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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 28th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
I love Glasgow. It’s definitely surpassed Manchester in my favourite cities in the UK. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people in a town that really shouldn’t be so friendly; if you kept your eyes to the sky above, often cloud-filled and threatening to rain if it’s not raining already. I still remember the first band interview I ever did, 5 years ago in Nottingham with Friendly Fires on their tour bus. They said they’d had an outdoor picnic before meeting up with me, as it was so unusual for Notts to be that sunny, so surely I must have brought the sunshine over from America with me.
My gift seems to have worked for this last visit to Glasgow too, as the only times when I was in Glasgow that it actually rained was after I’d gotten back from Edinburgh to see Fatherson and Model Aeroplanes Thursday night (see that review here) and after I’d emerged into the night after this show Friday night. The rain, it appeared, seemed to understand exactly how I was feeling at that moment.
The Centre for Contemporary Arts, known by everyone in town by its neat acronym CCA, is a world-class museum. Its location in Glasgow makes perfect sense: in a city with so many visionaries and creative types, you need a place like this to take these folks’ cutting edge ideas and shout them to the heavens, so to speak. I’d been promised by a local manager friend of mine that the place was gorgeous and the Glass Animals show there would be unmissable. So off I went.
First up were support act Atom Tree, local to Glasgow. Live, they’re an electronic three-piece, but Atom Tree is essentially the project of 23-year old Glaswegian Shaun Canning, who both writes and produces the act’s music. While this isn’t all uncommon to have an electronic act to be run behind the scenes in essence and to have a beguiling female vocalist out front – think Germany’s Claire, and to somewhat lesser extent, NO CEREMONY/// – Julie Knox fills her role as frontwoman well. In only black and metallic colours, she could be the ice queen of your dreams or your nightmares, whatever your poison. Mick Robertson joins Canning’s project live as drummer, choosing standing over sitting over his percussive equipment (not a full drum kit, mind) for a more dynamic presence.
Banter between songs by either Knox or Canning was minimal, but that makes total sense after the fact, now that I know Atom Tree is Canning’s baby. As a result though, I don’t know the titles of the songs they played, though I can say that I quickly became mesmerised by the Atom Tree sound. Knox’s vocals drip off of ‘See the Light’, nonchalant as she questions coldly, “our love is only real if you feel it inside / whatcha gonna do if I turn around and tell you I’m not in love with you?” The words pair perfectly with Canning’s spare synth and piano notes, as if sympathetic to the singer’s own conflict on how she feels.
Atoms are the basic building blocks of life and trees represent life and strength, so the act’s name is entirely appropriate, as Canning favours a less than more approach to his songwriting, yet without sacrificing might. In these days of overblown production in nearly every genre, it’s truly refreshing to see an electronic producer show such restraint. Major key and bombastic instrumental ‘Die For Your Love’, a track that was released to the blogosphere’s acclaim in late 2013, doesn’t suffer from lack of vocal content at all; if anything, it proves Canning’s talent for developing and creating the kind of epic soundscape that most DIY bedroom laptop producers can only dream of.
The bands I met and talked with on my trip in other cities are all in agreement that they look at Glass Animals‘ recent success in America with wide-eyed wonderment. It’s always confused me why a band will succeed in one market and not another; while I predicted the band would do well in America solely on the r&b / hip hop flavour Dave Bayley has managed to infuse into all of their songs, I also thought they’d do equally as well in the UK. I also saw them play Liverpool Magnet on this tour a week prior, and while the response was good, the energy of the crowd wasn’t anywhere near what I’d witnessed on their prior visits to Washington in July and September. Leave it to the Glaswegians to sell out the CCA and give the band, at the end of the UK leg of their European tour, a proper sendoff. The only thing missing were those 8-foot tall palm trees.
