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White Denim

Village Underground

Quirky, erratic Texan rockers go super tight and loud. So good.


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20th Nov 2013

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Lightning Dust

Hoxton Bar & Grill

Amazing music, but these guys might be best suited to the studio.


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29th Oct 2013

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Neil Young

The O2

Fun theatrics and feedback hurricanes, as Crazy Horse plod in places and rage through hits in others.


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18th Jun 2013

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Radiohead

The O2

Uninspired show from one of my favourite bands, doing many of my favourite songs, close to my house.


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10th Oct 2012

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Joan Baez

Poole Lighthouse

We were forewarned:- there were signs in the foyer that there would be no warm-up act and no interval, just a straight performance. And that was exactly what we got – just under two hours of Joan Baez. The years have been kind, and at 71 she walked on stage looking as slim and elegant as ever. The hair is now cropped and the colour is silver, but then that applied to most of the audience as well.

The stage was bare apart from a comfy sofa and a standard lamp, and she was accompanied for most of the evening by her son Gabriel Harris on percussion and the talented Dirk Powell on mandolin, accordion and just about everything else.

The atmosphere was relaxed and the songs were a mixture of old favourites and the not so old – Farewell Angelina, God On Our Side, House of the Rising Sun, and Diamonds and Rust, a reference to her relationship with Bob Dylan. We also got John Lennon’s Imagine and Donovan’s Catch the Wind, and the evening finished with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Blowin’ in the Wind. Her voice is still haunting although she avoids many of the high notes now, and I did think that the tempo of some of the songs (particularly House of the Rising Sun) was a bit slower than it used to be. But she can certainly still sing. And she still believes in what she sings.

We went home happy, and although the singer is still a protester I wondered how many of the audience still are?!

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26th Mar 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

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June Tabor and Oysterband

Chichester Festival Theatre

West Sussex based organisation “Roots around the World” have organised a music festival "The Britfolk Footprint" as part of their efforts to promote both new and established artists. This was the headline evening of the festival with veterans June Tabor and Oysterband top of the bill. Their act was largely based around their two collaborative albums, the folk rock classic "Freedom and Rain" and their current much acclaimed "Ragged Kingdom".

The performance got off to the best possible start with the rousing traditional "Bonny Bunch Of Roses" modified to blend folk diva Tabor's smooth and melodious voice with the stomping backing of the Oysterband. However it was not all folk based music as they worked their way through PJ Harvey’s "That Was My Veil", Dylan’s "Seven Curses", Joy Division’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and an excellent duet between Tabor and John Jones of the soul classic "Dark End of the Street". The finishing number was the powerfully delivered Jefferson Airplane 60’s classic "White Rabbit".

On the 8th February, the artists scooped four awards at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including Best Singer, Best Group and Best Album (Ragged Kingdom), making our attendance very timely.

The support acts for the evening were provided by talented and gimmick free English folk trio "Pilgrim’s Way", and singer guitarist Sean Taylor.

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13th Feb 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wassail

Poole Lighthouse

This concert included some of Dorset’s finest musicians - The New Scorpion Band, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Purbeck Village Quire and the St. Osmund Singers. They blended magnificently to produce a great evening of everything that is traditional about Christmas.

The Scorpions are a group of musician/composers – several of whom regularly perform at the Globe Theatre - who sing and play unamplified music using a wide variety of historical instruments. However, amplification was hardly necessary with the full BSO behind them and they produced a varied and very enjoyable selection of music and verse. Highlights were Sans Day Carol and the Dorset Mummers’ Play whilst the BSO excelled with Warlock’s Bethlehem Down and Vaughan Williams’ English Folksong Suite.

This conceptual concert started at the Lighthouse in 2010 and returned by popular request, whilst now also expanding to a tour with new venues in Bristol and Portsmouth. Look out for further expansion in the years ahead.

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18th Dec 2011 - Add Comment - Tweet

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My Morning Jacket

Roundhouse

A near flawless set and perfect venue elevated this to more than just another MMJ show.


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8th Nov 2011

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John Mayall

Poole Lighthouse

This was our second John Mayall concert - the first was in 1967 (UCL Union); so only a wait of 44 years in between. In that time John, who remains one of the godfathers of British blues, has made many albums, lived a life of constant touring and launched the careers of many rock & blues legends - Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and John McVey to name but a few.

This was the 6th night of a 25 date British tour that ends 18th November. The band retains a traditional line up of Rocky Athas - lead guitar, Greg Rzab - bass guitar, Jay Davenport - drums. Remarkably, Mayall did all the vocals, played keyboard and/or harmonica on all numbers apart from one, when he played guitar - not bad for a 77 year old!

The programme consisted of many standard rhythm and blues pieces, which were all played at a high technical level with a lot of feeling. Particularly memorable were “All Your Love” and “Parchment Farm” from the Blues Breakers (the Beano) Album.

Supporting act was from the Oli Brown Band.

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3rd Nov 2011 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wilco

The Roundhouse, London

Wilco albums come and go, but the live act remains strong and steady - well aware which songs have stood the test of time and which have dropped off into back catalogue. New album and show opener "Art of Almost" immediately scored itself a position as today's song of the year, setting the scene for a heavy set that wasn't afraid to bring a couple of extra guitars off the bench when neccessary.

Possibly slightly more truncated in length than previous shows and light on Tweedy-stand-up, it was still plenty for my ageing body support system - and with another show tomorrow probably drawing back many of the beard-heavy crowd no-one is likely to be complaining.

Never, ever disappointing. Set list over at Wilco World.

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29th Oct 2011 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Blonde Redhead

Union Chapel

Remarkable songs and venue, unremarkable performance. Could have been a radio session.


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6th Sep 2011

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Electrelane

XOYO

Thunderous, awe inspiring gig from the chimp playlist veterans. Big, fast, loud and cool as fuck


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16th Aug 2011

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Kurt Vile at Rough Trade East

A little shambolic, while the heavy sound didn't bring the best from Vile's DIY vibe.


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19th May 2011

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Jeff Beck

BIC, Bournemouth

This was the opening night of guitar maestro Jeff Beck’s UK tour, with his last date 26 October at the Royal Albert Hall. He was fronting a three-piece band of percussion, bass and keyboards. Bassist Rhonda Smith did limited vocals, but the majority of the programme was not surprisingly instrumental to allow Beck to show off his technical virtuosity. Jeff doesn’t talk much; so don’t expect introductions, except to the other members of the band.

The numbers oscillated in a balanced way between jazz funk and lyrical anthems such as Beck’s Bolero and (amazingly) Nessun Dorma. Best of all was his acclaimed grammy winning version of A Day in The Life, where he recreates the varying moods of the piece through his brilliant playing. It was a little disappointing not to hear more work from his early blues-rock era, but this has clearly been superseded by works from his more recent albums.

The support act on the show was Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Shorty (Troy Andrews) plays not only trombone but is equally at home on trumpet and vocals with a mixture of jazz of all types. Virtuoso solos and a brilliant rhythm section made for an excellent opening act.

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22nd Oct 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wilco

Royal Festival Hall, London

Another sparkling performance from always-on-tour chimp favourites Wilco. I won't bore you with too many details - see here and here for some context.

Despite their repetitive schedule, the band are always in high spirits and tonight's show was littered with theatrics - from comedy introductions and explosive drum sections, to a bizarre, unexplained 80's keyboard cameo, to Jeff Tweedy's comparison between the Festival Hall and Star Wars' Galactic Senate.

The 40s+ post-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot haters were in force at the sit down venue, hanging out for Heavy Metal Drummer or a chance to hug their girlfriends when Jesus Etc was played ... which must put a strain on any band trying to move forward, but they were well satisfied with the YHF-heavy set. Personally, I wanted more from A Ghost Is Born....

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15th Sep 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Black Mountain

The Lexington, London

With a new album on the way and a slew of festival dates lined up, Canada's 2007/8 chimprock staple Black Mountain were back in town for an intimate gig at the perfectly-sized Lexington in preparation for this weekend's Latitude festival.

Pastiche-heavy new song Radiant Hearts opened the show, before new album highlight Wilderness Heart moved the band quickly into a higher gear, storming though In The Future classics Evil Ways, Tyrants, plus Old Fangs, Rollercoaster and Let Spirits Rise from the new record.

Sadly, sound problems slowly encroached into the show -with McBean's increasingly problematic amp hampering the real growth of the performance. While the rest of the band made valient efforts to paste over the cracks - with an extended jam allowing some roadie tech action, before McBean stepped back in with a blistering riff, only to be denied again. Lightning Dust star Amber Webber's wailing vocals provide a much more pronounced appearance when seeing the band live and she provided a real focus for tonights show, holding the stage like a modern day Grace Slick. The keyboard-heavy sounds of the new album also got plenty of time in the spotlight via Jeremy Schmidt, while Joshua Wells' incredible drumming stole the show on several occasions - with the robotic licks of Tyrants never failing to deliver a spine-tingling thrill.

Ultimately, the sound issues were too much to overcome, and like a (muscle) car without gas, Steve McBean sloped off unfulfilled. However, some quick tweaks from a roadie and the band were back for a super-charged encore. The newer big hitters were nearly done, but the super-sub of Stormy High saw the band roar back into action, before chunky live versions of Druganaut and Don't Run Our Hearts Around brought the band's self-titled debut album back into the favourites list.

It would take a lot more than bad electrics to keep these guys down ...and I suspect their the following night may have been unbelievable. Tonight we just had to be satisfied with awesome.

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15th Jul 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Jeff Tweedy

Union Chapel, London

Jeff Tweedy cemented his position at the top of the league this week, with another top-notch performance - this time without the help of backing band Wilco and in the serene setting of Islington's Union Chapel. I've been looking forward to this one since missing his 2005 solo show in favour of seeing an ageing Bob Dylan at Brixton. A shocking mistake that I have regretted since, particularly as Dylan has returned several times since.

