Tuesday, 2 December 2008

ALBUM: Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke (Island Records)

All the retreads of the disastrous MTV dominated decade of music – Alphabeat, Santogold, Black Kids and the mysterious internet meme that is Rick Astley have been getting pretty tiring. In fact, the 80s were up there on my list of stuff I hate – suits, genocide and famine. But somehow Pip Brown’s album manages to break out of the cheddar stylings (boring and cheesy) of the rest of the pack. For one thing, even though her lyrics aren’t complex or poetic in a Magnetic Fields way, they’re much more sharp and straightforward than most, like the ‘you’re so completely twisted; you’re so completely evil’ on ‘Manipulating Woman,’ proving Asperger syndrome can be kind of helpful. Then there’s the actual music – as retro as everyone says it is, it still has something original and contemporary about it, not at all like unearthing a rotten musical corpse *cough, Alphabeat, cough*. As much as there is to love about the album, from the intense electro-stomp of opener ‘Magic’ to the catchy but not sellout singles ‘Paris Is Burning’ and ‘Dusk Till Dawn,’ it’s not absolutely perfect. There are a few same-y moments, especially because of the overuse of the intro from Van Halen’s Jump (‘Another Runaway’ and ‘Back of the Van’) which isn’t helped by all the songs being in the mid-tempo range.

Still, with addictive riffs that’ll get you dancing without the aid of alcohol no matter how badly coordinated you are, Ladyhawke’s album shows how much you can do with some synthesisers and a little bit of autism.

Standout Track: My Delirium, or maybe Dusk Till Dawn

Ollie Khakwani

EP: Right Turn Left - Faust EP (Filthy Little Angels)

Jaunty, jolly indie can get a bit sickening at times what with there being so goddamn much of it about. Fortunately, Right Turn Left make the kind of music that, even though it’s not that dissimilar to their peers’ efforts, is hard to tire of. The Faust EP encases four perfect examples of this, from the short, sharp title track to the wise ‘We’re’ (full title or not, who knows?) with its affirmative chanting chorus of “It’s best to regret something you did do rather something you didn’t”.

Stylistically, RTL are like a more literate Holloways; all upbeat rhythms and a cheery disposition but with lyrics that sound as if they’ve been written by a more well-read, poetically inclined individual.

By far the standout track on this EP is ‘Sloe Gin’, a tale of teenage rebellion, female vanity and falling in love with music set to the group’s trademark carefree sound. If they keep going like this, they should be very successful indeed.

Standout track: Sloe Gin

Rhian Daly

LIVE: Roses Kings Castles. FOPP, Cambridge. 28th September, 2008

As fun as “proper” gigs are, sometimes it’s nice to not get pushed around or covered in beer. Hence, why intimate instores such as this one are such a pleasant change. With CD racks moved to one side and a privileged group of fans sat in a semi-circle on the floor or stood patiently a little further back, Roses Kings Castles takes out his acoustic guitar and enchants the top floor of FOPP with songs from his self-titled debut album, catching the attention of a few passers-by in the Saturday traffic along the way.

For those who haven’t yet heard, Roses Kings Castles is the side project of drummer Adam Ficek, first started as a way to keep busy whilst on tour. A couple of weeks prior to this meeting, he released his eponymous first record on his own label, The Sycamore Club. Tonight, Ficek is due to play at a Syd Barrett tribute gig across town but for now, he has a small but eager crowd to entertain.

Starting his five song set with recent single ‘Entroubled’, the audience is immediately drawn in. Whether intentional or not, playing with no microphone or amplification means to be able to fully enjoy Ficek’s performance you have to surrender yourself to him and give him your full attention. It’s a different experience to one you might normally have with live music, having to make an effort to hear the performer rather than being deafened by them, but the unusual act of exertion serves to make it that little bit more special.

Throughout the short set, Ficek chats and jokes with the crowd, especially when he has to restart second song and potential Christmas number one, ‘Horses’. A little later, ‘Sparkling Bootz’ is played much to the audience’s delight. Finishing on the beautiful twee-pop ‘Never Certain’, Roses Kings Castles leaves the store a veritable success, hopefully a trend that will continue wherever he goes.

Rhian Daly

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

INTERVIEW: Sam Isaac


Sam Isaac is gradually making himself known as one of the country’s most promising artists. Recently garnering airplay from the likes of Jo Whiley on Radio 1, Sam has come a long way from his intimate living room tours and limited edition releases. With his debut album on the way, Neon Buzz caught up with him before his recent show at London’s Borderline to get the low-down on the latest happenings in the Isaac camp.

So, how’s the tour going so far?

Tour is going pretty great. We’ve got to go all over, we started with a few northern dates which were quite fun and then we’ve had some good shows in Oxford, Bristol and Tunbridge Wells so it’s been pretty good. I’m looking forward to playing the London date, which is the kind of important one.

Has there been a place so far that’s been the best, in terms of reaction or otherwise?

Bristol went really, really well. There was a really full room and really good support acts, and we got a really good reaction. All of our equipment broke on stage but we got through it.

How do you choose your support acts?

Generally, I choose my friends cos it’s always fun to go on tour with your friends and also bands that I think are great. I try and choose as good support acts as I can, like bands that I think are better than me, cos then they’re going to make me play better.

You just released the ‘Sticker, Star and Tape’ EP, which has a few new songs on it. Are they the ones that weren’t good enough for your album?

I’m just going to say yes. I’m really pleased with the songs on the EP but they’re released kind of bearing in mind what I was going to save for the album. I’m hoping people enjoy the songs on the EP but in my opinion the songs left over for the album are much better.

You’ve spent the summer recording your album, is it all finished now?

Everything’s done apart from the vocals. I got quite ill over the summer so when it came to doing the vocals, I couldn’t really sing. I’m actually going in to do them straight after this tour so we’re actually so close to being finished. Hopefully by the start of November it’s all going to be done and we’re really hoping to release it at the end of January.

Can we expect to hear lots of new songs when it’s finally released?

Yeah, it’s weird to me cos it feels like a compilation of the last three years but I guess to my fans there are four or five new songs, but to me a lot of it feels quite old. I think they’re definitely the strongest songs I’ve written over the last two years and with the old songs we’ve done a lot to make the whole thing sound together.

You played a lot of festivals this summer, is there one that stands out as your favourite?

Latitude by far and away was the best one. We played to about 2000 people, which is easily the biggest crowd we’ve played to. There were just so many people and it was just absolutely amazing. If I never play any shows ever again, I will be happy that I got to play Latitude this year.

Why did you start writing and playing your own music?

The first music I ever listened to was the Beatles, my dad bought me all the tapes when I was little, and obviously they have great songs and great choruses and I think that was embedded in me so when I started playing guitar, I always wanted to write my own songs and write them with really good choruses. That was always really important to me. I guess I started writing songs when I was ten years old and it’s just always been something that I wanted to do.
You used to lots of shows and tours in people’s living rooms. Have you got any plans to do more of those or are you too big for that now?

I’m definitely not too big for that. When I started doing living room shows, it was just a way of touring. I couldn’t get booked in loads of venues across the country but I wanted to tour so it was just a way of doing that but it was also quite special because there wasn’t a lot of people doing it and also the scale on which I was doing it, going on tour for two or three months just playing living rooms, was quite outlandish at the time. But now, every single acoustic artist ever is saying I’ll play living rooms and stuff, and also it’s been commercialised so I’m not sure… I mean, it is really exciting and I had a great time, and I’m sure it’s a good way for new artists to get out there but if I did it now it might seem like I was rehashing an old idea, so I need to think of something new to do. They were really fun but I’m not sure it’s something I’d do on the same scale again. Maybe when the album comes out, we’ll do a week of special living room shows or something like that.

Do you miss doing living room shows?

Yeah, definitely. You know when you watch A Night with Take That or something on ITV, and as well as the songs everyone asks questions and stuff? Living room shows always turned into farces, like I’d play a song and then there’d be maybe ten minutes conversation in between of really good banter cos everyone’s just there and wants to get involved. I miss that cos I just turn up at venues now and play my songs as well as I can, it’s quite formulaic whereas playing living rooms is completely different every night.

What are your plans for the rest of the year, apart from finishing the album?

At the end of November I’m going to Sweden to play some acoustic shows, which is going to be really fun. Also, I’m doing another tour with the band of NME club nights and then we’re going to Germany to do a tour before Christmas, so a lot more touring I suppose and getting things ready for the album.

