Saturday, 14 May 2011

PS I Love You @ The Cockpit

PS I Love You
Cockpit, Leeds
May 2011

As I made my way upstairs to the sound of Sonny and the Sunsets uplifting tones I had every reason to be optimistic about the night as there was a good crowd watching the support act who hail from San Francisco. Sonny and the Sunsets provided an enjoyable set and played songs that sounded just as at home in the darkness of The Cockpit as their native San Francisco.

Shortly afterwards Canadian two piece PS I Love You take to the stage on the second night of their UK tour. The band has recently released their excellent debut album, Meet Me At The Muster Station, which has also been receiving rave reviews. Given this critical acclaim I was surprised when I turned round when the band came on to discover only six other people in the room, especially as there was many more than that for the support band.

Despite this PS I Love You were undeterred and gave a blistering performance. The noise that they make is also really impressive and the smaller venues are always more inviting towards bands made up of lesser numbers. This is mostly down to frontman Paul Saulnier who gives a mesmerising performance as he plays guitar while singing and as well as this he is playing bass with his foot pedals, all of which he does extremely well throughout.

Given that their debut is so good and they are obviously giving great performances I could only imagine that the band’s image is not deemed ‘cool’ enough by the fickle music industry. PS I Love You are still a young band though so hopefully they will be given time to pick up more of a fan base and their album as well as live shows come highly recommended.

Matthew Hill

WILD BEASTS @ Brudenell Social Club

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Matinee Show Sunday 8th May 2011

Where do you find a group of Wild Beasts on a pleasant Sunday afternoon in Leeds?

Within the homely surround of the Brudenell in the Studentsville Hyde Park Jungle - that’s where. Well familiar roaming territory for the band who spent a few years here before recently heading south, ditching Leeds for Shoreditch in the trendy area of east London . I missed out on tickets for the evening show, having sold out in less than 48 hours, so settled for the added matinee show.

I first encountered the Wild Beasts around the time of the debut album ‘Limbo Panto ’in 2009 at Escobar in Wakefield whilst seeing the Piskie Sits. I’ve closely followed their career with interest since through last years Mercury Prize nomination of the follow up ‘Two Dancers’, so relished the chance to see the band again in relatively intimate surroundings, such that surely won’t always be possible given their increasing critical acclaim.

Boy/Girl support act Summer Camp got the afternoon underway with their mixture of guitar, samples and electro sounds. Their slide show of 1970’s North American family album pictures slightly more diverting than the band themselves.

Wild Beasts opened up their first Brud set of the day with the brooding ’Plaything’ from what was to be a new album ‘Smother’ strewn set. Now I ‘m very much someone who loves the thrill of hurrying back from the record store to play that new release, or more normally these days relish rushing rustling open the packaging after it’s dropped on the doormat. I have succumbed though to the benefits of album streams and Spotify, that at least prevented most of the new album songs being totally alien to me in this instance. It’s clear that it’s a much more subtle and gentle album than it’s predecessors but the audience were in patient and attentive mood.

The crowd got going with the first of the more familiar favourites ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’. Plenty of good warm banter flowed between numbers and newly added tour member Kate from Sky Larkin, playing mainly keys with a bit of added percussion, was introduced. The only downside to the afternoon was a slightly irritating fixtures and fittings reverberating sound from the back. It reminded me , especially given the d├ęcor, of a North Sea Ferries Ship crossing. Thankfully any swaying though addictive was voluntary on this occasion.

As it got hotter and hotter the set flowed with sublime new songs like the lead single ‘Albatross’, ’Lion’s Share’, ’Deeper’ and ’Bed of Nails’ to the firm favourites ‘Devils Crayon ‘ and ‘Hooting & Howling’, where ‘girls of Shipley, girls of Whitby’ was greeted with raucous cheers. The Kendal kids had their adopted home city in the palm of their hands. There are some that may not warm to the band, it may be the calypso countertenor falsetto of Hayden Thorpe, or maybe even the erotic laden lyrics that fail to turn them on. The new material certainly sees Thorpe tone down slightly in vocal terms, it’s a more controlled falsetto, slightly less pantomime maybe. It all makes for a totally tasty Cumberland Pie mixed perfectly with Tom Flemings baritone. I’m struggling to think of another contemporary act with two such interchangeable front men both in terms of voices and changing twixt instruments, be it keyboards, guitars and bass. Ornate Indie is a term that perhaps perfectly describes what they are all about.

