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Sitting in a bizarre juxtaposition to early Black Sabbath and the Indian subcontinent are The Wytches. It’s an odd place to be, but this three-piece are relishing the company – not in the way Bombay Bicycle Club did, mind – but more in a “look, here’s a snake charmer, OK? We’re done now, let’s melt your face off” kind of way.
‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is the band’s debut album and from the start, it grabs your attention with its ambition. We’ve got a vocalist in Kristian Bell who’s a mix between Eoin Loveless at his most lyrically scathing and Steven Ansell at his most lovelorn, spinning guttural, powerful yarns about his dejected heart-broken existence. Song number two ‘Wide at Midnight’ introduces you to the underlying concept of the record, dejection. Prior to that and almost through the entire first half of the record you’re transported to a grungy Mumbai market, as a snake-charming tune underlies the melody.
‘Fragile Male for Sale’ is a plundering tub-thumper of a track with some thudding, juddering drum pelts and a booming bass line. The entire record reeks of this DIY nu-grunge revolution that seems to be gathering force under the banner of bands like Drenge, Slaves and, to a lesser extent, Royal Blood. I’m steering away from the term Great British Guitar Band Revolution, because firstly it doesn’t fucking exist and secondly because it’s a figment of NME’s imagination.
The Wytches are most definitely the new poster boys then, as they tick all the right boxes in their debut outing. I mean, even in their promo shot they look effortlessly cool, whilst still managing to pull of the faux-grunge look by having questionable hair styles. The record spins between remarkably heavy going, in both melody and prose: Dan Rumsey and Gianni Honey are an indomitable engine room behind the musings of Kell. Some of the heavier tracks almost merge into the territory of doom rock; however, the subject matter veers away from the bloody and dismembered, which I’d most certainly count as a positive development.
If you’re a guitar purist, you may be perturbed by the sheer quantity of reverb on most of the songs. But if you like your riffs unrefined and dirty as the floor of your car, then ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is the place for you. There are hints of The Melvins and The Scientists, in their noise-punky sound, but it’s got a far more 21st century edge, the kind which will undoubtedly see them compared to Nirvana.
As frontmen of this nu-grunge revolution, this Brighton born triumvirate will be waving their tricolore abroad as they are one of the chosen few bands, alongside acts like The Wombats, Dry the River, Fenech-Soler, Hadouken, Imogen Heap and Waylayers, in receipt of a share of £1,750,000 over the next two years. Why you ask? So the UK government can encourage them to promote their music around the world as part of the Music Export Growth Scheme.
With the 47-minute belter that ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is in The Wytches arsenal, I doubt audiences in America and afar will struggle to become as enamoured with the band as I have. The record is effortlessly powerful and manages to show a real heart in ‘Summer Again’ and ‘Weights and Ties’, showing that the boys can play it tough, but can also connect with an audience through some overwhelmingly powerful narratives.
Viva La Revolution, then?
The Wytches‘ debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is out today on Heavenly Recordings. Catch the band live as they traverse the UK in the last 3 months of 2014; all their touring plans are here.
Glasgow-born foursome Twin Atlantic have always walked on the poppier side of the alternative rock road. Nowhere near heavy enough to share the sidewalks with the likes of Biffy Clyro and far too prone to a spate of jazzy piano – take ‘I Am an Animal’ as case in point – to brush shoulders with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age. Yet with their rock credentials on show, they’re still keeping well clear of the likes of Snow Patrol and Travis.
I was never really one to question their rock credentials, but after the release of ‘Heart and Soul’, I felt a swift check over their authorisation was in order to allow them access to the venerated Alt-Rock circle. ‘Heart and Soul’ is a bold statement, it’s not exactly the most subtle in the message conveyed – “When you open up your heart and your soul / take my love and never grow old, yeah / open up your heart and your soul” – and after a few listens, it did sound rather formulaic. However, to release a single after your breakthrough album that strikes such a tangent from what’s expected from the band is about as courageous a statement as you can make with the band in its infancy.
