O.W.L.S – Prince Albert, Brighton 24.2.12

A night eagerly awaited. A band containing both Toby Macfarlaine and Richie Edwards could only be a very good thing, in my opinion, and I know I’m not alone.  Plenty of Stone Gods fans would agree that they belong in a band together, and Toby agrees – ‘I couldn’t think of anyone else I wanted to be in a band with more’.   They already have years of writing and playing together under their belts, so this new venture should fit them like custom made gloves.

I listened to the demos on Soundcloud when they first came to light and liked what I heard, even in their rough state. A departure from what I know of them, but heavens, would it not be terribly dull if that wasn’t so?  Can’t wait to hear it properly.

One emergency dash to the south coast done, a slight detour the wrong way round the train station, and finally I’m at the Prince Albert with about 10 minutes to spare. So ace to see so many familiar and well loved faces there!  Only time for a quick swig of drink before strings are plucked and it’s time to get down the front and see what I’ve wanted to see for over 3 years now – Toby and Richie on a stage again, playing plugged in and turned up loud. There’s no way I was going to miss this. True to form, Richie is looking effortlessly Rock, whilst Toby manages to look both beautifully turned out and grungekid at the same time.

They don’t disappoint. They never have! From the first note, there was a nice dark dirty edge to the sound. I like that. I like feeling like I’ve had music pumped through me and that it’s left a little graze to be admired later. I really like watching good musicians who know how to do that, and who look like it’s happening to them, too. Have a bit of grunge rubbed on me? Oh yes. See that edge? It’s quite sharp, actually. Don’t miss it.

Mosh to Kibosh and Vitamins, dance to Hurt Janine, and do a bit of both to the rest of the setlist:

Hurt Janine
Adayatthebeach
Leave A Light Over My Grave
Only Joking
One In The Chamber
Vitamins
Kibosh

In the end, I stopped trying to take photos and just enjoyed myself, listening to rock and grunge and indie elements swirling round each other, getting grubby and sweaty on the way before they crank up to full on soundload. No one who loves live music wants to hear disinfected, scrubbed notes on stage. What they want is the passion that makes a night memorable, a sound that’s great, and a little sting on their musical souls. Seems like  O.W.L.S have just the talons to do just that.

Next gig:  Love Buzz, London

I have added photos from the night from O.W.L.S Facebook to the Gallery, with permission.

Here’s a bit of video:

 

Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll

Foxy Shazam. What, you may say, is all that about? Well might you ask. For those who haven’t been baptised into this Church, settle back. Those that have, you’ll know all about the strangely off-sweetness of Foxy’s being.

You might have seen them supporting The Darkness during their UK tour last November, or have seen them moons ago at the Camden Barfly. I can bet  that wherever it was, you won’t forget it. There’s ALWAYS something happening, when they’re on stage. ALWAYS. A band that never stands still, never rests, never loses a chance to entertain. Eyes take time to rest on Skye playing keyboards with his feet, and you’ve missed Alex playing his trumpet whilst doing a one handed, thrusting crabstand. Look away for a second, and Eric is on shoulders, as if he’s apparated there. Photographers can’t keep up. Eric’s voice tears at your ears and psyche both as he delivers powerful, sometimes shatteringly high notes from a slender frame that seems too frail to contain such richness… but don’t be deceived. The man’s made of steel – hard, unforgiving, sharp, bright and flexible – especially where hecklers are concerned.

Given their well known association with Justin Hawkins (Eric and Justin have long been songwriting together, Justin produced this album, support slots on Darkness UK and USA tours), it’s tempting to look for another embryo Darkness. Forget that. Foxy Shazam have been around for a good long time. This is their 4th album and they have live experience that bands would sell their shoes for. Last year, the two bands complemented each other perfectly while contrasting starkly. Foxy Shazam are far darker than The Darkness in tone and presence. They have levels of sleaze and storytelling methods that would not suit TD.  To describe more fully, try hard rock disco (dickso?☺) 70’s frenzy with cool blues dirty trumpet under/overtones. It works equally well at whatever tempo, whatever emotional level.

This album, out a week ago, is all that. Start with the get down dirty title track and I Like It, move through pop twists to Last Chance at Love. I Wanna Be Yours and Wasted Feelings have hypnotic repetitions, vocal treatments and rhythms. Forever Together will give sweet chills with an easy, cool summery feel – but beware of this and the deceptively simple treatments given throughout. This is not music that trips happily through love and life. It digs far deeper than that. You’re never far from that dirty little edge of voice or instrument, crafted by men who know how. Power is seldom absent, whether it’s lyrical, vocal or instrumental. Foxy Shazam do indeed give a little enigma back to rock and roll, and a little enema is gifted, too – so it should be.

I want to see all this on stage, because I want to see/hear these songs with the raw passion of performance pulsing through. When you leave a gig with wide eyes and ‘What the FUCK was that?’ on your lips, you’ve seen something special. Had an epiphany, even. The Church’s services aren’t for the fainthearted or closed-minded, and I like it. A lot.

Foxy Shazam – out on USA tour with The Darkness starting 1st Feb in Toronto. See the tour dates page for more info, but move fast for tickets.

The Church of Rock and Roll is out now on iTunes, or see the band’s Facebook page for further info on album/tshirt/artwork bundles.