Rhian Daly

ALBUM: Marnie Stern - This is It and I Am It and You Are It and So is That and He is It and She is It and It is It and That is That (Kill Rock Stars)


Like the title hints, this album shows Marnie Stern to be about as obsessive as you’d expect a girl who practiced 4 hours a day to perfect double-handed finger tapping technique that could scare the shit out of Eddie Van Halen. It’s hard to decide whether the admittedly pretty sick guitar work makes the album good or bad. On the first listen it comes across as making the album difficult – opener ‘Prime’ sounds like a lesson in song deconstruction that tries to explain what happened to the rest of the album (especially on ‘Clone Cycle’ where cryptic banter about triangles makes it sound more full of shit than These New Puritans). But then when you listen to it again the hooks are easy to spot and the guitar lines are almost hypnotic. Part of the problem might be the over-reliance on mental guitar solos without bothering with any bass on some songs so there’s nothing to propel them along and they sound like beached whales spasming helplessly on the shore. The album’s definitely at its best when the songs resemble actual songs rather than jam sessions, like ‘The Crippled Jazzer’ and ‘The Package is Wrapped,’ which manage to be exciting and interesting while remaining listenable.

It’s not all that reasonable to expect experimental rock to be easy to listen to, and ‘This Is It’ wouldn’t be at home in an elevator – it demands more careful listening because of how carefully it was crafted. Still, some cuts are so brilliant, like ‘The Devil’s in the Details,’ make it worth giving it the time.

Standout Track: The Devil’s in the Details (or The Crippled Jazzer)

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Mr Beasley - Right As Rain (Bad Sneakers Records)


‘Right As Rain’ sounds like what Bjork was really going for on ‘Volta’ but sort of missed – an inventive but more pop structured sound for her voice to go mental on. The song’s glitchy electronica and stomping bass riff seem to be begging you to do the robot while Sarah’s vocal acrobatics nail you in place – it’s arty and interesting but still danceable to. If you’re not into your Bjork and her relentlessly wandering singing this might just sound like another elf on acid but for anyone else who wishes she could stop trying so hard to be weird, ‘Right As Rain’ is a wish granted.

Ollie Khakwani

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

LIVE: Frightened Rabbit. Concrete and Glass, Hoxton Bar and Grill. Thursday 2nd October, 2008

There’s that age old problem in music of how to make a brilliant record translate into an equally, if not more, fantastic live show. For some bands it seems effortless, like there’s nothing more simple and natural in the world, but then for others it takes that little bit more graft and patience to get it right.

Such is the case for Frightened Rabbit tonight, enjoying an increase in hype and popularity off the back of their latest full-length record ‘Midnight Organ Fight’. On paper, this is set to be one of the highlights of the Concrete and Glass festival, a sort of more cultural take on Camden Crawl. In reality though, it’s a meandering journey through sub-standard, stumbling versions of all the songs we know and love. Of course, the lyrical brilliance and musical ability is still there but there’s something missing, that certain je ne sais quois that has been getting everyone so excited all summer long.

‘Heads Roll Off’ is by far the highlight of the set, but still lacks that spark that would transform it from dimming torch to incandescent, luminescent firework. ‘The Twist’ and ‘My Backward Walk’ go down well with the packed out room but you can’t help but feel Frightened Rabbit have missed a trick here. Perhaps it’s the addition of an extra guitarist that is to blame, with the induction being only a recent one, or maybe the Scotsmen are just having an off day. But whatever it is, they have the potential to be a moving and breathtaking live band. They’ve got the songs, now they just to find the stage presence.

Rhian Daly

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

SINGLE: Crystal Castles/HEALTH - Crimewave (Different Recordings)


I love HEALTH. I really do. Thanks to a Kevin Barnes namedrop, I googled, myspaced, and loved. I’ve never been the same since. Crystal Castles on the other hand, turned me away as the buzz surrounding plagiarism and art-stealing arose. Both together and they’re outstanding. Hipster or not, ‘Crimewave’ is better than anything you’re likely to hear at your local disco. A buzz here and a squelch there, this is electro nonsense at its best.

At the same time as not quite reaching the standard of both bands most recent releases, ‘Crimewave' is instant brilliance, combining what’s great about music today with melodic beats that tap out a rhythm so angular, it’s hard not to dance. Better buy this on vinyl though – you’ll get extra indie cred.

Olivia Jaremi

SINGLE: The Bishops - City Lights (W2 Records)


Since when has it been cool to sound naff? Well, since 2007 apparently, if The Bishop’s debut was anything to go by. On first listen, all that I can think of is how a certain someone I know would adore this. Too bad that person is someone I would least like to be in contact with. Instant turn-off. Petty, I know, but this is the mind of a teenage girl. Anyway, the music – sounds like what series 1 Vince Noir would like, repetitive and 100% indie. Good or bad? I’ll leave that to your judgement.

Someone once said life is what you make it, and the same goes for music. It’s just that this screams negativity to me.

Olivia Jaremi

SINGLE: Scars on Broadway- World Long Gone (Interscope Records)


With a riff more infectious than the very worst of diseases and vocals as sharp as a razor, ‘World Long Gone’ is deadly. Why I’ve never given these a chance is beyond my knowledge - I loved System of a Down and Serj Tankian equally now. With – and I quote – “thrash, death, black, and doom metal influences”, ‘World Long Gone’ sounds exactly how you’d expect it to, coming from the ashes of SOAD; and that is awesome in every sense.

The second single from their eponymous debut, ‘World Long Gone’ is three and a bit minutes of ultimate rock perfection. Finally something catchy enough to blast that pseudo-lesbian bile out of your head, Scars on Broadway will slay you – in a good way.

Olivia Jaremi

ALBUM: Dorp - Humans Being (Caned and Able records)


If any band owed their whole back catalogue to one band, it would be Dorp to Placebo. From the vocals down to the guitar effects, this whole album screams Placebo, and not in a good way. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we come to the second major flaw of ‘Humans Being’. Yes, my good readers, a song called ‘NME’. I’m being serious. Not even scum-of-Disney Demi Lovato could come up with something so cringeworthy. There’s one thing looking for attention from the music press, but calling a song ‘NME’ is a completely new low.

‘Extreme’ sounds like it should be on an ITV advert for a new crime drama, and ‘Plug into the Machine’ sounds similar to every other Q-magazine endorsed act that isn’t Estelle. ‘London Out There’ sounds like something not even Britney would sing over, and does its job in truly setting this album up for complete failure. It delivers. Oh well, at least now I remember why I never liked Placebo.

Olivia Jaremi

SINGLE: Duffy - Stepping Stone (Polydor)


Sixteen seconds in and I already feel like a 40-something single mum. My life sucks, my husband left me for his 28 year old boss, I’m still paying Littlewoods for my new coffee maker, my best friends can’t come over because they’re busy at salsa class and my youngest son is probably drinking himself to death in the closest child’s play park. Talk about specific marketing.

As much as it pains me to admit something so utterly ridiculous, Duffy sounds just like a bad Amy Winehouse - as if Amy Winehouse could get any worse in the first place. Regardless, from the vocals right down to the overly dramatic Radio 1 constructed tune, it sounds like the perfect replacement whilst dearest Amy sits in a corner puking up yesterday’s cider intake. It’s awful, insipid, and it’s never too early to start mother’s day shopping.

Olivia Jaremi

Monday, 22 September 2008

ALBUM: Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (Warner Bros Records)


There are a lot of reasons to love Jenny Lewis – she has nice hair, she wears cool hats, she’s a fucking awesome singer, she’s part of Rilo Kiley, Rabbit Fur Coat etc. And Acid Tongue seems like another one to add to the list.

Whatever people say about Kate Nash being the queen of the song as story, Jenny Lewis is every bit as good as her and more because she doesn’t have to use a Mockney accent. Each song on the album is another tale from the South, from the dark story of a friend’s experience of domestic violence on ‘Godspeed’ to the playful account of gold-diggers on ‘Carpetbaggers’ which is only slightly marred by Elvis Costello’s Stallone slur that makes him sound kind of brain damaged. Plenty of musical territory is covered, drawing on Rilo Kiley’s folk, country and even some blues inspiration and Jenny’s vocals are tighter than ever, effortlessly sweet in the harmonies on the chorus of ‘Acid Tongue’ but sultry and menacing on the rockier ‘See Fernando.’
‘Acid Tongue’ is a musical treat for anyone who subscribes to the Cult of Jenny and even all those infidels out there should find a lot to like.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Come Saturday (Fortuna Pop)


New York is, historically, London’s US counterpart in being a veritable breeding ground for the “next big thing”. Whether The Pains of Being Pure at Heart achieve that status remains to be seen but if they carry on producing such fine sounds as this, the mass media would be mad to ignore them.

‘Come Saturday’ is like a musical time machine, transporting you right back to the 80s and the sounds of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, with its distorted guitars and perfect melodies that are reminiscent of that era yet somehow still sound so fresh and exciting in the Pains’ hands. Possibly the lushest piece of noise-pop to come out of the Big Apple in 2008, if not the US, the Pains are sure to be one of the names on everyone’s lips come the turn of the year.

