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(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #317: Mallory Knox

 
By on Thursday, 18th December 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Soaring choruses and humongous riffs. The kind that have you grappling with your air guitar in the kitchen as your spuds boil over in the saucepan. There’s a lot of good British rock around at the moment, but Mallory Knox are part of a select few who demand you take notice of them. They’re up there with We Are the Ocean, Royal Blood, Marmozets and Deaf Havana: the kind of bands who will live past the hype which brought them into the public’s perception.

Firstly, it helps that the likes of BBC presenters Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens have already got on board with these boys and plastered them across Radio 1’s output. It also helps that they aren’t afraid of touring wherever they can: testament to this is a year and a half ago, when the band were climbing to the heights they’ve managed to stay at, when they played Guernsey’s Chaos Festival. They absolutely tore the roof off the tent, to the 500-ish people they played to.

It’s further evidence that SXSW could be a huge juncture for them, where they can begin flogging their wares to the extremely lucrative U.S. market. Mumford and Sons and One Direction have managed – why can’t balls-out British rock do the same?

Songs like ‘Shout at the Moon’, ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ and ‘Lighthouse’ are all the kind of anthemic tunes which will lodge their place in crowds brains and have them umm-ing and arr-ing on the way home about whether to get straight onto iTunes and download their tracks. It’s hand on heart kind of stuff, which has already given them a fantastic name for themselves in the UK.

This Cambridge five-piece are going to stand out. Of that there is no doubt. Even if in the beginning it’ll be for being one of the only bands at the festival who won’t be arriving at the festival with synthesisers, a half-finished haircut and a whiny voice.

No gimmicks, no nonsense. Mallory Knox will have SXSW punters shouting at the moon in March 2015.

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Preview: Reading and Leeds 2015

 
By on Tuesday, 16th December 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Round and round the big festival headliner roundabout goes. Will it be Muse? Unlikely, give it another few years. Foo Fighters? I’d bet good money this is going to happen. Blink-182? Bit early! Metallica? Yeah, why not! They’ve not released anything as a band proper since 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’!

Upon the announcement, what did Lars Ulrich have to say about playing Reading and Leeds for the fourth time? “We are practically the house band.” You’re not wrong, Lars.

Now, I’m not saying the announcement of undeniably the greatest thrash metal band touring at the moment is a bad thing. But it does seem that these big ticket festivals are becoming overly reliant on a select group of supergroups, rotating the same headliners and introducing a new name to the melting pot oh so infrequently. Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore joined the top table patriarchy last year through their co-headline slot. But really the first time a band reached the line-up summit was Biffy Clyro in 2013. Their headline set at Reading and Leeds last year raised the bar, showing exactly what a band who have been lifted to the top of the bill can achieve with the proverbial wind of change in their sails.

Fast-forward to 2015 and we have, as mentioned by Mr Ulrich, Metallica topping the bill for the fourth time. You know what you get from the Americans, which I can pay testament to after Sonisphere earlier this year. You get a headline set full of flair, personality and tunes. They slayed Glastonbury and left egg on many a head with their superb showmanship. It’s an even safer booking for Reading and Leeds, as heavy metal tends to go down far more favourably in front of 100,000 16- and 17-year olds off their heads on warm Kopparberg and MDMA, compared to 200,000 woolly liberals stoned off their heads stumbling around a farm. Nobody can deny that when the opening riffs of ‘Master of Puppets’ drops, the tweens and the hardcores will all unite in throwing some horns. It’s a no brainer.

As for the rest of the first announcement, the most enticing has to be the return of Jamie T. ‘Carry on the Grudge’ dropped in September of this year and encapsulated everything any fan of the 28-year old poet wanted. The tunes were the kind which burrowed their way into your cerebral cortex and didn’t budge. The South London-born singer-songwriter went away and evolved forward and I can see Richfield Avenue going absolutely mental for him.

As for the rest, Wilkinson is one of those bookings which will appeal to the Snapchat generation, much in the same way Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did last year. For me, I feel it’s not the way I would like to see the festival going.

