Sunday, 10 April 2011

"and the trophy for best cover band goes to..."

music >> gig review >> trophy wife >> madame jo jo's >> 04.04.11

like foals? yup? well then this band might be right up your street. or maybe not…

last monday i was invited to see trophy wife headline ‘showcase presents’ at madame jo jo’s in soho, london. also on the bill were jackson scott’s flamenco band mano de dios and big chorused indie essex boys i dream in colour. i went into the evening full of anticipation for trophy wife, unfortunately i came away feeling, hmm, slightly awkward.

trophy wife, like foals are from oxford. trophy wife, like foals engage in a self-conscious stage presence. trophy wife, like foals play a tense intricate disco math rock that often builds from a pin drop to an all out knee jerking panic. the similarities could go on. if foals did not exist and trophy wife were delivering such modern sounds for an unsuspecting wishful first time audience, they’d be labelled as interesting - not fantastic, but at the very least an interesting sound. the fact that every high fret note, every vocal and every awkward stage advance reminded me of yannis et al marks trophy wife down as a band lacking identity. worryingly because they’re from oxford and they’ve actually supported foals on tour, it makes trophy wife seem, well a little creepy.

the sound in madame jo jo’s wasn’t tip-top; often the vocals struggled to project once in full swing, while the sparse crowd supplemented what was already a difficult inspection. i wanted to enjoy trophy wife, i really did. i’d read some relative hype, heard their ‘microlite’ single and had previously been told of the foals comparison, but I had no idea it would be quite so palpable. having fallen in love with the sounds of oxfordshire over the last few years through the brilliance of songs such as ‘spanish sahara’ and ‘two steps, twice’, i couldn’t help but feel unresponsive to a blatant replica. thankfully, the gypsy beats of mano de dios and the passion and authenticity of i dream in colour saved the night from feeling like a cheesy, drunken monday night of karaoke in soho.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

nice guys finish last

music >> album review >> singing adams >> everybody friends now

when critically acclaimed the broken family band split, the obvious progression was for head honcho and talented songwriter steven adams to fill our ears at some point in the future. 'everybody freinds now' marks adams' return to said ear filling with the debut album from his new band singing adams (not to be confused with steven's first post-tbfb project the singing adams). this first unveiling hints at the acclaim adams had previously found while at the same time illustrating the limitations a new band treading water for the first time, might face.

the album opens with 'move on', a belle & sebastian-esque number that plods along at a pleasant pace but doesn't offer much to seize the listener, neither inspiring nor offending. come the second track and debut single 'i need your mind', the introductory drums and guitar hint at a darker, moodier and more memorable side to singing adams' sound, but such shady echoes are quickly contradicted with the addition of adam's clean-as-a-whistle vocal delivery. 'bird on a wing' is the band's latest single but again it flirts with being too 'nice', the dreamy lyrics only boosted by some plucky lead guitar.

some of the standout moments from the album are when their shadowy side is explored; songs filled with cruel, witty and bitter lyrics while often propelled by an injection of pacey guitars bring this album to life. songs such as 'spit at the sea' and 'injured party' stand out from the crowd by simply having bit of a kick to them, while 'red carpet', a sour message of 'pissing life away' is one of the best songs on the album but is crying out for adams to add the roar the lyrics deserve.

singing adams obviously have the talent and song writing expertise evidenced by the members who have previously represented the broken family band and wet paint, but this album seems a little plain in places when it should be making a bigger impression. lyrics often seem lost, songs seem to long and there is not enough variation. what singing adams do have in their favour though is musical pasts and the few songs that hint at a chart friendly indie sound that could see them find their place and their sound, which will undoubtedly make everyone want to be their friends.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

boxer rebellion secure their place in heaven

gig review >> the boxer rebellion >> heaven, london >> 10.03.11

on thursday night the boxer rebellion thrilled a sell-out crowd at heaven, london with a choppy set alternating between their timid builders to the out and out indie rock they’ve packed three albums with. watched by a diverse crowd including the die-hards, the post ‘cold still’ newies and a bunch of tourists keen to ”catch a gig in london” the reception to the band and their stop start set was raptuous. the band themselves seemed almost humbled to be entertaining such a packed crowd, a refreshing sight to see.