Rhian Daly

ALBUM: Delicious Vinyl All-Stars - Rmxxology


Compliations are either hit or miss and this fifteen track mix of re-imagined work falls more into the latter camp than the former. Featuring tracks by artists such as the Brand New Heavies and the Pharcyde, Delicious Vinyl have then hooked up with a whole host of respected musicians, like Hot Chip and Peaches, and got them to remix the original tracks. Unfortunately, even with these big name remixers on board, the compilation fails to evoke any sort of desire to get up and dance, more find something better to listen to.

In short, ‘Rmxxology’ is an annoying excuse for Delicious Vinyl to show off their contacts list and force completely unnecessary remixes on the public at the same time.

Standout track: Bust a Move (Don Rimini Ravekid Extended RMX)

Rhian Daly

ALBUM: Kelli Ali - Rocking Horse (One Little Indian)


After being asked to leave her former trip-hop home of Sneaker Pimps, Kelli Ali (also known as Kelli Dayton) started her own solo project, releasing two albums in quick succession (‘Tigermouth’ and ‘Psychic Cat’). After a short break, she’s come back with a fantastically ethereal record, the soon-to-be-released ‘Rocking Horse’.

This return to the music biz is possibly the furthest removed from the electronic introduction Ali first had to the industry, with ‘Rocking Horse’ being all about the folk, incorporating medieval and classical elements along the way to create something truly unique. Unfortunately, at thirteen tracks long, it does tend to get a little samey and is hard to digest in one sitting but as gentle background music it serves its purpose well.

‘The Savages’ in particular, showcases the medieval melodies that make this album so distinctive. Flute arrangements that sound like they’re straight out of the 14th century are the perfect antidote to identikit indie, in small doses. ‘Heaven’s Door’ is a luscious example of Ali’s ability to create soft coffee-table music, although to dismiss the beautiful textures completely is almost criminal. ‘A Storm in a Teacup’ is a sparser affair, with violins smoothly singing in the background. As ever, Ali’s voice is soothing and calming, something that makes ‘Rocking Horse’ perfect for the morning after the night before.

All this is well and good though, until you consider the album as a whole. With a couple of tracks taken off, it would be a better length to absorb in one go, but as it is the very things that make it such a rare effort make it so hard to get a grasp off without hitting the pause button every once in a while.

Standout track: The Savages

Rhian Daly

INTERVIEW: Line & a Dot


Line & a Dot is the acoustic side project of One Toy Soldier bassist Sarah, with which she creates enchanting stories and songs that can both whisk you away to a magical place and break your heart at the same time. Neon Buzz caught up with her when she played a show at the Boathouse in Cambridge, recently.

So, you were in One Toy Soldier...

L&aD
: Still am...

NB: Are you still going?!

L&aD: Well, no... We’re on hiatus at the moment but we still have a second album to finish and put out. That’s the aim. I think maybe we’ll record it at the end of the year, perhaps, cos Ross is doing My First Tooth, he’s busy so I tried to make myself busy too. Ric is also doing shows… side projects become like main projects but we will finish our second album. We all have to but we’re not going to do it til the end of the year and then we’ll probably tour it a bit, I don’t know.

So how does performing and writing solo compare to how you did it with One Toy Soldier?

L&aD
: Well, when I was in Soldier I was mainly singing what I was told to sing and writing bass parts, which I really enjoy, but I wasn’t really writing the songs so it’s all new. I didn’t really write in a group before… I didn’t write anything before either. But it’s different, not having someone to perform with or to plan with and it’s a shame there’s not somebody to go “Why don’t you not do that verse, trash it and do something else”, but I kind of deal with that. It’s just… different I suppose. I never had the two crossover because as soon as we lost our drummer in Soldier, I got really bored and didn’t have anything to do so I just started doing that one thing and that was pretty much the start of our break.

Do you ever worry writing by yourself whether what you’ve written is good or not? Do you get insecure about it?

L&aD: Yeah, I probably do write loads of crap but hopefully I gauge it myself. Like, I’ll trash something before I’ve gone too far with it. I mean, you get feedback from all kinds of different places anyway after the song’s finished so it’s not too much of a problem, I suppose. You’ve just got to trust yourself because you do know when something’s kind of shit. Someone will tell me if it’s really bad, hopefully.

On your list of influences on your Myspace page, the list of writers is longer than the list of musicians. Is literature more of an influence and inspiration to you?

L&aD: I think possibly… yeah, I only have a few musical influences listed. I think it’s because I’m really influenced by lyrics and words. I won’t go and watch a band and be like “How did they get that guitar sound?” or “How did they loop this?” so that kind of thing doesn’t interest me so much. I really love reading and I love so many different novels and the way that they’re written and I think I find that in a song and then that’s what I like about it. So everyone who’s an influence, obviously it’s partly their music but I think a bigger part of it is the lyrical side of things. That’s what I’m bothered about and authors are probably slightly better at it.

When you’re writing songs, do you write them from an autobiographical point of view or do you make up stories to turn into songs?

L&aD
: I’m really crap at putting myself in other people’s positions. I think hopefully one day I’ll be able to make up something that’s totally different because it might be good to write about something that haven’t thought about or done. I strictly write myself but I try and incorporate similar situations and put them in so like I’m sad like a boy whose lost his balloon and I have never lost my balloon but I’m sad so I’ll just bring in the boy… y’know, that kind of thing. Things I haven’t done, I can’t write about.

You’re unsigned at the moment; do you think that gives you more artistic freedom?

L&aD: I think it’s a bit of a drag cos I don’t have any money or any way of recording, sometimes I moan about it a bit but I understand being tied to a record label can also have problems. Like we were signed to a record label in the band and it was great but it had its drawbacks. If I was on a record label I think they probably would have told me don’t go to New York and do a tour with four shows in it and I would be like “Yeah but I probably should do a tour with four shows in and lose like £200…” So they probably would’ve told me to be bit wiser about that kind of thing but yeah, it’s a good level of freedom and you can make your own decisions even if you don’t have a record out.

NB: If you could choose one label to work with, who would it be? L&aD: I don’t know, I’m really bad; I don’t know any bands and I don’t know any labels. I could probably name bands and ask what record label they’re on and go “Oh, that’s what I want”. I don’t know the difference between a promoter or a record label or a booking agency. I just get confused by all that kind of thing. So, a nice one, I suppose.

What’s the scene like in Northampton? Have you got plenty of places to play?

L&aD: Northampton’s good, yeah. We’ve got a pretty great music scene. It’s the biggest town in England that’s not allowed to be a city, for some reason. But yeah, we’ve got a lot of bands. Maybe over the last couple of years we’ve had probably ten or twelve albums come out of Northampton and be in the shops. And then there are so many other bands that are unsigned there. We’ve got two big venues that get like the NME tours and stuff and then there’s a whole bunch of smaller ones. My favourite is the Labour Club, which is a functioning Labour Club and it looks like a terraced house, you have to ring a doorbell to get in. I mean, just like two weeks ago I played there with Liam Dullaghan, who’s great, and Chris Mills from Brooklyn. They get people from all around the world at the Labour Club and you’ve got to know about it to know that they’re on but they’ve had people from Spacemen 3 and all these crazy groups turning up at the last minute. You’ll just see like an Australian cross-dressing band who play flutes or something one night… but that’s the best thing, that it’s kind of weird. It’s a good town for music.

NB: Do many people support the local scene then?

L&aD: There are a few bands that are especially big in Northampton and they always pull in a massive crowd so I think maybe the downside is it’s only the big bands that are guaranteed to get big crowds. Obviously the touring bands always get a massive crowd. To get a crowd in in our town, if you’re just little and small, you just have to be persistent and then somebody will catch on. There’s a whole group of great music fans there and they’ll do other things too, like they’ll take your pictures and bootleg your recordings.

You played the King’s Affair [King’s College summer ball] the other day, what was that like?

L&aD: That was weird. It might have topped my weirdest gig actually. But it was good. I think I turned up at half eleven and played at half twelve. It was kind of bizarre, these beautiful structures and spires and they’re just being destroyed by students in body paint and neon lights and rave music. They had a laser quest and some dodgems, it was hilarious. You were allowed on the grass, that was pretty amazing. And all these bands played til half four, maybe five o’clock. All the booze was completely free – that was great. And then in the morning, they cleaned up so quickly. The groundskeepers were just out there, flattening all the grass and picking up the fags and all the stuff. I was walking out of King’s at like ten in the morning the day afterwards and the grounds men were on the job, and the poor doorman was there and this tourist was outside of the gate going “Oh oh, can we come in?” and he was like “No, no it’s closed.” The tourist was like “Oh, can’t I just take a picture?” and he said “No, no certainly not” cos it looked a little bit of a mess.

