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The Maccabees / November 2015 and January 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Following their weekend appearances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, the Maccabees have announced a lengthy list of winter tour dates in support of their recent album ‘Marks to Prove It’.  The 13-date tour will start in Nottingham on the 18th of November and, after a holiday break in December, will end with two nights at London Brixton Academy on the 21st and 22nd of January 2016.

Tickets for the following live dates go on sale Friday, the 4th of September, at 9.30 AM. Previous TGTF coverage of the Maccabees can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday 18th November 2015 – Nottingham Rock City
Thursday 19th November 2015 – Newcastle Academy
Friday 20th November 2015 – Norwich UEA
Sunday 22nd November 2015 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Monday 23rd November 2015 – Brighton Dome
Tuesday 24th November 2015 – Southampton Guildhall
Wednesday 25th November 2015 – Leeds Academy
Friday 27th November 2015 – Reading Hexagon
Saturday 28th November 2015 – Bristol Colston Hall
Friday 15th January 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland
Monday 18th January 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Thursday 21st January 2016 – London Brixton Academy
Friday 22nd January 2016 – London Brixton Academy

 

Album Review: The Maccabees – Marks to Prove It

 
By on Friday, 31st July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The Maccabees Marks to Prove It album coverFollowing their 3-year long absence from the music scene, the first song the Maccabees offered up to the public was their new fourth album’s title track single in mid-May, ahead of summer music festival season. ‘Marks to Prove It’, with a memorable guitar hook and a rhythm destined to incite field pogoing, is exactly how I remembered ‘Pelican’ from their last album. This frenetic, high energy number, accompanied by a promo video showing the frantic pace of living and working in London, is very different to ‘Something Like Happiness’; the new LP’s second single, which will be released on the same day as the LP. It’s laden down with horns and has moments reminiscent of ’70s style Spector-ising. This matches right up to how the group’s frontman Orlando Weeks described the new release to Gigwise as it has “a ‘really nice mix’ of all the members’ different styles” and he feels more confident than ever to sing on this new material.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Kt3aN6Ey8w[/youtube]

After having listened to the album all the way through a few times, I’m finding little that stirs the senses as well as its title track. The feeling I’m getting is similar to what I felt for Maximo Park‘s album last year, ‘Too Much Information’: there are bright spots for sure, but most of the tunes lack immediacy or catchiness and don’t grab you. It seems false advertising to have released as your first taster a song that isn’t at all representative of the album as a whole. Feedback and effects are a hallmark of this album, even on a more introspective turn like ‘Silence’. An almost jazzy piano presentation frames the regretful lyrics of a man who chooses to stop communication altogether, thinking it’s easier if he shuts out those he loves: “I understand that it never ends / she’s waiting round every corner, round every bend / when you’re scared or lost, don’t let it all build up / break the silence.” On ‘River Song’, the pace is still one that lurches rather than speeds along, the guitars wailing before turning strident, drowning out both Weeks and any backing vocals. Maybe that was the point, that the instrumentation and voices were to become one? For sure, it’s less melodic than the psychedelic leanings of ‘Ayla’ from their last album, the 2012 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Give to the Wild’.

When the tempo speeds up as on ‘Spit It Out’, the closest the London band get to the pop magic of ‘Marks to Prove It’, they choose interesting note progressions on both the guitars and vocals that cause the song to sound chaotic. That is, until you pass the halfway point and things start to make sense. I see what you did there, Maccabees. You have to give them credit for doing something unexpected and different. This continues as they approach both the loud and the soft on the same song, which can be jarring if you’re not expecting it. Second track ‘Kamakura’ has gentle verses that are punctuated by Weeks’ yelling, “giving a bloody nose to the best friend he knows / the only time he’s cried since he was 7 years old / your best friends forgive you, your best friends forgive you / you get old” before the outro practically whispers the song out. On the other extreme, ‘Dawn Chorus’ is a dreamy number in which the horn guy (or gal) comes back in as if to wake you up from a trance.

You’ll enjoy the gentle slow-burning quality of standout ‘Slow Sun’, its masterful guitar throughout, a lonesome horn player in the distance calling you home, its piano notes adding a shimmering complement to Weeks’ voice, as he shows his admiration for a woman who has stuck it out through thick and thin: “no-one else knows it / the lengths that she goes to / to keep it together / that’s real enough.” While the rolling beats and soothing high-hats of ‘Ribbon Road’ and the dreamy ‘Pioneering Systems’ are pleasant enough, does pleasant and inoffensive cut it these days?

7/10

‘Marks to Prove It’, the Maccabees’ fourth album, is out today on Fiction Records in the UK and Communion Records in North America.