But I also understand that an event like Reading and Leeds needs to sell tickets.

D’uh.

To purchase basic weekend tickets for Reading Festival 2015, go here, where the price currently stands at £205 plus fees. For tickets to its more northern counterpart Leeds Festival 2015 offered at the same price, head this way.

 

Preview: Liverpool Sound City 2015

 
By on Monday, 15th December 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Uproar. There’d be upper-middle class uproar in the streets of Soho if Worthy Farm were to be ditched in favour of a new location for the yearly Glasto bash. People would be throwing down their bowls in cereal bars and tossing their £4.50 mini-paninis in the air in Starbucks. Imagine Reading shifting itself from Richfield Avenue, or Download departing from Donington: it just wouldn’t be on.

These are just a few examples of why Liverpool Sound City 2015 will undeniably the most important year in the festival’s history. The festival is moving from the established inner city in and around Wolstenholme Square, where it has grown and evolved, to the Bramley Moore Dock. It’s a move that Sound City CEO Dave Pichilingi says aids in “our goal year on year being to evolve, grow, challenge, inspire, surprise and delight.”

It did surprise me, there’s no doubting that. As in its 2014 guise, the festival seemed to work a charm, with the tightly knotted interlocking streets of Liverpool city centre providing a maze for punters to stumble through on the way to the next new band they wanted to watch. The decision to ditch the old locations may have been assisted by the old area to soon lose one of its most charming venues, The Kazimier, and alongside this, TGTF favourite The Kazimier Gardens, two of the most atmospheric and chilled venues that the festival had to offer in its old guise.

So barring a location change, what else are the Sound City crew throwing our way to entice us to Liverpool? Well, the most recent headliner announced is bound to draw fans of all demographics to Liverpool. Even if they haven’t released a solid record since ‘At War with the Mystics’, The Flaming Lips (pictured at top) will arrive in Liverpool with one of the most notoriously fun live shows in tow for Saturday night. Frontman Wayne Coyne, who’s known to ride the crowd at the start of gigs in a zorb, is the kind of focal point who will sell tickets on the site of their name on the bill.

The festivals Web site also says, “the site change also opens Sound City up to bigger artists, the first being the legendary Belle and Sebastian, who will play on the historic Liverpool waterfront backed by a full orchestra.” Now after bearing witness to the power of some of Liverpool Sound City’s special sets – including a rousing performance by Noah and the Whale playing inside the Anglican cathedral with the rest of the TGTF crew in 2013, the prospect of the legendary group backed by an entire symphonic orchestra, to close out the event even, is enough to have me chomping at the bit.

So with only two announcements so far to sink ones teeth into, even in its new location the festival looks almost certain to be another success. The only question is, with two bonafide indie legends topping the bill, who have they got up their sleeves for the opening Friday? Most of the announcements have been a huge, welcome surprise. Who Friday’s headliner are is anyone’s guess, but I for one can’t wait to find out.

 

Album Review: Frank Turner – The Third Three Years

 
By on Friday, 28th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Fandom is a weird thing. Most recently the world has been blighted by a plague of fangirls and boys, masquerading as Beliebers, Directoners and the 5SOS Family. Groups of people bombarding online platforms with inane drivel about these ‘bands’, followed by the occasional session of stalking. On the flipside of that, in a completely non-sinister way, Frank Turner has continued to inspire his own band of twenty-something fanatics who’ve lifted him to the heady heights of headlining Wembley and appearing at the 2012 London Olympics. It’s a completely different kind of fandom though, with just a hint of fanaticism. See, Frank Turner fans are less likely to have gelled hair stuck up like a half-pipe and are more likely to be wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, smoking a doob at a gig and telling you they don’t care about music until Kyuss reform and tour. But it’s this loyal cohort of Turnees (this is neither a thing, nor is it a word) who can be relied upon to get onboard with the ex-Million Dead frontman’s newest album, ‘The Third Three Years’.