With just a guitar and his booming voice, the Wilco front man worked his way through a diverse range of classics from Wilco (Jesus Etc, Via Chicago, Kidsmoke), Uncle Tupelo (New Madrid, Acuff-Rose), Loose Fur (Laminated Cat, The Ruling Class) and a good selection of tracks from the Woody Guthrie albums on which Wilco teamed up with Billy Bragg (Remember The Mountain Bed [awesome], California Stars). He even bowed to "some asshole's" request for a Bob Dylan cover.

There was one exception to the solo status, as Tweedy was joined on stage early on by his 'hero' Bill Fay, with the two singing a charming duet of Be Not So Fearful. The more delicate setting placed a real emphasis on the lyrical quality of many of Tweedy's songs, highlighting his real talent as a talented and prolific songwriter, rather than just the front man of a brilliant rock band.

New tracks also made for some of the highlights (One Wing, Impossible Germany), but the star of the show was Tweedy's charming presence and wit - making the choosing of tracks by the audience like an episode of VH1's Storytellers starring Jack Dee. Brilliant.

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2nd Jul 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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The National

Full force beard rock in the sun. #glasto.


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26th Jun 2010

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Nik Bartsch's Ronin

ICA, London

The ICA - a different kind of ambience to some of the gigs I've frequented of late.  What a cultured group of individuals are to be found snuggling in this cozy nook just up the road from her maj. OK, so no one jumps around when the band finish a number, but on the positive side I won't go home wearing half a pint of Red Bull like I did at Les Claypool on monday night. So the ICA gets a thumbs up from me (but not the person who'd written the graffiti in the Gents - it read "You Bourgeois Cunt". There you go Banksy, that's how you do it).

Anyway. I digress.

Nik Bartsch has a musical mission and it's all about the crosstalk of rhythms. Ronin is one of his two bands, (the other is called Mobile) both of which share material and some members. Referred to by the ICA as "Zen-Funk" , it's a Jazz textured Steve Reich style experiment in rhythmic interplay, perhaps even more accurately called Math-Jazz. Anyway, before you all get visions of Howard Moon doing that Jazz face, it's important to understand that this band has a solid groove. The band play figures or riffs, patterns and pulses, but no wig-out solos or smug chords. The drummer might be playing in a different time signature to the piano, but a third rhythmic strand from the percussionist might lock them together in a new weird way that somehow makes your feet move.

Using acoustic instruments, plus electric bass, and some deftly applied reverb and delay, the band introduce musical patterns gradually, letting them take root in your head before something else joins in. Woodwind player Shaa creates mighty rasps from a contrabass clarinet, and smooth round tones from an alto sax. Bartsch himself is a very active player for a minimalist - confining his minimalism to the notes and figures played, but constantly plunging into the guts of the piano to mute the strings, pluck them and strum them with a drum-stick. In fact the whole band have this approach - to get maximum variety of tonal sound from the repeating figures (and keeping it funky).

The band really seemed to enjoy themselves - they had a nice crisp sound and were warmly received by the crowd. Absolutely recommended - next time they visit, be sure to check 'em out.

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15th Mar 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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ATP Festival: 10 Years of ATP

Various

Butlins, Minehead

How come ATP get it so right? Sponsorship free, friendly and helpful, smooth organisation and a great fan-base - and the music. Imagine, a festival where the music is the important thing - not the TV exposure or the availability of drugs to make you dance - a place where the crowd will listen patiently to new music instead of baying for a chart-topper. Well, that's ATP. For the 10 year anniversary, the organisers invited back the bands who had curated past festivals (plus some ATP favourites) to come and play together for the fans. There is so much to see and hear at this event, you just couldn't pack it all into one weekend, so there are some tough choices to be made from time to time. I've seen so many bands this weekend, that in order to keep things to a reasonable length and in tribute to the 10 year thing,

I'll say just 10 words about each band I saw  -

Bardo Pond - psychedlic washes of strange yet beautiful noise, flute 'n all
Battles - Didn't really gel on the night. Somewhat of a disappointment
Beak> - Amazing when they're being Can, but boring when playing dirge
Deerhoof - If you fail to enjoy them, your mind is broken
The Drones - All the attitude, proper angry rock music - Aussies done good
Edan - Edan shows how to DJ - choose great records, mix well
Growing - stuttering sheets of broken distortion, almost certainly good on drugs
The Magic Band - Fast and Bulbous, Drumbo and Rockette do it all justice
The Mars Volta - Omar seemed subdued, Cedric lively, and what? another new drummer?
Melvins - You don't mess with Jared - Jared only plays for keeps
MuM  - (pronounced Moom) Icelandic dreamscapes - first brilliant set of the weekend
Om - That's a huge evil noise right there (overlooking the vocals)
Papa M - Pajo stunning with drumless trio - sublime and understated - beautiful music
Shellac - Highlight of the weekend, both sets superb. A real band.
Tortoise - Suitably late night slot in the best sounding room. Sweet.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - brashly rocked a restless crowd after keeping them waiting ages

Special mention to Butlins staff also - the security are friendly and everyone is helpful. The accomodation is more than 1000 times better than sleeping in a tent on a lumpy field, but you'd do well to take your own pillow. Long live ATP.

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17th Dec 2009 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Electric Ballroom, Camden

While the Pavement reunion is hogging the column inches, no one has really stopped to consider if we actually need a Pavement reunion. Sure, they are one of the defining bands of the 90's, but unlike the Pixies, Pavement perhaps reached the dizziest heights they are likely to within their own life span. And let's not forget, main man Stephen Malkmus has had a consistently successful solo career since Pavement fell apart.

His self-titled debut was solid, building the Pavement style towards a more polished production. Pig Lib formally introduced The Jicks and is likely to feature in my albums-of-the-decade list. Face The Truth unleashed his inner guitar hero, while recent entry Real Emotional Trash disclosed Malkmus' love of The Wire. Can this guy get any cooler? Apparently there's no need, as he quickly re-establishes himself on stage tonight as the ultimate 90's indie rocker.

Tonight's gig is part of a three show warm-up tour in preparation for an appearance at this weekend's ATP festival - which seems to be the band's first live outing sine May. I've often wondered what the band gets out of a warm-up show and tonight I found out. The track list was mostly a little foreign to my ears - and I consider myself pretty well revised. Less known album tracks got a dusting off, while the 'hits' were largely overlooked. When stand-out It Kills kicked off, the crown soared for perhaps the first time of the evening - but that quickly passed as the band worked the song, re-finding their feet.

While the sound was crisp and clear - making the most of Malkmus' guitar virtuosity - the deafening volume didn't help and songs were drowned out. The band creaked and shuffled, re-started and re-tuned, with stage banter often making the gig seem more like band practice. So that's what warm-ups are for then. A lesson well learnt, I just wish I was there to see them at ATP.

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11th Dec 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Melvins

Highbury Garage, London

Back in London 364 days since their last appearance, the mighty Melvins play the Garage as a sweet prelude to this weekend's ATP festival in Minehead. Almost bouncing onto the stage to the tune of Rawhide, King Buzzo looks like he's in a terrific mood tonight, and he and Dale Crover play as a two piece for the first half hour of their set - just guitar and drums and vocals. This works really well - a real case of less is more - and it would seem that Buzz has abandoned his rather transistorised guitar sound of recent times for a big chunky amp sound again. Buzz and Dale run through a selection of Melvins tunes including a brilliant version of Black Bock and a rough round the (vocal) edges cover of "Let Me `Roll It" by Wings, before being joined by Jared Warren and Coady Willis  and becoming the full version of the band.

They are in good form tonight - the setlist has changed a lot since last year, and the band sound enthusiastic for the newly selected material. We get to hear a really wide range of Melvins tunes from the popular (Hooch, The Bit) through to the obscure (Anaconda, Pigs Of The Roman Empire) plus another great cover version - Devo's Mr DNA (well spotted there Jimbo). Some technical issues create a couple of false-starts tonight, and a sudden departure from the stage for about 15 mins - quite unusual - but as soon as they get rolling again, they sound great. Plenty of tracks from last year's Nude With Boots, plus a host of classics including Night Goat, With Teeth and It's Shoved.

You can see why the Melvins are celebrating 25 years of left-field metal - never content to rest on their laurels, always shifting the line-up and band dynamics and always revisiting older material with a new approach. The Melvins is - and always will be - Buzz and Dale, and tonight they showed that they are perfectly capable of working just as a duo. I wouldn't feel cheated if that's how they chose to tour for a while. Still, it was great to hear them both ways tonight - the highlight of the show had to be Pigs Of The Roman Empire which wouldn't have sounded the same without Jared's huuuge bass sound. Anyway, you've just got to love a band that plays cover versions of songs by Wings, Alice Cooper and Devo in one gig. 

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10th Dec 2009 - 2 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Toutpartout 15 years: Monotonix & Scout Niblett

Scala, London

So this guy comes up to me, looking a bit Adolf. I think actually he's into this new fangled style of short back and sides, 1940's military hair and moustache combo. "You might wanna loose your backpack" He tells me, looking all official and self satisfied. "How many times have you shot them before?" he enquires. Oh God, does he want to check if he has more tattoos than me, more piercings than me too?, "None, I reply" Oh well, you'll need to move around with the action he kindly informs me.

Glancing around, I don't see many contenders for the "action" yet. The place isn't so full and people are keeping quite far back from the dancefloor. A bit all look and don't touch. Perhaps they've heard about the "action" and they don't want to get too close.

Monotonix are very hairy. They look like the 118 men. They come from Israel. I wonder if they know about the 118 men in Israel? I wonder if they would still continue to dress in ill fitting garish 70's sportswear if they did. They are also a bit Borat too. Being a zany halfwit comedian is one thing. Aping one is another. By contrast, their fans - or the people in the audience at least. Are not hairy at all. None of this ironic or otherwise post Darkness post 70's glam rock tongue in cheek tomfoolery. The punters who stand around stroking their chins, looking for a way to intellectually justify this side-show of 3 beer stained over 40 hairies, are the bald, shaven, bearded, post hardcore brigade in work pants and chords probably bought from some overpriced skate shop in Covent Garden.