If you had the chance to see any of the shows on this UK tour, I’d bet a million (Scottish) pounds Glasgow was the one to be at. Appreciative punters yelled and whistled with approval. They stamped their feet on the all too posh, all-wood floor (apologies to the CCA, I don’t think they knew what they were in for when they booked this gig). They sang along – loudly – to ‘Gooey’. Bayley seemed impressed by the crowd reaction, complimenting the grooving of one of my new local friends down the front who seemed to have gone into a trance upon hearing the band play live for a second time. Another time, Bayley praised the city as a whole for their dancing ability. Maybe my impression that all musically-inclined Glaswegians can be found in their bedrooms late on a Sunday night with a bottle of whisky and The Twilight Sad spinning on their turntables is unfounded?
Unquestionably, the moment of the night was when Glasgow got their first chance to lay their eyes and ears on Glass Animals‘ live cover version of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’. I thought I would be surrounded by men and women fainting from the spectacle and for sure, there were some weak knees around me. But somehow they all righted and a carnival atmophere endured when encore closer and all-around crowd pleaser ‘Pools’ started up.
Certainly, ‘Zaba’ is going to be a hard act to follow, and so is its accompanying live show. Will Glass Animals suffer from the difficult second album? We’ll have to wait and see, but if Bayley’s assertion to Clash magazine that he’s already been writing new material while on the road and “When we do get to do another record, though, it should be quite quick…”, it will be sooner rather than later when we’ll know.
First up: ‘My Heart is Pumping to a Brand New Beat’.
Second on the bill: ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’.
Who said indie kids were just a bunch of sweaty lads and ladies with greasy hair shouting about their heartbreaks? The archetypal ‘Girls & Boys’ of indie rock ‘n’ roll, The Subways have released their second single in the run-up to the release of their self-titled new album out in February 2015, and they’ve stuck to the tried and tested formula which has made them popular up to now.
They’re not experimenting, and I think that should at least be lauded. The three-piece have a distinct mid-’90s DIY indie-punk vibe about them, and they’re bloody good at making rowdy, simple songs which clock in at just less than 3 minutes. In ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’, Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper’s vocals weave through the verses, with a toe-tappingly melodic chorus of the song’s title interjecting.
It probably sounds like more of a throwback to the earliest phases of the band due to the fact this single was borne from some “really old demos” in Billy Lunn’s words. The video mirrors this; it’s a subtle nod to where the band has come from, moving away from the sheened production of songs like ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and back to the DIY-esque grit and edge that in 2005 made ‘Rock & Roll Queen’ such a huge indie disco hit – and why it’s still blasted out at a Propaganda near you.
‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’ is underscored by the energy that has driven this band through the last 14 years of releases and relentless touring. While the single isn’t exactly a progression, who gives a flying fuck. They’re good at what they do, and who’s to stop them from continuing.
The Subways’ newest single ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’ is out now on YFE Records/ Cooking Vinyl. The band’s eponymous fourth album ‘The Subways’ will be released on the 9th of February 2015.
Singer/songwriter Ben Howard has just announced a set of arena dates for next spring, following on his already sold out December 2014 tour. Howard’s sophomore LP ‘I Forget Where We Were’ debuted at number 1 in the UK charts after its release on the 20th of October. Below the tour date listing, you can listen to the official audio for album track ‘Conrad’. Presale for the following shows will begin tomorrow, Wednesday the 29th of October, at 9 AM, with general sale starting at 9 AM on Friday, the 31st of October.
Monday 13th April 2015 – Liverpool Echo
Thursday 16th April 2015 – London Alexandra Palace
Monday 20th April 2015 – Birmingham NIA
Tuesday 21st April 2015 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Thursday 23rd April 2015 – Leeds Arena
Friday 24th April 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Saturday 25th April 2015 – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th October 2014 at 6:00 pm
The always entertaining American band Ok Go have made yet another head-scratchingly “did that really just happen?” brilliant video, this time for ‘I Won’t Let You Down’. The song features on the band’s album ‘Hungry Ghost’, already available in America, but it will see its official UK release on the 16th of February 2015 on Paracadute/BMG.
For this exemplary video, the band headed to Chiba Prefecture in Japan this summer, fully utilising the talents of locals and Honda’s custom “multi-copter camera” developed for the project to film this amazing visual. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
In this pretty laid back promo video with pretty colours fading in and out, we have here The Pains of Being Pure at Heart performing ‘Kelly’, from their third studio album ‘Days of Abandon’. At the front of all this activity is Jen Goma, taking a break from her day job in A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Watch the video below.
