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Live: Death Cab For Cutie – Brixton Academy

 
By on Thursday, 29th June 2006 at 2:24 pm
 

Wednesday evening saw the return to the UK of Death Cab For Cutie, the American Indie superstar rockers who have struck a chord with millions of teenagers worldwide. They played at Brixton Academy in London to 5,000 adoring fans who queued from early in the day in blazing heat to catch their show.

Support came in the capable hands of Viva Voce, the Portland based husband and wife duo who managed to warm the crowd up suitably, though their screeching guitars did grate a bit after a while. Kevin on the drums was simply sublime: managing to hold the whole thing together whilst wife Anita Robinson’s vocals left a lot to be desired.

9pm rapidly rolled round, and Death Cab came on, playing “Passenger Seat” first up, the perfect beginning, chilled and enthralling the whole audience from the start. The heat of the Academy was forgotten, everyone straining to get a view. “Passenger Seat” soon merged into “The New Year”, which sounded perfect. As the set progressed so did the temperatures, but it was certainly worth it. “What Sarah Says” was a definite highlight, though the security guys at the front seemed thoroughly bemused when 5,000 people sang “So who’s going to watch you die?” – I never thought I’d find humour in that song, but it did provide a bit of a highlight.

They then surprised everyone by playing some oldies that some of the younger OC fans hadn’t heard before – namely “President of What?”, “Company Calls” and “Epilogue”, which brought huge smiles to the faces of the older fans, and were some of the highlights of the set.

Throughout the band were quite quiet, preferring to let the music do the talking, though Ben did joke at one point that Wednesday was the last time they’d be playing as Death Cab. This worried everyone, until he joked that they’d be joining Babyshambles “…because you don’t have to turn up all the time”.

Then, to mix things up a bit Death Cab played their usual encore songs “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” and “Transatlanticism” towards the end of the main set, getting many members of the audience worried that they weren’t going to do an encore. “Follow you into the Dark” was a brilliant sing-along, with everyone knowing the words and providing a moment of pure beauty with everyone joining in.

Shortly after the end of “Transatlanticism” the crowd went mad for more, and whilst Death Cab went to change T-Shirts everyone was chanting for more, whilst wondering what the hell they could play if they’d already played their traditional encores. Thus they came back, and burst into an enthusiastic trio of “Marching Bands of Manhattan”, “Expo ‘86” and a raucous “Sound of Settling”.

Set list: Brixton Academy, 28th June 2006.
Note: Not 100% sure about the order in the middle of the set

Passengers
The new year
Soul Meets Body
Different Names for the same thing
Title and Registration
What Sarah Said
Your Heart is an Empty Room
President of What?
Company Calls
Epilogue
Crooked Teeth
I Will Follow You Into The Dark
We Looked Like Giants
Transatlanticism
———————–
Marching bands of Manhattan
Expo 86
Sound of settling

 

Persophone’s Bees – Notes from the Underworld

 
By on Monday, 26th June 2006 at 11:27 am
 

To be honest with you, when I read that Persophone’s Bees were a gypsy-rock outfit, I was dreading having to review the album. Still scarred by listening to Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple”, I was scared to say the least at the prospect of sitting through 45 minutes of Gypsy rock – some shrink somewhere would be making great business out of me! However, I pressed play, ready for the assault my eardrums were going to get – and it never came. Track one came and went, and my ears were still awaiting the aural assault that they were expecting: however, it never came, not once through the 11 tracks.

Front woman Angelina Moysov says that she was influenced by her mother who loved Russian Folk and Gypsy music, her brother’s collection of British and American music and the underground Russian punk and New Wave. All of these genres rear their heads up throughout “Notes from the Underworld” in varying amounts, but it seems to be the melting pot of all genres of music – an amazing effect.

White Stripes style drumming opens up the album on “Way to Your Heart”, before things descend into a polka-style almost humorous refrain asking “Show me the way to your heart”, with the piano providing a moment of lightness over heavy guitars.

“City of Love” utilises lively guitars and drums to give a very upbeat feel to the track, and Moysov’s Eastern European tones can’t help but flow over you and command you to go to “The City of Love with me”. Light, airy and approachable, the track comprises all the feelings of a day out at a British beach: cheesy, yet somehow enjoyable and priceless at any age.

“Nice Day” again is an upbeat song declaring that “I don’t care what they say/on a nice day” combining pop sounds of 1990’s girl bands with Eastern European sounds. Next track, “Muzika Dyla Fil’ma” appears to be Russian, and sounds one of the most traditional tracks on the album, but still adds a contemporary feel with the electric guitars and drums.

“Walk To The Moon” is a nice dreamy number, relaxing, with back-up sounding like a choir of angels perched on their own clouds, mellow and perfect for those days in the sun, or for drifting off to sleep.

Closer “Home” features a gentle harp-like sound with the gentle, vulnerable sounds of Moysov building an intricate, dream-like sound that builds up into a full electric epic, reminiscent of the some angsty Nirvana.