NB: Quite a few of the bands who played are from Northampton like New Cassettes, My First Tooth…

L&aD: and me! I think probably because Stephen Davidson from Tellison is at King’s and he was running the music. I guess those three bands have played with Tellison a lot and I guess he’s picked his choice of a few different bands. I mean, he went for a whole bunch of people but I guess that’s probably why.

You mentioned your New York tour earlier, what was it like playing in America?

L&aD: It was really great! Somebody told me that they don’t clap in New York, I think this was somebody who played over there so I was like “Oh ok, cheers for the advice” but they all clapped. So, maybe they just didn’t like that person, I don’t know. But they were all really nice. I played in Manhattan and that was amazing. I’ve never been to the US before so that was exciting for me. Brooklyn was probably the best show. I played in this incredible antiques/junk shop record store place and it was incredible. I think Brooklyn was my favourite part. It was all very bizarre and exciting too; I think I’d definitely like to do it again.

NB: Did you get to do much sightseeing as well?

L&aD: Oh yeah, we went to Staten Island and we got a horse and coach round Central Park, not ashamed to say it. Yeah, we had a really good time.

On your myspace it says you’re playing End of the Road open mic. Are you just going to turn up and play?

L&aD: Yeah, they have an open mic stage and I’ve applied to play as one of their ten unsigned bands. They haven’t had the grace to get back to me yet but maybe they haven’t chosen yet. I’ll be doing the same thing at Glastonbury this coming weekend, sitting outside my tent. I’ll make my own open mic stage. And Latitude, I think they’ve got an open mic, I think it’s like a plank in the woods. I’m not afraid to take my guitar; I think it’ll be fine; I’ll get in there at the End of the Road hopefully.

Have you got any ambitions or goals, things that you want to achieve with Line & a Dot?

L&aD: In gigs, I think I’d like to play South by South West, being unsigned is the only way you can do it really, so that’s a good thing. My main goal is to make a song that somebody else can include themselves in and maybe I already have one and don’t know or maybe I’ll get one or never but I just want to be able to make something out of Line & a Dot where I’ve written this song but it isn’t so about me that you can’t run your own movie reel to it about yourself. I want to have a song that somebody can apply to their own lives, nothing to do with me, and appreciate it in that sense but I think it probably will take me a bit of time.
Rhian Daly

EP: The Black Box Revelation - Live At the AB EP


Opening with an angry feedback buzz from an amp, even though I’ve never seen the Black Box Revelation or heard them before, I already respect them. Upcoming single ‘Love, Love Is On My Mind’ is a raw guitar rocker, all pounding drums, distorted guitar riffs, and best of all, an actual tune. Its relentless energy channels the rock and roll spirit of Blood Red Shoes’ live shows while there’s still enough of a White Stripes-like pop sense to make its chorus instantly catchy. The rest of the EP is more of the same – wild guitar hooks and raw blues power – pretty much everything awesome about blues rock in 15 minutes. If they didn’t live in Belgium I would be hunting gig tickets right now (I have a bit of a cow-phobia.)

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Infadels - A Million Pieces (Wall of Sound Records)


‘A Million Pieces’ sounds unusually chillaxed for Infadels, in fact its fuzzy synth background, poppy hook and slightly too epic chorus makes it sound like a Sam’s Town-era Killers song that isn’t as pretentious or completely full of shit. Then suddenly it’s clear the single was the warm up and now the band seems ready to rave with the mechanical stomp and sleazy guitar jabs on ‘Shanghai Melissa’ More addictive dance-rock follows with ‘Change My Colours’ whose opening line ‘change my colours up to loud as fuck’ pretty much sums up the song. The closer ‘Circus of the Mad’ remix gets all trip hop trance and spaced out for when you’re finally tired, dehydrated and ready to curl up in a corner from all the dancing. The whole thing sounds like it was designed as the soundtrack for a night of getting coked up and doing the robot until dawn.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Dave P & Adam Sparkles - Sunday Night in Glasgow (Satellite of Love Records)

Photo: Chloe Richard
You know things aren’t promising when a CD starts with random synth squeaks and bleeps. I can’t even pretend to know anything about DJing but when Dave P and Adam Sparkles said they borrow as much stuff from rock as they do from techno I’m guessing they assumed that the occasional use of real drums instantly makes something into rock music. It could just be that lack of words and endless repetition that I hate about dance and trance is making me be kind of unfair to the guys, or that I don’t really get what they’re trying to do with their sound. Or maybe it’s that the only place anyone could possibly listen to this is at some dive in Ibiza when they’re getting fat Germans’ sweat rubbed on them and they’re stoned out of their minds.

Ollie Khakwani

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

LIVE: Robots In Disquise, Slagsmalsklubben, Black Affair, (We Are) Performance, Tim Ten Yen. 299 Great Portland Street, 3rd September, 2008


Photo: Nicole Blommers

Fandango started as a club back in 2001 to promote upcoming bands and it has steadily become one of London's well known independent music promoters, which now is not only a club, but also a label, fanzine and MP3 shop. Last year September they introduced its very own Fistful of Fandango festival with five nights of live music in Great Portland Street's 229 venue. Bands to be staged were the likes of Friendly Fires, British Sea Power, Maps and Operator Please. For this years edition it is just as tasty as last years. I attended day two with the electro poppish line-up.

Openings act in the small room is Fandango label's very own English gentleman Tim Ten Yen. His friend Sinister Cat is warming up the audience by wagging its tail, but is swiftly being moved to the back of the stage by the gentleman himself. Tim Ten Yen is one guy with a backing tape, who dances around on stage like you would do at home. Fun, fun, fun!

(We Are) Performance, a band I am not familiar with, take over the main room directly after Tim Ten Yen. Is it electro, pop or rock? (We Are) Performance's style is a mixture of all three with a slight dark edge and a front man that catches (almost) every girl’s eye. They must have been around for ages, but why hadn't I heard from them?

The best thing about A Fistful of Fandango is that there are two rooms, so if you have enough of one band, you just pop in the other for a beer. And you can see every band that is playing, even if it is just half of a performance. Having seen Kid Carpet before, I knew what to expect. His lyrics might be fun and his toy guitar might be cool, but come on after two songs his kiddy electro punk gets quite boring. Whilst drinking a beer and having a conversation with a security guy about the kind of music we both like, it is time for Black Affair. In total darkness ex-Beta Band member Steven Mason and the C90s get on stage in the main room. Just like the band name and the playing in total darkness with one green beamer light, their music is fine noir electro. Not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely mine.

Highlight of the night are without any doubt the ever so pleasant and fun Slagsmalsklubben from Sweden. It does not matter how many times you have seen these Swedish boys, they will always make you move your feet and give you an enormous smile, which will last for a very long time. The night has not finished, yet. In the main room headline act Robots In Disguise have taken over the stage to end the second night of A Fistful of Fandango 2008 and they do so in style with their shouty electro-girl pop. Girls in bands are fun and this duo certainly makes it a fact.

Nicole Blommers

Thursday, 4 September 2008

ALBUM: Rolo Tomassi – Hysterics (Hassle Records)

Photo by: Tom Barnes

I want to be Eva Spence. I want to be fronting a band as awesome as Rolo Tomassi. I want to scream like that. I want to make an album as outstanding on first listen. I only want to hear Rolo Tomassi for the rest of my life. Hmm, maybe I should calm down a bit. The thing is though; I’ve been looking forward to this album for months. Ever since I saw them play to a room half full of bored teens sitting on the floor texting their boyfriends, I fell in love. So what if I – a short fashionably retarded girl, and some frankly quite terrifying looking boys were the only ones enjoying ourselves? So what they only played for 25 minutes, so what if everyone else hated them? I adored them, and made a mental countdown as soon as it was mentioned that their debut would drop sometime in September.

And here I am, going over and over in my head what words I can use to properly convey to you how goddamn awesome this album is. I’m actually finding it exceedingly difficult to think of any, but I’ll try either way. From the opener ‘Oh, Hello Ghost’ to the utterly fantastic ‘I Love Turbulence’, the addictive jazzy, screamy-squelchy noise-core tone is set, and sets a level so inhumanely high, it’s almost impossible for the rest of the album to deliver. It manages.
‘Abraxas’ is a jaggy masterpiece of a synth and a scream, epitomising Rolo Tomassi’s freakishly addictive charm in 2 minutes and 26 seconds. Instrument torture and abuse has never sounded so sweet. ‘Nine’ is just as good, with a beginning that sounds like the violent explosion of musically talented, angsty dwarfs, progressing into a relaxed slur of amazement, and follow up ‘Macabre Charade’ follows up in a similar way, only to excel in leaps and bounds, ticking all the right boxes of what a good record should be.