 

Video of the Moment #1838: The Maccabees

 
By on Sunday, 28th June 2015 at 10:00 am
 

The Maccabees have been busy boys. They’ve spent the better part of June touring as support for Mumford and Sons in North America, which I suppose isn’t as a terrible mismatch as might have been feared before the Mumfords emerged earlier this year, sans banjo.

With a new album called ‘Marks to Prove It’ up ahead on the 31st of July on Fiction Records, it makes sense that now would be the time to hit the iron hard, and they’ve now unveiled the second taster from the album, ‘Something Like Happiness’. It’s a much more restrained affair than the title track that saw the light of day in April. Check out the promo video for the song below.

You’ll get this track and title track instantly on download if you preorder ‘Marks to Prove It’ the album now. Check out all our past coverage on the Maccabees here on TGTF this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5iezedSefI[/youtube]

 

6 Music Festival 2015 on Tyneside: Sunday Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

To catch up on the first half of Martin’s review of Sunday at the 6 Music Festival 2015, click here.

An event should never be defined by its headliners – and for such a prestigious event, it could be argued that 6 Music weren’t too bothered about the halo effect of an international superstar topping the bill. Headlining the dark ‘n’ moody dance room (usually known as the Northern Rock Foundation Hall) was Daniel Avery, whose set provoked some discussion. Specifically, what do dance music producers actually *do* live? He presses the odd button, tweaks the odd knob, but mostly spends his time gyrating with his headphones over one ear. The plinth is arranged so we punters can’t see what equipment he’s got or what he’s doing, so one has to assume he’s booted up a MacBook Air and just pressed play. Musically, it’s inventive stuff, both danceable and listenable, but I’d like a bit more of a live performance.

One thing’s for sure, people really love The Charlatans. When I say people, I mean the middle-class-of-a-certain-age that occupy Hall One tonight. Surely nobody in 1990 would have predicted that they would become one of the country’s most durable and sought-after live acts. Perhaps it’s their dogged tenacity that people like; their sound hasn’t really developed beyond the baggy themes that they’ve purveyed for the past 25 years. Tim Burgess is becoming a bit of an icon, despite only a moderately interesting voice and his unusual hinting-at-transvesticism shock of blonde hair and oversized cardigan. Or maybe it’s the ever-present Hammond organ that’s the secret to their success. It’s difficult to argue that The Charlatans are as important a band and the Blurs, Suedes and Stone Roses of this world, but they could certainly teach their contemporaries a thing or two about persistence, and it’s paid off in their well-received headline show tonight.

A quick glance at The Maccabees is enough to know they’re not going to outdo The Charlatans in the indie-rock stakes, and so it falls to Teleman to be unlikely winner of the ‘Headliner of the Day’ award. Their subtle, Krautrock-influenced songs are tinged with wide-eyed innocence, not to say the ghost of Sparks, and they manage to end up in a brilliant crescendo courtesy of an extended version of ‘I’m Not in Control’. Teleman have a refreshing, shiny newness to them that neither The Charlatans’ greatest hits set nor The Maccabees’ laddish jollity can compete with. It is perhaps surprising that 6 Music went with such safe, established headliners (Teleman excepted, of course), as the absence of Jon Hopkins was sorely felt. (Get well soon!)

I’ve been somewhat critical of the Sage Gateshead in the past: for being too uptight, too high-brow, and too authoritarian to really enjoy a night out there. But tonight, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s ironic that the combination of two deeply establishment entities should actually give rise to an event as comparatively anarchic as tonight, but that is what happened. In the year of her 10th birthday, Sage let her hair down – and it was beautiful. The most obvious example of which is the never-before-seen removal of the seats in Hall One, which your faithful correspondent accurately predicted would happen in a Tweet to the Sage – they were naturally tight-lipped about it in advance, of course, but it shows how much clout the BBC had over how the evening was run, and the Sage management deserve a huge amount of credit for taking the leap of faith and going along with it.

Tonight proved what power for simultaneous multi-disciplinary performance Sage has until now kept hidden beneath her taffeta. I’m prepared to stand corrected, but tonight was the first time that pints were thrown and spliffs were smoked in the Sage. A small victory for people with souls. The door staff even seemed to let their hair down a little and go with the relaxed atmosphere. Not entirely though: I got told off for standing on a step. It’s ironic that it should be the BBC, one of the biggest, most tarnished, most confused bureaucracies that the world has ever seen (let’s not forget that in a uniquely misguided spasm of dithering the powers that be came very close to shutting down 6 Music itself) that should encourage Sage to effectively shed her staid overclothes and teach her how to have a good time. At the age of 10.

Or perhaps that’s the one thing that the BBC’s good at, I forget. At any rate, whether through an honest desire to bring good music and the spotlight of publicity to the regions, or alternatively a desperate attempt to inject some much-needed credibility and goodwill into an ailing institution, this was a brilliantly-conceived and superbly-executed weekend that only a churl would see as anything less than a roaring success. Where next? Nottingham, Glasgow, Bristol? They’re going to have to work hard to top Tyneside.