Usually, TGTF goes out of its way to cover new music, both in terms of the age of the bands themselves, and the neological styles they might come up with. Well, tonight’s show is the complete opposite, featuring the well-worn genre of commercial bluesy pop, played by Brits, but owing a considerable debt to our transatlantic cousins who, after all, kicked the whole deal off a century or so ago.
First up is John E. Vistic, a man whose accent can’t decide where it likes the best – southern USA or southern England – and conspires to combine the two, which means he sounds like he comes from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. A pretty damp place to live, one imagines. His music is in a similar vein, clearly indebted to Dylan in its literary pretensions and casual way with pitch, but hinting at English folk. He comes nowhere close to matching the great man’s import, of course, but Vistic himself is careworn enough to provide a decent implied back story: his incapability to look the audience directly in the eye speaks of either a rocky childhood or even rockier adult years. Previously, Vistic has played electrified rock music with a band, but tonight it’s just him, his acoustic guitar, and the occasional toot on a blues harp.
‘Gamblin’ Man’ is a straightforward ditty about the perils of having a flutter; ‘Henry Miller’ is evocative of Parisienne literary decadence, whilst giving a welcome reminder of the eponymous writer’s historical significance; while ‘Miracle Mile’ proves the futility of trying to “do Dylan” – nice try, but no cigar. All told, however, Vistic does come across as a reasonably genuine article, a young-no-longer musician just trying to make an honest penny from his bare songs.
At first glance, tonight’s all-seated audience might as well be in a cataract surgeon’s waiting room, given how much life is in them. Granted, Jon Allen isn’t exactly bleeding edge hipster fare, but surely he deserves better than the gentlest of nods, the occasional foot tap, and polite yet hardly enthusiastic applause. Tonight’s set is inevitably heavy on material from third album ‘Deep River’ – starting with album opener ‘Night & Day’ is astute, showcasing as it does Allen’s fascinating husky-yet-high-pitched voice, which combines Rod Stewart and Paul Simon in a not unappealing tonal embrace. Standout single ‘Falling Back’ is next, perhaps the highlight from the album overall. The band are sharp, experts at delivering that lithe, drums- and bass-led sound which lets the lead instruments do their thing in acres of ear-space.
But as the set progresses, it becomes apparent there’s something amiss. For Jon Allen, the world begins with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, proceeds through ‘Eagles’ Greatest Hits’, and then stops for coffee and puts its feet up with Eric Clapton’s 1992 ‘Unplugged’ set. And that’s pretty much it. The gig is a deeply journeyman affair, with each song knocked out with depressing competence, as, presumably it is exactly the same every night. Minor confusion over the set list becomes a major talking point – ooh, you devil Jon, you played a couple of songs in the wrong order! Don’t tell the music police! As if in an upmarket chain restaurant, everything tonight is perfectly edible, but one can’t help but become increasingly convinced that it’s all just come out of a packet, that one’s taste buds are being tweaked, not because of the chef’s passion for experimentation, but because expert laboratory research has proved that that combination of flavours offends the least number of diners. There’s a bit of cod-funk here, a touch of cod-country there: the trouble is, it’s still cod.
It’s all too trite, too smug, too safe, a toothless facsimile of styles which were originally edgy and meaningful. Music that nobody could object to, except on the pages of a non-mainstream blog. As if that hadn’t already offended enough people, try this: there’s something deeply *the south* about the whole thing. Outside parts of London, and perhaps the South West, swathes of southern England are suicidally tasteless, but not in a scruffy way – more in a new money, white-leather-sofa-and-orange-Audi-TT way, repeated ad infinitum down innumerable streets of overpriced, new-build people-hutches. Streets in which the music of Jon Allen would fit right in. Nothing to object to, nothing to engage the brain about, and just enough kudos to get one over on the neighbours. Something dirty and northern, like Evil Blizzard, would go down like last year’s hairdo. Allen himself, in his corduroy jacket and limply arseless jeans, is the epitome of such a society, making music for middle-aged south-east divorcees to get pissed and snog to. Ugh.
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