 

O.W.L.S

Toby Macfarlaine and Richie Edwards, formerly of Stone Gods, are about to launch their new band onto an unwitting stage and audience:

Ladies and Gentlefolk,
24th February 2012, The Albert in Brighton
O.W.L.S make our debut…
entry is £4
onstage 8.50-9.20pm
other bands:
loki
safehouse
Come along and t’wit and t’woo

Have a listen to some demos , find out the  and seriously think about attending that gig. We already know that these two are great musicians, blokes and facial hair growers and the demos have a lot going for them!

Lineup is as follows:

Toby Macfarlaine- guitars/ voice
Richie Edwards- guitars
Oliver Wickham- bass
Stephen Gilchrist- drums

O.W.L.S Facebook page

 

The Darkness, Hammersmith Apollo, 25th November 2011

By Adrian Gray

November had been a stressful month for me. This was mainly due to my unwavering desire to avoid learning anything about what songs might and might not be played on The Darkness’ ‘Every Inch’ tour- so much so that I would dive under my desk every time I accidentally glimpsed the word ‘surprise’ or ‘acoustic’ on relevant Twitter feeds.

Fortunately, my slightly sad commitment to set-list based ignorance paid off and, waiting outside the Apollo in the November cold, I was fully prepared to have my face blown off in a rock and roll fashion. Eight past seven on the slightly un-punctual dot and the doors opened, and with a quick sprint the front row was mine.

For reasons that have escaped my memory, I believed the first support act Crown Jewel Defense to be from Ireland. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when the California born and bred lead singer first opened his mouth. Despite this initial perplexion, CJD actually produced a solid batch of tightly knit riffs and overall punchy songs, warming the cockles nicely.

A brief wait.

Then, Foxy Shazam: a band with which I had fallen deeply in love over the previous eight months but had yet had the chance to see live. What they pulled off no-one could have prepared for. The audaciously eccentric Eric Nally bombarded the audience with a concoction of soaring vocals, headstands, frontward rolls, Luke Skywalker impressions, dramatic monologues and piggy backs. And all of this to the backdrop of deliciously melodic ‘rock and soul’ anthems performed with the energy of band convinced the world will actually end in 2012. Spectacular.

A perhaps even briefer wait.

Finally, with the soundcheck now history, Thin Lizzy stuck in my head and Abba’s Arrival filling the sweaty air, it was time.

A roar: there they were. All four positions were assumed: another roar. Then- ‘Black Shuck’. Perhaps not the opener I was expecting, with ‘Bareback’ suspiciously absent, but boy did it work. Suddenly the energy of the crowd was vast; the heat and noise verging on overwhelming; and as the familiar opening chords of ‘Growing on me’ leapt from the speakers, the momentum only grew.

And with that, thousands were collectively plunged into a feast of overwhelmingly awesome rock. The unstoppable ‘Best of me’ cascaded into a better than ever sounding ‘One Way Ticket’, before (hopefully) soon to be hit single ‘Nothing’s Gonna’ Stop us’ provided a catchy first taste of what’s just over the horizon. Following a blistering ‘Getcha ands orf’, Justin placed a top hat upon his flowing yet somehow manly locks and donned an acoustic, before entering into the brand-spanking, shiny new ballad ‘Can’t believe it’s not love’. This was a new song for me and looks set to clamber atop the pile labelled ‘classics’: an intoxicating blend of characteristically irrepressible hooks combined with Steel Panther esc lyrics coated with a necessary sprinkle of subtlety.

A true highlight followed. An acoustic ‘Holding my own’ showed everyone why it was worthy of closing ‘Permission to land’ and proved the kind of grin-inducing surprise I’m glad I managed to avoid hearing about.

Back to electric.

Hits were then followed by hits which were followed by new songs which were followed by hits. The rock quartet became a festive four-piece as slightly too much fake snow christened the beginning of the fantastic ‘Don’t Let the bells end’. The audience took the role of the school choir to provide a stronger, if slightly less innocent sounding finale.

The encore was upon us. But then, a familiar figure: the no longer black yet ever iconic hair of a man without whom the Darkness may not exist appeared- Lord Brian May was on stage. A violently loud reception followed, with every last member of the audience voicing their appreciation for the man who has by now perfected seeming modest while clearly remaining preposterously awesome. Without an introduction ‘Bareback’ began, and although hearing it this late in the set was a bit like receiving an Easter egg in September, it was still massively welcome.

Although hard to hear over the sound of five thousand voices screaming one man’s name, I’m relatively sure ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ was played next, which lifted yet another roof off after nearly forty years of doing so. Brian thankfully remained to smother the timeless ‘I-believe’ in the wail of the red special. Incredible.

The classic closer ‘Love on the Rocks’ combined with a walkabout drew the night to a close in a typically mesmerizing fashion. My ears were ringing, my ribs were bruised, but a smile was painted permanently onto my face. Turning around to look at the crowd, I think this applied to pretty much everyone else too.

So that was that. The kind of night to brag on the internet about. The kind of night to tell your kids and your kids’ best friends about. Interestingly, three of the songs I enjoyed the most were ‘Concrete Lion’ , ‘Nothing’s Gonna’ Stop us’, and ‘Can’t believe it’s not love’, and that can only bode well for what is to come in the land of D’.