Beginning their merriment with a drum kit in the area normally reserved for the audience who don't want to get too close to the barrier. This musical incarnation of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers launch into a dirge of sub garage punk fuzz riffage and mildly insane accompanying antics, that generally revolve around, steal beer, spill beer on fellow band member, roll on the floor, jump on the drumkit, repeat. On one hand, I wonder why they are doing. I for one, am not entertained. This is just mindless thug-Abba theatrics. On the other hand, I ask are they challenging my idea about what musical entertainment should be. But an arthouse take on The Darkness meets the Fall just doesn't work. Or does it? Monotonix must have some kind of game-plan, but it washed over me.

Pretty much polar opposite is singer-songwriter Scout Niblett. Eschewing everything you imagined about this nouveau lo-fi anti-folk or whatever they call it these days, she is quiet, then a bit louder, a bit hippy and a bit drippy, a bit art-school lo-fi I'm-not-really-trying-but-secretly-I-am-doing-my-best-ok. Whereas with Mantronix you got the "action". Scout Niblett plays rooted to the spot to a 3 rows full of wide hipped corduroy-clad seated student girls, eager to get shots with the point and shoot cameras in dreamy anticipation of updating their wimins blog through their iPhone.

With flagrant disregard to anything else, especially getting on stage at the designated time, Ms Niblett's lo-fi riffs form a lulling bed on which she overlays her key weapon. The kind of riffage one may go over again and again after 1st learning a few hooks on your big brothers guitar, Niblett's multi-dimensional voice lulls, mesmerises and draws in the listener so that everything else draws into insignificance. Different enough to be original and etched with a few, "she's lived" grooves, Scout Niblett combines a stripped-down and unplugged Nirvana sound with an ernest and original vocal to produce odd-ball songs about Dinosaur Eggs and other such delights and frippery that would keep a kookie young art school rebel happy. Before she plays, Scout places an array of lyric sheets on the floor and has a brief moment of fear and belief. She might have one too many ideas, but they're working as one.

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3rd Dec 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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No Age

Scala, London

As much as I love this band and would see them play at every given opportunity, there really is no need to make me feel so damn old. Perched high up on the balcony so as not to spill my drink I watched with horror as kid after kid threw themselves willingly into the surging crowd from the edge of the stage and was then tossed around like a limp seal between two killer wales. Dean and Randy seemed oblivious to this and played harder and harder as they dropped hit after hit from all three of their releases. After the non-starter that was opening band Trash Kit and the impressive yet way too noodling second act Gentle Friendly it was a treat to be witness to the power of this drums and guitar duo.

This was a proper punk-rock gig and having seen White Denim and Titus Andronicus this year and stood in bewilderment at the static crowd at both it was so good to see kids kicking the shit out of eachother to such great music. It may have been my lofty position but Dean's vocals were less than clear however Randy's booming guitar more than made up for this. Kicking off with crowd-surfing favorite Teen Creeps and racing through every heavy hitter from Nouns it was abundantly obvious that these two have really honed their act during the extensive tour regime they have undertaken in recent years. The tracks from the latest EP Losing Feeling carried way more body live and really blended well with the abstract atmospherics of some of the Weirdo Rippers stuff, Every Artist Needs A Tragedy and Boy Void being choice cuts. They're looping a lot more vocals now which adds strength to their live set. Face-shredding punk is still the M.O. here, but to hear that burst through shambolic looped noise is awesome.

I must admit, I spent more of my time watching the endless wave of lifeless bodies being hurled into the air than I did the band, but was nonetheless convinced once more of the magic of these two guys. They've played a scary amount of shows since the last time I saw them and yet they still play like it's an opening night. A class act.

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21st Oct 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Mudhoney (w/ Support from The Heads)

Koko, Camden

The Heads fuse a rhythmic, pounding and distorted barrage of psychedelia and garage rock into a calculated layering of sound-wave upon sound-wave. With shards of indie punk, a smattering of post-rock and a nod to British beat groups, The Heads are your archetypal British psych-noiseniks, destined to play to a handful of believers for the rest of their days. And you know what, they probably don't care whether they are playing in a garage or a medium sized theatre supporting Mudhoney. The Heads are rather clinical, precise, mathematical and perhaps anal about their delivery. But have they forgotten something? I dare say they have. The Heads look more like an assortment of grown up teenagers than a real band that means it, man. Remember the serious metal kids at school who practiced most evenings in the common room? We have the faceless one, with a mop of hair that curiously covers his whole face. How he hits the strings I don't know. The skinny nerd on the other side of the stage could be the bastard love child of John Denver and Thom Yorke. I kid you not. Standing almost as still as an RAF drill sergeant, the guitarist and occasional "singer" (the sound is largely instrumental bar a few mumblings here and there) is the antithesis of your typical rock n roll front man. Instead, the moves and shakes and left to the bass player, who they position in the middle. Probably to give some balance and take your mind of the other two. Gyrating to his bass and throwing looks of passion, this is the one who wants to "make it" and tries his best to make up for the rockstar shortcomings of the others. The Heads continue their rythmical drone which, with eyes closed, is a novel experience. Stage persona and attitude may seem academic, but if it's the whole theatrical package that turns you on, leave The Heads live experience to the nerdy-math rock faithful and listen to the record back home, reclining with some headphones and more than likely, you will enter the dream-space intended by these fuzzy warblers.

Mudhoney by contrast, bounce on stage and immediately slink into the low slung unpretentious hip-ness that only a Seattle band of the early 90's can. Once thrown into that whole scene that started with a "G" and shared with Nirvana, Tad and Soundgarden, Mudhoney had little in common - as did any - other than guitars, plaid shirts and the same home town. Oh and the Sub Pop Label. A dose of early Ramones simplicity and naivety together with Nuggets and Pebbles era pre-punk psych-fuzz garage-blues super fuzz and Mudhoney's genre defining sound became a blueprint which other built on, expanded and layered. But tonight we have the originals and singer and sometime guitarist Mark Arm is bouncing around the stage like a chicken possessed. All angular limbs and a flail of dirty soul vocals and the audience are already inching over to the barrier trying to touch the Seattle scene veteran. It's not long till the hits start rolling in - and not far into the set, they deliver their signature song, "Touch Me I'm Sick" at breakneck pace, with Arm on slide guitar adding a metallic zest to proceedings. Arm tells the 30-something grown up indie rock kids to mind how they go, as a bout of slamming and good natured volley of crowd surfers ensue. Mudhoney sound and look just as good as they ever did and move like a well oiled machine. Going through the motions ain't for this lot.

Photos: Al De Perez

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16th Oct 2009 - 9 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Pixies

Brixton Academy, London

First a confession - this is the first time in my life I have ever seen the Pixies, and since I've been going to gigs for (oh dear) 30 years, I've missed many a golden opportunity, and the Pixies always figured high on the list of "ones I shoulda seen". Suddenly the opportunity miraculously arises as the Pixies undertake a tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the stone classic Doolittle album. I say stone classic since I don't think I'll hear many arguments to the contrary - an album packed with great pop songs, ferocious guitars, great lyrics and brilliant vocals (plus it's on a British label). With the band playing Doolittle in full tonight, I had a slight concern that I might be seeing something that reeked only of nostalgia and might be best left alone, but in the weeks coming up to the show I've found it hard to suppress my optimism - just really hoping that these worthy veterans would deliver the goods.

Of course, they DID deliver the goods. The Pixies are a band - and by that I mean they are a genuine example of the sum adding up to more than it's (considerable) parts. They play like a band, with that wonderful sense that they are all at home where they belong when they are doing this. This was the first of three nights in Brixton - a venue the Pixies have a long history with - and their name on the dome outside could not have looked more like it was meant to be there. Indoor gig and a crowd who felt like this was their very own special band coming back to see the fans that first embraced them. All of these things meant there was a happy vibe from both band and audience.

Starting up with Dancing The Manta Ray, they warmed themselves up by plundering the b-sides box and treating us to some rare gems - Kim Deal told us that they were playing some of these songs for "maybe the fifth time ever, tonight". Then, after maybe fifteen minutes Kim Deal plays the opening riff to Debaser and the party really starts. God, they sound great. Upstairs in the Academy the sound was pretty good although I'm told it was a bit muddier downstairs, while the visual elements of the show can't be faulted - great lighting and projections, tastefully done. Each track from Doolittle sounds teriffic and the band play them all with deserved enthusiasm. It's kind of surreal - there they are playing Here Comes Your Man and Monkey Gone To Heaven, Tame, Dead, No.13.... right through to Silver which was a bit of a highlight despite it's being the slowest song they played all night, but then to follow that closely with Into The White was a masterstroke. Back for encores (twice) which included more b-sides (UK Surf version of Wave Of Mutilation) and classics (U-Mass) and ending with Gigantic - the word best used to describe the smile on Deal's face the whole night.

I was not disappointed.

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7th Oct 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Tortoise

The Garage, London

Sometimes things go wrong. The best laid plans and organisation with all the right elements in place for a good time can be rudely scuppered by some faulty equipment. And so it was with Tortoise tonight - possibly the smallest venue that Tortoise could physically cram into, this was a rare up-close and intimate gig promoted by All Tomorrow's Parties (the ONLY promoters in the world endorsed by Steve Albini, fact fans). I'm sure Tortoise did some thorough sound-checks, but you can't cover every eventuality, and about 8 bars into the first number Tortoise ground to a halt as Jeff Parker's guitar rig stopped working. After another false start the band asked for the lights to go up, and the up-close nature of the gig revealed some very concerned faces on stage. I'd imagine that a band like Tortoise rely quite heavily on being able to call up the sounds they need from their equipment, and having one essential element missing would make it impossible to continue, and you could see how gutted the band looked - they'd clearly been looking forward to this one.

