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Single Review: The Crookes – Bear’s Blood

 
By on Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes logo smThe Crookes are already hard at work on album #3, which looks like will be following in the footsteps of 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, so I’m expecting this third album to appear in quick succession. Just getting its first airplay last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on 6music, ‘Bear’s Blood’ is the first single from their yet to be named third album. The double A-sided single comes out the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. [Update: the other A-side is 'Dance in Colour'.]

According to Lammo, this song, along with several other new ones, were recorded this year between their support slot with Richard Hawley in February and whence we caught up with them in Austin for SXSW 2013 in March. From all the interviews I’ve done and bands I’ve asked, writing on the road is a very difficult task, so hearing that the Crookes already have several songs in the can for album #3 is good news for fans indeed. ‘Bear’s Blood’, as the first taste of this new material to be unleashed on the public in short order, then demands further examination. Last year, band lyricist Daniel Hopewell indulged my interest in the words to single ‘Maybe in the Dark’ so I would have all of the words in front of me before I began my research. Expecting to have to grovel at his feet again, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to get all (or nearly all) of the lyrics from the new video released last night. And away we go:


Drip feed hope to a blind, homeless man
Stars explode like aerosol cans
and scar the face of Jalla Jalla*

You felt lust at the edge of your lips
Spread like ichor** to your fingertips
I fell in love with love and squalor^

Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?
Baby wants to set me on fire

Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires
Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova^^
You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?

Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost…

You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
You know I’m lost…
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
You know I’m lost…
I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful

It feels like I am missing out here?
Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost

Miscellaneous notes:
* Jalla Jalla: A club in Ljubljana, Slovenia. But I don’t think its purpose is this exclusively. I hope I don’t embarrass Mr. Hopewell next month when I ask him what the deal is with this place…
**ichor: “an ethereal fluid taking the place of blood in the veins of the ancient Greek gods” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary
^ “with love and squalor” – possible reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esme – with Love and Squalor, also the name of We Are Scientists’ debut album released in 2005
^^ “Bear’s Blood down(ed?) in Metelkova” – Metelkova is an alternative, cultural hotbed, and city guides note you can get a shot (or three) of a famous local tipple

Initially, I had it deadset in my mind that ‘Bear’s Blood’ just had to be a reference to the bear pit in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens that I had mythologised in my head was the setting was ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ from 2010’s ‘Dreams of Another Day’ (“Mrs. Porter’s crying, ‘keep that kid away from my bear!’”). But having “METEL KOVA” (or the place of Metalkova) spelled out in black marker on a white shirt helped me out quite a bit.

How I’m reading this on the surface is that it’s chronicling life in this wild and crazy part of a Slovenian town. And if this is the case, the video surely reflects this joy but also mental spirit, with the lyrics of the song being written on band members’ faces, necks, arms and clothes. Being around them recently during the mayhem that is known as SXSW, I watched how the four of them simply love life and how anything related to them ends up truly madcap and fun. It’s not a front. That’s how the Crookes are in real life. They have the incredible ability to bring sunshine into life when there isn’t any.

But I did say that was on the surface. I don’t know how common it is in Britain, let alone far-flung Slovenia, but “Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires” often have a criminal connotation when seen in blighted areas in America, quite possibly indicating you’re passing through a less than desirable area; see the intro to the video for Morrissey’s ‘Glamorous Glue’. As happy as this song sounds, it’s about to go dark.

And going further, I can feel someone’s truly tortured. “Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful / you know I’m lost…” seems to suggest that it takes great pains to make things look easy from the outside when your insides are in turmoil. Then there’s the “Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova”, the drinking of some legendary brew native only to that area. (I’m wondering if the stuff is called ‘Bear’s Blood’ because it makes you think you’re as strong as a bear; scroll to about 1.01 into the video, you’ll see Hopewell with his arms raised as if he’s Rocky Balboa.) I haven’t decided yet if it’s the alcohol causing the person to get ‘lost’ or they were already lost to begin with and is now drowning his/her sorrows in drink. Either way, there’s internal conflict. And I feel this pain.

When I finally transcribed the lyrics myself, the two lines “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?” and “I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful” [the band helpfully set me right on how this line actually reads after I posted this review - Ed.] had me agog at the computer screen, tears ready to roll down my cheeks. How could someone who barely knows me write about my life so well? Obviously it wasn’t written about my life. But I’m sure loads of people can relate too. “What if crucifixion’s on the dole?” is a famous line in ‘Sal Paradise’, but I have to say I’m impressed with the way crucifixion imagery is used again in ‘Bear’s Blood’. I can of course never be sure what he meant, but I know what it means for me. As for “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?”, I have my own guess as to what this means to the band themselves, but I’m going to keep it under my hat for now…

I have to admit, I didn’t have an immediate love for this tune upon first listen. The washy guitars seemed to be entirely at odds with everything the Crookes have released up to this point, and the whole affair reminded me too much of what Richard Hawley did on ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ album last year, turning to a psychedelic sound. I kept muttering “oh no, oh no” to myself as it played all the way through. But it was the video – and reading over the lyrics – that sold me on the song. Clocking in as only a few more seconds longer than ‘Maybe in the Dark’, it’s still an amazing pop song by any measure, though lyrically it packs an incredible punch and is a major step up from that previous single. While it will take some getting used to this new sound of theirs, after considering ‘Bear’s Blood’, I’m still in it for the long haul.

