Archive | February, 2012

Live Review: Spector

29 Feb

Green Door Store: Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spector singer Fred MacPherson has got more front than Harrods.

The suited and booted frontman’s acerbic and witty rabbitting was as much a part of this sold-out show as the songs.

Wearing thick-rimmed specs and sporting a severe side parting, his natural confidence has no doubt been bolstered by his band being the only indie outfit to feature in the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 round-up and therefore dubbed the saviours of guitar music.

Luckily they don’t seem to be feeling the pressure, probably because they can see through the media guff and realise how absurd it is. Spector are good time charlies, not proper ones. And provide a good time they did.

Despite being at the end of a lengthy nationwide tour (“You should see some of the sights we have to endure, we even had to go to the North,” joked Fred) they had bundles of energy, bags of enthusiasm and peddled a tidy line in ramped-up Killers-like tracks.

They were also helped by an audience that didn’t need winning over, keen as they were to embrace the Saturday night knees-up vibe.

Particular highlights were What You Wanted and Chevy Thunder, a couple of pacey pop nuggets with hooks so sharp they nearly had your eye out.

The real classic, however, was former single Never Fade Away. The slower, anthemic sing-along ended the set with members of the audience arms aloft, shouting back the chorus as Fred lapped up the attention.

It’s a job very well done, but they could really do without the excessive hype.

They’re a band to dance to, not one that will inspire devotion. Ignore the bluster and enjoy the ride.


Live Review: An Audience With Mr Nice

23 Feb

Komedia: Wednesday, February 22, 2102.

Howard Marks is an enigma, rolled into an almighty Rizla and shrouded, literally and metaphorically, by a fog of hot air.

There’s little doubt the world’s one-time most successful drug smuggler is a born charmer and natural raconteur, and it didn’t take long for him to get the audience in the palm of his hand.

There was a quick succession of quips about his past, notably blowing the £100,000 advance for his autobiography in three months, and an argument for making cannabis available in pubs “because it makes you far more thirsty than a packet of crisps”.

As for his smuggling days, he claimed it happened without any planning or thought. This is where his show teetered on the edge.

Marks is a man with a degree and two postgraduate qualifications from Oxford; a persuasive “Mr Nice” whose outlandish excuses convinced two British juries to clear him; and a sophisticated operator who at his peak had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and 25 companies.

Today, however, he portrays himself as always being a hapless, happy-go-lucky hippy, and belittles his undoubted intellect by doing so.

Even the die-hard stoner fraternity present could surely see that Marks has played the game all his life, thwarting the authorities for years by perfecting a variety of acts and guises, before eventually being caught and serving seven years in a US slammer. To a far lesser extent, it appears he’s having another roll of the dice with his modern-day public persona.

It’s something he alluded to when asked what his best piece of advice was. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” he said, before giggling and ending the show.

As enjoyable as his company was, it looks like Marks is having the last laugh once again.

Live Review: S.C.U.M

23 Feb

Green Door Store:  Tuesday, February 21 2012.

This time last year, S.C.U.M singer Thomas Cohen probably dreamed of being on the cover of the NME’s first edition of 2012.

Instead, he was plastered across the front of Hello. Needless to say, this wasn’t because his London five-piece released one of 2011’s best debut albums – the dark yet devilishly addictive Again Into Eyes – but because his other half, Peaches Geldof, is expecting their first baby.

Thankfully, anyone concerned that his new-found glossy mag “fame” would distract him and his band from the day job would have had their fears soothed by this performance.

There was certainly no slacking, even if the end results were somewhat mixed.

At their peak, they were an exhilarating watch. Opener Days Untrue was more primal than on record, a blistering statement of intent with ear-ringing bass and majestic synths. Likewise, Faith Unfolds, with its dense wall of sound yet melodic undertones, showed why they are deemed heirs to The Horrors’ grand doom-pop throne. For his part, Cohen has clearly mastered the look of languid cool from the frontman guidebook, a skill which leaves him seemingly oblivious to the cacophony of noise around him.

It’s a useful trait, because some of us wanted to switch-off when the middle of their set succumbed to a succession of drone-like dirges; a series of seething psychedelic masses from which the vocals and melodies were practically indecipherable.

Thankfully they ended in the same vein as they started, with former singles Amber Hands and Whitechapel combining greater urgency with towering waves of synths, regimental drumming and hypnotic vocals.

This set may have been a damp squib in places, but it contained enough moments of class to show why scum usually rises to the top.

Live Review: Simon Munnery – Hat’s Off to the 101ers and Other Material

21 Feb

The Old Market, Hove: Thursday, February 16 2012

Almost 20 years on, it’s not hard to imagine what Simon Munnery’s most famous creation – Alan Parker Urban Warrior – would make of this show.