After about 20 minutes they managed to get started properly, but you could sense the band had been affected by the whole thing. To be perfectly frank, the first couple of numbers were pretty shaky - way looser than the music required, with the band seeming to struggle to keep up with their own compositions. Even the sparkling new track High Class Slim Came Floatin' In didn't quite hit the spot, and you could still make out furrowed brows on stage. However, Tortoise didn't give up, and about 20 minutes into the set they started to play a selection of tracks from TNT and It's All Around You - at which point you could practically see (and certainly hear) the band relax. From then on it went much more smoothly - the sound was clear and the musicians starting to enjoy themselves. They cherry-picked from a fine back catalogue and by the end of the set seemed to have won their mood back. Leaving the stage with apologetic gestures, the band seemed reluctant to be called back onstage for more, but the crowd demanded a return and back they came.

First encore was Yinxianghechengqi (hurrah for cut 'n' paste text editors) the punkiest track Tortoise have, and they seemed to really enjoy this one. Called back onstage for a third time, the band seemed truly happy and treated us to more vintage classics including I Set My Face To The Hillside. Everyone left happy, but I don't think this was the best performance the band had ever given - the first half of the set had them on the back foot the whole way, which is a shame as this was where the newer material was featured. Still, good to see a band persisting in the face of adversity.

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27th Aug 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Dinosaur Jr.

Concorde 2, Brighton

The latest video from Dinosaur Jr features the three original band members J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and ‘Murph’ (Emmett Jefferson Murphy) trying to pull off the tricks of their youth on skateboards and a BMX – a self-conscious admission that past glories are almost always impossible to replicate. Happily Dinosaur Jr, with past feuds now behind them, manage it, even if they can’t ollie like they used to, because they have always been about the music. The most ardent fan would never claim that you go to a Dinosaur Jr. gig for the lightshow, political messages or the witty banter between songs. No. You just get three men, barely able to fit on stage because of the six Marshall stacks surrounding them, heads down, tearing through a stentorian catalogue of rampant songs. Mascis, with his metronome of flowing, now silver, hair, stands in front of a collection of pedals that pin him to his amp, while he assails the audience with a barrage of noise that never quite obscures the sonorous, occasionally soporific, melodies.

There was little sign of an evolution in their sound in the three decades that have elapsed between ‘In A Jar’ from 1987’s ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ that they opened with and ‘I Want You To Know’ from their new album ‘Farm’ that came next. Concorde 2 is an intimate and relaxed venue but it gives you nowhere to hide. ‘Over It’ and Freak Scene’ were predictably thrilling, tighter than Slayer, and almost as loud, it was a series of audible epiphanies with none of the self-obsessed bollocks referred to as showmanship these days. They haven’t aged in outlook and neither have their audience, all wearing the same brands as twenty years ago, (although, I did see quite a few resorting to day-glo ear plugs in an attempt to limit the damage to their not quite so young inner ears) and perhaps this is a generation that never will age in the same shuffling, resigned manner of the current crop of oldies. We’ll be wearing Vans, grubby jeans and check shirts while skateboarding through the corridors of our nursing homes with Dinosaur Jr on a loop through our hearing aids. A throbbing encore including ‘Kracked’, with an epic guitar solo finale that reminded everyone why Mascis is so revered as a guitar player, brought things to a close. He offered a single word, ‘thanks’, as they all trudged off the stage. The only full word he uttered throughout the entire ninety minute set.

Photo by Rachel Poulton. See more here.

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27th Aug 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wilco

Troxy, London

As with the Shepherd's Bush show in 2007, Wilco's show at London's recently revived Troxy started off fairly sedately, with the band thundering through a few tracks before Tweedy addressed the crowd and the atmosphere began to grow. That atmosphere was cemented by the birthday cake brought on stage for the 42 year old Tweedy and a rendition of Happy Birthday launched into a great version of Hate It Here. With the show now in full-swing, I'm The Man Who Loves You worked the crown into a cheering frenzy.

Guitarist Nels Cline adds a live-wire element to the band, near-permanently twitching on the sidelines, waiting for the opportunity to unleash another blistering solo - a fact not overlooked by Jeff Tweedy who joked that Cline's double headed guitar was a reward for the preceding guitar solo on a magnificent Impossible Germany. Wilco are no one-trick pony though and every member of the band contributes at a notable level, with the band constantly adding new touches and flourishes from songs all through out their back catalogue - such as the gorgeous slide guitar and keyboard on Jesus Etc. An encore of Don't Forget The Flowers was a brief reminder of Wilco's 'alt.country' roots, before the sonic assault of At Least That's What She Said and Kidsmoke brought us more up to date with their later sonic adventures, as well as dropping in a crowd-sourced mini-cover of We Are The Champions (see it on video!). A band with three guitarists capable of virtuoso solos is unlikely to disappoint, as noted by the flamboyant guitar duel between Nels Cline and the admirably capable Pat Sansone.

Wilco may be a bunch of (mostly) middle aged men who make great music, but as a (nearly) middle aged man looking for little more than great music, who's complaining? If you forget the fancy lightshows and expect nothing more than guitars and cowboy shirts you are unlikely to be disappointed by one of their ever-outstanding live shows.

Setlist:
Wilco (The Song)
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Company In My Back
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
One Wing
A Shot in the Arm
Radio Cure
Handshake Drugs
Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (again)
Deeper Down
Impossible Germany

You Never Know
Jesus, Etc.
Can’t Stand It
Hate It Here
Walken
I’m The Man Who Loves You

At Least That’s What You Said
Forget the Flowers
Heavy Metal Drummer
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
I’m A Wheel
Hoodoo Voodoo

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26th Aug 2009 - 2 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Review The Crowd: U2 360° Tour

Millennium Stadium

Cardiff

In a new departure, we asked intrepid reporter, (and noted scholar of the Edge effect pedal board), Dr Chimp to file a review of the U2 crowd outside the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday 22 Aug, 2009...

It should be noted that U2 have the most unstylish fans in the world. There were some truly horrendous mullets (non-ironic mode) on display around town this afternoon, and lots of men in cowboy boots. And dozens of people were already unconscious or semi-unconscious outside the pubs near the stadium by about 3pm.

That's not far off a usual Saturday in Cardiff, of course, but the snowwash-o-meter had been cranked up a notch or two.

Overheard a hilarious conversation between a group of teenagers on the train as it passed the stadium, too. I was actually laughing to myself and trying to not be noticed by them. It went something like this:

Teenager 1: Who the fuck would queue up to get in early to see U2?

Teenager 2: Bunch of daft cunts.

Teenager 3: My dad asked me if I wanted to go with him, and I was, like, 'Don't think so!'

Teenager 4: What's that shit song of theirs? Lovely Day?

Teenager 5: Sunny Day.

Teenager 6: Beautiful Day.

Teenager 7: Cunt Day.  

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25th Aug 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Pearl Jam

O2, London

With relatively few UK gigs under their belts, it's always nice to have Pearl Jam in town. Assuming they aren't one of your most hated bands, of course.  As noted by the band, their first UK gig was at The Borderline in '92 - and they were often described as being 'full of energy'. Probably because they "only played eight songs" - a long way from tonight's three-hour-plus show in front of a packed house. So packed, that Eddie Vedder wisely hypnotized the crowd into taking a unified three steps back about four songs in, reminding everyone of why they were away from Europe for so long before.

With the band maturing gracefully, and the Ten reissue garnering such nostalgic praise, it's hard not to suspect that Pearl Jam may be winding things down somewhat. Tracks from imminent new release Backspacer didn't make much impact, while the set was packed with often overlooked tracks from the earliest (four) albums.

Surprise opener Release was a highlight, plus plenty of favourites from Vitalogy, the spine-tingling Footsteps, personal favourite Light Years - as well as obligatory singalongs Black and Betterman, plus the rousing encore of Crazy Mary.

While you might expect the enormodome proportions of the O2/Millenium Dome to make for a stale atmosphere, with the right band it makes for an exuberant party vibe. We're all here to see Pearl Jam, but with the beer stand so easy to get to you'd be foolish to pull the usual trick of backing up your toilet breaks to the end. And so evolves a new dilemma: where to take your break. With so many favourites flowing easily it's a tough descision, especially when unknown newer songs provoke a mass exodus/bigger queues. Like choosing which kid to throw out the boat first, I went with Rats, while BC chose lesser known b-side I Got ID and CJ bizarrely chose Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town. At least he was back quick.

If you hate them, you hate them, but if you love them you'll wish you had been there for a typically roof-raising performance from the definite 'grunge' (ha!) rockers.

Setlist:
Release
Animal
Corduroy
Why Go
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Immortality
The Fixer
Even Flow
I Got I.D.
Rats (with a bit of Michael Jackson' Ben)
Got Some
Whipping
Light Years
Insignificance
Black
Life Wasted
Blood (with a bit of Atomic Dog)

Supersonic
Hail Hail
Footsteps
Love, Reign O'er Me
Do The Evolution
Alive

Better Man (with a bit of Save It For Later)
Crazy Mary
Leaving Here
Porch
Yellow Ledbetter

I've put the best part of the setlist into a Spotify playlist here.

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19th Aug 2009 - 2 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Deerhoof / Anabel's Poppy Day / Rumspringa

Scala, London

I dunno, I suppose if you're used to living in somewhere really hot like Australia or the Nevada desert, then maybe the thought of leaving your nice cool house to make a journey on public transport into a stifling metropolis would be no challenge, just normal really. Here in southern England, where the indiginous population carry a complexion that is like the ghost of skimmed-milk, 30-degree plus temperatures make us feel like we're hog-tied in a duffle-coat. There was supposed to be a motocycle protest in London today - I should think that went well - bet they couldn't wait to put on leather, crash helmets and sit astride a slow-moving combustion-engine. Anyway, it's hot, and I didn't much feel like going into London.

