust of wind, which says it’s just a little too far into the realms of synth to sound rocky at all.
The chorus sees Gustav Wood going a little too ‘Twilight’ for me and while he may be appealing to an audience which loves whiny frontmen, it just doesn’t suit Wood and co. The riffs aren’t beefy, the drops are nonexistent and although their first two records weren’t exactly raw, this single has too much production sheen on it for me.
‘Daylight’ is taken from the new Young Guns album ‘Ones And Zeros’, to be released the 8th of June on Virgin EMI. Past posts on the band on TGTF are here.
When you started your first job, did your parents tell you if you just did the simple things right and well, then you’d probably do alright? Or maybe it was when you started playing football? You were probably told if you can learn to do the basics properly and repeat it, you’d end up doing pretty well for yourself.
I’m pretty sure, despite the Ben Drew-esque back stories I’m intrinsically drawn to when I think of Slaves – you really can’t help it when you see the Nike trainers and surprisingly shiny jackets – that Slaves must have received some pretty good parental advice before embarking on a musical career.
I can almost hear it now as lil’ Laurie Vincent walked out of the door, ready to face the big wide world. “keep it simple, lad!”, his West Ham-supporting Dad will have shouted, before adding “stick to repetition!” as Vincent went round the corner.
Three singles into the band’s fledgling career, and the advice is serving the twosome rather well. ‘Cheer Up London’ is another devilish slab of cheekiness from the lads who are likely to redefine the meaning of ‘cheeky chappies’. The delightfully simple, almost mundane suggestion to “put another 0 on your paycheque / are you done digging your grave yet?” will strike accord with any creative type watching the city slickers on London boost their pension pot. I mean they put it perfectly: “how could it be so bad when you’re already dead?”
In 2 and half minutes and probably using below 50 words altogether, Slaves take a cuttingly cynical eye on the socio-economic norms of the UK in a way not done since Gallows’ ‘Grey Britain’. It’s enough to strike an accord with any young creative type silently judging the banking middle classes who Slaves say “are dead already”.
Now, they’re not going to make any friends in ‘the city’ – I don’t think it was their aim to, in fairness – but sticking to the formula that has seen them noticed over the last few months seems a good move, with ‘Cheer Up London’ is another fantastic example of Slaves are becoming known for. Incisive, relatable and catchy punk.
‘Cheer Up London’ is available instantly by preordering Slaves’ debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’, released on the same day as the 7″ single on Virgin EMI. For other coverage of Slaves on TGTF, head this way.
I 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Tall Ships’ upcoming single ‘Will to Life’ will be released on a 7″ on the 25th of May on Too Pure Singles.
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’.
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.
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…
Hooton Tennis Club’s debut single ‘Jasper’ is out today on Heavenly Records.
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