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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1451: The Crookes

 
By on Friday, 14th February 2014 at 6:00 pm
 

Following on from the first video from their forthcoming album ‘Soapbox’ in which their frontman George Waite had some, err, questionable attire, single ‘Play Dumb’ (reviewed here), The Crookes have a new promo out just in time for Valentine’s Day. ‘Holy Innocents’, track 5 on the Sheffield band’s yet to be released album, is a far more stoic affair, yet with just the right tinges of melancholy; the black and white film from their time recording the album in the remote mountains of Northern Italy are suitably bleak. I have further thoughts on the song, but you’ll have to wait until my review of ‘Soapbox’ posts in the coming weeks to read them.

Third Crookes album ‘Soapbox’ will be released on the 14th of April on Fierce Panda. After appearing at their third SXSW next month, the group are on tour in the UK in April and May, with a European leg scheduled between the end of the April UK stretch and a homecoming show at Sheffield Leadmill on the 31st of May.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hUk2Rcnm-8[/youtube]

 

The Crookes / April and May 2014 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 17th January 2014 at 8:00 am
 

Sheffield’s purveyors of New Pop, The Crookes will embark on a tour of the UK this April in support of their highly-anticipated upcoming album ‘Soapbox’, out right before the tour begins, on the 14th of April on Fierce Panda. The first single, ‘Play Dumb’, was reviewed earlier this week by Mary here.

The April tour dates will be followed by a series of shows in Europe before the band returns for a hometown show in Sheffield on the 31st of May. Tickets for the following UK dates go on sale today (Friday the 17th of January) at 10 AM. Support will come from their Sheffield brethren and #4 band on the TGTF 10 for 2014 readers’ poll High Hazels.

Tuesday 15th April 2014 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 16th April 2014 – Leeds Cockpit
Thursday 17th April 2014 – Newcastle Cluny 2
Friday 18th April 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Saturday 19th April 2014 – Hull Adelphi
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 – Manchester Sound Control
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds
Thursday 24th April 2014 – Stoke Sugarmill
Friday 25th April 2014 – Bath Moles
Saturday 26th April 2014 – Southampton Lennons
Sunday 27th April 2014 – Bristol Thekla
Monday 28th April 2014 – Brighton Hope
Tuesday 29th April 2014 – London Dingwalls
Saturday 31st May 2014 – Sheffield Leadmill

 

Single Review: The Crookes – Play Dumb

 
By on Tuesday, 14th January 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Anyone who’s been following The Crookes for any length (pardon the pun) of time is aware that the trademark of Crookes’ frontman George Waite has always been his long, floppy, ginger hair. But before they headed out to an isolated church in the mountains of Northern Italy to record their third album ‘Soapbox’, Waite’s locks were shorn and left forgotten on the floor, and away they went. This drastic event indicated to me that major changes were afoot. I have been pondering the motive for this haircut for a long time. My own brother, who is probably about George’s height, cuts his hair like that often because he’s simply too lazy to deal with it on a regular basis. And yes, my brother can be quite lazy.

Somehow though, I don’t think this radical new do of Waite’s came out of sheer laziness, nor was it simply cosmetic. Interestingly, the relative lack of hair on Waite’s head no doubt assisted in the filming of the band’s first video from the album, for brand new single ‘Play Dumb’. It’s the first single from the Sheffield band since the double A-sided ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in Colour’ single that was released in May 2013, the former of which represented a much harder, louder, uncompromising sound than had been previously proffered on their earlier releases. Post-‘Bear’s Blood’, I’d decided it was safe to say that their days of tracks with contemplative whistling were behind them, and the reveal of ‘Play Dumb’ supports this.

The first clue that ‘Play Dumb’ is something different shows up at the start of the video. Waite is sat at a table, looking at the camera, initially nervously so, playing with his hands, until the song begins with a discordant squeal of guitar and pounding drums. As the camera focuses in on him, you can sense something has changed. He’s ready for his close-up, and in this new close-up, he wants to show everyone he’s not the same boy we used to know. Even the half-smile he gives us isn’t 100% true, with what seems to me like a bit of an evil glint in his eye. And he is about to tell us a story.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmn9F9vKxzU[/youtube]

The song begins with, “I’ve had my mid-life crisis by the age of 25 / you say my head ain’t right / I’m tired of myself but don’t know why”: the protagonist of the story is unhappy with the way his life is going but doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. The intriguing, important next line includes the song title, and the line is repeated later in the song: “I’m dirt under your thumb, not pretty enough to play dumb”. As the video goes on, we’re watching Waite being transformed with makeup, a dress, pearls and a wig into, dare I say it, a damn fine-looking woman. What this made me think of first is what terrible things us women go through, trying to make ourselves prettier to impress men. But the sentiment could also be applied to men too, if you consider that while women are supposed to be soft, pretty things, in contrast, men are supposed to be tough and hard as nails, and some men aren’t made to be like that. Either ideal created by our society is hard, sometimes impossible, to live up to.

