Archive | May, 2011

Comedy Review: Rob Rouse, ‘The Great Escape’

27 May

Komedia, Wednesday, March 25, 2011

Rob Rouse is a man you’d happily have a pint with.

His latest show, The Great Escape – which details his family’s move from London to the Peak District – reveals he is witty, self-effacing and a born yarn-spinner.

You’d happily prop up the bar and grin as the former geography teacher recounted how his dog jumped on top of an elderly neighbour and how he and his wife suspected foul play, not friendship, when she later made them soup to welcome them to the village.

It’s all pleasant stuff, but it’s not laugh out loud funny.

His show needs more killer jokes and tight one liners to make it more of a rip-roaring comedy routine rather than a rambling and amusing conversation with a mate.

He gets close to the former with gags about how his new area is full of single, elderly women, ‘If you’re over 65 and love talc, fill your boots lads’, he quips, while his scathing attack on the TV show The Only Way Is Essex throws in some much-needed bile.

Sadly the rest of the hour-long show ambles along with predictable material about the difficulties of trying for a baby and the quirks of long-term relationships.

It’s not bad, but due to his occasional flashes of quality, you suspect he’s capable of better.


Live Review: Suede

23 May

Brixton Academy: Friday, May 20 2011
Suede frontman Brett Anderson was always well-known for his egomania but by 2002 he appeared bitter, washed-out and so far up his own arse that he was eyeballing his intestines.

It was a far cry from the early Nineties when Suede changed the face of the British music scene, obliterating the turgid remnants of grunge with a shake of their hips and anthem-packed albums dripping with sexual charm, theatrical vocals and poetic lyrics.

In the space of a decade he’d gone from penning devotion-inspiring classics such as Animal Nitrate and New Generation to begrudgingly talking to me and six other student journalists about their last album, A New Morning.

Perhaps deep down he knew that with songs like Morning, complete with the opening line “sleepy head get out of bed, big bad world is calling”, it’d have been better titled A False Dawn. Less than 12 months later, Suede were no more.

The simmering tensions in the group were impossible to ignore during that interview as a curt Anderson – the one time poster boy for outsiders everywhere and the man heralded by the music media for kick-starting Britpop – revealed himself to be charmless and seemingly wasted from years of well-documented drug abuse.

It was my first lesson in the dangers of meeting your heroes. To my mind, Anderson had some making-up to do. And on Friday at Brixton, where Suede played in full their second album Dog Man Star, he did it with style.

As the opening rumblings of Introducing the Band signalled their arrival, the almighty cheer that engulfed the venue showed how much this band meant to so many. For the next hour and a half the sell-out crowd was taken back 17 years to the band’s heyday, and Anderson was taken back to the days when he was adored by thousands.

Despite not uttering a single word in between songs, he gave a masterclass in showmanship, shimmying across the stage, clasping hands with the front row and standing arms aloft after every song.

We Are the Pigs and Heroine sounded as urgent as ever, the Wild Ones and The Two of Us were as achingly beautiful as in 1994, while the final orchestral flourishes of Still Life still sent shivers down the spine.

Stay Together – a standalone single released in between debut album Suede and Dog Man Star – was played live so rarely that most of the crowd had to do a double-take to make sure they weren’t hearing things. If the converted thought it couldn’t get better, they were wrong.

An extended encore saw them rattle through Animal Nitrate and So Young, as well as B Sides Killing of a Flashboy and My Dark Star. The fact that they failed the Dog Man Star cut is testament to how high Suede’s standards were back then.

In most cases, the latest fad of playing old albums in full is little more than one last payday for past-it bands while simultaneously fulfilling the nostalgic needs of fans eager for a night-out re-living their youth.

While no doubt the cash will come in handy, this format also allows Suede to temporarily erase their disappointing later offerings and remind us all why they were one of the most important British bands of a generation.

Anderson, consider yourself redeemed.

News: The Duke Spirit

23 May

In preparation for the arrival of their third LP Bruiser, The Duke Spirit are stopping off in Brighton as part of their UK tour.
Leila Moss and co play Audio on Friday, June 3, with tickets priced at £10. Doors are at 7pm and support comes from The Computers.
Check out this preview of Bruiser:
And get tickets for the gig here:

Live Review: Steve Mason

18 May

Komedia: Tuesday, May 17 2011

Former Beta Band frontman Steve Mason orders the audience to “bust a move” before launching into the dubbed-out rhythms of Lost and Found, one of the highlights of last year’s Boys Outside album.