the boxer rebellion delivered a set for fans, old, new and foreign with the tip-toeing pin drops of ‘harm’ and ‘doubt’ complimented by the knee jerking ‘step out of the car’ and ‘the runner’. nathan’s voice was pitch perfect, while todd’s on stage guitar exploits gave those at the front a sense of the enjoyment this band have in playing live and delivering their music to such an audience. older songs such as ‘flashing red light means go’ and ‘semi-automatic’ received the raucous applause they deserved while signature tune ‘watermelon’ ended their pre-encore set with sing-along chorus “inside, outside, inside your love” still ringing long after they had left the stage.

worryingly, two girls next to me compared the lighter numbers to the head wobbling david gray, but laughing off such a comparison i returned home, smiling, buzzing and in a rush to fill my ears with some more from the band. despite a relatively long set, their sound never tired and the rings of the rebellion were left swirling in my head well into the night.


the boxer rebellion played:
step out of the car
organ song
cowboys and engines
flashing red light means go
locked in the basement
caught by the light
if you run
both sides are even
spitting fire
the runner
no harm
cause for alarm
gospel of goro adachi

Friday, 18 February 2011

different gear, stalled

music >> album review >> beady eye >> different gear, still speeding

oasis soundtracked my youth. strutting to liam’s snarl while bobbing to the strums of noel's g chord i loved these mancunian menaces. up until their split i’d back them despite being well aware of their obvious flaws, feeling a loyalty to them like a struggling football team. that said, post-split, like most i felt it was time to put down the guitars and the tambourine and leave it to the new conveyer-belt of indie smarters to formulate an educated and creative disco filling guitar sound that is modern, upbeat and doesn't repeatedly hail to the "sunshiiiiine".

but… liam's new band beady eye are about to release their debut album 'different gear, still speeding', a little ironic seeing as liam can't actually drive. on listening to dgss perhaps that is what he should have done with his time since the oasis break-up. either that or design more clothes, even swing on an old tyre - anything but involve himself with song writing.

dgss reminds me of late oasis b-sides written by liam or the other oasis members no one cared for and that chief noel declared not album worthy. while noel bossed oasis, liam clearly leads beady eye with his band mates seemingly too scared or too in awe to notify him of a shit song, and my god there’s loads! apart from opener 'four letter word', and the catchy piano lead 'bring the light' there is nothing here to suggest that beady eye are anything more than a passing fancy while we wait for the inevitable oasis reunion tour in ten years time. the album quickly declines with second song ‘millionaire’ containing lyrics sounding like something scribbled after a shower sing-song. some kind of bet gone horribly wrong is evidenced with the inclusion of 'for anyone', so appalling it pushes ‘little james’ close for liam’s worst creation. 'kill for a dream' and 'the beat goes on' are now prescribed on the nhs as an alternative to sleeping pills, and i gave up listening to the last song ‘the morning son’ for fear i’d actually die of boredom. the only bit i found interesting on this album were the drums half way through ‘wigwam’ purely because they sound like the opening title sequence to baywatch – if you can be bothered to listen to this album you’ll hear what i mean.

i didn’t expect much from beady eye, liam still thinks he’s john lennon’s left testicle while gem and andy remain too hidden behind liam’s cherry tinted glasses to even notice any failings, but this record after the (ever so slight) early promise from the free downloads is more than disappointing. liam in his usual blinkered and boastful way announced dgss to be as good as oasis’ debut ‘definitely maybe’. there’s no maybe about this album, it’s definitely shit.

2/10 (and that’s only because it’s friday and i’m in a good mood)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

the first rule of chapel club...there are no fucking rules

music >> album review >> chapel club >> palace

having listened to ‘palace’ by the much hyped chapel club i can’t help but think that these obviously skilled songwriters have missed a trick with their first release. a debut album from any band is often a jumble of structures, lyrics, themes and tempos as the hurried collection is formed from the most prominent ten or so songs gigged over the years as a band finds their place, mood and sound. ‘palace’ doesn’t suffer such inconsistencies, as fresh sounding tracks compliment one another, flowing comfortably while showing enormous potential and offering an accomplished and competent sound. however, despite the immediate compelling promise i am left wondering if it could have been so much better.

wearing your heart on your sleeve and being forthcoming with your influences will get you by, but originality is what can set you apart. throughout the album i was waiting for something novel, though incessantly my thoughts regressed to a sound reminiscent of obvious influences like echo & the bunnymen, joy division, the smiths, and more modern darlings such as editors, the strokes and white lies.