In lyricist Daniel Hopewell’s world, where if you are very pretty (or handsome for a man), you have the option of acting or playing dumb, because your prettiness leads to you not to have to worry about the mundane things everyone else has to. Isn’t this what image-conscious Hollywood tells us? If you’re gorgeous, man or woman, you don’t necessarily need a brain, and your career is more or less made. However, if you aren’t pretty enough and rather the “dirt under your thumb”, forget it, you don’t get the same concessions. By the time we get to verse two, there is no question that Hopewell is talking about the band’s own “poster boys” image. Like it or not, the Crookes are a very good-looking group of guys, which I’m sure has had its advantages and disadvantages for their career trajectory. “I’d rather you despise my every move” is an aggressive line and not something I would have ever imagined Waite singing back in the ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ era or even the latest ‘Hold Fast’ one: it’s indicative of a self-informed realisation that it’s better to be feared (or hated) than loved. Judging from the reactions I’ve seen from the boys playing live, there are an awful lot of people out there who absolutely adore them, but maybe that adoration comes at a cost?

You’re probably wondering why I’ve avoided the chorus up until now. I’m not a fan of it. The subtext of the song appears to be that the voice of the song is not living up to his woman’s expectations. Something has gone awry in their relationship, because he doesn’t need her anymore, and he’s bored with her. He wants her to “wake up” and take stock of the situation, while at the same time he refuses and “won’t change to get you off”. The line comes across as a clumsy way of saying “I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam” like Popeye, and it’s so crass – it wouldn’t be a surprise, since the song seems to be sung with such a sneer to the world – truth be told, it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe that was the point: the press release for the new single has Hopewell saying ‘Soapbox’ “…certainly isn’t a happy, carefree album”.

‘Play Dumb’ is catchy for sure, but its melody and hook aren’t as bright when stacked up against those of the first single of ‘Hold Fast’, ‘Afterglow’. The timing of this release seems particularly apt: the single drops the week before the band are due back in the States for SXSW, so we’ll have to see what the Americans make of it. Overall, this song seems to indicate the Crookes have taken off in a new direction, so the real question is, what will the rest of the album sound like? We shall be waiting.

7/10

The first single from the Crookes’ third album ‘Soapbox’, ‘Play Dumb’, will be released on the 3rd of March on Fierce Panda Records; ‘Soapbox’ will follow on the 14th of April. The band are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2014 in Austin in March.

 

(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Live Gig Videos: The Crookes play ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Sofie’ at New York’s Bowery Electric

 
By on Tuesday, 7th January 2014 at 4:00 pm
 

Just like Little Comets featured in our Live Gig Video feature yesterday, we’d been writing here at TGTF about the Crookes for a long time before they actually made it out to America to play some shows. Technically, their first American gig was at the Bowery Electric in New York City on the 17th of September last year, and I’m pleased to bring you two videos of ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Sofie’, aka tracks 7 and 8 on the band’s second album ‘Hold Fast’, filmed live that very night. Enjoy them below.

At 8 PM GMT tonight, I’ve been told personally that the Crookes are going to make a pretty special announcement about their third album; check in at their Facebook page at that time for more. Read the Bowery Electric review here and the review of the Brooklyn Union Hall show 2 nights later here. The band are scheduled to perform at this year’s SXSW in March.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuCD1D9JmyM[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkSYlrKneRs[/youtube]

 

Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 17th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

2013 did not disappoint to deliver another year of brilliant live performances for me here in America and in Britain. Which shows will I remember the most from 20-13? (I wrote it out that way, because I was told this last time in England that me pronouncing it that way makes it obvious I am an American. Do you reckon that’s true? I’m trying, folks, I’m trying, but as the majority of you know, I am American, born and bred!) Read on about the most exciting shows I’ve been to this year…

5. the 1975 at U Street Music Hall (20th June 2013) – I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the 1975 5 times this year, with 3 of those times in DC, and unusually, the one show that sticks out in my mind among all others is not their largest show in DC, nor their smallest, but the one in between.

The energy at U Street Music Hall, coupled with the screaming fans down the front, made it clear I was witnessing history. So what if “she’s got a boyfriend anyway”? We’ll be singing and bopping to the music like we don’t care, that’s what.

The 1975 Washington June 2013 1

4. Savoir Adore at DC9 (25th September 2013) – DC9 doesn’t have a great reputation for sound quality, but on this Wednesday night, all the stars aligned for a near perfect sounding show, highlighting the shiny, glittery ambiance that Savoir Adore brings to their shows.

Deidre Muro and Paul Hammer now have an impressive back catalogue to draw from, and this was just a wonderful gig to showcase their music, with punters having such a good time dancing to their tunes.

