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Top Gigs of 2014: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd December 2014 at 11:00 am
 

2014, 2014, tsk tsk tsk. When it came to live shows, you put in some tense situations where I couldn’t understand the lead singer in his normal speaking voice (Glasvegas at DC’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in February), feared for my life because the heat was proving a bit too much (Slow Club at Sheffield Great Gatsby in May), got grossed out by other punters’ grinding (Glass Animals at DC’s U Street Music Hall in July), and needed to take a train to another town and back, all in one evening (Fatherson at Edinburgh Potterow in October). But it was in good fun, as you were always entertaining. Here are my top 5 live experiences this year:

5. The Dig at Black Cat Backstage (4th December 2014) – watching a band you’ve come to know and love evolve over time, and who just keep getting better and better, is probably one of the greatest blessings given to a music editor. The Dig, who I saw support Editors 4 years ago, are one of those bands. December gigs are hard to pull off in Washington – people are lazy to come out once the weather turns cold – but they came out in droves for this show Thursday night the first week in December for the New Yorkers. They’re ready for their close-up, folks.

Reminisce through TGTF’s back catalogue on the Dig through this link.

4. Glass Animals at Glasgow CCA (17th October 2014) – after you’ve seen a band many times, the gigs all start to blur together, especially you’re seeing them when they’ve only got their one debut album to promote. Glass Animals shows are always interesting, if only to view the wildlife on display in the audience, but the Oxford band were in fine form even on the last UK date on their tour in October. I was expecting them to be completely beat, after returning the week before from a whirlwind North American campaign and subsisting on far too little sleep. Perhaps it was the party atmosphere in Glasgow on a Friday night, the CCA stuffed to the gills with punters, that turned this gig up to 11? Vibes, man. Vibes.

Glass Animals have been a favourite at TGTF since last year, and you can read all of our coverage on them here.

3. Fenech-Soler at Brooklyn Glasslands (5th April 2014) – good things come to those who wait. Or so the saying goes. Even though I had to trek up to New York for this one, Fenech-Soler was definitely worth it for me to finally hear songs from both their debut album in 2010 and 2013’s ‘Rituals’. I haven’t danced that hard in ages. (Meeting Ben and Ross Duffy and getting to chat with them for this interview was definitely a personal highlight of 2014 as well.) I waited 4 long years to see electro-pop band Fenech-Soler to do a proper show in the States, and since I saw them at this show (at a venue that sadly will no longer exist in 2015, sob), they’ve done a couple tours in our country, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

Our pretty comprehensive archive on Fenech-Soler here at TGTF is this way.

2. Maximo Park at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel (20th May 2014) – like Fenech-Soler, Maximo Park was a band I had missed seeing, and for even longer (beyond 6 years). It had nothing to do with them never coming to DC; I was either not here when they’d come or the show I’d had tickets to see them at had been cancelled. If you’ve never seen Paul Smith and co. perform, wow, you need to do yourself a favour and rectify that ASAP. I came to appreciate their latest album ‘Too Much Information’ much more after seeing it performed. Also, you always know the band you’ve come to see play is pulling out all the stops when the set list spills out over 2 pages. I’m looking forward to the next time they return to Washington. And to those asking, yes, Paul Smith really does give those reinforced trousers a workout.

Check out our writings on TGTF on the Geordie band here.

1. Royal Blood at DC9 (20th July 2014) – this gig can be best summed up with one word: PHWOAR. Perhaps my only prior experience with Mike Thatcher and Ben Kerr – Thursday at SXSW 2014, playing Lammo’s BBC Introducing night – didn’t sit well in my head because there is always too much background noise from other acts in Austin to really concentrate and appreciate on just one. At their first, and I might add rammed, headline show in DC, eyes and ears all glued on them with good reason. As those who waited for them to play at the John Peel stage at Glasto this year know, this duo from Brighton pack a massive punch in their successful effort to bring hard rock back. Best new British guitar band? Forget it. Best new British guitar duo’s where it’s at.