the delivery and lyrics from lewis bowman often sounds like a flirty yet moody poetic duet between ian mcculloch and morrissey. if this apparent intellect is a clever as he thinks, a slight tweak to the over wordy lyrics could have seen this album reach the loftiness the hype evoked. songs such as ‘surfacing’, ‘five trees’ and ‘the shore’ display intelligence and thought, while ‘blind’, ‘fine light’ and ‘o maybe i’ further evidence this is a band with obvious depth and song writing aptitude.

chapel club tick the right boxes for a modern british band – gloomy bleak vocal delivery, creative guitars plus they look the part and they can fill an indie disco, and that (not poetry corner) is where their focus should remain. if they can do this while exploring their own obvious musical psyche, they’ll quickly find that their sound becomes the one to influence so many others.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

dad's brothers from holland

gig review >> dutch uncles >> old blue last, shoreditch >> 27.10.10

for the last few months the name 'dutch uncles' has been everywhere - i say everywhere, i mean my twitter account, which can seem like everywhere when you while away your working day tweeting about the weather and hunting down the next must-see gig. a lot of 'musos' i follow have repeatedly sung their praises, so to find they were playing the old blue last in shoreditch last night was a pre-halloween treat...

dutch uncles didn't disappoint and didn't miss a trick (how long can i abuse this halloween theme?). they begun awkwardly and having not seen them before i thought this might have been to the lack of stage space, or the the need to shake off some pre-gig jitters. three songs into their set, the awkwardness remained and it was apparent that this was indeed their stage style and essential to their indie-maths pop personality. frontman duncan wallis showed an often spooky likeness to the mannerisms of the late ian curtis, switching from timid and shy between songs, to cutting angular shapes with his flaying arms and square shoulders once the beat of the song had been fully embraced. bouncing 80s bass lines and creative entwining guitars backed up what wallis' punchy often feminine vocals confessed to the crowd.

it seemed a long set for a relatively low-key band, which evidences their wealth of material. the songs, often rousing became stronger towards the end of the night, a brooding intelligence which came to the forefront with songs such as 'fragrant' setting the busying crowd's knees jerking....

don't miss a trick, treat yourself to something from dutch uncles (boom boom ch...)


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

bye bye bus wankers

tv >> the inbetweeners

last monday brought down the curtain on a tv series that has really tickled me in the last couple of years; the inbetweeners. it's going to be an arduous toil filling the void left by the close-to-the-bone tales of four suburban teenagers who don't (despite their best efforts) fit in. neither too geeky to endure daily wedgies from the college bullies, nor cool enough to survive a night on the persians without crying for their mummy, they sit uncomfortably somewhere inbetween.

in the last few weeks i've plugged the show to my girlfriend, assuming the shenanigans of four heart-in-the-right-place lads will bring hilarity and enjoyment to her. sure, there's been a few 'lol' moments uttered from her lips but nothing to the levels of cracked-ribbed roars of merriment that i've been experiencing. surely smashing the hell out of some tulips with a golf club is hilarious? i believe the difference in our laughter meters is because as i watch the stupidity unfold, i relate it to my own inbetween years; such as the time we were arrested for stealing plant pots from someone's front garden (my mum fainted in the middle of lakeside when my sister phoned bragging the news), when we used to bunk off school one day each summer to go sailing but all we'd do is purposely and repeatedly capsize the boat much to our amusement and the annoyance of our fellow sea dogs, the camping trips where we'd drive for seven hours, face mass seagull poo attacks and have a baby puke on our laps in wimpy all for the sake of some teenage male bonding, the five mile drunken walks after nights out to stay at our mate's house just to have a perv on his mum in her silky nightie in the morning (despite only living half a mile from town ourselves) etc, etc - you get the picture. silly, yet not really hurting anyone - typically boyish behaviour that i can't fathom doing now, but at the time, seemed so right and so funny.

recalling our ever distancing youth is one of the main reasons behind the pleasure in the inbetweeners, i'm sure most of my male friends can see themselves and our previous disobedience in the characters - personally a scary mix of simon (terrible haircut/obsessing over unatainable girls) and jay (constant swearing and lying). ah, our naive and gone but not forgotten youth, how I miss thee. it's good to have these brief flashbacks remembering our fruition and coming of age, full of seemingly pointless happenings, but they were anything but pointless, they needed to happen to shape where we all are today. all teenage boys should experience the same playful mischief - just make sure your mum's sitting down (and not in lakeside) when she learns of your latest naughty adventure.

oh, and bring on the film - a lads holiday, it'll be like tenerife '97 all over again! sun, sea and absolutely no sex.