‘Trojan Measures’ insinuates more instrument violence, and at just one minute, it packs more than just your average punch, and with a scream and a kick in the teeth it’s over, like blackmail on Love Hearts. ‘Everything Went Grey’ starts as its title suggests, dark and gloomy, yet inspiring an overwhelming anticipation in the listener. At 3 and a half minutes, it’s one of the longest on the album (the fourteen minute Fantasia doesn’t count, you see!), and acts as a transition to the penultimate ‘Scars’ – a whirlwind attack of frantic riffs and pure genius. If the mind was blown to smithereens by ‘Scars’, then ‘Fantasia’ is the apocalypse in its disturbingly hazardous form.

Creeping up, the dark undertone of ‘Fantasia’ is unnerving, slowly descending into turmoil before being abruptly ignited with a detonation of yells, roars, and anything slightly catastrophic twisted into a musical output. Switching into jazz and soothing vocals, it’s not long before Rolo Tomassi’s wall of sound breaks free once again and shatters all expectations of this young band from Sheffield.

Albums like this should come with a warning sign - because it’s not long before Rolo Tomassi take swiftly over as your ultimate favourite band. You’ve been warned.

Olivia Jaremi

SINGLE: David Holmes - I Heard Wonders (Mercury Records)


It’s hard to think that anyone remotely related to Ocean’s 13 could produce anything reaching anywhere near good, yet David Holmes seems to have managed this reasonably well. It’s not amazing; it’s not abysmal, but firmly slotted unashamedly in the middle. It’s pleasant and catchy, and carefully balances the two evils to create a pop song that for once actually isn’t vomit inducing.

Slightly repetitive, but bearable nonetheless, David Holmes dreamy slur is slightly reminiscent to Animal Collective, stripped of the fun. The verse is nice, the chorus is nice. All of it is just... nice. It’s what your cool mum would listen to drinking a latte. It’s a summer song, released a month too late.

Unfortunately, as the song lacks substance, I’m afraid this review does also. I’m at a loss to describe it any more to you. I’ve said all I think I can. Not even the press release can make this look like a dazzling, fresh indie hit. Instead, it’s background music. Nice enough not to pay attention to, but even for its purpose, there’s better out there. After all, isn’t monotonous background music what Coldplay are for?

Olivia Jaremi

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

ALBUM: Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (Wichita)


Conor Oberst has been a pretty regular figure at the forefront of alternative music for the past fifteen or so years, whether that be with Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, on his own or with countless other musicians. This latest release is his fourth solo effort, with help from the Mystic Valley Band. Recorded in a villa called Valle Mistico in Mexico, this long player is Oberst’s first release under his own name since 1995’s ‘Soundtrack to my Movie’. Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, gaining and maintaining a large fanbase through his work as Bright Eyes.
If you’re expecting something radically different to what Oberst produces under the aforementioned pseudonym then prepare to be disappointed, as what is on offer here is mostly familiar ground. Somehow it still feels fresh and exciting, which is testament to Oberst’s talent and ability as one of the great songwriters of our time.

After years of perfecting his craft, Oberst knows how to create sonic beauty and this album is bursting with the evidence. ‘Cape Canaveral’ kicks things off gently, with typically poetic lyrics and understated melodies. ‘Sausalito’ is slightly more upbeat, with occasional jaunty guitars interjecting as the track shuffles on politely. ‘Get-Well-Cards’ is one of the highlights of the record, with its heartfelt vocals and flawless composition.

For the most part, ‘Conor Oberst’ is a calm stroll through central American landscapes, with the occasional bursts of energy and colour, like that found on ‘I Don’t Want to Die (in the Hospital)’. It’s almost as if the song is encapsulating and channelling the adrenaline rush that comes with the need to escape, complimented by the blues piano and noodling guitars. ‘NYC – Gone, Gone’ is a stomping sing-a-long that wouldn’t sound out of place reverberating around a stadium, even though it’s only a minute and ten seconds long.

This record is further proof, if it were needed, that whatever Oberst touches turns to gold and this self-titled LP is more than enough treasure to tide us over until the next Bright Eyes record is done.

Standout track: Get-Well-Cards

Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Rock City Sixteen - Lunettes Noires Pour Nuits Blanches/Antarctica (Cigarette Music)

Is naming your single in French pretentious or just plain cool? I can’t quite decide, but what I do know is that London’s Rock City Sixteen are pretty darn good. A side ‘Lunettes Noires Pour Nuits Blanches’ (translates as ‘Black Glasses for White Nights’) is highly repetitive but strangely doesn’t get boring, even though it goes on for just over four minutes. Lo-fi vocals and a mix of scuzzy and pretty guitar work, it’s like how you imagine the Kills would sound if they joined forces with the Long Blondes.

‘Antarctica’ is a bit cleaner than its flipside, although uses almost the same level as repetition. With clearer vocals, it’s easier to make out the sweet female voices that make this stand out as more than just your standard indie single.

Rhian Daly

ALBUM: The Automatic - This is a Fix (B-Unique)

We’re all familiar with the Automatic, right? The Welsh quartet who could easily play the part of Frankenstein, if his monster were 3 minutes of annoyingly catchy pop instead of some massive green bloke with bolts in his neck. Since those days, yelping keyboardist Alex Pennie has jumped ship to something a little more credible and Paul Mullen has broken Yourcodenameis:milo fans’ hearts by joining in his place. Out are the keyboards and incessant shouting, in are more guitars and a more brutal product.

Album opener ‘Responsible Citizen’ sets the scene for the whole album, one of paranoia a mistrust of the government and media. It’s fair to say ‘This is a Fix’ is a much more grown up effort than debut album ‘Not Accepted Anywhere’. Whereas their old songs were catchy in an infuriating way, on this record they’re far more likeable and seem to have more chance of being played on repeat than previous work. The aforementioned first track is the perfect example of this, with its simple yet effective chorus of “I’m going out of my way to go out of my mind” before it reaches the denial confessions of “I tell you I’m fine”. Single ‘Steve McQueen’ follows flawlessly, and is probably the most reminiscent of the old days of all of the songs on this album. ‘Accessories’ breaks the run of heavy guitars, and with it is more throwaway than the previous two tracks.

The inclusion of Paul Mullen in the band’s line-up really has done wonders for them (and I say this with my love of YCNI:M completely put to one side), helping them to produce pop that doesn’t make your skin crawl, with a prime example being ‘Magazines’, a song which tackles a hidden agenda within the media, bringing the paranoid nature of the album back into play. Mullen sings lead vocals on this track, which helps break up the record a bit and add some variety, without resorting to high-pitched yelping. ‘In the Mountains’ is another instance of near-perfect craftsmanship, which starts off sounding like the Killers crossed with a tranquilised Kaiser Chiefs before heading back to more familiar territory for the chorus.

‘Light Entertainment’ closes the album as it began, with resonating bass and simple hooks. ‘This is a Fix’ shows a marked improvement from previous efforts – whether they could have achieved an album of this quality without making changes to the group’s personnel will never be seen – but there’s still a way to go before they make the transition from being interesting but a little average to a force to be reckoned with. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and things can only get better from here on in.

Standout track: In the Mountains

Rhian Daly

Monday, 1 September 2008

SINGLE: Conor Oberst - Souled Out!!! (Wichita)


Everyone loves a good pun, don’t they? Hurrah for Conor Oberst then and his brilliantly titled new single ‘Souled Out!!!’ (exclamation mark overdose obligatory). Taken from his fourth solo record, it’s very much what you’d expect from the infamous American troubadour – a lifting, folky affair that leaves you begging for more.

‘Souled Out!!!’ is a rousing lead single, the perfect bait tempting you to buy the full-length record, which has you hooked after the first two lines of “The barrio starts two streets over/Miguel was a friend of mine.” Oberst’s ability to weave stories into his songs is widely renowned and here it’s no different. Imagery is his weapon as he paints vivid pictures in the listener’s mind with lyrics like “flying kites in the winter time” and “magic carpet is the transportation/went to the moon in a soda can” making for imaginative listening.

With takes of Conor and his Mystic Valley Band talking mixed into the song, ‘Souled Out!!!’ feels rough and raw, like it’s still got some traces of dirt from the Mexican desert left on. And like that, it’s perfect. To polish it up entirely would take away some of the magic and the charm, something Oberst seems to understand.

Rhian Daly

Friday, 29 August 2008

INTERVIEW: Golden Silvers

Fresh from the release of their debut single, Neon Buzz caught up with Golden Silvers backstage at Cambridge Junction to talk club nights, capes and Phil Lynott.