Their new album released this week, ‘Great Divide’, feels a bit schizophrenic. There are light hearted numbers like ‘I Am an Animal’, which feel like Beatles-inspired pop bouncers, whilst ‘Hold On’ and ‘Cell Mate’ both have all the hallmarks of balls out guts or glory arena rock. It’s in these big, kilts up charge the English moments where Twin Atlantic are at their best (yes, I’ve gone full Mel Gibson in Braveheart). OK, so Sam McTrusty may not be painting his chest, swinging his cock around and screaming, “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” But ‘Cell Mate’ is an absolute stormer, with a stomping riff and a huge chorus of “Don’t let me down / from so far away/ ’cause I’m you’re cell mate / yeah I’m you’re cell mate”, where McTrusty, Barry McKenna, Ross McNae and Craig Kneale do their best to talk champion fraternity and put the boot in to the bonus-grabbing, office dwelling bourgeoisie. Their sentiment, not mine (I worked in a bank once).
‘Brothers and Sisters’ (watch it here) is one of McTrusty’s most poignant pieces of songwriting and is certain to be a hit with the already enamoured Radio 1-ati – especially as Fearne Cotton, Zane Lowe and Greg James are all already drooling into their respective buckets, which they’ve of course used for drool after their ice bucket challenge, after listening to ‘Great Divide’. The more timid of the tracks, in particular ‘Rest in Pieces’, do feel slightly clichéd and almost forced. The four-piece are certainly at their best when they’ve got their amps turned up to eleven and are going for a solid bit arena sized cock-rock.
That’s where the disappointment in ‘Great Divide’ lies, as it feels like an album with, to forgive the pun, but a Great Divide of its own. It’s a record from a band, that are almost having a post-university, quarter-life crisis. They’ve had a great time touring and promoting the incredibly successful ‘Free’ and now they’re stuck at home deciding what exactly they want to do with themselves. Sadly, like most people suffering from their own quarter-life crisis, they will probably have to learn from their mistakes here; the clichés are overdone and all too obvious. But, there’s solace in some of the Foo Fighters / Bon Jovi-lite stadium rock they’ve clocked up. They may not have found a niche, but hopefully when they tour and festival the bejesus out of this material they’ll get to the ‘Heart and Soul’ (pun #2 of this review) of where *they* want to be going. I don’t think it’s the soppy cliché ridden ballad route, and I don’t think they want to go that way either.
Twin Atlantic‘s third album ‘Great Divide’ is out now on Red Bull Records. Catch the band on tour in the UK in October; all the details are this way.
Warning: this video contains big riffs, sordid sexy bass chugs and a screech or two.
Oh, and something about a horrid afterbirth-y creature with a hairpiece on, which starts breathing. But ignore that.
The video to Pulled Apart By Horses’ ‘Lizard Baby’ has dominated a lot of the chatter in the build-up the single’s eventual release in September. What the fuss is about is particularly beyond me. But perhaps seeing as I have done a stint at Zoo Magazine and worked with the ex-Production Editor of Bizarre, it takes a little more than usual to see me regurgitating last night’s roast dinner. The new single is a turnaround from their last album’s opening single, the aural bombardment that is ‘V.E.N.O.M.’
‘Lizard Baby’ seems like a far more measured approach from a band with a far grungier look than they’ve ever had, in their short career. After a thudding bass roll that continues throughout, the song introduces Tom Hudson, and then the band delves into more composed territory than we’ve ever seen before from Pulled Apart by Horses. A band known for the frenetic pace and incredibly pacey riffs have moved into Pixies-esque territory.
It’s far more melodic than the short, sharp bursts of frantic alternative rock we’ve come to expect from the band, with a Nirvana ‘Heart Shaped Box’-tinged vibe. Undeniably, it’s a headbanger throughout – the riffs are colossal and it builds to an enormous crescendo, with some classic Horses’ screeching. Whether it’s a warning shot as to what we can expect on the 1st of September, when their third album ‘Blood’ is also released, I’m less sure. But I sense perhaps these young ruffians from Leeds have decided to steer away from singing songs about how they ‘Punched a Lion in the Throat’ towards a more Foo Fighters’ Radio 1-friendly rock. It doesn’t seem like the boys have lost any of their edge; the wildly bizarre video is testament to that.