All of TGTF’s coverage on Royal Blood is right this way.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2014. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2014: Editor’s Picks

 

Live Review: School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute – 28th April 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 30th April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: as our head photographer Martin was at the School of Language show in Newcastle earlier this month, I invite to view his photos in his review here as well.

There’s something very special about seeing a gig in Manchester. Monday night also happened to be a very special night in Manchester for David Brewis, usually better known as the drumming half of Field Music but on this particular evening, the frontman and the centre of attention under the name of his solo project School of Language. Having released his second album ‘Old Fears’ earlier this month (see my review of the excellent album here), he’d played a string of dates in the UK, but it all led up to this final show in ol’ Manc.

The local Field Music and David Brewis fan stalwarts were all there, contributing to a celebratory atmosphere as they made their presence known with some hooting and hollering I’ve not otherwise experienced at shows in this town. Before it all started though, there were some questionable characters in navy blue jumpsuits and hats going on and offstage, moving gear round, which I thought was a bit strange. However, upon closer examination, I recognised Jaff Craig, bass player of Futureheads, who would be on synth duties, as well as both Brewis brothers. Ha!

As latest single and first song of the set ‘Dress Up’ would seem to dictate, Brewis scrubs up nice for the live performance, with slicked back hair and a suit jacket that he himself questioned on its ongoing freshness (or lack thereof) as the tour went on. Also not commonly seen at the kind of gigs I usually go to: the man was also wearing corduroy trousers, which may or may not have contributed to the overall grooviness of the set. (I think the last band whose swinging corduroy made a mark on popular music were the Beatles.) Either way though, there was a definite sense of occasion and the feeling this wasn’t going to be just any rock show. And it really wasn’t. Throughout, Brewis made jokes that when he took off his guitar in favour of taking the microphone alone, it didn’t necessarily mean that a ballad was next, though in some cases, such as the rhythmically surprising ‘Suits Us Better’, which sees Brewis essentially coolly beat-boxing into his mike before he breaks out his falsetto, and the slower paced ‘Keep Your Water’ from 2008’s ‘Sea to Shore’, no apologies were needed.

Despite the interloping of a few tracks from his first School of Language album, this was largely an ‘Old Fears’ affair, as it should be. I was expecting the masterpiece that is ‘Between the Suburbs’ to be exhilarating live, and it didn’t disappoint; neither did album opener ‘Distance Between’, seemingly the apex of funk, or hymn slash rock number ‘Moment of Doubt’. My absolute favourite track on the new album, ‘A Smile Cracks’, is arguably the LP’s most Field Music-y moment, and live, its brilliance on display with its bass line guaranteed to force your body to throw shapes, super cool guitar lines and yes, David Brewis-delivered white boy soulful vocals. Yowza.

While Brewis’ appearance was slick, appearances aside, the take home message of a School of Language gig to the industry is this: it’s still possible to make original, intriguing, intelligent and unforgettable music. Cheers, David.

After the cut: the School of Language set list.
Continue reading Live Review: School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute – 28th April 2014

 

Video of the Moment #1493: School of Language

 
By on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 6:00 pm
 

David Brewis via his solo project outside of Field Music, School of Language, has a new album out this week, ‘Old Fears’. Read my review of the LP from last week here. This is the promo video for the nattily rhythmic ‘Dress Up’. Watch it below.

Our Martin just caught David Brewis and co. in Newcastle on Monday; read his review here. Don’t miss David on tour later this month in the UK.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU4qDI_F-wU[/youtube]

 

Live Review: School of Language at Newcastle Cluny – 7th April 2014

 
By on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

One would be forgiven for not understanding the subtle difference between School of Language, in which David Brewis sings and Peter Brewis plays the drums, and the Mercury-nominated Field Music, in which David Brewis sings and Peter Brewis plays the drums. Well, School of Language is ostensibly David’s solo operation, so despite the live presence of Pete (and the bassist looks somehow familiar too), pretty much everything on the album was written and recorded by David. So tonight there’s no Field Music-style instrument swapping: David takes full frontman responsibility throughout.