The band are all fans of one of my all time favourite groups, Talk Talk. You can certainly clearly hear hints of Mark Hollis’s later masterpieces in the new tracks. I’m further intrigued given the fact Hollis wrote much of his work following inspiring trips to The Lake District where he soaked up the nature and wildlife of the Wild Beasts childhood homes. The band closed the show by welcoming producer Richard Formby on keyboards for ‘End Come Too Soon’, fittingly the albums closer, an equally sparse and cinematic ending. There was the slight temptation to hide in the toilets for the evening show but I was sure to be flushed out. Much more convenient to head home and out into the daylight instead, ‘Hooting & Howling’ along the way.

Liam Tyrell

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Live @ Leeds Review

Live @ Leeds 2011

The sun radiates upon the collected wristband wearers sat outside the exchange as they listen to a band in a tent. It’s Rhubarb Bomb’s first festival of the year, the multi venue extravaganza that is Live @ Leeds. The weather has done the city proud, but I feel less good myself. A combination of having finished a night shift at 7am that morning and an incredibly snotty nose and sore throat don’t conspire to promise me an AMAZING time. But the vibes are instantly good. With a box of brand new Issue 2.1’s under my arm we pace up to Faversham for the first band of the day.

Arriving at The Fav we find many a friendly face outside. It’s a beautiful day and it’s pretty tempting to just stay outside on the picnic tables. We don’t though, because this is the Runaround Kids and, seemingly, wherever they go, Rhubarb Bomb must follow.

With an album recently complete (due in August) the band confidently showcase a lot of their new material. “Cant Lose Lover” stands out as breaking away slightly form their usual driving 2 chord variations with its sliding, weaving chorus (is it a chorus? I don’t know). Basically they seem to have expanded on all the good bits from their previous single and EP, namely, the expanded instrumental sections, the spiky vocal passages and the use of two vocalists, with Bassist Jack noticeably contributing more. They even drop regular closing track ‘Clandestines’, rightly choosing to move onwards and upwards. But most of all, and more than ever they look and feel like a group, 3 individuals, each virtuoso in their own right, but also tightly locked into together; like a proper band man. And they look like they are having fun too.

Outside for a pint and back inside for Piskie Sits. On form, as ever these days, they deliver a short sharp set of riotous yet honed slacker pop brilliance. Singer Craig is the focus; on the tight stage only guitarist Harry Rhodes has space to ‘rock out’ (which he obligingly does). Craig, with his band kicking out the jams around him seems to exist within his own bubble, off in his own world of imagination from which he draws his acute observations. I like that detached otherworldliness. It also makes me notice; I NEVER see him before a Piskies gig, hanging around, talking to people. He just seems to ‘beam in’, then out again. Otherwise the band are tough and tight and confident but pleasingly maintain a feeling that you don’t quite know what is going to happen. The only thing to let it down is the consistently bad sound within The Faversham. It’s never been a great venue for sound and today the drums are almost lost and the nuances of the guitar work not as pronounced as they should be. Still, most of the crowd, resplendent in their chequered shirts (at least 50% are wearing them) lap it up enthusiastically.

Foolishly ignoring many peoples advice to stay and watch Squarehead (who were amazing, apparently) I instead am recommended to go check out Arthur Rigby & The Bakervylles at Stylus. From the write up and the stage set up as I arrive I anticipate sub Mumford & Sons type folky balladearing (i.e. M&S’s turgid ‘mass appeal’ output). What I get is kind of like that, I guess. The singers voice from the word go reminds me of the Kings Of Leon guy (very bad news) and the music is probably somewhere between Mumford and Arcade Fire in that it is an intricately constructed sound around some basic chords and structures. There are 8 people on stage, a nice bit of brass and some keyboard all helping the songs of Arthur Digby rise and swell with emotion as required. It’s all very accomplished and polished, the sound is huge but accessible. Looking across the stage I can see that exact setup working on Jools Holland, that kind of music; the harmless folk section of the show. All very well, but I also find it very boring. Plenty of people in the crowd (including the chum who recommended this to me) are well into it, but it is not my cup of tea at all.

So instead I head off to catch Fight Like Apes. But for the second year running (last time for Middleman) I am unable to even get into the room at The Well. It’s chock full. Can’t even get my head round the door. Are Live @ Leeds putting too big bands in there? Or do they just happen to pop the ones with cult followings there? Shame, I heard the show was pretty cool.

By now it was time for dinner. Now, one of the great things about Live @ Leeds is that you don’t need to grab a dodgy burger or a Subway; you can actually eat somewhere nice. For me, and our group, it’s now part of the whole experience of the day. After dashing madly around, it’s a relief to sit down for an hour and relax. So, in the spirit of that, I will also review where we ate.