To the uninitiated it appears an optimistic demand. Seeing him centre stage, unshaven in his baggy coat, checked shirt and scruffy jeans he looks more like a cabbie than the cult hero responsible for an album full of intensely personal lyrics and enchanting tunes.

Perhaps it’s this blatant refusal to put style over substance as well as his battles with personal demons which explain why his career has stumbled along, rather than soared, over the past 15 years.

Either way, tonight he shows why more people really ought to take notice and those present are more than happy to follow his instructions.

From the heavy, undulating bass and deep vocals of Am I Just A Man to the almost spoken word verses and lush chorus of Stress Position, Mason chops and changes direction with ease.

He needlessly introduces Yesterday as being under-rehearsed because no one would have noticed as his mantra-like vocals and scything guitars tame the pummeling basslines to an almost hypnotising effect.

As proceedings are wrapped-up by the relentless beats of C I AM 15 – recorded in 2005 under the guise of King Biscuit Time – Mason vows to return next year with a new album.

“I’ll keep rolling with the punches”, he vows. Let’s hope he does.

News: The Lovely Eggs

17 May

Quirky indie popsters The Lovely Eggs are playing at the Horse and Groom, Brighton, this Sunday (May 22).

The gig is free and doors are at 8pm.

It’s bound to be better than sitting in front of the gogglebox trying not to think about work the next day.

Not convinced? Have a butchers at this, it’s a belter.

Live Review: The Great Escape

16 May


Brighton, May 12-14 2011

With more than 300 bands playing at 30 Brighton venues over three days, devising a Great Escape itinerary takes more planning than a US Special Forces operation in Pakistan.

As no doubt many event virgins discovered, excessive venue hopping means all you get to hear are the grumbles of the people behind you in ever-growing queues as packed out clubs and bars operate a one-in-one-out policy.

It was a bonus-and-a half , then, that on day one of the event, four must-see bands were all playing under one roof.

Two Wounded Birds were the first up at Hector’s House and immediately set out to sound like two completely different bands. One minute singer Johnny Danger is delightfully droning over dense and  cutting guitars, the next he’s firing his cohorts through shouty and spiky pop-punk numbers. This Margate four-piece haven’t yet crafted a sound of their own, but there’s more than enough on display to suggest they are worth keeping an eye on.

One man you can’t help but notice is PS I Love You frontman Paul Saulnier, who  is the perfect physical embodiment of his band’s sound; bloody huge and fuzzy. Aided only by a drummer, he churns out masses of distorted guitars and demented Frank Black-esque screeching and somehow emerges with a handful of memorable tunes. It’s big, loud and clever.

Sadly the same can’t be said for Dutch Uncles whose sub-Ocean Colour Scene dirges and grating high-pitched vocals only succeeded in providing time for a breather at the bar.

Thankfully Welsh trio The Joy Formidable quickly get things back on track with their tried and tested formula of melodic vocals, sweeping guitars and clattering drums, all of which build into an almighty crescendo. There’s little variety, but there’s no doubt they’ve honed a style that’s almost out-grown sweaty boozers like this.

Day two, Friday, starts at The Green Door Store with Admiral Fallow main man Louis Abbott charming his way through stripped-down versions of tracks from debut LP Boots Met My Face. Sounding like a calmer Frightened Rabbit, Abbott’s voice is strong enough not to miss his band and his self-deprecating wit means he can twice halt a song because he’s forgotten the words, and no-one minds.

After a brief afternoon lull, it’s off to Concorde 2 to see Phoenix Foundation. With Buffalo they released one of the catchiest singles of the year, but sadly the rest of their set reveals this to be the exception rather than the norm. Playing right next to the sea with the sun flooding in, their songs are suitably hazy, jangly and inoffensive but these Kiwis ultimately come across like a Fleet Foxes second X1.

The Pavilion Theatre was the place to be for the rest of the evening to see husband and wife Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou huddle together around one microphone to play their quintessentially English and earthy folk numbers to polite applause before Josh T Pearson brought some genuine star quality to proceedings.