Pop Will Eat Itself – Norwich Waterfront 26.10.11

PWEI were a great favourite of mine back when the world was mine and my oysters weren’t polluted, so it was a pleasure to see them come to Norwich, especially as I missed out on the Reformation tour a while ago. With a bit of determination and asking nicely, I managed to get an interview with this incarnation of the band at the last minute. I decided not to ask about the whys and wherefores of who’s doing what with who, because that’s been done by some other people on this tour – see the FB page for links. After an encounter in a bowling alley with the band and Davey’s pants (see photos) I went along later to the very tidy dressing room.  What’s the smell? Pot Noodle, Cheesy Toasty Toppers and cooked meat were the suggestions, but luckily for all, sweaty boy and bottom burps it wasn’t.

And I DID enjoy myself. The place wasn’t full, but the crowd was very pleased to be there and happy to show it. Lights, camera, action and sound effects… Back to Business, ok? Energy abounded on stage, Mary and Graham bouncing off each other in more ways than one. Plenty to watch and join in with, plenty of new, plenty of old. There is a harder edge to the sound, there’s no loss of the Poppies attitude. I got the feeling, as the band had hoped, that everyone there gave the new songs a fair hearing and good reception. Plenty of requests for oldies, too – Mary did say we could have Beaver Patrol if we sang it, but alas, the crowd wasn’t quite up to more than a ‘fine’ rendition of the intro. Ich Bin Ein Auslander really got everyone going, There Is No Love a Poppies anthem (no lighters, too bouncy), and RSVP from the back looked like a mass aerobic workout. Excellent. Good work, lads.

Here’s a video of Old Skool Cool – I had trouble staying still long enough for a whole video! Photos are on the Gallery page.

And interview – just don’t ask how long it took or get sniffy about the quality, etc. I’ve nearly killed myself getting it as far as this with it.

Thanks to all at PWEI.

FB   Twitter  Site     New album New Noise Designed by a Sadist and EP Chaos and Mayhem out now, and there’s a free download on FB.

 

 

This post was brought to you NOT courtesy of Apple. How difficult can it be to move a file from one Apple product to another, edit it and upload it? And HOW many conversions back and forth from one file type to another?  

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – UEA Norwich 23.7.11

Saturday night, and I’m off to see this Canadian ‘post-rock’ band at one of the fine local establishments.  This is not a band I’m at all familiar with, so I went with open mind and no bias, an innocent. All I knew was the name – from that I had a vague expectation of loudness and rockiness.

The venue itself is not particularly full, though a reasonable crowd is present. But…  hang on. I’m not adverse to beards, really, they can look quite striking on the right person if kept nicely. I’m not, however, prepared to be in a large room where 90% of the men have them. Proper ones, none of yer bum fluff poor effort. Most girls are of the hippy dress persuasion. Uh-oh. This does not really bode well, I’m thinking.

The band starts at 9, which is rather early. We amuse ourselves by looking at the long loops of real film tape hanging up by the sound desk – looks like a complete nightmare to me. It is at that point that dearly beloved turns to me and says ‘You’re probably not going to like this lot. You’ll probably be bored.’ Talk about warning in advance!

So on they come. A violin, a double bass, guitars, drums, etc – but they’re mostly sitting down. ‘Where’s the singer’s mike?’ ‘Umm… you might be disappointed if you wait for a singer’ is the reply. K. So, the general clientele, the warning, lack of vocals, and sitting down do not point me to a night of rocking loveliness. Or even a night of musical enlightenment and inspiration, à la Tindersticks. There’s no warning when they start, just an oddly not very co-ordinated launch into the first ‘event’.

‘Event’ is the right kind of word, I think. Each piece of music is finely crafted, carefully considered, beautifully played. Beautifully. It’s too loud, though. I’m advised that a lot of the effect of their music relies on contrasts between pitch, tone and tempo, and that it didn’t come across. Sound was bouncing of the walls near me, distorting and vibrating, which obviously doesn’t help. Even so, it is repetitive and I find myself waiting for crescendos that are promised that never come. At 14 minutes (I timed one) per event, I expect a climax of some sort to happen!

The crowd loved it. Cheers after each piece, cheers at the beginning of  favourites. Not sure how they were distinguished from each other, but I supposed that’s something any non-fan will say about a band they know nothing of.

We left after an hour and a half, by which time beloved had also heard enough.  Prog-hippy-orchestral-electrofolk is clearly not my thing. Still, I’m glad I know that now.

Further info on their site. 

Darkwatch #1

I thought we’d have a bit of a round up of recent Darklife. Not that anyone has missed anything, I’m sure, but someone might pop by who wants to know what the Lowestoft Four are doing.

So, the last time I posted, the new TD website was in a holding pattern, and breath was being held. Then one lovely Sunday morning, new things appeared. Contact details, and  MERCHANDISE. A brand new vintage Tshirt, based firmly on the classic logo/stage plan one from 2003. Ten minutes later, mine was all paid for and I was nearly in trouble for not paying attention to the males of the household demanding lunch. They duly arrived during that week – all lovely soft cotton and perfect logo. Smiles all round as realisation sets in – this isn’t a replica, or a reprint, or a nostalgia buy. It’s real. NEW. The first tangible thing. Mind you – have said it already elsewhere – they are cut slightly on the generous size, even for men, surely? Will be wearing my new TD dress as soon as possible! I’m sure we’ll get some that are more in tune with the female form in due course, as TD were alway pretty good with merch before.