Performances from across the weekend can be found on the BBC iPlayer or via the red button on any digital TV. Massive thanks to Kate and the festival publicity team for sorting out out accreditation.

 

Mercury Prize 2012: Writers’ Early Predictions

 
By on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 11:00 am
 

So it’s been about a week since the nominees for the 2012 Mercury Prize were announced. We here at TGTF have been mulling over the options, and here are our early thoughts on who will win this year’s gong.

Mary Chang, Editor (current location: Washington, DC, USA)
With the exception of Leeds band Roller Trio, all of the acts nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize are no stranger are known acts. A large proportion of the 12 nominees are those with high profile debut albums. The releases by alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas, Michael Kiwanuka, the Roller Trio blokes and Sam Lee being considered this year all fall into that category.

Wait a minute, count those up again. That’s eight. You read that right. EIGHT. That’s means without even counting bookies’ odds, there’s a two out of three chance a debut album will be picked. Was this shortlist borne out of the fact that legend PJ Harvey‘s album ‘Let England Shake’ won the honour last year (and it was her second time winning), so the powers that be decided the list should be more heavily weighted to favour newcomers? The nominees should reflect the best of the best, and not because a band has suddenly leaped onto the scene on the strength of on media buzz. Let us not forget Speech Debelle’s win in 2009. Where is that follow-up album, eh, Debelle?

I’m not saying that there is no danger of having sentimental favourites nominated because there can be the thinking that although a band has been around forever and they never have won anything, let’s give them a go this time around, shall we? I am saying that given the importance and weight of a Mercury Prize nomination, let alone actually winning the prize, the winner shouldn’t be the band that has the largest promotional effort. Which, let’s face it, tends to happen with the Next Big Thing band, because thanks to the cynicism of labels, bands are pushed hardest when they are signed and put out their first releases. When the list was released last Wednesday, I groaned inwardly because there is one band on this list whose lead singer’s voice I cannot stand, but I expect to hear him and his band constantly on BBC Radio in the next 2 months without fail, all thanks to their Mercury nomination…

So my vote is for Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’. This is pop, but not in the way you used to view pop. It’s interesting and intricate, with piano and guitar lines that sound like no-one else’s. And more importantly, what they come up with is entirely unexpected. Brothers David and Peter Brewis trade off on lead vocal and drumming duties, adding two additional variables into the mix. They’ve made it okay not just to like but embrace the art rock genre, with its atypical time signatures, flying directly in the face of that urban pop piffle that’s become all too commonplace on radio. And this album has the word “smart” written all over it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard transitional bits in an album that were purposely made into tracks, and they worked? Should they win, I’m expecting naysayers to complain that they’ve been around too long and ‘Plumb’ isn’t as fresh as some of the debut albums that were nominated. Just because something’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, or the best. ‘Plumb’ is an intelligently written, intelligently made album that deserves this praise.

John Fernandez (current location: Lincoln, UK)
The question on most people’s lips: “where’s the crazy curveball they normally throw at you?” I, for once, found myself knowing all the acts nominated, something almost unheard of over the last few years! When looking at the list the name that jumps out is an obvious one: alt-J have been gathering plaudits far and wide and feel almost as certain to win as the xx did in 2010. You really would be a fool to bet against them, but I never said I was anything but a fool.

My money is going slap bang on Plan B, an artist who over a short career has reinvented himself so successfully. ‘The Ballad of Strickland Banks’ introduced a character and backed him up with some of the most soulful tunes of the past decade, thoroughly thrusting Ben Drew into the mainstream. Now his new album ‘Ill Manors’ is out and he is firmly back to his roots, rapping about financial hardship on council estates and the plight of “Broken Britain”. Plan B says he wants to have the same impact by winning this that Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in Da Corner’ did, and why not? He’s the outspoken voice of his generation.

alt-J are cool and have some killer tunes, but Plan B is representing the underrepresented and should win the Mercury Prize.

Luke Morton (current location: London, UK)
alt-J must be the favourites to win the Mercury Prize this year, and for good reason. Since their inception in 2011 with the ‘∆’ EP, the Cambridge four-piece have been spreading their melancholy, indie pop across Britain to the delight of the mainstream music press including BBC Music and NME.