Savoir Adore Washington 2013 live 2

3. the Crookes at Sheffield Shakespeare (19th May 2013) – as the American editor of a UK-centric music site, all too often I’m left banging my head against a table or a wall when I come to the disappointing conclusion that I can’t attend a show I really want to be at. (Maybe one day when I have my own private plane…)

While the travel to Sheff was a pain in the arse – I must have taken the slowest Sunday train known to man from St. Pancras to the North East – and I’d not slept the night before, as John and I had been in Brighton all weekend to cover the Great Escape, it was all worth it for this chance to see one of my favourite bands in a teeny tiny gig in their hometown. As soon as I’d arrived at the place, I knew I’d made the right decision, having been greeted with the singing talents of a good friend wafting ‘Dance in Colour’ out of the top windows of the pub. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Read my review for further musings.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF6ELDSvOfA[/youtube]

2. OMD at Gateshead Sage (13th May 2013) – where do you go to see a favourite Northern band when possible? The North, of course. Martin had alerted me ahead of time that the Sage was quite a posh place and to expect people to be dressed fancier than I was used to seeing in clubs.

Hate people talking on their phones at gigs? The Sage has high-tech mobile phone blocking technology. The beautifully lit, swiveling panels suspended in the air above us and the band were awe-inspiring, as were Andy McCluskey’s seemingly inexhaustible singing and dad-dancing talents. ‘Electricity’? Why, yes.

OMD Gateshead live 1

1. Little Comets at the Hamilton (13th August 2013) – for the longest time, it seemed all my music friends had seen this Geordie band live and I hadn’t; further, so many of the bands I was personally friends with either had toured with them or had become friends with them after being impressed by their live show at a festival.

Well, it took 4 long years but I finally got to see Little Comets live, and I’m pleased to report they were well worth the wait. The dinner theatre-style setup of the Hamilton means at most shows, punters will remain sat at their tables, chewing on their tapas. Not this night: with fans shrieking and letting out catcalls of delight, stomping to their favourite songs and singing along word for word to tracks like ‘Isles’, it was definitely a moment in time I will never forget. More of this, please!

Little Comets Washington 2

Honourable mentions:

Franz Ferdinand at Strathmore Hall (17th October 2013) – I was under the distinct impression I would never see Franz Ferdinand live, unless maybe I was lucky enough to catch them at a festival. It had been 7 years since they’d played in DC. Great show punctuated with Alex Kapranos’ Olympic-effort leaps and bounds, and I have to say, you haven’t lived until you’ve been sat next to Nick McCarthy’s extended family at a show. Just saying.

Kodaline at Jammin’ Java (13th October 2013) – it must be nice to be on your first headline tour of North America and arrive in a city to find out you’ve sold out your gig there. I’ve seen quite a few post-gig fan queues in my day, but this one for Kodaline stretched to about forever. We hung around for over an hour and a half, watching the band say hello, sign autographs and take photos with each and every fan that wanted to meet them. If only all bands were as considerate.

the Static Jacks at DC9 (2nd October 2013) – this guys just get better and better every time I see them. They managed to turn a humdrum Wednesday night in Washington into a disco, with appreciative fans cutting a rug to their music. Doesn’t really get any better than that.

Villagers at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel (13th June 2013) – this was the first time I’d see the Villagers full band setup, having only seen Conor J. O’Brien solo in 2010. If you had reservations that ‘Becoming a Jackal’ was a whimper-y kind of record and you weren’t sold on their new direction in ‘{Awayland}’, go see them live now and watch them rock out.

the Joy Formidable at 9:30 Club (21st April 2013) – I prefer to see this Welsh band in smaller, dingier confines because I think their music suits that kind of environment better, but still, this was an amazing show. Hard to believe the first time I saw them was in November 2010, barely filling half of Black Cat Backstage’s capacity of 200.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2013. The runner-up gigs are also marked.

Continue reading Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 

Live Gig Video: The Crookes perform ‘Bear’s Blood’ and other songs and are interviewed by BreakThruRadio in New York

 
By on Wednesday, 30th October 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Okay, so after a long 6 weeks, a live and session and interview the Crookes did while they were in New York last month for BreakThruRadio have finally surfaced. The entire almost 30-minute audio version is here; it’s not intuitive, you need to click that Play sign up at the top to play the feature. But for those of you requiring visual gratification, here’s a video featuring the full live version of ‘Bear’s Blood’, snippets of ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ and parts of the interview, which, admittedly, doesn’t give you a whole lot of new information because if you’re a Crookes fan, you already know where ‘Bear’s Blood’ came from, yeah? Watch it below.

Our tag team coverage of the Crookes’ visit to New York included Carrie’s review of their Bowery Electric show the day after this BreakThruLive session and on guitarist Daniel Hopewell’s birthday, and my review of their appearance at Union Hall in Brooklyn.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIXwqr9lKDQ[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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