Next up, and two days later… there had been a lot of speculation about whether they’d play Download, way before the official ‘we’re baaaaaack’ announcement. Every lineup announcement scrutinized. Finally, though, early last Tuesday morning, Download’s announcement came through and a little later, TD’s own. The Darkplace buzzed, plans made, day tickets wished for, weekend tickets bought. Precious belongings were sold (I assume games console thingies are precious?) to finance trips. Back on stage – a nice big one – right back where they should be.

There has been a fair amount of press attention, and most of it positive – even the NME joining in! Well done that lad wot wrote it. A few little snippets of interview, on the local telly  – a great start. Hopefully TD are pleased with the reception of the news. Much better to start with the good vibes flowing than having to withstand flak before even a note is heard. I have a feeling that there won’t be so much vitriol and dismissal this time around. Perhaps those first notes will be listened to with a tad more respect? And if not by people holding kindly disposed attitudes, at least they might be more willing to listen first with open minds? One can but hope.

So far, so good. One Tshirt, One gig, One very hairy photo.

 

Oh, and Frankie is looking for

Anyone interested in selling, lending or renting out a Gibson Thunderbird Bass Guitar?

So do seek him out on Facebook if you have.

 

Rebirth, Relaunch, Rededicate

I asked recently for fans’ thoughts on the Rebirth of The Darkness, so it’s only fair to do some work myself!

So… well. Oh LORD… we are so close to the Relaunch. So fucking close. Every time I think of it, it gives me a little shiver. I have a bounce in my step, a wide grin. My colleagues are already sick to death of hearing about it – either that or I’m getting patted on the head affectionately (well I hope so).  My husband has had fair warning and is still smiling.  Cats are a bit puzzled, but they sense something big is afoot.

Does it seem like a dream? Well, kinda. At the moment it’s all anticipation and preparation and planning of all kinds – much like the band themselves, I guess.  Work isn’t dreaming. Websites aren’t castles in the sky. The dream moment when I have to pinch myself will be at the first gig I can get to, standing there in the moments before they come on stage, just before the intro music. Oh, please,  RockGod, let it be ‘Arrival’!  Then, it will be time for a ‘quiet’ moment of ‘is this REAL? Say it is, say it is… ‘ and I KNOW I will have a lump in my throat. Every nerve will be on alert. I’ll have been nervous on the way, praying for everything to go right. If it’s the actual first gig, it’ll be a such a special night. Those nights for SG and HL were very special as well, but this? This will be… something more than that. Double that, and double again.  I’ll be an emotional wreck, and not ashamed.

We’ve all come a long way since October 2006, and so much has happened. Change and settling and rebuilding. That’s got to be a good  place to start from.

Everything in this household is ready to go again. For the love of the rock they brought,  I’m ready to go. I thought a lot about whether I could work for TD in the way I’ve done before, supporting SG and HL, giving everything I had time to give. I can’t physically do another Temple!  – there are other sites that can and will carry on in that vein. I can do this, though. I lay OI at the shrine of Lowestoft Rock, worship, hope, and wait patiently for miracles to happen (overblown metaphors a speciality, k?).

 

I can’t write this without some thank you’s for the rock we’ve had in the interval:

Robin Goodridge – for drumming so spendidly.

Stuart Cable (RIP)  – for stepping in to help.

Pete Rinaldi – for guitar, but mainly for being such a lovely guy.

Sam Stokes – for rocking hard and also being lovely.

Darby Todd – for being as cool as fuck, dude.

Johnny Haskett – for hugs, cake and splendidness.

Nick and Katy Brine – for just being ACE.

Toby Macfarlaine – for wit, elegance and charm.

Someone who deserves so many good things said about them – Richie Edwards.  You fronted SG so damn well, and are one of the nicest people anyone would ever wish to meet. We ALL salute you. I can only wish there had been one last time to ‘see you down the front.’  Maybe one day, Richie. xxx

 

Oh dear. Sniffle. See? Emotional already.  I am such a GIRL.

It’s time.

Permission to take off?

 

Granted.

 

 

Jo

 

The Darkness – 2011

The official website has a holding page – As Promised. The mailing list is up and running. The Facebook page is adding likes by the minute.

THEY’RE BACK.

All those months and years spent wondering- and lately, waiting – are nearly over. Rumours have been floating about for a very long time, and dismissed… but it’s true. There will be a Second Coming of the Saviours of Rock.

There have been mighty fine compensations. Stone Gods and Hot Leg have filled the gaps in bloody GREAT style. Stone Gods’ second album is still eagerly awaited and very much wanted.

But… but… there ain’t NOTHING like walking in the valley of Darkness.

Welcome back.

Celine and Nite Wreckage / The Savage Nomads

Alaska Studios, 20.8.2010

Nothing like a gig in London to go to – and this one was redhot, though I didn’t know it at the time of asking.

I knew nothing about either band playing at this showcase, put on by label Alaska Sounds, and by the time I’d decided I could go I’d left myself precious little time to check them out.  A little knowledge can sometimes be a bad thing, so I didn’t worry about it and set off in beautiful ignorance. And with perfect hair, which could well be the first time ever I’ve been able to say that.