His haunting songs of misery, breakdowns and a failed marriage are interspersed with trademark banter in his thick Texan drawl. With just his booming voice and one guitar, he’s intense and immense. The only problem is that his songs are so long that he only manages to play five numbers before he’s told to leave the stage amid demands for an encore.

Villagers then round the night off with a surprisingly boisterous set where even some of the more fragile moments from album Becoming  a Jackal are cranked-up a level to impressive effect.

Saturday starts by fighting the way past snotty kids, stag-do victims, and shitting seagulls on Brighton Pier to reach Horatios where the bluegrass-tinged sounds of James Vincent McMorrow baffles those on prenuptial piss-ups but enthrall the rest of us before Conquering Animal Sounds bring the tempo down with their delicate electronic sounds and dreamy vocals.

Back on solid land, Let’s Buy Happiness entertain a small crowd at The Queen’s Hotel with their big, windswept guitars and Sarah Hall’s towering vocals before fellow Geordies The Castells take to the stage at Above Audio and provide the one moment of the weekend where it felt like you’d stumbled across The Next Big Thing.

They might not be able to afford a pint and were kipping on a campsite having spent all their cash on travelling down, but with a frantic collection of taut yet tuneful songs under their belts and more passion than most other acts playing this weekend combined, they’ll soon be accustomed to a higher standard of living. There’ll be comparisons to near neighbours The Futureheads but their songs are more memorable, brash and feisty than that. With a frontman who knows how to perform – does climbing on monitors ever get tedious? – these four fellas will seemingly sweat blood and tears for the cause.

Fyfe Dangerfield’s Guillemots then took it down a notch or two with a brief street gig but despite now being on album number three, it appears they’ve never bettered early singles Trains to Brazil and Made-Up Love Song, both of which are well received.

The late afternoon hiatus was then shattered over at The Pav Tav where The Long Insiders meted out some primal, psyched-up rock before word got out that EMA – who at that very minute was playing at  a packed-out Horatios – would be making a second appearance down the road at Jam.

With no more than 40 people inside the stifling basement venue, either the message hadn’t got out, or more likely, many thought it was best to stay where they were rather than run the queues risk. Whatever the reason, they missed one of the weekend’s highlights.

EMA – or Erika M. Anderson to her mother – has bundles of stage presence and personality. Her sound is raw and intense and far more abrasive and noisy than on her debut album Past Life Martyred Saints.

There’s nothing forced or deliberately intricate as she wades through tracks packed with heavily distorted bar chords, reverb and unrelentingly honest lyrics.  Like all the best music, it’s ultimately uncomplicated and anyone with a guitar could replicate it. Pulling it off with such style and panache, however, is a damn site harder.

She ends the set with a foray into the crowd during the rambling California before retreating backstage, hot, knackered and a tad tipsy. After three days of Great Escaping, those here know exactly how she felt.

The Castells

News: Tom Williams and the Boat date

8 May

With the annual three-day new music shindig that is The Great Escape rapidly approaching, the Latest Music Bar has got in the on the act by holding a Great Escape Party on Friday.

The Manchester Street venue has scored quite a coup in lining-up the rather fine Tom Williams and The Boat to headline.

They’ve been (rightly) lauded by the likes of BBC6 Music and The Fly and will be well worth checking out if they don’t clash with any of your Great Escape ‘must-sees’.

Redtrack, Daughter and Get People provide the support.

Time: 8pm – 2am
Price: £4 on the door before 9pm , £5 after, free to Great Escape wristband holders.

Live Review: The Crookes

8 May

Ok, this was wasn’t in Brighton, but it was bloody good…

Debaser, Stockholm
Saturday, April 30
If Sheffield’s jangly pop poets The Crookes fail to put a grin on your face, the chances are it’s because you’ve been botoxed to buggery.

Despite tonight playing second fiddle to a dire blues-rock outfit, they’re a joy to watch as they unleash their catchy and classy songs with boundless enthusiasm and vigour.

While Stockholm isn’t the hardest crowd to win over – there’s no too-cool-for-school standing at the back with arms folded here – their first song, the soaring City Lights still receives an unexpectedly rapturous response.

For those who hadn’t had the pleasure of The Crookes before, it was a perfect introduction.
‘Take me where there’s music, I love to dance’ crooned frontman George Waite, revealing a voice deeper and confident that his boyish looks and slight frame would suggest, and most of those here seemed to share his sentiments.