Debut LP ‘An Awesome Wave’ is a supreme example of the evolution of indie in the UK in recent years, as it flirts with ideas of folk, electronica, art rock and straight-up pop music. It’s been accused of being too pretentious but it’s in fact a perfectly-crafted, 44-minute odyssey into experimental playfulness that has produced the enchanting singles ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’. There’s a reason the internet exploded at the release of this album, and hopefully it will receive the recognition it deserves.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
This year, the Mercury judges have the opportunity to comment on not just music, but society itself. For they have nominated Ill Manors, Plan B‘s uncompromising soundtrack to his eponymous feature film, a collection of grim stories set on a London council estate. This is the real deal: Ben Drew has the requisite first-hand knowledge to make a story of council estate debauchery and violence spring to life, and is reinforced here by collaborators of impeccable credentials. Never before has there been such a vivid piece of work documenting council estate life, and the moral- and morale-crushing struggle for survival which such an environment engenders.

Plan B pulls no punches; there are stories about drugs, violence, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and more drugs, leavened with heavy doses of swearing. No doubt there will be some who dismiss this as nothing more than a tabloid-style “demonisation” of the working class, exaggerating and exploiting their woes for cynical financial gain. Which is nonsense. Everything here has the ring of truth about it: Drew grew up on the eponymous estate; John Cooper Clarke is on board, and he, of anyone, knows his subject; take a wander through the syringes and discarded aluminium spoons of any run-down corner of London’s concrete chaos and then reasses those opinions. This is a more important piece of work than any dry government report on “Broken Britain” – its task is to seep into the consciousness of those lucky enough to have grown up on a manor not quite so ill, and make them aware of what’s going on, often just a mile or two down the road. In comparison, every other nominee appears twee and enfeebled – pretty music, but nothing with the relevance and gravitas of this collection. Richard Hawley fares particularly badly when listened side-by-side, smothering any relevance of intent with several decades’ worth of electric guitar. Ill Manors is the sound of today – however ugly the truth might be. Let’s hope the judges can find the bravery to reward fact over artifice.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. For an overview of all the nominees, read this post.

 

Mercury Prize Shortlist 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 6:23 pm
 

The shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2012 Albums of the Year were announced this evening by 6music presenter Lauren Laverne in a special ceremony at London’s Hospital Club. While some of the names on here are no surprise, with bookies predicting their odds for weeks, others seem to be a who’s who of the knife edge between mainstream and indie. And it just wouldn’t be the Mercury Prize nominations without a random jazz album mentioned. Let’s have a look at the nominees…

Not surprisingly to those in the indie blogosphere, Django Django‘s rhythmically dynamic self-titled debut received a nod. The band scored an American label contract this summer. Count on ‘Default’ and ‘Storm’ to get continued airplay all the way up to the night the winner is announced. (Read our coverage on the Djangos here.) So was alt-J‘s debut ‘An Awesome Wave’. I’m sure they expected it; why else would they have booked a tour for *next* May if they weren’t? If the sweaty club atmosphere I experienced on night 2 of the Great Escape this year seeing them (who were then followed by Django Django, I might add) is any indication, their album will be a frontrunner on many indie music fans’ lists.

Continuing with the debuts nominated, the singer/songwriter genre is well represented with entries from the female squeal-eliciting Ben Howard (‘Every Kingdom’), folk newcomer Sam Lee (‘Ground of Its Own’) and Michael Kiwanuka (‘Home Again’). Electro urban newcomer Jessie Ware, who Martin caught at Evolution, appears on the shortlist with her debut ‘Devotion’ released in mid-August. BBC Sound of 2012 nominee and Warner Brothers signee Lianne La Havas, who wowed crowds at the Great Escape and beyond, also received a nod for ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ If she wins the gong in November, expect cheesy headlines using the album title for full effect.

Stalwarts of the Northern music scene have been rewarded with nominations as well. The forward thinking of Sunderland indie heroes Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’ released in February 2012 and Sheffield’s bequiffed guitar bandolero Richard Hawley‘s new psychedelic direction for ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ were both recognised on the shortlist this year. The honour of this year’s wild card also goes to the North, via Leeds jazz rock band Roller Trio. Their self-titled album looks, from a distance, exactly like that of Stornoway‘s ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. (Not kidding. Have a look here and compare.)

The Maccabees, having returned after 3 years with new album, ‘Given to the Wild’, also appear on the list, making us seriously wonder how groundbreaking this list can be, with so many ‘safe contenders’. Plan B‘s nomination for third album ‘Ill Manors’ is less dubious, especially in light of Ben Drew’s shedding some much needed light on human trafficking in his video for ‘Deepest Shame’. Good save, committee folks.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. In addition to the ceremony itself, there will be a unique ‘Albums of the Year Live’ gig series leading up to the big event. The series will see the shortlisted artists play very intimate gigs. Access to apply for tickets to these gigs will be extremely limited and only through signing up a special mailing list for alerts on these very gigs. Each successful applicant will have access to two tickets; a £5 donation to War Child is required at the time to secure each ticket, with Barclaycard matching every donation pound for pound for their cardholders who use their card when purchasing. Go here for more information.

 
 
 

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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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