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Album Review: Morning Parade – Pure Adulterated Joy

 
By on Friday, 19th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

In name and in substance, my mind drifted to thoughts of Mayday Parade meets Morning Glory – a lazy amalgamation, or an apt comparison? I’m tempted (if not because I’m slightly biased, as it was my own musings) to decide upon on the latter. Morning Parade’s second album ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ feels immediately like a new throwback on the emo records of the past decade.

Taking small influences from bands like Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional and to a lesser extent daddies of the genre, Jimmy Eat World – less cannibalistic and more like a tapas bar where Morning Parade have dined sparingly. After their grazing on what the still-cool but a bit run down tapas bar of emo had to offer – where I can only assume Gerard Way is a waiter after releasing a mediocre solo album – they’ve stopped off at that quirky throwback café where they’ve sampled the mild yet refreshing tastes of classic indie, which I can only assume is a bit like Earl Grey. Except, instead of tasting a bit lemony, it tastes a bit more like sweat and tears.

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A trip to a tapas bar and then a weak cup of herbal tea doesn’t exactly sound like, well, my cup of tea. However, bizarre metaphors aside – the influences Morning Parade have channelled on ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ have moulded into a formidable record that leaves a delicious taste in the mouth. As an antipasti, ‘Shake the Cage’ and ‘Alienation’ provide a rough and raw introduction to the soaring choruses and frantic guitar rhythms that litter the album. ‘Alienation’ though is the standout track of the record, with a sound that could easily strut into Radio 1’s A list and sit quite comfortably next to that chirruping turnip George Ezra – we get it, all your songs are going to sound identical because of your ‘mature’ voice – rant over.

Lead vocalist Steve Sparrow (no relation to Captain Jack, I’m assured) does have a habit of going a bit Thom Yorke on ‘Kid A’ on us, getting especially warbly on ‘Car Alarms and Sleepness Nights’. On Spotify, it states the band are in the same vein as Friendly Fires, Fenech-Soler and Delphic – this is a trifle off, as it’s only ‘Seasick’ and ‘Reality Dream’ that dabble in the realms of electronica – with ‘Reality Dream’ in particular showing shades of Delphic’s breakout single ‘Doubt’. ‘Seasick’ floats errantly in the electronic, and in turn, ended up making feel a little queasy myself.

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With the flecks of emo dashing the record, I’d expected a more sombre tone to some of the songwriting, even if the title of the album is ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’. ‘Reality Dream’ is a superb glittering showcase of the championing the power of positive thinking throughout adversity: “Don’t spend your life pretending / Your happy end already passed.” However, it’s not all sun drops and lollipops of course, with ‘Culture Vulture’ providing a thorough injection of real life/reality TV satire, “there’s reason in repeating rhymes and throwing keys and swapping wives / as long as it’s within the privacy of our own private lives / stuck with no direction seeking everyone’s attention/out for his or her’s affection / fall out of cover and collection / no Viagra, no erection / no insurance, no protection / and no cure and no prevention.” Cameron’s Britain, eh?

Sparrow even delves into the comically vulgar at the end of ‘Car Alarms and Sleepless Nights’, whispering twice, “would you piss on me if I was on fire?” Hardly deep, but certainly ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ is a breakout album for the Harlow five-piece. Their collaboration with producer Ben Allen (famed for his work with Animal Collective and Bombay Bicycle Club) on this record has paid dividends, as the end product is flawless and undoubtedly their sound has been further refined since their self-titled debut. They’re a band with the wind under their sails, where it will take them, is up to them.

8/10

‘Pure Adulterated Joy’, Morning Parade‘s sophomore album, is out now on So Recordings / Kobalt.

 

Album Review: The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader

 
By on Monday, 25th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

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?

9/10

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.

 

Album Review: Twin Atlantic – Great Divide

 
By on Friday, 22nd August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

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.

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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.

6/10

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.

 

Single Review: Pulled Apart by Horses – Lizard Baby

 
By on Tuesday, 19th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

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.

8/10

‘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.

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2000 Trees Festival 2014 Roundup: Day 3 (Saturday) – Part 2

 
By on Friday, 8th August 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

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)

 

2000 Trees Festival 2014 Roundup: Day 3 (Saturday) – Part 1

 
By on Thursday, 7th August 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

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.

 
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