Parker, the hilarious, half-baked revolutionary who spat out slogans that would make even a professional Socialist Worker protester blush (‘The Birmingham Six are free, but when will the rest of Birmingham be free?’), would no doubt naively say this rambling mash-up of comedic styles was little more than arty middle class tosh.

This set, named after the doomed British airship that crashed on it’s maiden voyage in 1930, is undoubtedly shambolic, wilfully devoid of structure and at times downright bizarre. But It’s also, for the large part, hilarious.

It’s starts a little shaky, though, with the “punk rock opera” about the aforementioned airship, which is nothing more than a deliberately, poorly played, three chord missive with odd-ball lyrics.

Ignoring any pretence of a link, Munnery then began a more conventional routine about living in Bedford (“It’s for people who think Luton is a bit la dee da”) before abruptly stopping, shouting “monologue”, and becoming Sherlock Holmes to spectacularly pick apart the sleuth’s reputation with razor-sharp wit and beguiling language.

From then on, it got more weird and more wonderful.

A cardboard cut-out puppet show featured the brilliantly absurd conversations of two criminals crucified alongside Jesus, a poem about London has rightly been compared to a more demented John Cooper Clark, while a second irony-laced, misogynistic monologue from a seedy lecturer had the most laugh-out loud-lines of the night.

With the exception of some hackneyed anti-Daily Mail rants, this was a whirlwind hour of unapologetically, creative cleverness and eccentric, left-field whimsy. 

Munnery might miss the mark on occasions, but his best bits are very big hits.

Live Review: Munich and Black Black Hills

6 Feb


Prince Albert, Friday January 27, 2012

The week-long Sea Monsters festival aims to showcase of the cream of Brighton’s musical crop and day five didn’t disappoint.

At a sold-out and sweltering Prince Albert, Black Black Hills – formerly known around these parts as Pope Joan –  wasted little time in showing why Radio One was sniffing around last year’s single ‘A Drowning’.

Their captivating set of bass-heavy, dramatic doom-pop showed both ambition and skill.

Flanked by two sets of keys and synths, the enigmatic and lively singer Samuel Aaron orchestrated proceedings from the front as ‘Evelyn’ took the theatrical nous of early Echo and the Bunnymen and gave it a sinister and eerie underbelly.

They are at their best, however, towards the end of the set when they let rip and become more unhinged with some wild Nick Cave-esque preaching, brooding bass and scything keys that send shivers down the spine. It’s sinister yet sassy, arty yet accessible.

Headliners Munich might not have Black Black Hill’s creative originality, but what they do have is an abundance of soaring stadium-sized anthems.

Some might say that epic indie has been done to death, but few have done it this well.

The likes of ‘Just Like You’ are instantly addictive shout-alongs, which would equally be at home as an indie-disco floor-filler or the euphoric backing track to goal of the month on Match of Day.

Despite the heat, singer Stuart Slade refused to tame his live-wire routine as their swaggering set climaxed with ‘St Louis’, a track so contagious you were still humming it on the walk home.

These two bands might have very different styles, but their performances had the same outcome: They both nailed it.

Live Review: Francois and the Atlas Mountains

6 Feb

Green Door Store, Thursday, January 26 2012

Forget the club night anthems of Daft Punk or the gleaming disco pop of Air, Francois and the Atlas Mountains are about to become your favourite French band.

Not only do they have a charming album (E Volo Love) which is packed with sweet melodies, bilingual vocals and afropop rhythms, but they also put on a jaw-dropping experimental live show that leaves you thinking ‘where the bloody hell did that come from?’

This show, part of the annual Vive la France shindig, started off true to form as the jaunty yet gentle Les Plus Beaux skipped along with carefree abandon and featured some cute, co-ordinated hand gestures.

So it was a bit of a shock when Edge Of Town made it clear things were going to get far more lively than their laidback recorded offerings would suggest.

Seemingly propelled by an unexpectedly powerful bassline and frantic percussion, singer Francois flitted from languid cool to body-shaking escapism as the layers were expertly piled-on and the volume soared.

Next, The Pastels-influenced City Kiss was no longer a hazy, fey affair, but a majestic, head-bobbing belter, with added flurries of left-field beats and bravado.

From then on it was a free for all. While they didn’t go as far as to make their delicate songs unrecognisable, they frequently built them up with electronic wizardry, vocal gymnastics and a compelling concoction of wonky rhythms, multiple patterns of percussion and scintillating basslines.

As they bowed out with a riotous, loop-heavy, floor-filler, it was the clear that if surprise is a key element of attack, then Francois and the Atlas mountains are about to become all-conquering

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