I only say this, because as much fun as this record is, it’s just a glorified collection of acoustic covers, B-sides and live versions. It’s charming, there is no doubt. Hearing Turner emulate his heroes Bruce Springsteen on ‘Born to Run’, Freddie Mercury on ‘Somebody to Love’ and Paul McCartney on ‘Live and Let Die’ is a great bit of fun and will certainly pay off with his loyal following. But as a completely standalone album, it’s a little underwhelming, especially as it clocks in at well over an hour and it has some significant lull points. Which have you thinking, is this just a wee money spinner over the crimble period? But perhaps this is me just being a little bit too cynical.

On this record, Frank Turner does what he has been doing for the past decade, which is rewarding his loyal fanbase with a chest-load of gems and goodies. ‘Hits and Mrs’ is a delightfully Turner-esque song, where the Eton-educated frontman spins a yarn about feeling shit and then waking up with that special someone being there to make you feel good and give you cuddles. That’s a message we can all get onboard with. The final song on the album, a raucous live version of ‘Dan’s Song’ quite possibly encapsulates all that is good about the punk turned singer/songwriter. The folk sensibility, crossed with the kind of punk rock raucousness that reminds you of The Germs in their heyday. You’re instantly transported to the last time *you* went to a Turner gig (which, lucky for me, was at the place where he recorded the version of this song at the Engine Shed in Lincoln), and you instantly want to stand up tall and sing the final words of ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’.

Some of the original b-side tracks on this record stand out – in fact there’s a period on the album that feels like a full-on assault on Broken Britain: he blames the kids, their parents, the community leader, the media, politicians and just about everybody who lives on our ruddy rock. ‘Riot Song’ especially is a homage to the complete shitstorm that were the UK riots in 2011. Turner pretty much gives a run through of the entire hellish few nights: “last night the kids sent London alight / started out in Tottenham and the flames spread through the night / but they didn’t burn the banks down, and they didn’t fight the cops / they just burned down their own ends and robbed the shops”.

In hindsight, it’s easy to look back on this period and call on England’s community to rise up and help our fellow man. But at the time, let’s be honest – with kids causing absolute havoc on the streets and kicking anyone who moved funny, you can’t be lambasted for staying in your home and protecting your family – so on that side, I scorn at Turner’s cynicism. On the other side, I love the brutal honesty of how he’s explaining how there was no revolution, no real cause. Simply, “they just burned down their own ends and robbed the shops”. OK, the rhetoric in ‘Something of Freedom’, of pointing the finger at the yoofs is a bit tired, but some of the songwriting is absolute genius: “Yeah, you’re marching in matching Che Guevara t-shirts / it’s so damn conceited it’s starting to hurt / you’re born into freedom so you don’t know it’s worth / and you constantly speak of solutions / but you only repeat revolution”. It’s the silver-tongued Turner at his very, very best.

This is one for the fans. The people who love Frank Turner for his bare-faced wit, his endemic Britishness and his loyalty to the people who have brought him to the heady heights he is at now. So chuck that Motorhead t-shirt out of your sister’s Christmas stocking and grab a copy of ‘The Third Three Years’.

Actually, fuck it. Frank would want you to have both.

7/10

‘The Third Three Years’, a collection of b-sides, live cuts and rarities from Winchester singer/songwriter Frank Turner, is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings. Stream the piano version of ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ below.

 

Album Review: Monterey – Sailors EP

 
By on Tuesday, 25th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Some things are better raw. A good steak at a French restaurant, par exemple – I believe the phrase is, walk the cow past a fire and cut a bit off. Sushi, being raw fish, is also of course best enjoyed raw. Music at its most raw is normally found during an artist’s infancy, when the band are too down on their arse to afford any frills and fancy production techniques. Or when they have a Foo Fighters-esque renaissance and decide to record everything on analogue in a garage.

Monterey are the former: a band starting out in every way. Even in their stock band photos, the three-piece look a bit awkward and a bit clumsy, as if you can hear their psyche telling them, “just try and look as normal as you can. Oh, make sure that bump in your jeans doesn’t look like you’ve got a rod-on too”. It’s almost as if you’ve asked a cartoon to ‘act casual’ and of course they’re going to either smoke a pipe or look as contrived as possible. But enough of those quasi-awkward situations.

