Archive | September, 2011

Live Review: Slow Club

30 Sep

Audio: Thursday, September 2011.

Whoa – what’s happened here?

Two years ago Slow Club were a duo peddling a fine line in bitter-sweet folk-pop loveliness, with their cute boy / girl vocals and penchant for using chairs and bottles as percussion instruments just about staying on the right side of twee.

Now their ramshackle approach and endearing kookiness has been battered into touch and replaced by a steely sense of purpose and altogether brasher sound. As a live spectacle, it’s all the better for it.

Beefed-up to a four-piece to play many of the tracks off new album Paradise,
they unleashed three-way vocals, throbbing rhythms and unexpectedly intense crescendos, all propelled by quirky pop sensibilities and a dollop of Northern panache.

No longer constrained by always having to play drums and percussion, Rebecca Taylor is now a more conventional frontwoman. And there’s no holding her back.

Her confidence and stage presence has been ramped-up while the new songs allow her stronger vocals to take control.

Apart from Charles Watson’s mumbling introductions, the odd fit of giggles and their humorous jibes at each other, you’re hard pressed to believe this is the same band which made it’s name with understated, off-the wall gems.
Not that anyone’s complaining – it’s a revelation.

Even Giving Up On Love from debut Yeah So was given a greater sense of urgency during the encore as the two of them rapidly rattled through the sixties-style, bop along number like it was first time they’d played it in months, even though this was the last night of the tour.

Slow Club have clearly picked up the pace. Can you keep up?


News: Stuart Newman releases new single

28 Sep

Brighton singer-songwriter Stuart Newman’s new single is available for free download…and it’s bloody good.

(We’re Living In) Another Dimension combines a bizarrely brilliant array of vocal layers – with his trademark deep and occasionally eerie style at the fore – along with a humdinger of a tune which unexpectedly bursts into a heaving mass of choppy guitars towards the end.

This is by far and away the best thing Newman has produced so far. If he keeps on exceeding expectations like this, he’s going find himself in a dimension of his own.

Have a listen here:


26 Sep

My latest piece on Brighton bands for thefourohfive is about Cinemascopes. Read it here:

Live Review: EMA

16 Sep

Green Door Store: Tuesday, September 8 2011

Tonight was the perfect example of how the trials and tribulations of a few carnage-fuelled months on the road can help, not hinder, musicians.

In May, at her second Great Escape festival show in six hours, and the final show of a lengthy tour, EMA (Erika Anderson) was boozed-up, boisterous and bolshie.

Wearing ripped black jeans and covered in sweat with her long, bleached blonde hair stuck to her face, she oozed cool and attitude. 

She brazenly spat out songs about loss, loathing, peering over the abyss and, er, viking ships, from her debut LP Past Life Martyred Saints while stumbling into the crowd and getting in the faces of those in the front row.

Fast forward four months to this show – the first date of a new tour – and EMA and her band were far more laid back. More’s the shame.

Here, her performance was nervous, shy even. She lacked the swagger and raw emotion that her dark and doom-drenched songs deserved and had made her stand out back in May.

To be fair, her riff-laden, drone-like efforts were given a more accurate showing with regard to her recorded sound. The fuzzed-up barre chords were tuned down and her sultry, vulnerable vocals and sweet melodies were pushed to the fore.

As impressive at it sounded, the sum total of her performance lacked the urgency and vitriol her lyrics demand.

She seemed to gain confidence towards the end of the set, stalking the stage with her mic lead wrapped noose-like around her neck as she closed the set with album highlight California.

The ranting, spoken word verses were accompanied with perfect pop-star  gestures, striking poses and a barrel-load of energy.

But it wasn’t enough. Having previously looked like a star in the making, at times during this show she seemed to be going through the motions.

If solace is needed, get a ticket for the last night of the tour; On past experience, it’ll be a belter.

Live Review: Willy Mason

10 Sep

Thursday, September 8 2011

Willy Mason’s only 26 but he sounds like he’s been at this game for decades.

There’s an overwhelming authenticity and maturity to his performance that you don’t expect to come from someone so young.

He set the standard in 2005 with the stripped back ‘Oxygen’, which is played to huge cheers mid-way through his set.

“We can be richer than industry, if we realise there are things that we don’t need,” he sang.

While such sentiment may unfairly leave him open to barbed jibes of naive sentiment and political simplicity, he has a wealth of impressive material that even the most jaded critic couldn’t fail to be moved by.

His raw folk songs are part poetry and part rambling musings, all effortlessly dispatched in his whimsical southern drawl.

Compound this with wisdom-laden lyrical themes, such as knowing when and whom to fight, and you are faced with an act that’s fiercely intelligent and confident without being preaching or rabble-rousing.

Not since Josh T Pearson held court at Brighton Ballroom six months ago has one man and a guitar beguiled and enchanted a crowd like Mason did during this show.

At times, some of his confessional-style Blues numbers reveal hints of Blonde on Blonde era Dylan and a maudlin Woody Guthrie.

The genius, however, is that he doesn’t ever sound like he’s trying to ape anyone else; this is his style, and his alone.