9/10

‘Bear’s Blood’, the new single from the Crookes, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now. Support will be provided by their local mates the Heartbreaks and Hey Sholay. I’ll be somewhere in the crowd, if you fancy saying hello. Not sure if I’ll be sporting black marker on my face and arms though…

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Single Review: Wild Swim – Another Night

 
By on Thursday, 11th April 2013 at 2:16 pm
 

Wild Swim’s latest single ‘Another Night’ begins with a fittingly aquatic sort of sound: muted, echoing synths driven by a solid, muted bass riff. Richard Samson’s poignant, if somewhat cloying, lead vocal grips the heart from the song’s opening line and never lets go. Though the lyrics are quite repetitive, Samson delivers them with emotional conviction far beyond his youthful age. The song is neatly divided into two distinct sections, and Samson’s bandmates support him ably in the subtle shift between them, through a strong dynamic build to the wailing guitar solo at the end.

The accompanying video, by Dan W. Jacobs and Michael Battcock, has a shimmery, translucent feel throughout. Of special note is the moment at 1:55, when the video’s animated protagonist walks through a doorway, and the second section of the song begins. I am usually not very interested in music videos, but I was intrigued by this one, as it is rare to see a video that connects to the song’s musical structure in such a concrete way.

When I watched the video on YouTube, I was pleased to notice that Wild Swim have several other songs and videos available for viewing. Now that they have swum across my radar, I will certainly be doing more watching and listening.

7.5/10

‘Another Night’, the new single from Oxford’s Wild Swim, will be released on the 6th of May on Believe Recordings.

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Single Review: Avril Lavigne – Here’s to Never Growing Up

 
By on Wednesday, 10th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by guest reviewer David Wriglesworth

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to rock around my bedroom, singing into a hairbrush and strumming an air guitar to Avril Lavigne. In fact, on the odd occasion, I still do.

It’s hard to believe Canadian Lavigne was just 17 years old when she first rocked the music scene with ‘Sk8er Boi’ and ‘I’m With You’. Her debut album ‘Let Go’ has sold over 17 million copies worldwide and the follow-up ‘Under My Skin’, released in 2004, contained three singles which all charted in the top 40 of the UK Official Singles Chart. Three years later, the Canadian singer-songwriter stormed the charts with ‘Girlfriend’, taken from her third album, ‘The Best Damn Thing’, giving Lavigne her first UK number one. However, her success seemed to be fading when her 2011 album ‘Goodbye Lullaby’ peaked just inside the top ten. Fast forward to 2013 and Lavigne is back and, despite over a decade of being on the music scene, is showing no sign of maturing, or so the title of her latest single says.

Lavigne’s new single ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up’ is an acoustic anthem, which contains similarities to her 2002 hit ‘Complicated’. Co-written with fiancé and Nickelback lead vocalist Chad Kroeger, the track’s chorus makes reference to “singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs” and having the “boom box blaring as we’re falling in love” – your typical teenage behaviour (apparently). Lavigne’s comeback single is exactly what she needed to break back into the music scene, especially with Ke$ha’s temporary absence from the charts.

8/10

‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ is now available to download from iTunes and is the first single to be taken from Avril Lavigne’s upcoming album, expected to release later this year. Watch and listen to the lyric video below.

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Charity Single Review: Gary Lightbody and the Assembly – This is All I Ask of You

 
By on Monday, 8th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Photo at top by Bradley Quinn

Gary Lightbody isn’t much of a public speaker. Anyone who has seen the Snow Patrol frontman perform will attest that he is a bit awkward without his guitar at the ready and his bandmates behind him. While his awkward banter has endeared him to his many adoring fans, he wouldn’t seem to be the most obvious choice for a lecture hall setting. So, when Lightbody was asked to speak at TEDx Stormont, held at the Parliament Buildings in Belfast on 28 March, he did what came more naturally to him: he wrote and performed a song.

The theme of the TEDx Stormont event was ‘Imagine’, and its stated goal was to “look forward and imagine the kind of future we could have together as a society…in Northern Ireland and beyond”. To that effect, Lightbody assembled a showcase of Northern Ireland’s best up-and-coming musicians, hereafter to be known as Gary Lightbody and the Assembly, for a preliminary rehearsal and a live performance at Stormont.