Glad I did tho', otherwise I'd have missed a gig that I could easily put in my all-time top 10. The Scala (perhaps London's perfect venue) played host to this triple bill, and first up were Rumspringa - which I'd been rather mistakenley informed were an Amish Ska band. They weren't, and I'm glad. A blues-based guitar and drums duo, the larger half of which is guitarist/singer Joey Stevens. He has a fantastic voice, and plays great blues guitar, writes good songs, so what's not to like? A good start to the evening, in the nicely air-conditioned Scala. Second on the bill was French band Anabel's Poppy Day who came over from Paris on the bus for this gig. Well done, and all that, but an extra rehearsal and the Eurostar might be better next time.  A bit too naive and sloppy to be really good, but there were a couple of catchy melodies and some charming audience chat from squeaky singer (you guessed it) Anabel.

Seeing Deerhoof was one of those rare and wondeful experiences for me - when a live band just takes you to that "other place", when their sound, the atmosphere and the performance all came together just right. They are undoubtably a band at the top of their form, the perfect blend of tight and energetic playing with sweet pop melodies and keep-you-guessing arrangements. The guitar interplay of John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez is world-class but never in the form of noodle-based fretwank, while drummer Greg Saunier flails his kit with some kind of furious joy. Singer and bass-player Satomi Matsuzaki is so tiny she barely rises above the audiences heads - and she's on stage. She has the most wonderful clear flat-toned voice and an onstage presence which says so much more than "just cute". The band play a lot of material from their two most recent albums (Reviews: 1 / 2), plus cover versions of The Ramones Gabba Gabba Hey and Canned Heat's Going Up The Country. Not a note out of place, and the crowd really showed their appreciation. Everybody left happy AND I had a totally smooth ride home on the train.

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3rd Jul 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Blank Dogs

Under And Under

In The Red

Blank Dogs is certainly something of an enigma. The Banksy of the noise-pop scene, he remains pretty much anonymous, choosing to hide his face under bed sheets or bandages for press photos. But the solidity of his work suggests that instead of being merely a cheap gimmick to attain notoriety this mystery serves to let the music do all the talking, and judging by the endless string of limited edition releases that have emerged over the last few years and now this, his latest full length, they argue a pretty good case. The one thing we do know about Blank Dogs is that it's singular but for this album he enlists the help of label mates Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. The results are impressive.

There seems to be a constant and for the most part welcome stream of fuzzed out noise punk assaulting my ears at the moment but what makes this sound stand apart from all the rest is that its emphasis isn't on 60's rock inspired, redlined garage guitar but opts for programmed beats, synthesizers and a heavy dose of 80's post-punk, goth and new wave. Much like On Two Sides, Blank Dogs' previous album, Under And Under rolls with a deep bass structure, effect laden guitar and a voice so submerged it could be from a different universe altogether. The title of this new release suggests the direction by which it parts company with its predecessor. The booming muffle of these songs impressively drags all that we learnt from On Two Sides way down to almost indecipherable darkness.

The genius of this record is the way he manages to elaborately construct his songs around distant Cure basslines while layering his monotone Joy Division vocals without ever sounding like a rip off. Setting Fire To Your House has a core that is straight out of The Cure's A Forest but it's a sheer delight. It seems to borrow all of the sounds that defined my early musical appreciation and drag them all under water to their deaths. Things are slowed down to a relentless mid-tempo and with all the effects that swirl around the feeling is like watching flash-backs of your life disappear under murky slush. Cutting through all this slush is the screech of distorted guitar that rudely imposes itself on standout songs like No Compass and Around The Room. With scant regard for anything this guitar carves out some of the most surprisingly satisfying melodies ever seen in this genre.

Unlike the recent Crocodiles record that at times seemed to find it hard to let loose the weight of its influences, Blank Dogs serves up a masterclass of how to honor those influences but treat them as starting blocks from which this guy springs forth very successfully. The last bedroom genius of this genre I got excited about was Wavves and as we've just witnessed his very public fall from grace lets hope this hooded enigma has more to offer.

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5th Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Jason Lytle

Islington Academy, London

May 28th, 2009

The last time I saw Jason Lytle was at Brixton Academy in 2003 on the biggest ever Grandaddy tour. Behind his defunct keyboard equipment shone a huge screen that dazzlingly projected films to accompany every song. Snow Patrol were the little known support act. How times have changed. Snow Patrol are huge for some strange reason and Grandaddy are no more. But as I watched this reluctant indie hero shuffle on to the stage in the far more intimate surroundings of the Islington Academy it was clear that this change of circumstances were fine by him.

He doesn't take center stage anymore staying off to the right behind his intricately wired equipment. Cleanly shaven (and unnervingly resembling Keifer Sutherland) he emerged after a curiously dramatic operatic recorded intro in which a female voice asks "who's playing tonight, Oh he's the guy from that band Grandaddy," and he found himself in the presence of his religiously adoring fans who have waited a long time for this. As soon as his first breathy word was uttered it was like seeing an old fiend for the first time in ages. With a new band behind him he treated us to multiple picks from his new solo record and some choice Grandaddy cuts, although none from the last record.

For any long term fan of his former band it was a joyous thing indeed to hear the opening bars to Chartsengrafs as the first song rang out. A magnificently extended rendition of Jed's Other Poem awaited us a few songs later but the real treat was two of my favorite songs from this impeccable back catalogue, Levitz and the Crystal Lake B side Our Dying Brains, which always sounds better live than in original form. Obviously he played the new material with evident pride and glancing round the crowd during songs like Yours Truly and Brand New Sun it was clear how well received these new songs are as everybody mouthed the words as if singing along to the classics. Whether fronting Grandaddy or standing alone on the stage Jason Lytle is consistently a class live act. He has an uncanny power to render you gooey eyed with dreamy nostalgia and no matter what torrent of noise he raises up around his vocals his words are always crystal clear, shining out with dazzling clarity through perfect sound production.

With a curiously short rendition of the second half of He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot as the encore the band left the stage all too early. I suppose they had to go sometime and we could all have stayed there until dawn broke but this exit seemed unplanned and sudden. Whatever the reason it sure was good to have the boy back in our town. As he paused halfway through the all time crowd favorite A.M.180 and stated, "here I am back in London playing this annoying melody," the London crowd rapturously thanked their hero for the memories.

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1st Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Titus Andronicus

100 Club, London

May 20th 2009

This must be the first time I've gone to a gig purely for the support act - and though San Diego hot-tip The Soft Pack were entertaining enough, it was Titus Andronicus that was the main event for me last night. With wall-to-wall framed pictures of past legends looking on expectantly the 5 young punks form New Jersey had a lot to live up to, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Instead they kicked the shit out of that place like it had just been built.

With just one LP under their belt they played like legends themselves carrying a self confidence born purely on the knowledge that any one of the songs off The Airing Of Grievances would tear this place down. The wall of sound that holds up the LP was erected in monolithic form on stage with awesome drumming standing shoulder to shoulder with the muscular 4 pronged guitar attack. Front man Patrick Stickles led this crew looking like a 70's era Scorsese - he throttled the mic and shrieked venomously and it seemed more genuine than any performance I've seen in a long time. It's easy to look longingly at the pictures that adorn the walls of this infamous venue and feel that whatever existed then can never repeat itself, then take a look at the stage and a rare feeling tells you that this is the real deal.

They've made an unexpected album of the year, and while their influences are abundantly clear they are mere jumping off points for a truly unique style of punk. They play songs that should really last for less than a minute but are morphed into epic monsters - and they play out these monsters with the tightness of a longtime ensemble. I've enjoyed the album so much this year (it was slim pickings until they came along) but I was so pleased not to see a bunch of skinny jeaned kids rehashing other peoples performances. Instead I bore witness to a fucking hard punk gig, but one played out with intelligence and bucket loads of passion.

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22nd May 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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White Denim

Old Blue Last, London

May 18th 2009

There's an old parable of a bug who lived in the worlds most beautiful Persian rug. He spent all his time laboriously climbing over each tuft and viewed them as nothing but obstacles that stood in his way of progress. The sad tale is that he lived and died in this thing of beauty but never saw the glorious pattern to which he belonged. I was reminded of this tale as I stood in the beer soaked ambiance of Shoreditch's Old Blue Last watching Texan trio White Denim. As they embarked on what would be a mammoth non-stop medley of pretty much everything on their debut LP it was at times hard to see this onslaught of feral noise as mere obstacles that stood in the way of me and a lifetime of healthy hearing. But thankfully, and unlike our little bug friend, one nod from vocalist James Petralli towards his band members and the whole thing would drop into jagged funk riffs and as if by magic the pattern was revealed and the beauty made gloriously evident.

Admittedly using words like 'pattern' and 'beauty' is perhaps as misguided as feeding caviar to a rabid dog. The reality was a sweaty bar heaving with eager fans and three guys who thrashed the shit out of their fledgling back catalogue. This set wasn't just one song after another, it was one song, lasting for about 25 minutes and never let up in tempo. The only reason they had a short break in the middle was to repair some equipment. It was fierce and furious and played out like they had a train to catch, double-time. It was thrilling from start to finish and actually made me resent the times we live in. We're all so self aware now-days and it felt wrong not to be punching some dude in the face to this music, not intentionally of course but a dirty yet euphoric mosh scrap was really the only fitting way to behave in the presence of such passionately manic rock. And yet like their album, all this seemingly unharnessed frenzy is very much supported by a sturdy and considered foundation and when it chooses to reveal itself the pattern is awesome. From what I could hear above the ringing in my ears (which still goes on this morning) the new songs sound just as sturdy as the old which just fueled my appetite for the imminent release of the new record Fits. I recommend anybody in earshot to go and see these guys.

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20th May 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Pink Mountaintops

Borderline, London

May 11th 2009

Steven McBean's Pink Mountaintops were in town in support of recent third album Outside Love - and hot from an appearance at the ATP Festival. After storming shows from the Black Mountain mothership last year, McBean is worth catching in any guise and this was no exception.