And he’s rather good at it, clad in ‘70s-dad chic complete with slacks and linen jacket, displaying an awkward cool which reflects the mindset of the music. He helpfully points out that this is the first School of Language gig since September 2008, a fact which surely does nothing to calm first-night anxiety – nervous fiddling with guitar controls and an in-and-out-of pocket plectrum are telling giveaways. Perhaps the knowledge that bro isn’t going to step out from behind the drum kit tonight adds an extra frisson of tension. But as the photos attest, when initial nerves give way to concentration and growing confidence, Brewis certainly looks the part, sharp of cheekbone and jawline, even throwing some modest guitar-hero moves.

The songs are as precise and efficient as the workings of a Swiss watch. ‘A Smile Cracks’ has two electric guitar solos and a drum solo, which in another context could be a byword for excess, but in fact both are the very model of restraint. There’s acres of space in the arrangements, allowing exact placement of the various melodic components. As the album cover art suggests, this is the motion of an architect’s pencil made music: line, form, and placement are elegant, specific and unambiguous – as if played on a set square and recorded in thin graphite strokes.

One shouldn’t assume that such methods preclude the portrayal of emotion, or that the end result must be soulless. Far from it: the whole SoL experience is one of restrained white funk. Mary has already mentioned Talking Heads in her review of ‘Old Fears’, and the comparison is apt indeed. Self-described “kinda the single” ‘Between the Suburbs’ hints at Nile Rodgers-era Bowie in its stop-start rhythm and chorused Stratocaster work. ‘Dress Up’ is so retro it hurts, heavy with FM synth, tremendous auto-wah guitar, and drums that again refuse to play anything even vaguely resembling a conventional beat. ‘Suits Us Better’ is a dreamy interlude of ethereal backing vocals and reverbed guitar, and a groove conjured from looped beatboxing: at once ethereal and lo-fi.

The introspective-on-record ‘So Much Time’ is slightly faster and certainly more intense live, and works well as a full-stop to an evening of fine virgin music. It’s the sort of gig one wishes to experience again – not because of any particular mind-blowing spectacle, more because of the nagging certainty that with music as subtle and charming as this, the first reading cannot reveal the true depth of everything that’s on offer. Oh well – that’s what records are for.

 

Album Review: School of Language – Old Fears

 
By on Tuesday, 1st April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

I’ve probably given this far too much thought, but my thinking goes like this: if I had a pinkyful of imagination and talent from either of the Brewis brothers, I’d be pretty well off. The two of them, David and Peter, have made a name for themselves as the incredibly prolific, incredibly forward thinking Field Music. And lest you ever think either of them actually takes time off from their musical careers, think again. While it has been 6 long years since the first School of Language album, ‘Sea from Shore’, no-one would dare call David Brewis lazy; I have this vision of the cogs of his brain constantly on, constantly moving, thinking, scheming. He’s just been busy with Field Music stuff, okay? So in 2014, he has gifted us with the latest from his solo project, an LP titled ‘Old Fears’.

In early March, David, his brother and several friends appeared as School of Language the live experience to perform live on Marc Riley’s BBC 6music show. (Listen to the session on iPlayer here.) During the interview, Riley asks him what he played on the new album. He replies that he played everything. (What did I say about the pinkyful of talent earlier?) Even if you knew nothing about School of Language or Field Music, the one major takeaway from ‘Old Fears’ is this is one funky record. I’ve never visited Sunderland, and to be honest, the only things I know about it are Field Music, Futureheads and Frankie and the Heartstrings and their Pop Rec Ltd store. Maybe there is a long standing history of funk hiding out somewhere in Sunlun, but I’m not aware of it. While Sam Smith may have been anointed the BBC Sound of 2014 winner, proselytising white boy soul, Brewis has sewn up and done a far better job with white boy funk. In addition to the funk, just like he and his brother have done with Field Music, incredibly inventive electronic, rhythmic and vocal elements are on display on ‘Old Fears’ as well.

