Archive | July, 2011

Live Review: The Young Knives

24 Jul

Haunt: Friday, July 22 2011.

With a drummer looking like a 70s porn star, a bass player who goes by the name of House of Lords and a goggle-eyed singer called Henry, The Young Knives were either going to be brilliant or bollocks.

It took all of thirty seconds of this one-off gig to realise it was the former as the smash and grab clatter of Terra Firma was dispatched with an unexpected sense of urgency.

It didn’t take long for their trademark inter-song banter to take hold either.

The House of Lords was gently mocked for sporting a vile Hawaiian shirt before he introduced a new song as the sexiest they’ve ever written.

At the rumbling bass rolled in, it was hard to know whether you should run for the hills or shake your hips. With a verse that sounds likes three social misfits wishing they were Prince, it is weird, sleazy and, whisper it, a real guilty pleasure.

They returned to more common ground with oldie Weekends and Bleak Days before prancing through a fair few tracks from their poppier third album, Ornaments From The Silver Arcade

Love My Name has a killer riff which The Strokes dropped down the back of their settee in 2001 while their last single Human Again – “it went massive,”  quips Henry sarcastically – is a blistering, tear-away track which should have become an indie-disco staple for years to come. If it doesn’t make you want to dance like you’re 17 then you’ve become the kind of miserable, downtrodden git you used to despise.

There was just enough time for Henry to chide the Mercury Music Prize judges for overlooking them, before they returned to their world of obscurity with the applause still ringing in their ears.

“Until yesterday I’d forgotten that I got to be rock and roll for an hour tonight,” he confesses, tongue firmly in cheek.

As good as they are, they’ll never be rock and roll. That’s what makes them so special.


Live Review: Electrelane

22 Jul


Komedia: Wednesday, July 20 2011

Thirteen years after forming in Brighton – and more than three years after announcing an indefinite hiatus following fourth album No Shouts, No Calls – Electrelane made their live return at a sold-out Komedia.

The quartet have never been an easy band to pigeon-hole, preferring, actually insisting, on doing things their way or no way at all.

It’s a stubbornness and bloody-minded independence which has drawn in a devoted following, but sometimes you can’t help wondering if it’s their biggest hindrance.

Take tonight, despite their lengthy absence and a crowd eager to herald their return, there was no fanfare, little audience interaction and very few words in between songs, save for some ultra-polite requests to the sound man.

Never ones to conform to expectations, they started sluggishly, and for some reason churned out the opening songs on a stage bathed in light. It was utterly ill at ease with their dense, juddering drone-pop songs

Thankfully, as their hour-and-a half  set progressed, the lights were dimmed, the flash-lights flickered and the atmosphere perfectly segued with their brooding sounds.

Electrelane are still at their best when they up the tempo; when the guitars, bass and drums make an almighty wall of noise, leaving Verity Susman’s vocals to flitter over the top while her stiletto-sharp keys jab away.

Nestled in between old favourites, a scintillating cover of Bronski Beat’s Small Town Boy is especially impressive but, overall their live show continues fall just short of their recorded sounds.

Watching them play live again was like bumping into a long-lost old flame. While it was good to see them, it soon became apparent why they had a knack of winding you up in the first place. 


Live Review: The Head and The Heart

16 Jul

Prince Albert, Thursday, July 14 2011

By signing to Sub Pop last year, The Head and the Heart ended one of the most frantic Stateside scrambles for a band’s signature in donkeys years.

What’s more impressive is that the Seattle six-piece caused such a stir without media hype, a PR machine or on the back of gushing praise from bloggers.

Since early 2009 they’d been flogging their self-recorded eponymous album at gigs and in a couple of local stores.

In a matter of months they’d shifted 10,000 copies. It’s a DIY ethos older than the houses, and it fits perfectly.

After all, tonight at the Albert confirms their soul-stirring, folk-driven Americana is from another era, far removed from the digital age.

Ok, so they are hardly going against the grain – scores of heart-on-sleeve folk-influenced acts have cropped-up over the past couple of years – but none of them can hold a torch to these three-part harmonies.

For the best part of an hour, Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell brilliantly trade-off rugged vocals, while Charity Rose Thielen adds a softer sound to the mix.

Throw in some surprisingly powerful drumming and Ben Folds Five style piano and you’ve got a collection of foot-stomping live tracks which go down well with the crowd.

It’s earnest and intense, but somehow manages to retain a sense of fun. In fact, this is how the Fleet Foxes would sound if stopped dreaming about orchards and got some fire in their bellies.

As rousing as these songs are, it’s a couple of slower numbers which really stand out.

When they tame the piano and slow down the drums, the vocals have more space to breathe and dominate.

The three singers effortlessly switch  roles as violin swirls around their harmonies. If you’re heading to a festival this summer, here are your camp-fire classics.

Despite two years of grass-roots success, it’s sweet that they still seem surprised by the number of people of here and the strength of the reactions.
It’s a modesty, which, combined with performances like this, should see them go far.

News: Good Weekend Festival

14 Jul

Eddie Argos brings Art Brut to headline the Good Weekend Festival later this month.