At the back of the studio warren, Celine and Dave Ball were just finishing up soundcheck, and pondering the lighting vs visuals conundrum. Easily sorted with the help of small lamp and tall bloke! Both are polite, friendly and softly spoken, which sure as hell gives no clues for later. Calm more or less reigns with the protagonists, though prayers are being offered elsewhere that this all goes to plan. No signs of problems anywhere. Celine’s preparations are unhurried, and she still shows few signs of what’s to come.

To the tiny, warm room that’s tonight’s focus, then, glass of pink fizzy in hand.  The Savage Nomads, first. The four lads know very well what they’re doing, and do it very well, too. Clean, bright shafts of guitar dance across darker punkpop, illuminating and contrasting, allowing a flash of a 60’s vibe to escape every now and then.  They have a strong following already, and a residency at the 12 Bar Club, Denmark Street. EP coming out soon – listen and get more news on myspace.

A short break, much needed. It’s getting VERY warm, and people are buzzing. They really want to see this. Nite Wreckage  – collaborators Dave Ball and Rick Mulhall – are joined by drummer Terry Neale to provide visual and aural backgrounds for Celine, who is not so much of a singer as a protagonist.  When she arrives on stage, she’s not the same woman I met earlier. She’s transformed, and not just by clothes and makeup. Celine is now a denizen of the seamier side of London, switching through centuries as she makes sure you know where she’s at. Aggressive, contemptuous, funny and scary/scared – perfect portait of a Lady of Soho, don’tcha know?  She’s could be the Poly Styrene of THIS decade, but she is most decidedly Celine. Perfect electropunk swirls round her tempestuous lifelook, two sources of hardedged noise complementing each other lustily. Jane Austen is famed for her portrayals of society in miniature – Celine has it down pat, with grit and beats. Oh… and a hammer.

What a performance. Rapt hot sweaty audience, hot sweaty room.  There was humour, there were grins, there was dancing to damn infectious music. When Celine and Nite Wreckage are on stage, you pay attention. I am forever grateful to myself for taking up my invitation.  Entertain me? Fuck, Yeah.

Celine and Nite Wreckage’s single Popabawa is available for download on 5th September. The album Evolution? Revolution! is due out early 2011. Keep an eye on myspace for gigs and other news.

Many thanks to Martin Tibbetts and all at Alaska Studios.

Anders L.A. – ‘In Unison’

By Lucie.

The last time I reviewed Anders’ music, he was a child. Two years later, he’s still a child, but with an increasingly and impressively adult view on the world; you feel it in his music, and In Unison is the most grown-up melodic mission he’s ever been on.

I’m put in mind of another newish (but like Anders, having steadily worked on his craft for a fair few years now) young artist by the name of Streebeck – indeed, Anders’ debut album feels very similar to Streebeck’s Without a Baedeker, that delicate balance of songs on happiness and on loss, with the two themes occasionally merging.

Anders’ themes are more heartfelt than ever, his voice having settled in his tender years to suit the mood of this beautiful record and its nine poetic tracks. The rough edges of his previous EP’s have been smoothed and, such is the faith in this aural collection, it’s now available to buy on iTunes.

‘You Should Smile More’ was instantly my favourite track – I’m always swayed by the bounciest song first. The subject matter (the title says it all) is simple, yet something nobody else has written about before. This is Anders’ strength, discovering new themes (generally various branches of the feelings that come with love), surprising when love is the most well-worn musical subject of all; it’s astounding to find that somebody is finding new ways of exploring it.

I’m loving ‘Under The Sun’, ‘The Hard Goodbye’, and ‘You’re Always There’ too, songs that span emotion, as the entire record does. The album sounds effortless and clean yet deep and soul-searching, an odd and enticing mix that surely is the stuff that makes the best records. Anders rules, forevz.

www.myspace.com/andersla

Karaoke For Beginners – 8.8.09

giginthepark, Halesworth, Suffolk

Back in the Park again. Another hot sunny afternoon, and I love this event. It rocks! A little shopping in the town yields a pair of gold lamé lined purple velvet knee boots, and meeting the rudest second hand bookshop employee you’ll ever come across. DON’T go in there.

Ahem. Anyway… although I come every year, when I can, this year I came to see this band. Ed Graham back on stage after illness and his departure from Stone Gods is not something to be missed if you can get there. Sadly missed the first ever gig, but very pleased to make this one. MySpace provided plenty of idea of what to expect.

It was, in the way of GITP, a very short set, but there was plenty I liked. This is  rather more my bag of stuff than most.  Fields of the Nephilim versus The Cramps,  a dash or three of humour and a bloody good rocking dark sound. Ben’s voice gives Carl’s a good drubbing.  Tbh, this ain’t a band who are going to be seen at their best at 5.45 on a sunny afternoon, in full daylight. They need dark places. And dry ice, though there was a puff of smoke that surprised everyone (FOTN in mind, a bag of flour was also called for, but that’s just my 80’s goff thing and not a dig).  They also need a crowd! They’re a getdown/get sweaty and dirty in the pit sort of band, and THAT, I like.

It can’t have  been their best gig, and too short. I want to see them again, indoors, in a place where sweat runs down the walls and the crowd are UP. Natural habitat.

Ed fans – He’s looking well and drumming like a good ‘un.

MySpace

Facebook Group

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Streebeck – ‘Catch As Catch Can’

By Lucie Walker.

If there’s one current band that understands the meaning of evolution, it’s Streebeck. ‘Catch As Catch Can’ is startlingly different to the simplistic ‘Without A Baedeker’ in many ways, yet it’s clearly the same creators behind it, with a new attitude.