Contrived is as far from where Monterey sits on the scale of genuineness. The lyrics are all brutally honest and relatable, yet without being patronising. From the onset of ‘Can’t Live Like This’, frontman Carter Henry paints a brilliant everyman picture as the band strives to hit all the right notes on their ‘Sailor’ EP. The four song long record is laden with clever changes of pace that demand your attention, and there are even a few choruses with hooks that like to get caught in your grey matter and won’t stop tugging. Ouch, sorry if you’re squeamish.

The licks on ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ are clever and the New Jersey trio manage to create a soaring soundscape that builds to an impressive crescendo. The title single has a nautical lick to it in the first 10 seconds and builds on to arguably the most anthemic chorus of the short EP, “remember all the times you said that you love me? How come now it’s hard to find the time”. The lyrics may be slightly clichéd, but the delivery of them for the final time smacks of a band who have certainly found their feet and a fair bit of promise on this record.

Certainly ones to watch, if not for hand-on-heart choral delivery, than for a propensity for awkward stock photography.

8/10

Monterey‘s new EP ‘Sailors’ is now available from their Bandcamp and iTunes.

 

Album Review: High Hazels – High Hazels

 
By on Tuesday, 4th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The Sheffield connection is difficult to ignore when it comes down to High Hazels; it’s pertinent to recognise when a city has had a fundamental influence in sculpting the sound of a band. From the first listen, an obvious influence on the four-piece is Alex Turner’s motley band of international superstars, Arctic Monkeys. They’re another group who’ve started with a sure-fire underground fan base in the city and has moved out to bring the kind of Midlands but wannabe Northerner vibe to the rest of the UK.

One thing is for sure when listening to ‘High Hazels’: they pull off the everyman sound that has made Arctic Monkeys so accessible far better than Jake Bugg. It sounds genuine and unforced throughout from the opening strums of ‘Valencia’, to strolling along ‘The Promenade’ (a TGTF MP3 of the Day last week) at the album’s crescendo. High Hazels have missed a trick releasing this album at the end of October though. It’s screaming out to be enjoyed in the parks and beaches of Brighton or London: it’s got a distinctly summery feeling and listening to it as the back-end of a hurricane sweeps in alongside torrents of rain doesn’t whet my appetite as much as it could have in the beautiful Indian summer we’ve just enjoyed. Yes, the record does feel slightly dreamy and surf poppy, but that’s by the by.

‘How Long’s It Gonna Be’ is a tribute to some of the fantastic songwriting on the band’s debut effort, while ‘Hanging Moon’ is a slow-burning bastion of the toe-tapping goodness this album encapsulates throughout. The album finishes with ‘The Promenade’, where frontman James Leesley sings of how “we fell into a very bad dream”, possibly induced by the terrific dream pop stylings on lead single ‘Misbehave’ earlier in the album.

One slight criticism of ‘Misbehave’, is how much it reminds me of the advert for Mattesons Fridge Raiders where everyone in the world turns into the Shadows’ Hank Marvin. I mean, come on! That riff is so Hank Marvin. Barring that, it’s a complete pop banger that should be getting some primetime air on Radio 1, but is instead probably relegated to the B-list behind that buffoon Jason Derulo.

Indisputably, the band has its lyrical high point on ‘Shy Tide’, as Leesley laments, “don’t you dare tell me that I owe you everything”. It probably shows the band at their most emotional nand tormented, which probably isn’t too bad seeing as the album makes me feel as sunny as a summer holiday in Greece lounging by the pool in some discount speedos. That dark, disturbing image aside, the debut effort by this next band of Sheffielders to take their whack at the big time is a formidable effort, chocked to the brimful of bouncy choruses and toe-tappingly splendid riffs.

8/10

The self-titled debut album from High Hazels is out now on Heist or Hit Records. The quartet have just begun a UK tour this week.

 
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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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