Let’s just hope these horses haven’t been tamed by the prospect of the Radio 1 A-listing and Fearne Cotton’s warm bosom.
‘Lizard Baby’, Pulled Apart by Horses’ next single, is out on the 1st of September, the same day their third album ‘Blood’ will be released.
The first half of John’s Saturday coverage of 2000 Trees 2014 is here.
During Blitz Kids’ set earlier in the day, gradually the Main Stage arena was populated by people in fancy dress. The theme for the weekend was ‘The Box Set’. So we’re talking, Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Jon Snow, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Doctor Who. You get the picture.
The prizes were for the best individual fancy dress costume and the best group one. Now, my favourite group costume was undoubtedly a group of people with black painted beards and moustaches. They had black feathery long cloaks and carried staffs. I’m hearing you; they were most definitely Brothers of the Knight’s Watch. Surely in this year of Game of Thrones’ Mania, they couldn’t be anything else!? WRONG.
This cast of ten were dressed as Raven, the children’s game show host from the TV show Raven. Ya know, that TV show that was on a good 5 years ago and nobody has the foggiest clue what it is anymore. That. What made it even funnier is that NOBODY had any idea what Raven was and kept on saying they were Brothers of the Knight’s Watch, which just added to their frustration. Add to that the fact that it was hotter than Satan’s armpit, and they were wearing full leather and feather costumes, and you had a concoction for sweatiness.
In the end, despite their efforts, the Ravens didn’t win. They were defeated by six people who had quite literally come as box sets: seasons one to six of Lost. A stellar effort if you ask me. In the individual category, the winner was a Game of Thrones-ite, somebody dressed as Rob Snow, pre-Red Wedding…
Luckily, he was in the tent next to us too.
Its little annual quirks like this – the fancy dress competition and things like Camp Turner and Reuben – which make 2000 Trees a festival like no other. It’s got an unmatchable sense of personality and from the moment you step on the fields of Upcote Farm, it’s obvious that the people who came together to run the festival, were people who really give a shit about music festivals. What makes it even more spectacular is that the festival seems to attract people who are willing to get in on this utopic ideology. The best example of this was probably found just after the fancy dress contest, when I was walking away from the Main Stage in-between Blitz Kids and Canterbury for a drink.
The floor was completely clear. Not a fleck of rubbish on the ground – no cups, no wooden cutlery, no discarded noodles. Just freshly trodden on grass with the occasional welly print. On the final day of a festival, it’s frankly unheard of outside of Upcote Farm for this to be the case. Small things that make a big difference in my eyes.
Back to the bands and next up on the Main Stage were Canterbury. A group of four lads who obviously were very well liked by their head teacher at school, seeing as that could be the only way they’ve been let out of school so early. Either that, or god forbid they’d actually finished school? No way, they looked like they’d barely hit puberty!
Now I’ve heard a few of their songs on Spotify and been impressed, as they were catchy and seemed like a solid guitar band. Unfortunately, their set at 2000 Trees was underwhelming; even with lukewarm expectations, it was instantly forgettable, like a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist. (4/10)
After such a mediocre set on the Main Stage I made my first pilgrimage (300 yard walk) to The Axiom, which serves as 2000 Trees’ third stage. The last time I was lucky enough to bear witness to the ferocity of The Virginmarys was at Reading Festival last year.
Bizarrely, while on the Axiom Stage, the band were wearing almost identical outfits to the ones I saw them wear at Reading. Weird, I know. My first thought was, I hope they’ve been washed, before the threesome tore into their opening barrage. Their set was a breathtaking mix of catchy faux-Americana guitar music and frantic riffs that captivated the ever-growing crowd from the first moment.