The most notable difference is the layering of music, mostly absent from the debut, with a full deck of instruments and instrumentalists – it’s immediately obvious that Streebeck is now a band rather than simply Lawrence Mackrell and his acoustic.

I’ll admit that it was live solo Mackrell that charmed me enough to buy the first album, but it only took one listen of ‘Catch As Catch Can’ to prove that the right decisions have been made for the development of Streebeck. It pleased me to hear that the raw lyrical emotions remain (my favourite line from ‘Long Goodbye’ being “I wish you’d shut your mouth, I’ve heard this all so many times”) against the backdrop of warm melodies, but it’s all one large developing step forwards – an inspired move.

The opening ‘Southlands’ is positively epic in feel compared to any of the first record, bright and much heavier than we’re used to. This, along with the similarly upbeat ‘Evening Train’ and the heart-wrenching ‘September’, are my favourite tracks from ‘Catch…’, the former two utilising the Travis-esque way of pairing pained lyrics with buoyant music – a style I have a soft spot for and one that was used to great effect in ‘Without A Baedeker’. It certainly makes for far more enjoyable listening than certain other recent artists and bands of a similar (but depressing) ilk.

‘Whilst You Lay Sleeping’ and ‘Giving Up And Selling Out’ are both further proof of how musically rich this album is, while ‘We’ll Always Have New York’ and ‘Birds’ are intensely reminiscent of the first album, maintaining a smart balance that gently introduces the fan to the new twist, and gives the new listener a treat.

This album is musical development at its finest, and it seems as if Streebeck is very aware of it. Mackrell and co have found their feet on the back of the confidence that the release of ‘Without A Baedeker’ has provided. ‘Catch As Catch Can’ is impressively fresh, complete with the feel of summer within the music, made to be enjoyed – so enjoy it.

www.streebeck.com

ROCKAGANDA – Parlor Mob

by Lucie Walker

Once in a long while, a truly impressive band comes along. I know, they’re horribly few and far between these days, but Parlor Mob is one of them. Their album ‘And You Were A Crow’ has accumulated a cult following as they sucked up fans with their heady cocktail of dirty rock and tender blues. It’s no wonder they’re a hit with wavy-haired 70’s-lovers such as myself.

Earlier this year I saw the video for the opening track on AYWAC, ‘Hard Times’, and I instantly thought to myself: “is this one of the great oldie bands? Surely nobody sounds like this anymore!”. But no, these kids were young and serious, and after shamefully forgetting about them for a few weeks I bought AYWAC on a whim, which I very rarely do on the back of hearing one song unless they really are THAT good.

The album is an instant classic from start to finish. It would be so easy to compare them to Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin, and I’m afraid that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The dual guitars have the unmistakable vibe of Lizzy, and the strained vocals of a frontman who is singing at a higher pitch than his larynx wishes to allow him to is reminiscent of both Lynott and Plant. It’s the bluesy element that reminds me of Zep, particularly on my favourite track of the album, ‘Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down’.

However, I’m not going to fall into the trap of implying that they’re an entirely retro and nostalgic band, that wouldn’t be fair. Their sound is fresh at the same time, by which I also mean refreshing. This stuff hasn’t been done before, not even by the old greats, despite the fact that this bunch were clearly born out of their time.

Songs like ‘When I Was An Orphan’ and ‘Angry Young Girl’ are proof of this, where both lyrics and style are completely original and touching. The only comparison I could give for the latter, for example, would be the rather obscure Real Tuesday Weld, with their tapping drums and similarly cooing and melodic velvet vocals – stark contrast to Mark Melicia’s harsher and higher tones on the rest of the album.

The epic 8.5 minute long saga that is ‘Tide Of Tears’ is a deeply emotional musical journey, and provided you have the patience to take the time to listen to such a lengthy track, it will touch you with its dark, slow tendrils of blues-rock.

Tracks like ‘Carnival Of Crows’, ‘Dead Wrong’ and ‘Real Hard Headed’ are the ones that will have you headbanging, while the slower songs will have you swaying or dancing, depending on whether they’re in major or minor.

Another thing about this album and this band is that you get the distinct impression that they’d be an absolute rocking joy to experience live, in all their long-haired boisterous glory. I see them flicking sweat across the audience as they deafen with wailing riffs already, and personally, I’ll be all over a gig of theirs as soon as they bless our fair land with a visit.

Quite simply, this is British rock with an American lilt, and I think Parlor Mob must be very aware of the country that inspired their style. For once, a singer in a classic rock band has the RIGHT to sound like a Yank when he sings.

Telstar

This is the second biopic I’ve seen in the last year. Not usually my thing, I’m not a huge fan of sitting still for a couple of hours, but I make the effort sometimes. The first one I went to see was Control – Ian Curtis of Joy Division. That was an essay in quiet, crushing hopelessness, shot in black and white, funny and grim in equal parts, like the decade it covers.