‘Between the Suburbs’ was our first taste of the new album back in January. With a wibbly, wobbly, warbly synth, an addictive rhythm helped along with tambourine and an equally addictive vocal recalling David Byrne at his finest in Talking Heads, it’s an earworm and a half. Album opener ‘Distance Between’ seems not too far from David’s Field Music work, with syncopated vocals guaranteed to move your body. Amazingly though, unlike too many releases these days, there is incredible variety of song on ‘Old Fears’. A pulsing rhythm achieved by barely whispered dum dum dums, followed by a punishing line of drumming in ‘Suits Us Better’, are both endearing, as is Brewis’ falsetto. He weaves a mesmerising cadence into ‘Small Words’ and the words follow suit. In a word, the song is beguiling. The instrumental title track sounds like the march of strange alien beings; I half expected some lumbering green blobs to come tumbling out of headphones as I listened to it. I can’t explain why, but the extremely catchy ‘Dress Up’ makes me think of a wonky yet still funky ’80s Lionel Richie as well. Have a listen to it below and see if you agree.

Lyrically, there are plenty of gems as well, including two songs that caught my attention immediately. I asked David about ‘A Smile Cracks’, as it seemed to have a too happy way about looking back at a whirlwind relationship. Never mind; his response was as follows:

The reason for my line of thinking was the chorus, which read to me as words of hope: “I don’t regret trying too hard, and I don’t regret being nice / no wasted time, doesn’t seem bad when I think back, a little smile cracks.” [NB: after David read this review, he pointed out I had heard wrong and that the line is actually “I don’t regret trying too hard, and I don’t regret being naive”. Need to brush up on that Sunderland accent! – Ed.] We’ve all had this happen: the further you get away from the pain of a relationship that didn’t work out, even if you are still really upset by the way things turned out, there are times you can look back on and think, you know, that was a really nice moment in my life. However, it sounds like David’s reason for writing the song was more to remember what it was like being caught up in the moment while that relationship was happening, but focusing on how he was feeling rather than the relationship itself.

Incredibly evocative is the closing track ‘You Kept Yourself’, with all its instruments including a sad guitar and pensive piano, seeming forlorn, bending to Brewis’ will. “You kept yourself as much from yourself as you did from me”, the track begins, indicating the person he’s singing to was never true to herself, let alone to him. As the song continues, there is a refrain “it makes no sense to be apart, it makes no sense to go home / all the things left to learn would be best learnt together”. Once track 10 came and went, I was left wondering what he meant by the title ‘Old Fears’. Are these fears of his own, or fears he has in other people? In an interview with Rocksucker (yes, there really is a Web site with that name), Brewis says the track ‘Moment of Doubt’ is addressed “To me. Most of the record is addressed to me!” Hmm. Really? I’m still wracking my brain about these songs. Buy this album. It’ll be the most thought-provoking album you’ll buy all year.

8.5/10

‘Old Fears’, the second album from David Brewis’ solo side project School of Language, is out on Monday (the 7th of April) on Memphis Industries, the same day he and his band will be playing an album launch party at Newcastle Cluny to celebrate the release. Other UK dates follow later in April (full details here), culminating in a show at Manchester Deaf Institute on the 28th of April. If you’re keen, come to the gig and say hello, as I will be in attendance that night.

 

School of Language / April 2014 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 30th January 2014 at 5:00 pm
 

School of Language – the name of the solo project of David Brewis from in the critically lauded Sunderland duo Field Music in which he plays with his brother Peter, as pictured above – will be touring as a band in April in the UK. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday the 31st of January) at 9 AM.

Stream the newest song from David’s project, ‘Between the Suburbs’, below the dates. Like everything he’s done solo or with his brother, it’s incredibly inventive and brilliant.

Monday 7th April 2014 – Newcastle Cluny
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 – Bristol Exchange
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 – London Lexington
Friday 25th April 2014 – Glasgow Broadcast
Saturday 26th April 2014 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Monday 28th April 2014 – Manchester Deaf Institute

 
 
 

About Us

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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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