Young girls of around 15 were dancing with their flower crowns in their hair, while aged retainers with Virginmarys t-shirts head-banged frantically over the railings at the front of the crowd. Drummer Danny Dolan dominated the stage with his enormous form at the back of the troupe, pummelling the kit like a man possessed and getting to his feet to completely punish the skins with his sticks.
Ally Dickaty’s rasping tones are the perfect front to this incredibly genuine Macclesfield rock band, and their debut album ‘King of Conflict’ is undoubtedly just the beginning of a very special journey for the band, one that continued in tremendous form at 2000 Trees, marking them out as one of the best acts of the weekend. (9/10)
After a brief food related interlude we returned to the fray for something the 2000 Trees audience have been waiting for, for possibly 7 years. Every year when Trees ask their numerous forums and social media outlets who should play at the festival, the cry is for a Reuben reunion. The cult-following of the 2000 Trees faithful is so powerful, so fanatic that there’s even a camp named after the now-deceased gods of underground post-hardcore.
While the band do still remain in a state of indefinite hiatus, the fact Jamie Lenman, the moustachioed frontman of the band, was gearing up for his appearance on The Cave was enough to pack the tent out, so that bodies were overflowing into the campsites. On record, Lenman’s eclectic mix of hardcore screams and then a separate album of lightly woven lovelorn ballads is admittedly a bit bizarre. However, live and with an audience worshipping his every breath, fart and most-likely bowel movements, it was always going to be a triumphant Upcote Farm debut for Lenman.
The crowd hung on every last syllable uttered by the moustachioed troubadour, whether he was screaming himself hoarse or spinning another ballad the he held the crowd within the palm of his hand from start to finish, standing on stage in his dungarees, sweating buckets in the warm red lights that illuminated The Cave. (9/10)
Closing the day’s festivities and the entire event, were the enigmatic Frightened Rabbit, a band who I don’t pretend to know anything about, apart from the fact they’re Scottish. With the serene settings and the great oak overlooking the stage, the band unleashed a set almost tailor-made for this faux-hippy festival. Part folk, part rock and with lead singer Scott Hutchison obviously humbled by the warm reception he received from the 2000 Trees crowd they brought the proverbial curtain down with enigmatic style. (8/10)
John’s other coverage of 2000 Trees in 2014 is here.
The final day of music at any festival is a catastrophe of decisions – do you pack up early so you can cheese it as soon as the final band of the day leaves the stage? Or perhaps you get so wasted that your friend is forced into driving the first leg away, while you nap and slowly wee yourself in the back seat? Or maybe you have a sober day, sleep in your tent and sneak of in the early hours of the morning so you don’t have to say goodbye to the associated band of brothers you’ve collected around your pitch?
I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s enough to drive a sane man completely off his rocker in a bad way. With the proverbial dilemma whirling around my head, I decided the best way to banish the thoughts to my head was with some loud music.
Opening the Main Stage for the Saturday were Essex six-piece The Dead Formats – a band I hadn’t heard of, but ended up being pleasantly surprised by. I’m always suspicious of a band that turns out with dual vocalists; my mind always goes immediately to the image of two guys with equally inadequate vocal ranges, battling against each other and in the end sounding like a bit of a mess.
Luckily, The Dead Formats had two incredibly talented geezers behind the microphone and immediately made an impact with their ‘80s punk inspired tunes. They’re a band still finding their feet on a big stage, as every member looked palpably nervous with the prospect of playing to such a wide expanse. They grew into the set though and eventually had people shaking off their early morning grogginess at the front of the pit. (7/10)
Regrettably after a strong opening, I moved back to The Cave to check out the highly fancied, but inexplicably named &U&I. The Birmingham-born threesome had little to endear them to the crowd from the beginning. The songs were entirely forgettable and tended to blend horribly into one after their 30-minute set had concluded, in a flurry of riffs and yelps. (4/10)
It was a move from surprising disappointment, to astonishing shock when I came back to the Main Stage to get a look at Nathan Connolly of Snow Patrol fame and his new supergroup Little Matador (pictured at top at another gig in 2013). On stage they look like a group of grizzled veterans, not in an Expendables 3 way, but in the way you’d want a supergroup to be. They had an air of control over the crowd from the start, without really doing much at all.