Telstar, though, is in glorious colour.  It reflects its times perfectly – full of life, new things, discoveries and experimentation. Joe Meek, pioneer producer, is right at the heart of the early 60’s  new mania for pop music – something to DO for the ‘young’, now that they had money in their pockets and time to do things in. Post war austerity seemingly at an end, excesses of every kind kicked in. My impressions, then:

Joe Meek’s excesses were myriad. Work consumed his life, and he consumed the lives of others in his quest for hits, for perfection, for the ideal. He had a ‘family’ around him who could see his genius and worked for it, because they believed in him. He had talent and dedication. What he also had was a sizeable drug habit, in the days when pills were taken like sweets. He already had the arrogance of talent, the conviction that he was always right, and a healthy dose of latent paranoia. Not surprising, given that being homosexual was a dangerous thing to be, back then. We forget. It didn’t make him careful though, because he was arrested in an entrapment that surely never would have stood up in court these days.

That, in the film, seems to have been a turning point, though things had been going wrong already. Meek was a disaster of a businessman. He could not or would not see his own failings, preferring to blame others.  His descent into mania was triggered by so many things – drugs, lack of success, huge money problems,  what he saw as desertion by those he trusted and loved. His drive for perfection cost him a good deal of sanity, as well as friends.  Manipulative, high handed, cruel and given to taking advantage, goodwill ran out for even the most patient.  There’s no sycophantic heroworship going on, on screen. That’s in the story.  

And the bitter irony –  he destroyed those who stood by him to the end. His landlady whom he murdered, and his lover Patrick, who was arrested for that and Meek’s own suicide. Three more weeks… three more weeks and his life would have been so different. Royalties paid, he could have gone on. If he’d gone to work at Apple – who knows what he could have achieved there.

This film is far darker than Control, in my view. The calmness of depression is replaced by the constant action of mania. The effects of pressure are more easily seen, as the instant reactions are on the surface of the man. The film’s  jumping about from flashback to reality to future (or even sideways) heightens that impression. The closed, shuttered, claustrophobic studio, seems to me to be a metaphor for Meek’s mind – look how he reacts when the sun is let in.  The cast played a blinder. They all gave everything in their performances, utterly believable. It’s the situations they were in that weren’t, but it all happened.

Just because I am who I am, I can’t  write this without mentioning Mr Hawkins’ screen debut. Only on the screen for a short time, he made the most of it. He certainly has a presence – well done, Justin. In fact (which is not related to the fact that Justin is in them) the scenes he is in are the only ones that jarred within the film. They in themselves are fine, but I didn’t think they were very well integrated with the rest. The introductions of Billy Fury, Gene Vincent etc were much smoother.      

Go and see it if you can. Joe Meek gave British music a legacy that cannot be ignored.

Soccer Six(sister) 2009

Chelsea FC, 24.5.09

I quite like Soccer Six. I like football, so that’s usually win/win. A day out, and some interesting sights on the pitch. Cool! I had a great time last year. It was at Millwall’s New Den, and after finally getting my press pass, I was allowed on the pitch, got to talk to some of the teams, took some great photos. When the camera wasn’t blowing up, of course.

So, with high hopes, new camera, voice recorder and some sarnies, I set off at the ungodly hour of 6.45. On arrival at CFC, though, chaos seemed to be the order of the day. My name wasn’t on the press list (again) so lucky I took my email with me. I got a gold wristband, and was sent upstairs. That seemed to be the VIP stand… why was I up here then? Back downstairs, and a helpful Samaritans lady pointed me to the press area.

THAT was a complete disappointment. It was half of the East Stand, including the dugout. The pitchside floor level is lower than the pitch itself, handy if you’re not quite 5′ and the barrier is quite high! So, only celebrities that played on that quarter of the pitch were within reach of my camera. I did go back up the stand a little way, but it wasn’t great. Not enough zoom. You needed a camera the size of me to get anything on the far side. Most of the blokes there were professionals and had all the goods. There was no chance of getting any soundbites from anyone either. There were promises that celebs would be brought over to the press, but I didn’t see that happen. No press were allowed anywhere else in the stadium, either. That put paid to my visiting the other Justin fans on the West side.

Some one did tell me there was a press room, with drinks – but when I asked, the press room turned out to be the kit room for the day – all the teams were going in to pick theirs up from there. Oops.

It wasn’t looking very good, until I saw familiar faces in the stand upstairs. I went back up – after a few trials and errors, I ended up in a service lift to the right floor! There wasn’t any direct access between floors, and after that I had to come out of the stadium and back in again through Reception.    Anyway, I did find people to talk to, thank goodness!

I watched some football. Most of it wasn’t very good – if the girls’ teams carry on playing like that, I’ll bloody well get on the pitch myself. WHO wears their hair in a beehive  to play? False eyelashes? Girls – you looked ridiculous, and made girls’ football look silly as well. Yes, I know it was for charity, and credit’s due to them for playing.  Didn’t stop me holding my head in my hands – being an ex player I suppose I’m a bit biased. It was dirty as well, out there!

The men did better, there were some good moves and a few skills out there. Justin played well, but not for long enough to get really into his stride.  He wants to play every week now, so if you need a player… His Telstar team were knocked out in the group stages.  Next year, it’s gonna be  Trojan Football.  Justin’s already fit, looking well and healthy, so the smart money’s on Team Hot Leg to dazzle and beguile. (Although that might be before kick off :D)

This really is a fantastic event. The teams, the games, the charity, everything. This year, with no access to any other part of the ground or to the players, it just felt like a corporate event. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone! If you didn’t have a professional camera or a TV one, it wasn’t fun. If I hadn’t seen those faces up above, I’d have been there on my own all day, 3 hour journey each way, and had nothing to show for it. I’d probably have gone home much earlier.