You’ve just released your debut single, ‘Arrows of Eros’. Why did you choose to release that song?
Gwilym Gold: I think it’s because we started doing it at gigs and it seemed to be a favourite. It felt like the right one to do.

You released it on Young and Lost Club, which was a one-off deal. Have any other labels shown an interest in you?
Gwilym: Yeah, there’s quite a few actually. Suddenly they all – not all, a few – have started to show an interest but at the moment we’re not sure what we’re going to do. I think we’re going to try and do our next single on our own label.

I read a quote from you saying that the traditional way of signing a record deal is outdated – what did you mean by that?

Gwilym: I just think that the whole idea, the whole thing of getting signed is outdated because you can do a lot of it in your own way now. You don’t really need labels as much anymore ‘cos you can do stuff on the internet and whatever… it’s not like the olden days where you’d get signed and they’ll give you like a million pounds. It’s not really like that anymore. (Wryly) Probably going to sign a million dollar record deal next week though, hopefully.

You run the Bronze Club in London… is that always at the Macbeth?

Alexis Nunez: Yeah, it’s always at the Macbeth.
Gwilym: It’s pretty much always there. We have been known to do the odd one somewhere else but the Macbeth is the home of it.
Alexis: It’s getting quite busy now, actually. Every time we do it it’s getting busier so we might have to start thinking about moving it to somewhere else.
Gwilym: Although the Macbeth feels like a spiritual home to it.
Ben Moorhouse: The people who run it are really cool, they’re all musicians and in bands and stuff.

Why did you start running the club?
Gwilym: We basically just started it for a gig for our band. We knew the people at the Macbeth and we thought there’s a lot of shitty promoters out there so we thought why not promote your own gigs and then you can control how you put it out there. You can get all the bands you like to play with you.
Alexis: And pay them as well. We always put on good bands that we know and we love.
Gwilym: It’s the same thing as with the record label, to a degree, ‘cos I know at some point we’ll probably need people to help us but why at this point go through people when we can put our own gigs on and make sure that it’s all done in the way that we like.

So you held your single launch at the Bronze Club and people turned up in gold and silver clothes and made Golden Silvers outfits – was that a bit of a weird experience?

Gwillym
: We made this dress code where if you dressed in gold and silver you’d get in free so quite a few people made the effort. Someone made like a gold cape that had Golden Silvers embroidered on the back, which I wore during the gig. There was this jacket as well with sequins that said Golden Silvers. There were some good outfits for it.

You won the Glastonbury New Talent competition and you played the Other Stage on the Saturday. What was it like to play Glastonbury?
Gwilym: We were really looking forward to it. It was a great weekend, there was a group of us and we all had our tents set up facing each other and everyone was hanging out the whole time, and then on that morning we just got up really early and went backstage. We walked on stage and the crew were all setting up then we just saw the massive field in front and all the people getting up in the morning.
Ben: It was mainly just seagulls though at that point. There was one guy who’d set up a little chair at the front, from about nine o’clock.

Michael Eavis compared you to Oasis and Coldplay after you played; what do you think about that?
Gwilym: (laughing) They’re probably two of the biggest influences on the band…
Alexis: It would be nice to have that kind of that success but I don’t think musically we’re that similar.
Gwilym: We’ll take it as a compliment though ‘cos he means it in a nice way. Both bands do their own thing in their own way. The thing is I don’t think people would instantly think that we’re a similar band to those two in terms of sound but songs-wise, we’ve got the songs but we just play them in a different way.

Over the rest of the summer you’ve also played Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Latitude and Oxegen. How did they compare to each other and to Glastonbury?
Gwilym: Radio 1’s Big Weekend was great because the guy who put us on, Huw Stephens, has been supporting us a lot. I’m not having a pop at it at all but it did feel a tiny bit underwhelming though, because we were playing at the very end so we were playing at the same time as all the other big bands on the other stages so there weren’t that many people there.
Alexis: But what was funny about that was we played to quite a few people but because we were headlining the BBC website said “the Golden Silvers ended on a triumphant….”
Gwilym: “Brought the Introducing tent to a rousing finale.” But it didn’t really feel like that.
Alexis: They just had to make it sound good.
Gwilym: Latitude was one of the best ones I thought. It started raining just as we played so there was like so many people in the tent. We couldn’t believe it. I looked out at one point and there was quite a lot of people and then when it started raining I looked out again and there was like a whole tent.
Ben: At Latitude though, we weren’t expecting it ‘cos we’d just done the Bronze Club the night before and we’d had to get up really early in the morning but it was really good.
Alexis: Oxegen was like… I didn’t like it.
Gwilym: I wouldn’t say that. We got treated really well there and got really nice food and they were really nice to us, just the tent we playing and the time were a bit dodgy. People started shouting at Ben, saying he looked like Phil Lynott.
Ben: We played the ballad, like the slow Fade to Black tune and that’s when they went for it the most.
Gwilym: When the music was down a bit, they’d go mental. It wasn’t really very fitting.
Ben: It is kind of my fault though, ‘cos I did dedicate that song to Phil Lynott.

You’re playing Bestival in September. Are you going to get into the spirit and join in with the dressing up?
Alexis: I’m just going to bring some clothes and it normally looks like I’ve made the effort anyway. It’s in the middle of the tour anyway so I’m probably going to take all my clothes with me.
Gwilym: We probably won’t have much time to get dressing up clothes. Sometimes I think when people are dressed up that that looks better than what you wear normally so why are you acting like this is a joke?

Mystery Jets chose you to support them on their tour in April/May, did you have a good time touring with them?

Alexis: It was really great fun; they’re lovely people.
Ben: They’re really warm people. We got really into the band and were always checking out their set.
Alexis: Plus we got to play in front of quite a substantial crowd as well so we learned how to do what we do but to a larger audience.
Gwilym: They’ve got a really nice crowd, a really good crowd to play to. They all turn up at the very beginning and watch all the bands, they don’t just come for the Mystery Jets.
Ben: It’s not really like London, y’know. People are a lot more accepting with the fact that you’re out there trying to do something.
Alexis: They’re a great band anyway so to be supporting them is really good.

The September tour is your first headline tour and it’s like a month long, right? Are you looking forward to playing anywhere in particular?
Gwilym: Probably Darlington (laughs)… no, all of them. I haven’t even been to half of these places. Everyday seeing a new place will be good.
Alexis: I don’t really know what to expect either because we’ve not been on a tour like this before, like a long one, so we’re going to have to learn quickly about all that stuff, try and keep out of people’s hair.

Are you going to have local supports or are you taking someone on the road with you?
Gwilym: We’re travelling with this band called the Ex Lovers so I think it’s going to be them and then local supports as well.

I heard ‘Magic Touch’ is going to be your next single and, like you said earlier, you’re going to release it on your own label.

Gwilym: Yeah, well we’re still working on it but it’s going to be a double A side with a song called ‘Another Universe’. We’ve just recorded it so I’m really looking forward to hearing it.
Your lyrics are quite poetic, do you take influence from literature and poetry or is it more lyricists? Do you have a favourite poet?

Gwilym
: I suppose a bit of poetry and prose, yeah. [My favourite’s] probably Dylan Thomas or something.

What are your plans for an album?

Alexis: Well, we want to do one that’s for sure. It’s just the logistics of it, waiting for people to make offers but we want to get it done as soon as possible and hopefully get it out by the start of next year.

Is there anyone you’d want to produce it specifically?

Alexis: There’s lots of people that you’d like to work with, that are your heroes but realistically…
Gwilym: We did just do the single with this guy Lex and we got a really good vibe off of him.
Alexis: I’m sure a situation will just get in introduced and we’ll just end up going with it because we’re quite instinctive like that but obviously it’d be great to work with Pharrell, Prince…
Ben: Andre 3000…
Alexis: Just most of the big hip-hop producers.
Tonight was your first time in Cambridge, what did you think of the crowd?
Alexis: They were really cool, there was people smiling. It was nice, actually. I didn’t have a very good time, primarily because of the sound on stage, but it kind of makes up for it when people in the crowd are going for it and having a good time.

Rhian Daly

Thursday, 28 August 2008

ALBUM: Bloc Party - Intimacy (Wichita Records)


I think I’m probably not the only one who was thrown off guard first by Bloc Party’s single ‘Mercury’ and the apparent change in style to “dark electronica” and stupidly placed horns, then by the sudden release of the album two days after the name was confirmed. A few listens to ‘Intimacy’ and you’ll realize why they did it – because they sound really bored.

Opener ‘Ares’ seems to confirm Kele’s promise that the album would retain the visceral nature of ‘Silent Alarm’ – a war chant as opening gambit. It still marks a definite shift in sound without a guitar in sight and sounding almost like the Prodigy on the chorus but isn’t all that bad, managing to pull of a bit of intensity and some clever soliloquy lyrics.