Connolly has immense stage presence and immediately commanded the gathering crowd to his will, blasting out some groovy, almost sleaze-rock. There was no rubbish in their set, no waste, no gimmicks. Just a group of grizzled rock troupers with guitars, bass and drums going hell-bent for leather to give the crowd something to bang their head to. I hope they don’t get swept away in the whole “he was in Snow Patrol, so they cannot be truly rock” argument, because nothing is further from the truth. Arguably, Connolly’s experience in the band has honed him into the man who dominated the Main Stage at Upcote Farm. (8/10)
With Kids in Glass Houses bowing out this year and having played 2000 Trees the day before, there is an opening in the UK for a lively pop-punky You Me at Six lite. Enter Blitz Kids, the heirs apparent to the throne that the Kids will be vacating in October. They’ve got all the needed credentials as a group of four good-looking young lads in baggy vests, gallivanting around the stage like nobody’s business!
They’ve got the tunes to back up the look, though: set closer ‘On My Own’ provoked one of the biggest mass sing-alongs of the weekend, whilst ‘Never Die’ inspired an excitable reaction from the gathered group of teenage girls and young blokes with poorly finished sleeve tattoos. Frontman Jono Yates has got some great on-stage banter to back up his excellent form on Twitter, and mid-way through Saturday, they pulled out one of the sets of the weekend. On Facebook they describe themselves as “4 best mates making music for the love of it”, and the set they pulled out certainly made it look like that. These boys are going to get very big very quickly – perhaps the Kids in Glass Houses’ throne isn’t big enough? (8/10)
Stay tuned for the conclusion of John’s coverage of 2000 Trees – including results of the fancy dress contest! – tomorrow.
The first half of John’s Friday coverage of 2000 Trees 2014 is here.
Following up from Itch, were a three-piece described by my camp next-door neighbours as “his new favourite band of the last year and a half”. Arcane Roots, have undergone an extraordinary rise through the ranks of British rock, to become one of the most well thought of bands in the UK at the moment. They’ve toured with the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro and seem to be taking the same path as the Scottish behemoths of rock. Building an underground following with complex riffery, high-pitched screamery and dreamy beardery, they’re only a ‘Puzzle’ away from exploding onto the world scene in a big way.
At Upcote Farm, they opened with their newest standalone single ‘Over and Over’ and immediately began about dominating the vast stage, by swinging themselves around as they picked away. On the times I’ve seen Arcane Roots they’ve always opened with ‘Energy is Never Lost, Just Redirected’, which has a slow build up and normally has the crowd bursting with energy when the riff drops,. However in this shorter festival set, there were a few changes which meant the set as a whole was less fluid then in the past.
Still, the delivery from the three-piece was frenetic and superb and left a lot of the crowd joining in with my neighbour. “They’re my new favourite band! I’m going to download their back catalogue when I get home.” Success. (7/10)
I was surprised by this next act. Mainly due to the fact I forgot they were still a functioning entity, after being dropped by their label. But low and behold You Me at Six-lite… I mean Kids in Glass Houses strode onto stage as if not a year had passed since ‘Give Me What I Want’ had been the anthem(ish) of the year.
It was a joyful last hurrah from the Kids, seeing as they are ready to embark upon their farewell tour after 11 or so years of peddling pop-punk. The songs were catchy and poppy enough to sing along to, especially if you were one of the 1,000 girls clad in denim shorts that just aren’t big enough for you. Some of the older rock purists gathered around me near the sound desk scoffed at the lovelorn tales of teenage angst. I suppose Kids in Glass Houses are a generational thing.