Seriously, this fella should be huge.

Live Review: Ron Sexsmith

5 Sep

Komedia: Wednesday, August 31 2011

It’s fashionable to refer to Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith as a musical nearly man. Despite being feted by the likes of Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, it’s often said he hasn’t had the commercial success he deserves.

He’s not one to give up though. Now 12 albums in, his latest offering, the aptly titled Long Player, Late Bloomer has seen his stock rise. It’s a point he’s quick to remind us three songs in when he notes “it’s nice to be getting a bit of momentum over here, especially after the last few albums.”

If his lack of superstardom grates, he doesn’t show it. For someone so painfully shy in TV and radio interviews, on stage he’s a revelation.

Give him a battered guitar, his friends alongside him in his backing band and an appreciative audience and he’s in his element. He’s intensely professional yet highly affable, a musical craftsman but not pretentious.

After all, he’s been doing this for 25 years so he knows what he likes and he knows what works. But he shows no signs of being bored or jaded.

There’s a heart-warming moment on the Nashville-influenced opening song Cheap Hotel when he tees up the impending solo from his lead guitarist by pointing at him, ushering it in with almost child-like glee.

However, it’s on the slower, more stripped-down numbers that Sexsmith really sets himself apart from the legions of singer-songwriters.

With less jangly guitar, his voice and lyrics dominate. On Nowadays, like Richard Hawley and Stephen Merritt from The Magnetic Fields, he’s a master at showing how less can be more. With brooding bass and tip-toeing piano, his voice effortlessly floats over the top, dispensing heartfelt lines like “but nowadays I hear your song, ringing through my heart and soul, and when I’ve had enough, your love takes hold.”

Some might call it mush, but most of those who heard it tonight would argue it was the most beautiful thing they’d heard all year.

Even on the flimsiest moments of his more tender tracks, when for a split second you fear they could drift off into the ether, there’s always a perfectly timed change of voice, or an understated, yet catchy, guitar line introduced to perfectly stitch it all together.

It’s skilful and classy and far from wasted on the sold-out crowd, which isn’t shy when it comes to showing its appreciation. There are numerous shouts of “genius” and “we love you Ron” throughout the hour-and-a-half set before he’s beckoned back for two rapturously received encores.

All in all, it’s not going bad for a nearly man, is it?

Live Review: At The Edge of The Sea: The Wedding Present and Badly Drawn Boy

5 Sep

Concorde: Saturday, August 27 2011
I’d almost forgotten about Badly Drawn Boy. For what it’s worth he’s still scruffy, unshaven and wearing daft hats. The most pressing question, however, is when did he become such a witty, likeable bugger?

He shuffles on stage telling us he was going to cover tonight’s headliners, The Wedding Present, but, with a broad grin on his face, adds he “couldn’t be arsed because they are too miserable”.

The contrary so and so then covers Runaway by arch-miserablists The National instead.

For the next 45 minutes he rambles, charms and swoons his way through his solo set, cherry-picking tracks from his 14-year back catalogue.

We get Disillusion off 2000’s The Hour of Bewilderbeast, but not before he reminds us it beat Coldplay to that year’s Mercury prize. With killer comic timing, however, he interrupts the cheers to deadpan, “mind you, they had the last laugh; they’re billionaires and I’m playing here”.

In case there was any danger of this slipping into some light-hearted, laugh-a-minute, comedy campfire set, he shows he can still stop you in your tracks with the tender and beautiful I Keep The Things You Throwaway. He still has a bit of bile too, as a heckler can testify. “You can shout what you like, I’m bullet proof you cunt,” he spat.

He wasn’t the only one to take a panning. Morrissey is branded “a twat” ahead of a cover of Please. Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want, before he rediscovers his cheery demeanour, ending on The Shining after it was requested by someone in the crowd.

Tonight Badly Drawn Boy is humorous, dry, cutting, bitter and, above all, armed with better songs than you remember. So much for forgetting about him, he’s close to becoming a national treasure.

As impressive as he was, though, the vast majority of those present were primarily here for The Wedding Present.

This, the annual all-dayer curated by frontman David Gedge, is something of annual pilgrimage for hardcore fans.

As such – and with it being staged 24 years after the release of debut LP George Best – it’s fair to say the venue isn’t rammed full of kids. Those here though, certainly know their stuff.

It’s a point alluded to by Gedge a couple of songs in when he says they are about to play three new tracks, “in case people want to go for a wee”.

To be fair, no-one budges and while the new numbers are warmly received, the cheers are dwarfed by the response reserved for 1991s Rotterdam, which is rattled out with youthful abandon.

They maintain the pace, swiftly dispatching Crawl – “This one IS a bit miserable”, jokes Gedge, before bantering with the crowd about some of their “predictable” requests.

There’s just time for him to ask everyone if he should stage the event again next year – the answer is a resounding yes – before they end a taut and tight hour-long set with Palisades.

There’s no encore, no fanfare and little nostalgic nonsense. Gedge seems clear; The Wedding Present lives on, so why spend all your time looking back?

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