However, after ‘Halo,’ the singular spiky guitar track that recalls the good old days of ‘Silent Alarm’ most of the album’s earlier energy disappears with exception of the fast-paced dance of ‘One Month Off’ and the last minute of ‘Better Than Heaven.’ If it wasn’t for the heavy production creating a little atmosphere on some pretty plaintive, almost self-indulgent break-up tracks, falling asleep would be inevitable.

For me the problem isn’t just that the album is full of slow-paced tracks that never build up to anything because Bloc Party have done a few tracks like that before that didn’t inspire apathy – it’s more that the so-called experimentalism isn’t well-placed – instead of original but not to difficult songs like they used to, pedestrian chord progressions and pretty uninspired cuts are getting jazzed up with random blasts of horns/strings/noises under the mistaken belief that it can make them exciting. This is definitely the case with the surprisingly hollow ‘Ion Square.’ With other tracks like ‘Mercury’ my issue is with the lack of bass on the verses. On opener ‘Ares’ the vocals were good enough to hold their own and actually give a little effect when it was just them and the drums, and same goes for ‘Positive Tension,’ one of my favourites from Silent Alarm, but on other tracks where there isn’t such a clear purpose it just makes the songs hard to get into. Add in the occasional lyrical howlers like on ‘Signs’ – ‘at your funeral I was so sad, so sad’ and ‘I held your heart in me’ on ‘Ion Square’ and ‘Intimacy’ starts looking like a rushed album that sought to hide its flaws under good production

The evolution of a band will always stir some upsets and it could just be how much I liked the old Bloc Party that makes ‘Intimacy’ unappealing, but at the same time the touches of experimental electronica have somehow succeeded at making songs boring and difficult. Maybe they’ll be good at their new sound by album four but the fact that the best track on the album sounds the most like their debut speaks for itself.

Standout Track: Halo

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Nick Harrison - Oi Rude Boy (A&M Records)

Beyond the occasional No Doubt record I know pretty much nothing about ska but Nick Harrison’s self-assured tone and storytelling lyrics make ‘Oi Rude Boy’ too clever to be pop despite its catchy chorus, putting it closer to Alex Turner covering some kind of band that plays chilled-out music. And hey, even if reggae/ska aren’t your thing it’s refreshing to hear something that isn’t trashy R&B or generic guitar pop once in a while.

Ollie Khakwani

ALBUM: Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel (Parlophone Records)


When I first heard about that NME-coined genre, ‘nu-rave’ *shudders*, I was assuming it would sound like this. Not the New Young Pony Club, not the Klaxons and not any dance-punk band you care to name with all the glowsticks in the world could ever be this exciting. Strange Bollywood rhythms, spiky guitars and glitchy synths make ‘The Bears Are Coming’ as quirky and inventive as anything M.I.A.’s genre-bending powers could come up with; ‘Broken’ sounds like an electro stomp through 80s glam rock; space-rocky ‘VW’ which could be Smashing Pumpkins on acid.

Plenty of musical ground is covered with skill, but Late of the Pier’s real gift is managing to not let their music dissolve into poor-Crystal Castles-imitation mess while not sounding as overwrought or affected as many of their indie brethren. Instead it’s plenty of cryptic banter, musical adventure and best of all fun from people who clearly love playing with sound and pushing boundaries.

Standout Track: The Bears Are Coming

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Dorp - Pigs Do Fly/Cops and Robbers (Caned and Abled Records)

The ‘uniqueness’ and ‘genre-bending’ mentioned in the press release isn’t that forthcoming on either of the singles of the double-A side, both tracks coming across as overly serious alt rock with an annoying South African accent.

First track ‘Pigs Do Fly’ could be at first mistaken for being epic with its heavy and austere bass but any effect it had evaporates instantly with the arrival of the chorus – ‘four plus four equals nine, we’re just numbers in disguise, pigs do fly’ – a pretty dire attempt to either be intelligent or bring some gravity and feeling that kills a track that was previously listenable at the worst.

‘Cops and Robbers’ plays the same kind of game but maybe more convincingly, musically at least with more angular guitars but all talk of people to violate and police bribes, but despite the fact that it’s got conviction, it’s just so much of a downer that I don’t want to listen to it again.
Ollie Khakwani

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

ALBUM: Pope Joan - Hot Water, Lines & Rickety Machines (OIB Records)

Ok. Let’s forget the nonsense. I’m not going to introduce them in any way to you. All you need to know is that Pope Joan are great. Really, they are. ‘No TV’ is a perfectly scuzzy, aggressive screech of brilliant post punk-ery and disorientating magic. Hectic and twitchy, 49 Years Time is presented with a splutter and a kick in the teeth, as irritating as it is exciting.

Infectious and gawky, each bite sized chunk is as delectable as the next, with a sprightly essence encapsulated in each number. With a jittery tone seemingly unattainable to your standard indie kid clan, Pope Joan are bustling with raw energy, perfectly composed in each two-and-a-bit minute masterpiece.

Our Cuisine is plagued from start to finish with a riotous riff and an excitable squeal, and ties in perfectly with the rest of this short album. Having managed to encapsulate the spirit of a five year old with a packet of Haribo’s, Our Cuisine comes to a disjointed end, and slips into the slightly more subdued It’s The Same As When You Asked Me The Last Time, which despite its slightly more laid back tone, the somewhat mulish attitude still lingers.

As the album draws to a close, the high standard is continued, and each song kicking and screaming its way into the spotlight. Frantically clashing, each instrument is pieced together to form the most perfectly disorderly noise, which is more than just pleasing to the ears.

Surprisingly refreshing and, Pope Joan are a group to remember. it’s unfathomable to think of the richness of the current music scene if all the fakers were to take a leaf out of Pope Joan’s book. Basically, they’re just really really brilliant.

Olivia Jaremi

ALBUM: Stereo MCs - Double Bubble (Graffti Records)

Some things belong in the past. Stereo MC’s are one of them. Sounding like Robbie Williams remixing Rock DJ with a synthesiser and ‘wicked kewl electro beats!’ opener Get On It isn’t a very promising start to what already seems like a not-so-promising album. With a quality somewhere in between sounding like a couple of middle aged men stuck in the mid to late 80s and NME’s most embarrassing nu rave collective, Stereo MC’s fourth album in sixteen years is a little less refined than one would think it to be.

With an aggrandizement of spacey synthy sounds, The Here & Now offers no alternative to the fractured electronic nonsense offered by the albums embarrassing start. Sounding like your dad having a seizure at the local Roller Disco, City Lights pulses with exuberant bass lines and breakdowns, whilst still remaining as colossal and edgy as the working script from Snakes On A Plane.

With an amalgamation of mildly interesting drum beats and an attitude that silently spits the phrase “we’re trying to be out there but failing!” Gringo is born. Revolution arrives some seven tracks in, and being an incessantly consistent number, it lives up to its low expectations. With very little progression in 4 minutes, it’s clear that very little is expected for the remainder of this disappointing album.

Closer Human sounds very similar to many of the songs on the rest of the album, and is unsurprisingly not saved by a jaunty climatic blast. Instead, a man sings in an irritating southern accent and sneers with a false sense of self righteousness, and a few plinky plonky notes are added at the end, as an exchange for a grand finale. Oh, and another boring song is added on the end. Hallelujah!

With a gauzy aesthetic as transparent as Britney’s favourite underwear, Stereo MCs have finally shown their true colours. Give it up lads, it’s all about the youth nowadays.

Olivia Jaremi

Sunday, 17 August 2008

ALBUM: Victoria Berg and the Blindfolded Man -Victoria Berg and the Blindfolded Man (KFM Records)


Half Swedish, half Scottish and a whole lot of aural fun, Victoria Berg and the Blindfolded Man have created a fuzz-pop record so sweet it’ll rot your teeth to the core within 3 full rotations. Just as well you don’t need your molars to hear then, otherwise you’d be missing out on the seven tracks of simplistic, lush melodies and occasionally bizarre lyrics that make up this, the duo’s eponymous debut effort.