The event brings together a passionate group of people keen to support the music industry through live music events, with a team of producers, sound and lighting technicians and creative minds volunteering their skills and experience from their respective industries.

Set in picturesque parkland at Vicarage Farm in the heart of the beautiful Hampshire countryside, just a stone’s throw from Winchester, the festival site is easily accessible from Junction 7 of the M3 with regular trains from across the country stopping at nearby mainline stations in Basingstoke and Winchester.

And whether you’re into Rock, Indie and Alternative, or the sounds of Dubstep, Breaks, Ambient and Electro, there’s an impressive line-up. From well-loved cult bands to up-and-coming artists and producers, right down to local grass-roots talent, there is something for every music lover.

Joining Art Brut are Parker, Lulu and the Lampshades, Hot Club de Paris, Worship and Charlie and the Martyrs among others.

Held on Friday, July 22 and Saturday 23, tickets are £40.

Go to for more information

Live Review: All The Young

12 Jul

Jam: Sunday, July 10 2011

Stoke isn’t known for being a creative powerhouse.

And judging by the snarling, sprightly and simple lad rock peddled out by All The Young, this isn’t going to change any time soon.

In fact, the quartet are to popular music what the long throw-ins of Stoke City’s Rory Delap are to the beautiful game; somewhat soul-destroying yet annoyingly effective.

It’s all Morrissey’s fault anyway. The daft so and so has only gone and declared them his favourite new band. God knows why. After all, this is sound of 1996. Back then Chris Evans would have had All They Young on TFI Friday like a shot and, in all likelihood, they’d have become huge.

There’s no doubt tonight shows they’ve got all the prerequisites; A chipper and bolshie frontman with a sub- standard Gallagher drawl? Check.

A few shoutable tunes that would go down well with anyone who thought The Twang were the musical future a few years back? Check.

Lyrics woeful enough to be recited en masse by lager-fuelled lads in Ben Sherman shirts? Check.

A combined product hummable enough to become a collection of driving anthems for middle-aged dads from Milton Keynes? Yep, check.

They’ve got the swagger and self-belief too, even managing to put in a remarkably boisterous performance despite playing to only 15 people.

Credit where credit’s due, All The Young are competent at what they do, but in a day and age when so many acts are pushing creative boundaries, we don’t need a Northern Uproar for the 21st century.

Just ask NME favourites yet perpetual chart flops Brother.

Live Review: Austra

12 Jul

Haunt: Friday, July 8 2011

So this is how it seems to go.

Reviewers faced with the latest female-fronted, synth-drenched, goth-tinged act should throw in comparisons to Florence and the Machine, Zola Jesus and School of Seven Bells, maybe make reference to Kate Bush-esque vocal histrionics, before concluding the band in question aren’t a patch on Bat For Lashes.

There’s only one problem; with the exception of Kate – whose gigs are rarer than Shane MacGowan’s teeth – in terms of a live spectacle, Toronto trio Austra leave the aforementioned acts trailing in their wake. They are immense.

Tonight, the crowd rammed into Haunt is treated to a sublime set of dark and theatrical electro-doom-pop. There’s shimmering keys, cold beats and sleazy bass but, as impressive as its combined impact is, it merely provides the glittering bedrock for the star attraction, classically-trained frontwoman Katie Stelmanis.

In a flowing back garb she orchestrates proceedings, almost appearing to be conducting herself as her soaring vocals take hold.

There’s little pause for thought as the majority of tracks from debut album Feel it Break are dispatched with an eerie but classy style. It’s a strange yet winning mix of vocal gymnastics, at times macabre lyrics and downright danceable tunes.

There’s a cleverness about it all too. On the several occasions where, in lesser hands, the sharp operatics would be left unabated to overwhelm, here they are expertly tempered by some welcome and soothing backing vocals and harmonies.

As the breathless Lose It fades out amid a flickering light finale, it’s hard not to conclude that Austra have the lot; the sound, the style and the buzz.

Beat that Florence et al.

Live Review: Tribes

7 Jul

Prince Albert, Wednesday, July 6 2011

If you only like your music earnest, moody and liked by no more than 10 people, then shuffle away now, this really isn’t for you.

London four-piece Tribes are here for the rest of us, the thrill-seeking majority who like to have fun every now and again, preferably with arms aloft, beer in hand and swaying along to belting choruses which are destined to become unrelenting earworms.

Ok, as an art form, their Britpop-infused, glam-tinted sing-along tunes are about as novel as a Hugh Hefner marriage proposal.

But, as the name Tribes suggest, they immediately unify the sell-out crowd by flashing a few cheeky grins and showing everyone here a good time.

With their shaggy haircuts, chest-exposing T-Shirts and wide-eyed wonder, they might look like they are making-up songs as they go along, but they haven’t created infectious gems like these without hours of finger-bleeding rehearsals.

What’s more, on this showing they are building up an almost obsessive following. The stomping next single ‘Sappho’ isn’t out until next month but plenty here know it word-for-word, while their debut release ‘We Were Children’ – complete with the catchiest chorus this side of a Supergrass greatest hits album – sees the lads at the front dancing along arm-in-arm.

Let the musical snobs sneer…Tribes, and the rest of us, are too busy having a good time to care.

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