Perfectly suited to the Canadian-ski-shack-meets-Mexican-bolthole vibe of the Borderline, album opener Axis: Bold as Love opened the show, with the six-man band working as a great base for post-skater McBean (that hidden key chain is a dead give-away) to lead with his great voice. The subtle ebbing and flowing of the at-time hypnotic sounds was easy to get lost in, through tracks like Vampires, And I Thank You and Plasticman, You're The Devil - while older tracks like Sweet '69 and Single Life provided a more up-tempo element, displaying the band's wide range.

Amber Webber's vocals were sorely missed, but team stand-ins Sophie Trudeau and Sar Friedman did an admirable job - with the violins proving to be a rare secret weapon and the additional back-up vocals really filling out the bands sound. Add to that the great drumming and Black Mountain regular Matt Camirand's pounding bass and what's not to like? With the curfew police closing in, the band returned to the stage for a single encore - possible career highlight Tourist In Your Town.

In a style much like their recent album, Pink Mountaintops were laid-back, effortless and engaging - providing a (temporarily) welcome antidote to the relentless precision of big brother Black Mountain. Superior entertainment.

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13th May 2009 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Brakes

Touchdown

Fat Cat

Brakes have come a long way since their gloriously ramshackled 2005 debut Give Blood. It lurched from one genre to the next with many songs coming in at well under the 2 minute mark. It was like a sonic sketch pad. Throughout the following Beatific Visions they added more meat to these bones and now they are certainly a mightier beast. The obvious change is that only 3 of the songs here are under 2 minutes and none beat the 7 second record held by the debut. But thankfully this change is merely cosmetic and though each song is longer the sentiment is still pretty much the same.

Thematically this album is as disparate as ever with each song appearing to have been born out of absolute circumstance. Delirious recording hours seems to have provided the setting for the crazy Don't Take Me To Space (Man) while Do You Feel The Same was recorded at the time of the financial crash when everyone was predicting the end of capitalism. So I guess what I'm saying is that much of this album is made up of ideas that seemed good at the time, and on the whole they were and still are.

Musically things have leveled out slightly. We don't get the stark contrast of bluegrass country jutting up against hard as nails punk ferocity as much as we did on the debut. It's more like country-rock dovetailing into punk-rock. With ex Delgado Paul Savage behind the production desk Touchdown is a more consistent rock record. The songs are perfectly formed ideas with everything you'd want from a rock song. Opener Two Shocks is the perfect example. It's slow to build and then with expert timing unveils itself to you with profound muscle unlike anything delivered by this band before. It's an opener that makes you step back and admire proudly the grownup standing in front of you. The same can be said for Crush On You and Oh! Forever. Looking at these three you just want to say patronizingly, "Haven't you guys grown, I've known you since you were this long."

There are still ample indications that this band hasn't totally matured, the best being Red Rag. The joint shortest at 1.33 minutes this song has all the snarl of previous 30 second sucker punches but borrows much from its older brothers that surround it here and plays out as a hard piece of feral rock. It's probably the best moment on the record and one that makes me glance back to the good ol' days of fun loving punk sketch books. Touchdown still possesses all these eccentricities but with all its mightier, stronger and better songs I can't help feeling the loss of something special. It's ever so slightly duller than before, but at the same time way better. Go figure.

 

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24th Apr 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Richard Swift

The Social, London

February 26th, 2009

With a new album due in April, Richard Swift was back in the UK for a couple of dates and followed his headline show at The Borderline with this low-key show at The Social - an always-excellent venue most notable for it's intimate size and the fact that you can have a stage-side pie at a table while the band performs.

While he may bear a passing resemblance to an Indie Rock Gary Glitter, the incomparable Richard Swift can be compared only to the equally incomparable troubadour Harry Nilsson. Effortlessly bouncing between styles, there's a surprising cohesiveness to Swift's sound and with the backing of a full band, that sound was elevated to foot stomping proportions.

The brief set whistled quickly through a handful of songs from 2007's Dressed Up For The Letdown, as well as newer material from the Ground Trouble Jaw EP and this year's forthcoming new album The Atlantic Ocean. "One last song, then an encore" quipped Swift, as the band switched up a gear and barreled through the new title track "The Atlantic Ocean" and "Lady Luck", with Swift's booming voice taking on a soulful sound that is not wholly reflected on the record. Plenty of entertainment - and plenty to look forward to from this wholly unique performer.

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2nd Mar 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Metallica

MEN Arena, Manchester

26 February 2009

With new album Death Magnetic showing a return to form after the below-par St. Anger, well documented in the film Some Kind Of Monster, I was keen to finally see Metallica live – having first heard them on record in 1988. They haven’t played in Manchester for 13 years, and have recently only played festival dates in the UK.

We're running late. Afraid that we'd missed the opening of their set, we'd walked briskly through Manchester's rain-soaked centre. Luckily, we hadn't missed anything, except the support act. Just time to try to find our seats, when the familiar tune of Ennio Morricone's Ecstasy Of Gold (from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) began - the full-capacity crowd cheered and sang along in unison.

And they’re off. The first track is from Death Magnetic, it’s performed in almost complete darkness apart from a laser-fest. We can’t really see anything except for the drums, but we can hear it – it’s loud. Ribcage-rattling loud. In to the second song, also off the new album, and the lights are up. We can see them, finally.

The first thing that struck me was that there were no video screens. But it didn’t matter: Metallica perform in-the-round, which in an arena really means that you can see them even if you’re up in the rafters. James Hetfield flits between eight mic stations dotted around the stage, singing to each corner of the crowd. Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo also use each of the stations to perform backing vocals and stunt guitar solos. Lars Ulrich’s drums are in the middle on a circular riser that is turned to face the four sides of the venue throughout the set.

It’s a pretty serious Metal affair – plenty of running around; marathon songs with numerous time signature changes and an endless supply of riffs; rock-out endings that step up a notch from an already speedy tempo; pyrotechnics; hammy theatrics. As polished as you’d expect from a band that’s been playing this stuff for 28 years. But the overall mood is quite cheerful, joyous even. There’s something quite primeval about the riffs, the chugging guitars and thrashing drums. It’s almost as if you can’t help but to nod your head.

There are moments of levity and self-awareness however. Hetfield asks the crowd if any of them have the new album, ‘with the little coffin on it? … It’s supposed to be a coffin...’ The lighting rig previously high above the stage at one point lowers and is revealed to be four coffin-shaped boxes. During the encore, at a stage where you’re thinking there can’t possibly be more, hundreds of black (what else?) Metallica beach balls fall out of the sky. It’s like they’re out-Tapping Tap. It does look like they are having fun too.

The sound was far too bass-heavy, which was a real shame: you couldn’t actually hear Trujillo’s bass guitar for Lars’s bass drums and the slightly too chuggy guitar sound. So for that reason only 4 out of 5 because it spoiled the music a little.

Highlights for me in the 2-hour set were For Whom The Bell Tolls, Enter Sandman, and a blistering rendition of One. They change the set each night they play, so it’s by no means guaranteed that they’ll play your favourite track, with a few exceptions. Their set consists mainly of classic tracks and it’s a testament to their return to form that the new stuff sits comfortably next to those, sounding, well, classic.


Setlist:
That Was Just Your Life - [Death Magnetic, 2008]
The End Of The Line - [Death Magnetic]
For Whom the Bell tolls - [Ride The Lightning, 1984]
Wherever I May Roam - [Metallica, 1991. aka The Black Album]
One - [...And Justice For All, 1988]
Broken, Beat And Scarred - [Death Magnetic]
Cyanide - [Death Magnetic]
Sad But True - [Metallica]
Turn The Page - [Garage Inc., 1998; cover of Bob Seger song]
The Judas Kiss - [Death Magnetic]
The Day That Never Comes - [Death Magnetic]
Master Of Puppets - [Master of Puppets, 1986]
Blackened [...And Justice For All]
Nothing Else Matters - [Metallica]
Enter Sandman - [Metallica]
- - - - - - - -
Blitzkrieg - [Garage Inc.; cover of Blitzgrieg song]
The Prince - [Garage Inc.; cover of Diamond Head song]
Seek and Destroy - [Kill 'Em All, 1983]

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28th Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Oxford Collapse

El Wurlitzer, Madrid

I wanted to write a quick review of this show just to throw a bit of love in the direction of drummer Dan Fetherston. Thanks to the energy, wit and charisma of frontpair Michael Pace (guitars) and Adam Rizer (bass), it's easy to forget that there's a third fella keeping time at the back of Oxford Collapse, and as I watched the last few songs of the set from the side of the stage, it's fair to say that he puts in a good shift. Having said that, the Oxford Collapse experience is such an enjoyable one largely due to the energy, wit and charisma of Pace and Rizer (see!)

I'm guessing that they missed soundcheck as the first few songs were spent adjusting levels, but once comfortable Rizer became slightly more hyper and Pace brought out the jokes. Shorn of beard and carrying a few extra pounds since their show in London last year, Pace is now a dead ringer for Superbad's Seth and just as funny. After a short anecdote about his poor efforts at studying Spanish at school he introduced 'Molasses' with: "This song is called 'Molasses' and in Spanish it's called.....'Molasses'". Ok, an obvious one, but 6 yard tap-ins count just the same as 35 yard screamers (said screamer came later on, I can't remember the build up but the punchline was "...so thanks to Javi for the delicious oxtail balls".)

But we obviously didn't come just for stand-up. They rocked. I'll hold my hands up and admit to not owning anything other than 'Remember the Night Parties' (or "The Classic!" as it was labelled up for sale). And a lot of the people I was with hadn't even heard that much, but it didn't matter, known material blended in with unknown material, (ok, 'Lady Lawyers', set closer 'National Parks' and a blistering encore of the Cranberries' 'Salvation' stood out) in a perfect showcase of what's good about american indie rock.

Good times, laughs and rocking tunes (good drumming) - a real feelgood performance that saw Oxford Collapse once again consolidate their position at the top spot of 'The Indie band you'd most like to hang out with' charts.