Vocally Waite draws comparisons to Martin Rossiter from 90s indie fops Gene while musically the hour-long set reveals a hint of The Housemartins, a smack-free sprinkling of The Libertines and a trace of The Smiths.

The pick of the set is Bright Young Things, an excitable four-minute jaunt through jagged 80s guitars complete with a melody which won’t scarper from your head for at least a week. Bloodshot Days gives it a good run for a money though, complete with classic ‘ba, ba, ba’ backing vocals which you can’t help but mimic, while Chorus of Fools leads to frantic head shaking, both on stage and off, as it punches along at an increasing rate of knots.

The added bonus of having a frontman who can actually sing is that their tales of random characters, love and dreamy musings can be properly heard. ‘Who cares if they think that fragile youth’s too kitchen sink?’ asks Waite on the aforementioned Bright Young Things. Certainly no-one here.

They round-off with the suitably punchy ‘Yes, Yes, We Are Magicians’ and while none of their newly-won admirers can verify their rabbit-in-a-hat skills, they can testify that The Crookes are a wonderful watch.

Live Review: Best Coast

3 May

Coalition: Monday, May 2 2011

Welcome to a four chord, hour-long wank bank for floppy haired boys on Brighton seafront.

Best Coast, the Californian three-piece fronted by the impeccably cool Bethany Cosentino, are in town on the final night of their European tour and every male under the age of 21 is seemingly fixated by her.

From the outset Cosentino has them, and most of the rest of the bumper crowd, in the palm of her hand.

She giggles, they swoon, she says ‘fuck off’, they cheer, she mumbles some inaudible sentences, ‘you fucking would, wouldn’t you?’, says the charmer behind me.

Cosentino may be responsible for countless all-consuming teenage crushes but she and her band lack any genuine spark, style or sound to justify such wet-dream devotion.

I’m not saying that Best Coast are atrocious, not by any means, and they occasionally reveal the odd glimpse of class to explain why there are plenty of people here who are more concerned with sounds than sights.

The sing-along, A-list radio tune ‘Boyfriend’ is a scuzzy pop belter and ‘Gone Again’ is a bouncy new number where snappy vocals are delightfully interspersed by soothing ooohs and aaahs, but both serve to show-up the rest of their songs for what they are; sugar-coated lo-fi indie B-sides at best.

The major problem, though, is that there’s something about  Best Coast which doesn’t ring true. It’s style (so-called) over substance. They want to sell a slacker, too cool to give a fuck attitude, but their live show lacks the chaos, carnage and creativity of bands who really know how to let loose.

Cosentino knows she has the ability to work a crowd, but she needs to have more than a devilish glare, half-cut grin and off-kilter vocals if her band are going to progress

If this music was from an act fronted by a shellsuit-wearing fat fella from Wigan with a hooter the size of Brighton pier and a gut as wide as a fat camp failure, then very few people would care.

Best Coast? Average at most.

Live Review: Electric Soft Parade

2 May

The Albert, Wednesday, April 27 2011

Nine years ago Brighton’s Electric Soft Parade released their debut album, Holes In The Wall. It was indie pop perfection, nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and prompted Q magazine to name them the best new band in Britain.

Just twelve months later the follow-up, The American Adventure, was ridiculously dubbed a ‘prog monstrosity’ by one critic, and they soon parted company with their major label.

At the Albert tonight – the second of four monthly gigs to revisit their back catalogue – they play The American Adventure in full along with the 2006 EP The Human Body.

Lesser bands would have played a one-off ‘greatest hits’ set. The sell-out crowd would have missed a treat if they had.

The first song, The Things I’ve Done Before is a real toe-tapper while they rush through Lights Out like a band in the first flushes of youth. It’s a joyful riot of screeching guitars and clattering cymbals which serves to reinforce the fact that the crux of the band, brothers Tom and Alex White are both still under 30.

They are tight and powerful and throw in the odd bit of banter too. They cheekily tee-up Lose The Frown as ‘the single for the big label’, namely BMG, and the brothers playfully bicker over the counting-in to Headacheville – where the dreamy vocals are swiftly battered by an influx of distorted guitars.

If The American Adventure was released today, the likes of BBC6 Music would be all over it like a rash.

‘I never thought we’d make it this far’, sings Tom on the album’s final song, Existing. On this showing, they should have gone much further. Thankfully, they still have time on their side.

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