Fizzing and crackling into life, this first LP begins with the gorgeous ‘Blindfolded Man’, which sees glimmers of Kylie-esque pop shine through the distortion, before segueing into ‘I’ll Meet You at the Chicken Lodge’ with it’s crunk beats and effortlessly catchy melody. I’ve no idea what the chicken lodge is but if it’s as fun as this track makes it seem, I’ll definitely be paying it a visit. ‘Since the Accident’ is a slower, piano-led epic that really showcases Berg’s soft and innocent vocals, whereas ‘No Maps’ is a gentle instrumental that would perfectly soundtrack the sun setting over a Hawaiian beach. ‘Intrepid Explorers of Amateurism…Begin’ brings Berg’s vocal chords back into play to create one of the strongest tracks on the record; there’s so many ideas going on here it’s a wonder they don’t clutter together and make the song incomprehensible. The result is quite the opposite though and all the better for it. Penultimate track ‘Gang of Coffee’ is a quick waltz through the heavens with Berg insisting “I don’t look pretty/But I’m doing the best that I can”. Who needs to look good when you make records like this? ‘The Bearded Lady’ rounds off the record in it’s full six and half minutes of spooky storytelling glory, perfectly capping what is a brilliant debut album and a sign of future greatness to come from this eccentric and spectacular pair.


Standout Track: Intrepid Explorers of Amateurism…Begin


Rhian Daly

SINGLE: The Pigeon Detectives - Everybody Wants Me (Dance to the Radio)

There comes a time when all of us have to grow up and, on second album ‘Emergency’, The Pigeon Detectives have most certainly done that. ‘Everybody Wants Me’ relates the trials and tribulations of being in demand and reminisces about those bygone days when no one cared who these five lads from Leeds were.

Whilst the title might suggest the next three minutes something are going to be full of egocentric boasting - what is actually served up is a short but sweet love song with Matt Bowman sounding like a boy with some serious heartache when he sings “Everybody wants me now/But I just want you”. Sure, it’s a lot calmer than their usual frenetic outbursts but that just shows the Pigeon Detectives are more than capable of writing for all different settings and moods, whether that be on lazy afternoon on a sun kissed beach or in the dark, sweaty shadows of the indie disco.

Rhian Daly

SINGLE: The Housewives - Cream (Filthy Little Angels)


Ever dreamed of a pop band who write songs about seedy activities, make brilliant use of boy/girl vocals and form outstanding melodies and rhythms from a broad spectrum of genres? Oh, you have. May we suggest you try the Housewives?

The East end’s brightest young things have already been dubbed “ones to watch” by the very respectable Clash and who are we to argue? The lead track on this latest single, ‘Cream’ is a ramshackle pop riot that could make even a cripple dance, mixing elements of a million different musical genres into one four minute slice of party perfection. ‘Charming’ is more of the same with the brilliantly ominous hook of “I’m so charming/Won’t you get into my car” transformed into an innocent request by the fairground melodies that compliment it, whilst final track ‘Ballad’ is a guiro-scraping, glockenspiel-kissing oddity that is as hauntingly catchy as it is melancholically beautiful. And there’s not many bands you can say that about.

Lyrically dirty and musically adventurous, The Housewives are full of backstreet charm and lo-fi fun – a winning combination, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Standout Track: Cream

Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Prego - Cause and Resolve (Pronoia Records)

Like any good band with a stadium rock and shoegaze influenced sound, Prego are more full of ambition than gold-diggers Their heavy drums, U2-esque bass line and Mogwai-style contrasting dynamics create a song so epic that it would make Bono and Michael Jackson imitating Jesus while doing a duet of ‘Earth Song’ to a million people from the top of Buckingham Palace with every New Year’s firework display in the world behind him look like a shy 15 year old strumming an acoustic guitar in a pub basement. And Prego have the added benefit of not having a huge self-righteous stick up their arse like Bono, or Michael Jackson’s deranged delusions of grandeur. Some seriously good stuff.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: The Postcards - The Hours Up To Midnight (Valiant Records)

Jangly guitars, high male harmonies and a relentlessly twee attitude – yep, ‘Hours Up To Midnight’ is another offering of bite-sized indie pop snacks to gorge on when you’re down – 4 short songs with undeniable charm and childlike naivety that’ll melt your heart or nauseate you, depending on what kind of person you are. ‘Hurry On Home’ is about as light and fluffy as pop gets, but a little misleading as cuts like ‘Golden Boy’ sound like The Postcards are actually throwing darts at pictures of their ex-girlfriends instead of baking cookies and helping old ladies cross the road. Still, for all the venomous lyrics are blunted by soft voices and warm guitars. Closer ‘John Peel Was A Friend Of Mine’ is a highlight, almost a long-lost demo from the Beatles when they were still playing tiny basements in Liverpool.
For all the sweet melodies The Postcards suffer from the same problem as many an indie pop outfit – namely that their lyrics aren’t great. That’s not to say that the single is a bad effort; they’re good at what they do, but unlike really great indie pop bands like Tilly and the Wall and Rilo Kiley there’s a deficiency of imagination and daring.

Stand-Out Track: John Peel Was A Friend of Mine


Ollie Khakwani

Friday, 15 August 2008

BESTIVAL

Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight
5 – 7th September 2008




WHY WE’RE GOING
We’ve been raving on about boutique festivals all summer but all the boutiques in the world couldn’t replace Bestival. With every one of its four years it has become bigger but it is still cosily referred to as a medium sized festival, a tag that allows it to bring in some of the best breaking bands of the year with a host of unknowns and big headliners. This year is no different - Rob da Banks curating brings together a cross section of respected artists like George Clinton, Golden Silvers and Jeffrey Lewis.

These, along with the comedians and DJs leave hardly enough time to enjoy the cinema or the tea cakes, the swimming or the inflatable church, the mini Malawi festival or the physics performances.

Bestival has taken the ‘music festival that music fans go to’ baton firmly out of Glastonbury’s grasp and it won’t let go too easily.

WHO WE’LL BE SEEING
My Bloody Valentine
Gary Numan
Erol Alkan
George Clinton
XX Teens

WHAT WE’LL BE WEARING
Well the theme this year is '30,000 Freaks Under The Sea' so we’ll be dressed as Atlantis royalty.

The new Bestival compilation CD A-Z Bestival (Compiled by Rob da Bank) is released through Sunday Best on 1st September

www.bestival.net

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Reading Festival is back to its rocking best!

READING FESTIVAL

Little John's Farm
Richmond Avenue
Reading

The last couple of years I have found myself being a little jubious of Reading Festival. Why? For the simple reason that the bands playing, especially the headliners, haven't really captured my idea of what Reading Festival is- first and foremost a rock festival. The bands headlining appeared to still be in their prime, lacking a backbone strong enough to justify a headline slot. Take for instance Razorlight and the Klaxons, I'm not criticising their music in any way, but in 10 years could they still be headliners? That's why this year I was thrilled when Rage Against the Machine, Metallica and Manic Street Preachers were all announced, not only are they bands who have proved they deserve to be up there with their constant and expanding fanbases, but they bring me back to the idea of how I used to see Reading, a place where I could catch big acts I really admire amongst fans not just from my city but others too and just take it all in in a special environment. If I wanted to see some buzz bands I would just go to a smaller festival and pay less money, but this year I feel Reading has delivered and made spending that large sum worthwhile. There's still a wide mix of bands on various other stages, but the main stage has been preserved for acts who deserve to be there.

WHO WE'LL BE SEEING

Rage Against the Machine
Queens of the Stone Age
The Cribs
Bullet For My Valentine
Seasick Steve

WHAT WE'LL BE WEARING

Who cares? Whatever the hell we happen to be wearing when we get there!

Stacey Evans

Monday, 4 August 2008

ALBUM: CSS - Donkey (Sub Pop Records)


Photo: Mariana Juliano


In the army of stuck-up indie douches lecturing you about how you 'don't get our art' and going on about 'contentious subjects' like euthanasia and other shit no-one cares about in their songs, CSS are among the few renegades who are only signed up to the army when they were drunk/stoned out of their minds and had no idea what they're doing.

'Donkey' (terrible name, I know) is another explosion of indietronic rock fun from a band who know not to take themselves too seriously. Opener ‘Jager Yoga’ with its chorus of ‘we didn’t come to walk around/we came here to take you out’ sums up everything great about CSS – their knack for killer pop hooks, endless cool and ability to start dancefloor riots.

First single ‘Rat Is Dead (Rage)’ is the best example of the difference between this and their debut – it’s guitar heavier and more rock structured and even ventures beyond the usual fascination with pop culture that their lyrics show, instead concerned with domestic violence. Similarly, although Lovefoxxx sings about dancing on tables and drinking herself comatose in ‘Left Behind,’ the glam rock-like guitars hide the story of lost luggage and heartbreak.

Still, despite their improved English, extra studio polishing and sometimes more serious subjects, at least compared to ‘Meeting Paris Hilton’ (although at the rise festival Lovefoxxx slipped the line ‘and her vagina was dry’ into ‘Rat Is Dead’ at the Rise Festival), CSS are still the wild fun they were before and ‘Donkey’ like their previous stuff remains the musical equivalent of E.

Stand-Out Track: Jager Yoga

Oliver Khakwani