 

(Photo courtesy of Reina Triton)

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20th Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Veils

The Macbeth, London

February 5th, 2009

With a follow up to 2006 break-out Nux Vomica in the can and ready to drop in April, The Veils lined up a four night stint across London to road test the new material. We made it along to formerly-out-of-the-way pub The Macbeth in Hoxton in anticipation of catching an early airing of new songs from this great band.

Once the sub-par openers were out of the way, it was pretty clear that the packed-out crowd were here for one reason only - and the show kicked off at a lightening pace. With their recorded material, the emphasis is all on lyrics and vocal deliver, but live on stage the band were a different animal entirely. Dan Raishbrook's outstanding guitar work and cool-as-fuck bassist Sophia Burn really added another dimension to front man Finn Andrews booming band, as they hammered through very promising sounding new material, clearly building on the strengths of Nux Vomica. Old favorites weren't passed over though and Calliope!, Advice For Young Mothers and Not Yet (all available on their www as it happens) met with resounding approval.

Band or no band however, this is clearly Andrews' project - and a mid-set solo number wowed the crown, while another solo encore cemented him as a mesmerising poetic figure. He led the show with style and bumped Sun Gangs onto this year's 'most anticipated' list.

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6th Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Joan as Police Woman

Concorde 2, Brighton

Brighton’s always had a faintly sordid come down vibe, as though every day is like the last day of a festival. Into the city come Brooklyn’s Joan as Policewoman, intent on banishing the Sunday night gloom.

There’s an echo of Chrissie Hynde and Elvis Presley about Joan Wasser, with a bit of PJ Harvey thrown somewhere in between. It’s all a bit incongruous, as though she’s far more confident than you give her credit for, or far less, you can’t quite tell which.

It starts as an emotional romp of contemplative, melancholic offerings to the dead. ‘Flushed Chest’ for former lover Jeff Buckley, ‘To Be Lonely’, the beautifully synthy ‘Start of My Heart’ and ‘We Don’t Own It’ dedicated to Elliott Smith. Her vocal range yearns to be unleashed but Joan likes to keep you waiting. The emotional foreplay comes to an end with a unique interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Light my Fire’ and the throbbing ‘Christobel’ which lifts the mood completely. ‘This is for the new Black House ….. yeeeeeeow!’ screams Joan as the band launch ‘To America’ - a duet recorded with long time cohort Rufus Wainwright. Tonight Rufus’ falsetto vocals are gallantly performed by bassist Timo Ellis and drummer Kindred Parker. The energy leads into a ferocious ‘Furious’, the highlight of the night, but just as they get going the lights come up.

See more photos on our Flickr page.

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11th Dec 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Roots

The Forum, Kentish Town, London

The legendary Roots crew brought a healthy dose of their Philly flare to a cold and wet winter's night in North London on Friday as they jammed with unfailing enthusiasm for about 2 hours. They brought with them a full live band and though I searched high and wide, no sign of any turntables. For these hip hop heavyweights it's no longer the platters that matter as ?uestlove engineers the beats from his lofty drum-kit mounted high on a plinth at the back. With his afro rising like a sun from behind his drum prison the man never stopped as both his unrelenting rhythmical structure and his physical presence formed the backbone of this incredible sound. And the reason it was incredible is that it redefined what a hip hop gig could be for me.

The show was by no means perfect and there were often times when my attention wandered but never once did it conform to a typical hip hop gig. Entering the stage first was a musician clad in a glorious tuba (later referred to as Tuba Gooding Junior) his deep, booming sound filling the venue. This introduction was mesmerizing and I was transfixed from the start as all the musicians took up their positions, keyboards, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, percussion and drums all were in place and in struts Black Thought, baseball cap, sunglasses and phat gold chain. Taking his cue from ?uestlove who belts out the Apache rhythm that forms Phrenology's greatest cut Thought @ Work, the show commences in style. They frantically blend into Get Busy from the new album and it's not until this mayhem draws to a close that we are given time to breath.

With this live formation the band provide themselves with a lot of freedom, they're not constrained by programmed or sampled drum beats and so they are able to go where they please. They are able to tail off from one track into an impromptu rendition of Jungle Boogie led by the saxophonist, or let a song amble into a mammoth duel between ?uestlove's drum-kit and the percussionist's bongo dexterity. The other effect the live band has is the removal of the MC as the central focal point. Black Thought is way more central and way more impressive on record than he is on stage. This isn't really a critism of him, he's electrifying when on a flow, but is more of an observation about a front man that is quite willing to fade into the background and let his band take center stage. Sometimes he'd even fade off his rap mid-verse so that only he could hear his own words, like he was unaware of an audience.

They clearly love playing and seemed to never stop, flowing from one song to the next. The torrent of words flooding out over such a complex mixture of sounds does ask a lot of the audience and there definitely was a lull during the middle period, as this energy is hard to maintain. Black Thought's words were often enveloped by the music making it hard to hear him and with each song undergoing major changes it was hard to recognise some of them and many favorites passed me by unnoticed. Strangely enough, it was the musical interludes like the drum battle and the awesome bass guitar solo that thrilled me the most. They displayed the band's potential to turn on a knife edge and change up the genres altogether. And that was the principle success of the night. Black Thought's gold chain was the only conventional hip hop representative present that night. I didn't feel like I was at a hip hop gig and I was glad of it. People were moving to the back where there was more space to dance. As the whole show culminated in a rapturous and frenzied rendition of one of their biggest singles The Seed and every hand was thrust into the air I felt like I was in the presence of a truly legendary crew who were really writing their own rules and breaking them as well. The skill and creativity on that stage was palpable and a wonder to behold.

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10th Dec 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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ATP Weekender Curated by Mike Patton / Melvins: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Butlins, Minehead

When ATP announced this event six months ago, I could hardly believe my luck. I make no secret of my devotion to the Melvins and all things Ipecac (Patton's label), so this weekend festival (3 hours drive away) was like a gift from the almighty. As acts got added to the lineup the ticket value seemed to increase - especially when Butthole Surfers were added to the bill - so this was an event for which my expectations were pretty high. And whaddya know? They delivered 100 percent satisfaction, a weekend of eclectic and exciting music surrounded by like-minded people. And so, amidst the spartan tat of this windswept and freezing off-season holiday stalag, people gathered from all over the world to celebrate the left-of-centre and the truly gifted, on two main sound stages and one quadrophonic rig in a smaller venue.

(The) Melvins opened up on Friday as 'Melvins 83' - bringing original drummer Mike Dillard back to revisit their punky roots. Regular Melvins drummer Dale Crover played bass for this short set and was introduced as Matt Lukin. They were great - Mike Dillard sounded really tight - a performance that he can be justly proud of.

With so much going on, there were often choices to be made between two stages - throwing up some unexpected delights and a few minor disappointments. And so, in no particular order, a few words about some of the performances that I did see.

Best thing I've seen all year award goes to Zu - Italian noise-funk trio with the HEAVIEST sound I have EVER heard. Absolutely astounding virtuoso playing with not a hint of chin-stroking introspection. Big, noisy, intelligent party music - I cannot recommend this band highly enough. Want to see the most highly drilled weirdos in the world? Then check out The Locust - falling under the vague umbrella of Math-rock, these costumed and masked humanoids deliver precision salvos of Rhythm'n'Noise. What the drummer was doing looked inhuman. Brilliant. There were some understated and beautiful performances too - notably Martina Topley Bird who has the voice of an angel and Joe Lally (Fugazi) who has the dignity of a war veteran. At the other end of the scale (ie, dignity and restraint missing) was Squarepusher. Whilst his playing and programming are faultless, the smothering fog of his gigantic ego suffocated the fun out of the room. Thanks Tom, but we can make our own minds up about when to cheer. Audience response happens naturally when the music connects with people, and the winners in this respect were Taraf De Haidouks - the most awesome gypsy band on the planet. When they played, the room became a party, and once their time onstage was finished they just carried on outside. Makes you wonder how come our own folk music is so dull. Representing the slightly looser approach to music was the amazingly messy Butthole Surfers. Who knows how wasted Gibby Haines was, but he did punctuate one song by shouting "Three fuckin' hits of MDMA!", so that might have been a clue. Pretty damn psychedelic. Another treat was country-pickin' Junior Brown - possibly the greatest stunt-guitarist you will ever hear in your life, and with a rich barritone voice like a fine matured bourbon. There was a special performance of Stockhausen's Kontakte in the quadrophonic room - mixed from the original masters by Stockhausen's sound projectionist and complimented by a pianist and percussionist on stage. The sound system was crystal clear and the crowd remained quiet and respectfully awed by the one of the original noise-masters. By contrast, "America's funny man" Neil Hamburger was trying to achieve the goal of goading the audience towards "a crescendo of boo's" as he put it. Provocatively tasteless and badly delivered jokes about Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger coupled with general abuse of audience members. I liked it - and there was one genuinely funny joke - (What's worse than Muslim Extremism? Chinese Democracy). Mike Patton himself resisted the temptation to make appearances with multiple bands, concentrating instead on orchestrating a fine performance of The Director's Cut with his band Fantomas. They played the whole album and it sounded wonderful, with Patton clearly in an excellent mood - so much so they even gave us an encore of Al Green's Simply Beautiful which Patton dedicated to "all the laydeez in the house", prompting many female screams, whistles and a general gusset-moistening.

Booby Prizes go to the following - Big Business (hampered by a blown-up bass amp, and a subsequently muddy mix), Leila (technical problems not exactly enhancing something that seemed boring in the first place), Porn (onstage intrusion by mystery drunk guitarist [turns out it was the bloke out of Mastodon] leading to aimless collapse of order), James Blood Ulmer (great voice, but guitar playing somewhere beyond loose), and White Noise (the ledgendary David Vorhaus served up softcore euro-trance which bore no reference to his early experimental works). Didn't get to see Mastodon, Isis, The Damned, Farmer's Market or Kool Keith, so sorry about that. There was only so much a person could take in, but having said that, this was still the best music festival I have ever been to. Support ATP! They rule.

