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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 6th November 2014 at 8:00 am
Mainstream dark-haired pop tart Jessie J has announced a series of live dates for January 2015. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Friday the 7th of November, at 9 AM.
Wednesday 21st January 2015 – Glasgow Academy
Thursday 22nd January 2015 – Newcastle Academy
Saturday 24th January 2015 – Manchester Apollo
Sunday 25th January 2015 – Leeds Academy
Tuesday 27th January 2015 – Birmingham Academy
Wednesday 28th January 2015 – London Brixton Academy
Syd Arthur have arguably the best, and most relevant, band name in the business. One half of it is evocative of Syd Barrett, the tragic genius who created Pink Floyd. Regardless of the lumpen cash cow that band have evolved into, early Floyd were genuine psychedelic pioneers, as a casual listen to ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ will reveal, a state of affairs largely thanks to Barrett’s influence. That, and a cupboardful of psychoactive drugs. And the other half of the name may well be interpreted to imply Arthur Brown, a less tragic and more alive fellow practitioner of ‘60s psychedelic music, this time with a side order of proto-glam rock. Brown is still active, releasing records and touring, and if Syd Arthur are indeed paying respect to him in their name, and Brown’s career receives the shot of popularity it richly deserves because of that, then they will have done a very fine thing indeed. For Arthur Brown, read the English Tom Waits. He really is that good.
But, whoa! What’s that you say? Siddhartha is the birth name of the founder of Buddhism? “The awakened one” himself? He who preached the ultimate goal of attaining the sublime state of nirvana? So by clever wordplay, the band announce themselves, before nary a note has been played, as being familiar with psychedelia’s back story, by way of ancient, peaceful religious practice, and, by implication, a decent amount of long hair, paisley throws, and incense. Pretty clever.
Stockton’s Weird Shapes are up first. They could be described as a “kitchen sink” band – there’s two guitars, bass, keyboards and lots of vocal harmonising. Their songs share the same wide ambition – there’s touches of ’80s electro-pop in the staccato arpeggiation ‘Clouds’, and nothing so mundane as a conventional arrangement, as the song gently bobs along without a recognisable chorus. What doesn’t come through in their recorded material is their fondness for a bit of funky math-rock – when they want to they can wig-out with abandon, if with their characteristic inscrutable song structures. Perhaps a band to learn on record before their live show can be completely appreciated.
Syd Arthur are three albums into their career now, and in that time they have achieved a maturity that puts them firmly in the same league of any psychedelic band one would care to mention. They are capable of recreating that heavily-reverbed, mightily-phased, British late-‘60s wall of sound, as on ‘Garden of Time’ from latest collection ‘Sound Mirror.’ Conversely, they can do a decent stab at airy, laid-back funk. Singer and guitarist Liam Magill looks like he aspires to a psychokinetic relationship with his voice and instrument: small, instinctive flicks of his guitar’s vibrato arm and subconscious vocal inflections portray a man at one with his music. His voice has a classic folk tremolo, and his spidery finger-style guitar technique mirrors his slight frame; the whole effect is both delicate and impactful, a description which neatly sums up the band’s sound as a whole.
Just as compelling are the activities of multi-instrumentalist (and nephew of Kate) Raven Bush. He’s in charge of a lovely retro-looking synth, he twists a violin’s squalls into beautiful harmony with the rest of the band. But best of all, he plays a mandolin as if it were an electric guitar: lithe, overdriven lead lines pour out of it in ways which surely no luther ever intended. All three guitarists have an extensive pedal board, which arouses much geeky interest in the post-gig aftermath.
But the best compliment that can be paid is this: despite the extensive use of effects, nothing of the sound is forced, there is no pretence at faux-retro here. Syd Arthur are the genuine article, both in terms of their extensive catalogue, and of their sound, which sounds nothing so much as if it’s being played from a vinyl record. In many ways they are the British version of White Denim: a lithe, virtuoso outfit purveying a style which is at once indebted to the past, respectfully referencing those who have gone before, whilst simultaneously sounding utterly modern, and like nothing other than themselves. And I can think of no higher compliment than that.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 4th November 2014 at 9:00 am
Following on from the last UK tour they did that ended in early October, The Twilight Sad have revealed plans for a brand new list of live dates for April 2015. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday the 5th of November, at 9 AM. ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’, the band’s fourth album, was released last week on FatCat Records and is available now.
Monday 20th April 2015 – London Scala
Tueday 21st April 2015 – Bristol Fleece
Wedday 22nd April 2015 – Leicester Cookie Jar
Thuday 23rd April 2015 – York Fibbers
Friday 24th April 2015 – Wakefield Hop
Satday 25th April 2015 – Newcastle Cluny
Monday 27th April 2015 – Cardiff Globe
Tueday 28th April 2015 – Liverpool Kazimier
Scottish veterans of alt-pop Belle and Sebastian have recently announced details of their forthcoming album ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’, due for release on the 19th of January 2015 via Matador Records. Following the album release, Belle and Sebastian will play 13 live dates in the UK next spring, culminating with an appearance at Liverpool Sound City on the 24th of May. Tickets for the following shows go on sale this Friday, the 31st of October.
The first single from ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’, titled ‘The Party Line’, recently premiered on BBC 6Music and can be streamed below the tour date listing.
Sunday 3rd May 2015 – Cardiff St. David’s
Monday 4th May 2015 – Bristol Colston Hall
Tuesday 5th May 2015 – Portsmouth Guildhall
Thursday 7th May 2015 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Friday 8th May 2015 – Norwich Open
Sunday 10th May 2015 – Birmingham Symphony Hall
Monday 11th May 2015 – London Westminster Central Hall
Thursday 14th May 2015 – Manchester Albert Hall
Saturday 16th May 2015 – Newcastle City Hall
Monday 18th May 2015 – Buxton Opera House
Tuesday 19th May 2015 – Leeds City Hall
Friday 22nd May 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro (with the Scottish Festival Orchestra)
Sunday 24th May 2015 – Liverpool Sound City
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
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.