There WERE Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson lookalikes, though.

There was a Press donation of £25 payable. That’s a lot when you don’t have an expense account, and I didn’t know about it until two days before. I don’t begrudge donating to Samaritans – but for what I got that was useful from it, I’d have been better off in the West stand with my friends, with a normal ticket. I got my press pass to report for the fans, dammit, not to flog my pictures to magazines and newspapers!

Thanks, Chelsea, for really not making things easy.  From what I heard, the  disabled area wasn’t so great either. Although the stewards were apparently pretty good, it’s not handy if people keep coming to stand in front of  the wheelchairs, is it?

Soccer Six and the Samaritans had nothing to do with any of the niggles. They do a great job. Can we go back to informal, next year, please?

Photos:

Hot Leg – Red Light Fever

Tongue tied is not my normal state. I do rabbit on, and when I’m reviewing something I get all flowery. I like words – but this time, they haven’t liked me and this particular review has taken AGES to write. Knowing what you want to say and not being able to do it is just the pants… Got there in the end!

 

Hot Leg. Début album. Doormat. Mad rush to electrical appliance – open the envelope, stupid girl! Insert contents, turn power on, settle back for ten intense bursts of bliss. Repeat as necessary.

 

I’ve got, in my hands and ears, songs to melt to. I’m lucky – I’ve heard all of them more than once live, except for Kissing in the Wind. I know them, recognise them, they’re virtually godchildren!  Wasn’t at their conception, of course, I missed out on the messy bits. It’s very different when you have a nice undistorted sound. Nobody’s shouting in my ear, I’m not trying to take photos and I don’t need to worry about being able to see. I can just relax and truly listen. And yes – to those who asked – I like it. Love it. 

 

There’s more layers than I’m used to hearing, both instruments and voice. Some vocals are startlingly choral, like in Chickens, and there are layers of Justin’s voice everywhere. His singing swoops and soars as it ever has done, more easily I think. It sounds more assured. There’s more mid-range singing, which I’ve always liked.  Kissing in the Wind and Ashamed are prime examples. Speaking of Ashamed – the nation’s future anti populist tv protest song – there’s a glorious brief moment when Beverlei Brown’s voice slips in beside his, and the two are inseparable until she takes off on her own. Her smooth depth of tone match his beautifully – it was a surprise first time to realise it wasn’t Justin. I want more of that! She makes it sound so easy, dammit.     

 

I suppose you expect me to eulogise about the guitar playing? Quite right too. Well, it’s as brilliant and beautifully executed as you’d expect. Whatever the flavour – rock solos, bluesy intros, delicate fingering in Trojan Guitar – it’s spot on. Keyboards are prominent – lovely synth in Chickens made me smile – and piano in Kissing in the Wind. You’re not going to get an album without those in!  There’s often a heavy pounding rhythm, bringing Man Rock down to deep and dirty under those deceptively catchy bits that are more Velcro than hooks. You’ll find changes of tempo within songs rather than across the album as whole, but there’s plenty of variety.

I’m not going to dwell on The Darkness. If you hear TD in this from time to time, why should it be a surprise? Some songs were written in 2002, right back in the hard slog days. Justin wrote and recorded this album, working on it for months before Hot Leg were finalised. The future writing will be interesting, collaborating with the rest of Hot Leg.

 

Have a very careful listen to the lyrics. Ponder them. Draw your own conclusions where you need to. Love songs have realities embedded in them – you can’t have slush without slipping on it sometimes. Prima Donna and Trojan Guitar have their own histories and meanings. However you read them, it’s obvious that Justin’s lyrical adroitness isn’t a flash in the pan. A word or two can change the entire point, feel and thrust of a sentence or song. In Kissing in the Wind, it’s one consonant. That song could be as much about Justin’s fans as the lover it addresses, to my mind. Can’t wait to hear it live.  

 

Apart from I’ve Met Jesus, which has been top banana since I first heard it, I can’t pick out songs to put above others. They all have something that delights or intrigues. Any disappointments? No. I think I might have preferred to have Extraordinary Woman rather than Chickens, I rather like that song. And Come Into My Arms – mmm, yes, then Cupboard Love and Automa… can’t have too much of a good thing. Albums should have B-sides!  The main problem with the whole album? Listening to it in comfort, I’ve discovered I’ve been singing lyrical bollocks of my own devising all these months. Oops *blush*. 

 

Red Light Fever inflames the senses, it’s true. Drives one to sing and dance, headbanging (can you airheadbang?), and if you’re DEFINITELY alone in the house, striking silly poses at the same time as the above.  Are these not indicators of truly good music? No? Then music’s not fun any more. I want Rock with a bit of life about it, some humour, reality and one or two things to ponder. And some Man, just to spice it up a bit.

 

Red Light Fever is  out on 9th February 2009, and  available from  www.play.com , www.amazon.co.uk, and   www.townsend-records.co.uk/artist.php?artist=hotleg . Townsend have a bundle offer on the next single Cocktails, out on 23rd February. They also have the red vinyl LP version.

 

Track Listing:

1. Chickens
2. You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore
3. Ashamed
4. I’ve Met Jesus
5. Trojan Guitar
6. Cocktails
7. Gay In The 80s
8. Prima Donna
9. Whichever Way You Wanna Give It
10. Kissing In The Wind