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9th Dec 2008 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Shred Yr Face Tour - Times New Viking, No Age, Los Campesinos

Electric Ballroom, London. 20/10/08

I'm sure I speak for a large population of this city when I say I hate queuing, I hate the rain and I hate Camden. So standing in a whopping great queue on a rainy Monday night on Camden high street isn't my idea of the perfect way to start the week. There aren't many things at the end of this queue that would make these set of circumstances worthwhile but the opportunity to see this collection of bands certainly seemed worth the discomfort endured. Sadly it wasn't as easy as that. The queue was so big that Times New Viking were all but done as I entered the venue and Los Campesinos annoyed the hell out of me. Thankfully No Age made up for all of it and the star rating you see on your left is largely made up from their performance.

To be honest the LA duo of Randy Randall and Dean Spunt were who I really came to see. Their album Nouns has been the most played for me this year and to see them recreate that DIY sound on stage was well worth the misery that Camden can inflict. And the boys certainly didn't disappoint. From the first note their sound boomed out and resounded around the room with a commanding force. For such a small outfit they can certainly make a noise and the variation of sounds that power out of their two instruments and the odd sampling device defies the sight of the two kids that stand before you. Randy's guitar can assume the roaming jangle of This Should Be My Home, the carefree strum of Ripped Knees or stoop to the deep metallic grind of Boy Void and all the time he's accompanied by the force that is Dean's non-stop drum workout. There's little movement on stage but the sound is so commanding.

Much of Nouns was given a thorough pillaging with stand out moments being Eraser, Teen Creeps, Cappo and Sleeper Hold. The choice cuts from Weirdo Rippers stood shoulder to shoulder with their newer brethren with the finale being given over to a fantastic rendition of Everybody's Down. Thinking they had played their last song much of the crowd drifted towards the bar only for a red light to descend on the stage and the slight figure of Dean Spunt atop a speaker, mic in hand. Away from his drums for the first time he launched into the contorted vocal intro. After this a flashing strobe blinded the crowd and when it lifted Dean was back at the drum kit and the crashing second half ensued with chugging guitar and cymbals firing out with total abandon.

The ease and who-gives-a-shit nature with which No Age churn out their set make a formation like Los Campesinos! appear slightly too much and though they commanded the crowd from the word go they seemed very aware of themselves in comparison. A line-up like this will undoubtedly divide the audience and many seemed to have come for the fuzz and grind of the first two bands and a whole new crowd drafted in for the last act. This crowd were all set for dancing and as the signature tune of Death To Los Campesinos! started up the adoring fans got exactly what they wanted. I, however, had come for a head pummeling and got what I wanted from No Age and the tail end of Times New Viking so the multi-instrumental 7-man line up that stood on stage now did very little for me. Putting the 'camp' into Campesinos this band of merry musicians had more than enough of a following so off I retreated to the 'merch' desk to see if there was any No Age stuff I didn't already have. Sadly there wasn't so it was back into the rain for me.

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22nd Oct 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Melvins / Big Business / Porn

Concorde 2, Brighton, October 6th 2008

The Melvins return to our shores after an 18 month absence to promote their latest album Nude With Boots, and this time they've opted to play only a few regional dates around the UK after a tour of mainland Europe. So it's off to Brighton for an evening at the Seaside in the company of the Melvins and their modular support act system. First up are (Men Of) Porn - Tim Moss's experimental trio with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, and usually a member of the road crew on bass - Moss is the Melvins tour manager so this is really a family affair. What Moss does is to set up walls of guitar distortion which he modulates with all manner of electronics, and tonight things were much more drone than riff. The sound in Concorde 2 was, by the way, crisp and very loud.

Next up are Bass/Drums duo Big Business, who count as 50% of the Melvins. They deliver a short and powerful set including hands up, Shields, Grounds For Divorce, Easter Romantic and several new tracks. Crover comes back on to play guitar midway through the set and the crowd really start to heat up.

After a five minute break, the Melvins start up with the title track from their latest album - Nude With Boots. Twin drummers Dale Crover and Coady Willis are locked together really tight tonight, and King Buzzo looks almost cheerful. They play a great set with lots of tracks from their two most recent albums (the ones which feature Big Business), and a few Melvins classics including Eyes Flies, Honeybucket, Tipping The Lion and a spectacular version of Boris to close the set. Most of the punters are half the band's age, and show their appreciation by moshing ceaselessly. A top night out at the seaside.

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9th Oct 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The War On Drugs / The Dudes / Ladyhawk

Borderline, London October 1st 2008

"Bryan Adams. Celine Dion. Ladyhawk. Neil Young. The Dudes." According to The Dudes lead singer Dan Vacon, two of Canada's favourite five bands are on stage tonight, and while that song Run To You was pretty good I'm going to have to agree.

As an added bonus, The War On Drugs provided last-minute support for the evening, after their European tour with the Hold Steady was cancelled. They managed to shake off their Waterboys image with some hard-rocking jams from Wagonwheel Blues stretched out into psychedelia - although they did display a tendency to drag every song on a little long. They're not quite Neil Young just yet.

The pace of the evening changed dramatically when The Dudes took to the stage, with their well travelled bar room rock lifting the atmosphere immeasurably. The band were fast and tight, power-housing their way through much of Brain, Heart, Guitar with an immensely charismatic charm. As expected, the sound of the band's slightly over-polished debut was peeled back live, to reveal a rock-loving, hard-jamming machine - with drumming like you have never seen. Best of all, the band looked like they were enjoying what they were doing, as they brought a Thin Lizzy-like honest simplicity to a raft of great tracks like Don't Talk, The Fist ("one-hand claps will do if you're holding a beer") and Dropkick Queen Of The Weekend. "In case you're wondering, white jeans and a mustache are not cool in Canada either."

Luckily we're not talking Hoxton mustache here - and I'm happy to report another entry into the "Beards+Guitar+Canada = Rock" stereotype, as Ladyhawk provided another whole level of great. "Fast and loose" doesn't mean a band can't be super-tight, as Ladyhawk powering through the best of their two albums, segueing between their own songs. "Ladyhawke is in the toilet, she'll be here in a minute" mocked singer Duffy Driediger, which probably provided an explanation for some of the bemused looking crowd. No sign of dance-pop from songs like I Don't Always Know What You're Saying and Ashtray, as this distinctly Canadian band beefed up an already great album - blending heavy rock with instantly accessible, sing-a-long song-writing.

A rousing rendition of Fear rounded out a great bill of live music, before an as-yet-unidentified encore provided a powerful end to the evening. With The Dudes down the front providing sing-a-long vocals, the band all switched places leaving Duffy Driediger to roam free and bust out his most comical Freddie Mercury-like vocal moves from the open plains of the dance floor. Awesome.

The War On Drugs - 2.5 stars
The Dudes - 3.5 stars
Ladyhawk - 4 stars

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2nd Oct 2008 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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No Age / Health / The Lovvers

Scala, London

August 11th, 2008

A triple bill from label/promoters Upset The Rhythm - purveyors of some fine DIY indie. First up are The Lovvers, Nottingham based punkers with all the right moves for UTR's energetic and studendish crowd. After a quick scout around the inter-cyber-webway I can't tell you much about the members of the band, but they have got a great frontman and there's more than a hint of Flipper about them.

Next comes Health - avant garde LA noise experimentalists with a reputation based on playing Live - and from the moment they start playing you can see why they've gained such kudos. The band seem right at home onstage - creating a seething cauldron of beautiful noise, listening to and playing off each other. Instruments are used as noise sources, effects boards and the band's infamous "zoothorn" are much in evidence, while furious tight drumming locks the whole thing together. Soft ethereal vocals find their way into the music along with captured loops of squalling guitar and sheets of pitch-shifted noise. Quite an experience.

A bit of a hard act to follow, and this is the unenvious task faced by duo No-Age , who seem genuinely psyched to be playing at the Scala tonight. They sound rather straightforward after the sonic battering of Health, and their use of looped sounds is much more submerged in the mix, but their charm and enthusiasm count for a lot here tonight, and the crowd are well up for it. I'm pretty sure no-one went home disappointed, but for me the highlight of the evening were Health - I'd just like to have seen them play for a little longer.

RATINGS: Health (4 stars) No-Age and The Lovvers (3 stars)

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18th Aug 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Mudhoney

The Forum, Kentish Town, London

June 31st, 2008

With a 20 year anniversary under their belt, there's a new vigor in the Mudhoney camp and renewed interest in the seminal godfathers of Grunge. Sure, there's the fans who've grown up with the band (mostly geography teachers now by the look of things), but there's also a sweaty teenage contingent at the Forum tonight. There's not much in between, but fortunately these two groups have one thing in common.

Fang cover "The Money Will Roll Right In" opens the show, before we move on to "I'm Now" and "The Lucky Ones" from the recent album of the same name. While Mudhoney's recent releases have been far from disappointing, it seems clear that most of us are here for one thing. Mudhoney's recent re-release of "Superfuzz-Bigmuff" seems to have re-ignited the flame of nostalgia for the band, and while the crowd is rowdy from the start it explodes when the big hitters like "Touch Me I'm Sick" and "In 'n' Out Of Grace" come out. The mosh pit expands to fill most of the ground floor and - perhaps feeling a little nostalgic themselves - even the security guards relapse on their post-grunge clampdown, letting a free flowing barrage of crowd-surfing go relatively unpunished.

The 20 years haven't been bad to Mudhoney, with Mark Arm still throwing down Iggy Pop moves like a disgruntled teenager, while the band preside over the immense energy of the show like seasoned veterans. It's a set-list packed with early classics, and with the relentless pace making no attempt to hold back the 'hits,' it's left to Black Flag cover "Fix Me" to make up the encore and bring the show to an end. This dose of 80's punk serves as a potent reminder of where this band came from - let's hope their own legacy fuels the aspirations of a generation to come. Brilliant.

Lots more photos by chimp photographer Rachel Poulton over on our Flickr page.

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5th Aug 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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