Overall, a strong debut: innovative, different and original. Angelina Moysov appears to have created a completely original band that will appeal to a wide variety of people.

 

Zero 7 – The Garden

 
By on Tuesday, 6th June 2006 at 12:19 pm
 

Zero 7’s third studio album has just been released, and marks a change in direction for the band, introducing more lyrics and a slightly livelier sound. They welcome back South Australian chanteuse Sia Furler, the duo’s long-standing vocalist who sings on five tracks, along with Swedish indie-folkie Jose Gonzalez who sings on four tracks.

First track and debut single “Futures” sees a return to their debut album, “Simple Things”, with Jose’s voice making the song perfect for the summery days. His voice is just perfect for the tracks – laidback and carefree, not rushing or any sense of urgency – just gentle, and relaxed. “Futures” soon makes way for “Throw it All Away” which has a relatively upbeat sound, and along with Sia’s lyrics makes a more upbeat festival track for lazy afternoons lounging around on a field at a festival.

Third track is an instrumental, and throws everything away that they’ve just built up in the first tracks. Energetic, with traditional drumming and modern electronics, “Seeing Things” shows that Zero 7 just can’t be pigeon-holed into any one musical genre. The track then descends into gentle guitars sounding like water in a stream, becoming extremely relaxing. However the opposite can be said of “The Pageant of the Bizarre” which left me feeling frankly nauseous – the track sounds like a merry-go-round which just won’t stop going round, the whole world becoming a blur.

“Left behind” is typical Jose Gonzalez material – a basic acoustic guitar and Jose’s simple lyrics and raw style oozing over us. There are a few electronics to add atmosphere, but in the time it takes you to get into the track its over at only 1 minute 17 seconds. “This Fine social scene” sounds like Air mixed with brilliant afro-carribean singers that give the song a bit of extra oomph.

However, for me the highlight comes just before the end with a new take on Jose Gonzalez’s “Crosses” – the original was already a gem, but this even more so. The addition of funky electronics add an extra layer of simple elegance, and make it all the better for it. An absolute gem, and shows what Zero 7 is truly capable of.

Album closer “Waiting to die” echoes earlier Zero7 with a bit of Morcheeba and Air thrown in for good measure and a bit of atmosphere. Lots of brass instruments gives it some character and makes it a great upbeat album closer.

Overall it’s a strong third album from the chillout kings, and marks a bit of a departure from their previous works. Some people will prefer it to their previous two albums, but personally I prefer their more instrumental albums rather than this one – some tracks are absolute gems (Seeing Things, Left Behind and Crosses) whilst some just haven’t got any magic in them (The Pageant of the Bizarre). All in all a good album with a good progression on from previous albums, however not a classic or a mercury prize nominee.c or a mercury prize nominee.

 

Hard-Fi – Stars of CCTV

 
By on Tuesday, 9th May 2006 at 4:19 pm
 

Following in the footsteps of other (British) critics’ darlings “The Streets”, Hard-Fi have produced a debut album which recounts British street life with perfect and sometimes brutal honesty. It’s infused from beginning to end with the bravado of British chav attitude (for more information see this Wikipedia entry) – ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’ – but whilst they swagger, their music is high quality stuff. Apparently it was mixed in a variety of unusual acoustic environments – in bedrooms, in pubs, and in their producer’s BMW – thus some interesting sounds on the album.

Over the past year they’ve been riding the success in Britain since the debut of their album, having been nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize (up against Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, Coldplay and the Go Team amongst others) and about to play to 25,000 people over five nights at Brixton Academy next week. Quite amazing for the foursome from the cultural wasteland that is Staines, south west London.

Opener “Cash Machine” is a typical upbeat tale of how hard it is to make ends meet – “I scratch a living, it ain’t easy” and how realities collide: “What am I gonna do / My girlfriend’s test turned blue / We tried to play it safe / That night we could not wait” the lively guitars and drums create, helping them to create some notable anthems.

Along with the usual themes of music today of love, lust, breaking up and being broke, Hard-Fi tackle some more interesting and different themes: track two, “Middle Eastern Holiday” is written from the perspective of a 21 year old serving in the Gulf. “He’s got a gun, but it’s meant for me” Rich Archer proclaims, unsure of its significance it seems, but not taking himself too seriously, like the rest of the album.

“Tied up too tight” sounds like it has been recorded in a big empty warehouse with its acoustics, and has a great thumping, car-chase chorus that would be great in a British gangster film, a la “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”

“Move on Now” is the necessary slow track of the album, combining emotion and vibrant imagery (Looking out my bedroom window / See the planes take off from Heathrow) with great instrumentation of the trumpet and piano, combining to make a great, stirring mid-album slow down track.

Stand out of the album “Living for the Weekend” comes as the pen-ultimate track of the album, a rousing, sing-along anthem for people to enjoy on summer evenings. A massive radio hit in the UK, it was the song that first got my attention of the band, and one that launched them from also-rans to proper contenders in this new wave of Brit-pop that has emerged with The Libertines, Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand, and now being followed up with Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi.