The gathered musicians, including Lightbody, David C. Clements, Soak, Shauna Tohill (Silhouette, Rams Pocket Radio) and Eimear Coyle and Ryan McGroarty (both of the Wonder Villains), wrote and rehearsed a new song, ‘This is All That I Ask of You’, in the pre-recorded jam session, which was presented by video as part of Lightbody’s talk. The video highlights the songwriting process, particularly the creation of instrumental parts and vocal harmonies to match Lightbody’s melody and lyrics.

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Though obviously contrived for the purpose of the Stormont lecture, the song itself is nicely crafted and nicely performed. Its musical structure is very simple, allowing the spotlight to shine on the lyrics via the considerable vocal talents of all 6 singers. David C. Clements, with his bluesy gospel style, adds emotional depth in the song’s third verse, where it could easily have lost momentum in the voice of a lesser singer. The end of the song pairs the voices in different combinations, highlighting the collaborative nature of the project.

‘This Is All I Ask of You’ is available now on Snow Patrol’s Web site, with all proceeds benefiting the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

 

In the Post #98: Stornoway return with new single ‘Knock Me on the Head’

 
By on Friday, 18th January 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Having chosen the name Stornoway, after the Scottish seaport town as explained by singer Brian Briggs in this 2011 interview with us, this band seems to have been destined to write music with some kind of nautical theme. Their new album’s title, ‘Tales From Terra Firma’, implies the ocean by mention of its opposite (indeed, the album’s cover art features frothy waves).

But its first single, ‘Knock Me on the Head’, has a very definite maritime sound. A majestic instrumental introduction, with a pentatonic tinge suggestive of Oriental seas, blends seamlessly into the mellow guitar pop that Stornoway have become known for. While the intro has very little musical or thematic relation to the body of the song, it does provide a hook for the listener’s ear, drawing attention to Brian Briggs’ lilting voice and cerebral lyrics.

The song’s chorus is certainly catchy enough to hold its own; I found myself singing along with it after only one casual listen. The lyrical melodies and sweet vocal harmonies, along with Stornoway’s unique instrumental arrangements, will be pleasantly familiar to fans eagerly awaiting the band’s sophomore effort. But if the exotic orchestral sound of the intro is to be taken as an indication, Stornoway have bravely ventured into some new musical ground, and possibly new musical seas as well.

8.5/10

‘Tales From Terra Firma’, the follow-up to Stornoway’s 2010 ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’, will be out on the 11th of March on 4AD. Catch the band on their UK tour, starting in early March.

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Single Review: Suede – Barriers

 
By on Friday, 18th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

In many ways, the very fact of having something new to write about Suede is the most remarkable aspect of this review. Despite being the genesis of Britpop made form, and releasing some of the most notable singles of the 1990s (and one genuinely classic album), Suede have described a classic ‘long tail’ career pathway; the almost unnoticed style of their exit as they fizzled out in the cold light of a new millenium in stark contrast to the fanfare that greeted the famous Melody Maker cover from which they gazed as unsigned ingenues.

There has been light on the horizon for those hoping for new Suede material since their reformation concerts in 2010. And now ‘Barriers’ has arrived: the calling-card for a full album entitled ‘Bloodsports’, out in March. But it would be an ardent fan indeed who claimed that their output was consistent, especially towards the twilight years of what must now be called their first career, which means ‘Barriers’ carries a high level of expectation on its shoulders; there’s little point in releasing new material if it simply treads old water.

There’s little cause for concern: ‘Barriers’ ticks all the boxes any longstanding Suede fan could reasonably hope for. After a thudding drum intro, Brett Anderson’s voice soars with a distinctively familiar mixture of delicacy and haughtiness. References to “aniseed kisses and lipstick” traces instantly recall familiar Suede songs of yore (it’s impossible for Anderson to write a lyric without at least one reference to lipstick, cigarettes, gasoline, or some seedy sexual act). Richard Oakes’ guitar does one of its finest impressions of Bernard Butler’s razor-sharp trademark ES-355 tone, itself now more than two decades old. Longtime producer Ed Buller is in the studio chair; it’s a fair assumption that he, above anyone else, is responsible for the instantly recognisable Suede sound to be found here. There’s a singalong call-and-response to play us out, just dying to reverberate around packed concert halls up and down the country.

And that’s it, 3 and a half minutes that tell the world the Suede are back, and sounding just as relevant as ever. There’s no point in hoping for a new ‘Dog Man Star’ – that high-point of Suede’s career will surely never be surpassed – but there’s a good chance that Suede Mark II can do themselves justice with the new material, and perhaps bring a swathe of new fans into the fold who were unlucky enough to be too young to experience them first time around. For the rest of us, it’s time to dust off the black T-shirt and artfully distressed leather jacket, and party like it’s 1994 again.

8/10

Suede’s new single ‘Barriers’ is available now – for free – via this former MP3 of the Day post.

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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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