But, to anybody who was looking for a shameless good time, as well as a little dance in front of the Main Stage the Welsh five-piece were exactly what the doctor ordered. Songs like ‘Undercover Lover’ may sound like they’ve been ripped from a High School Musical soundtrack, but in the Gloucestershire sunshine they proved popular. I won’t be one to shed a tear when the group say their final good byes, but after their bouncing, peppy 2000 Trees set, I certainly won’t be saying ‘good riddance’. (7/10)
From preppy, plucky, pop-punk plush to sweaty, sweary screamcore. Everybody in The Cave knew they were in for an ear battering from Trash Talk’s Lee Spielman. Having seen them for the first time only a week previously at Sonisphere, I knew unless I wanted to be caught up in a swirling mass of enforced circle pits, I should stand a good distance to the back of the circus tent which formed The Cave.
From the moment the four-piece arrived on stage the crowd were battered by wave after wave of short, sharp bursts of sound. Trash Talk aren’t the type to mess about and frontman Spielman isn’t the kind of man who enjoys the confines of a stage. No, he’s far more at home amongst the crowd, inciting violence at any opportunity and giving any punter a go with the microphone. (8/10)
Back at the Main Stage, Blood Red Shoes provided one of the most memorable sets of the weekend for two reasons. Firstly, for the fact that as a live outfit, the twosome are a superb band, with a great set of DIY credentials and a fast paced live show like none other. The other reason being that Laura-Mary Carter took offence (for good reason) with a fan in the crowd who looked like he was giving the band the Vs for the entire set. Not cool. Not cool at all and although I hate the word vibe, completely out of touch with the festival’s extremely friendly vibe. Carter midway through the set looked up, pointed in the crowd and told the offending gentleman that he was a “wanker” and he could “fuck off”. The only problem with that being, that pointing out from the Main Stage, half the crowd thought she was pointing at them and looked horror-struck at the accusations.
Unpleasantness aside, it’s no surprise that in the programme the Trees organisers claimed they’ve been trying to get Blood Red Shoes for a number of years. They’re still young, they’re innovative and even after 10 years of touring, they’re still one of the bands championing good, honest British rock music.
Drawing from their immense back catalogue and partly from their most recent self-titled album, the duo roared through an lively hour-long set where the band failed to miss a note. Steven Ansell played the drums like a man possessed and held no quarter when smashing two shades of shit out of the kit at times. Carter, fired up with rage, stomped around the stage like a rock goddess, full of fury and presence. (9/10)
Now, I had some reservations when I saw Band of Skulls (pictured at top) as the headline act on the bill. They put on a superb live show, of that there is no doubt. But do they have enough big tunes to close a festival? Even a small festival like 2000 Trees? How wrong I was proved over their hour and half set.
At quarter to 9 when the three-piece strode on stage, the light was just leaving the sky and the immense canopy behind the Main Stage was lighting up magnificently, showcasing all of the beauty I’d come to expect from the Upcote Farm stage.
Despite the glorious scenery around the stage, it was what was happening right in the middle of it all which held be captivated. Matt Hayward on the drums put in arguably one of the most perfect drumming performances that I’ve ever seen. The power behind every beat was insurmountable and sent a wave of bass across the small arena. It’s a good job Upcote Farm is out of the city, as if Hayward was smashing away at that time at Reading Festival, he’d have sent the entire population barmy with sleep deprivation. Hayward’s immense showing on the drums was matched by the marauding presence of bassist Emma Richardson, who strut about the stage like a giant. Finishing it all off was Russell Marsden, who took every opportunity to thank the ever-appreciative 2000 Trees crowd, who loved every second of the set.
I thought it was a risk playing their most well-known anthem ‘I Know What I Am’ early on in the set, but as a live outfit ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On’ and ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ were given a revitalisation and pumped out of the speakers with a ferocity which caused the Trees crowd to get worked up into a frenzy.
Every song had an enormous stomping beat to it and a singalong chorus to boot. The perfect end, to a superb day of British music – and undoubtedly unearthing headline talent of the future. (10/10)
Enjoying TGTF’s coverage of 2000 Trees 2014? More of John’s reports will post soon.
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