Album closer “Stars of CCTV” sees a very different sound, with an exotic sounding acoustic guitar being used along with a piano to make a minor anthem about how “I’m gonna get my face on the 6 ‘o’ clock news / We’re the stars of CCTV / Making movies out on the street”. Surprisingly endearing, considering the realities of what they actually mean by it.

Overall though, a brilliant debut effort from Hard-Fi: some critics are already touting them as one of the key bands of this Brit-pop revival, and their follow up could cement this role.

 

Wolfmother

 
By on Monday, 1st May 2006 at 4:37 pm
 

Hailing from Australia, Wolfmother appear destined to be the new face of traditional hard rock, taking over from the likes of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. After working their way round the world from Australia to LA, they recorded this, their debut album that was released originally in Australia in October 2005 and now in the USA.

At first listen, it sounds not a lot different to their heroes of the 1970s, however truth be told these lads were probably not even out of diapers when their superstars were playing arenas. Therefore this is hard rock for Generation Y, a new take on vintage metal.

Their appeal is summed up in the CD’s first word of the album opener “Dimension”: “Wwwwwaaaauuuuggggghhhhh!” and thus the album begins in a carefully coordinated homage to several key players of the modern musical movement. The drums and wails of the White Stripes, keyboards of Deep Purple, the wall of sound of Zeppelin, and the guitars of Sabbath all combined to make either the best band ever or the biggest wannabe tribute act ever, dependant on your views.

“White Unicorn” is the second track of the album, and their second single, and mixes clear guitars and vocals with a great wall of sound created by the bass and drums towards the end.

“Apple Tree” is one of the weakest tracks of the album, with lazy, repetitive vocals mixed with non-inventive guitars repeating the same riff over and over. However, once this track is out of the way, the album steadily improves. Towards the end of the album we get the required slow track of the album, “Tales” which reminds me distinctly of some of Jet’s “Look What You’ve Done” (which might be because both albums have been produced by Dave Sardy) before the guitars kick in and we are back to the rock-out of the earlier tracks.

Final track “Vagabond” brings about an element of rawness to proceedings, with the feeling that it was knocked up in a few minutes out the back and stuck on the end of the album; however the album is much the richer for its addition. Probably the “odd one out” of the collection, it provides a useful bridge between modern era music (Strokes, Sufjan Stevens, White Stripes, Oasis etc) and the bands which earlier tracks sound like (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath etc).

So overall, a strong first effort: they could introduce a whole new generation to the likes of Zeppelin and Sabbath, however don’t appear to have done anything particularly new or extra creative, rather just re-used the existing formula, toned it up a bit with technology and changed its home from England to Australia. Their second album will be the true test of their greatness or imitation, and will determine whether they’re a bunch of Sabbath/Zeppelin wannabes or a viable alternative to Generation Y.

 

Peter Walker – Young Gravity

 
By on Wednesday, 26th April 2006 at 6:53 pm
 

Back to release his sophomore record, singer-songwriter Peter Walker has come back with a mixed bag of songs that whilst good individually, collectively isn’t anything to rave about.

Starting off with a very Strokes –esque sounding “What Do I Know?” the guitar drives the track along, and appears to be one of the strongest tracks of the album, with its thumping drums providing a fast and friendly way to move the track along. However, I can’t help but feel that the track would be more at home in the middle of “Room on Fire” – whilst a good song, nothing spectacularly different to anything else out there.

“39 Stars” introduces a nice laid back sound of summer, with Walker sounding distinctly similar to Olly from Turin Brakes, vulnerable and raw, a sound that appears to be repeated throughout the album. Slightly repetitive, the music provides the interest in this track, with the electric guitar providing some creativity throughout. “Flagship” has perhaps the catchiest chorus of “see it as a lesson learned, baby there must be some way to stay afloat”, and wouldn’t be out of place in a film with a lead character watching rain dribbling slowly down the windows.

The epic “Young Gravity” is the standout track of the album, reaching crescendo slowly, and then falling slowly back down before doing it all over again. Feeling distinctly melancholic, the prolonged music gives the song more a feeling of an album closer than a track 4, but never mind.

“Sleepin’ around” is the rawest sounding track of the album, with the refrain of “sleepin’ around, smoking all day, that’s what I heard him say”, and appears to simply be an ode to what Walker doesn’t want to end up being, and despises. Raw and with feeling, it ends up being a bit of an oddball track in comparison with the rest of the tracks on the album.

The rest of the album, to be honest, passes by without many interesting events it appears: “New Orleans” sounds quite chilled and not very vibrant as you might expect from a song entitled after the lively city. “On TV” does the required slow album closer, with a naked sounding acoustic guitar and lots of echo, and is quite a nice end to the album, though perhaps would have been better placed as the penultimate track before “Young Gravity”.

So, in summary “Young Gravity” is a strong album, all good tunes that are perfect for a summery day out in the car with windows down, however it’s not really anything that original or complex – just another singer/songwriter plying his trade.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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