We stopped for tea at a place just over the bridge from The Well called Veritas. It’s a sweet little place, a pub that serves a selection of Real Ales and interesting wines. It has that sociable pub feel but is a little more classy. It’s got a deli with loads of different cheeses and olives. And a pretty cool menu too. I had the Moroccan Lamb Pie which was divine. Someone else had a burger which looked tasty too. A couple quid more than Weatherspoons and you can have a genuinely great meal. The fact you can do that is one of the things that makes Live @ Leeds special and ties it to the city it is celebrating. Veritas is a great little place with a varied menu. Without detriment to the musicians, sitting in there with a bottle of wine was one of the highlights of Live @ Leeds this year.

Refuelled, we headed over to Stylus once more. Compared to last year I didn’t get to see as many bands. Partly being tired, partly being ill, I didn’t feel like dashing about. But to be honest there wasn’t as much that grabbed me this year, and the majority that did was scheduled to overlap. I’d have loved to have seen The Twilight Sad, Honour Before Glory, or Frightened Rabbit, but couldn’t. Instead, in the interests of having a good time with a group of friends, we went for something we knew we’d all enjoy; Slow Club and The Futureheads.

I only caught the second half of Slow Club due to some RB delivering but Stylus was pretty rammed. The band should have been on tour promoting its new album, but due to sickness it has been delayed. Meaning this was their only gig in the foreseeable. The band seemed a little shaky and under rehearsed. For some bands this could be calamitous but in this case it just added to the charm of it. The simplicity of their songs combined with their ability to fill a space as big as Stylus with that sound shows what a great band they are. I do wonder where they can, or intend to go now. It feels like they have found their level; playing small to medium sized venues. Could they go any larger and keep that intimacy and sense of fun? I always remember seeing The White Stripes (who I am no especial fan of) at Leeds Festival and realising it could be done. Do Slow Club want to, or indeed need to? I don’t know, but here they showed themselves to be a fine festival band.

And finally The Futureheads. Wow, they do an amazing thing and almost make me feel 17 again, which is odd, because I was 20 when they released their first album. Half of the set tonight is taken from that debut album and it’s quite possibly down to this that myself and the entire audience have such an amazing time. A cracking 1-2 of ‘Decent Days & Nights’ and ‘Robot’ kicks off a bouncing set which sees the band in carefree, possibly drunken spirits, Singer / Guitarist Barry in particular looking like he was blagging his way through the lyrics quite often.

The lyrics and vocals were then surprisingly put to the forefront for an acapella interlude. Oh yes - showcasing songs they’ve been writing for a new purely vocal album they leave Stylus in shocked awe. Those familiar with the debut album would be perhaps less surprised by this turn of events, featuring as it did ‘Danger Of The Water’ a beautiful example of the acapella style. Here they expand that and it kind of develops into something like ‘The Crimp’ from Mighty Boosh. It’s that mind boggling and bizarre. When they kick into the second of their vocal only numbers you can feel the crowd feel uncomfortable – ‘oh, it wasn’t just a one song interlude… ok’. And then when they go into the THIRD!? But they nailed it and the audience totally went with it, even getting the chance to join in on a barroom singalong about The Dun Cow Pub in Sunderland (my favourite pub when I was at uni there, by happy coincidence).

However, they then crank up their guitars and blast out another fast paced run of classics, ending with the killer trio of ‘Carnival kids’, ‘Hounds of Love’ and ‘Man Ray’. Awesome, what a night. It made me wonder why I ever stopped listening to them.

Overall it was a different Live @ Leeds this year, for me at least. Due to either the scheduling, or simply my personal taste, I didn’t find myself running about all over the city trying to see as many bands as I could. Knowing I was going to end up in Stylus for the Slow Club / Futureheads double whammy kinda kept me round there. Overall the line up didn’t excite me too much but ultimately I had an excellent time; with so many places to go, so much to see and so much to do, it would be hard not to. I was also pleased with the general helpfulness of staff – even in the venues who presumably have no real connection with Futuresound. Perhaps I didn’t get to make enough of Live @ Leeds this year but for me the fact that I don’t feel pressured to see everything and be everywhere led me to have a more enjoyable day. Great times; well done Live@Leeds.

Words: Dean Freeman
Photography: Jayne Woodhead

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Strange Death Of Liberal England @ The Cockpit

The Strange Death of Liberal England
TheCockpit (Room 3)
4th May 2011

The night began with support band Twin Planets asking people to make their way upstairs. I was curious to check them out but their attempt at post-punk failed and I just spent the set waiting for them to get good which unfortunately never materialised.

Shortly afterwards Portsmouth indie rockers, The Strange Death of Liberal England (TSDOLE) unassumingly took to the stage. Having gathered a cult following after releasing two albums in the past four years I was extremely surprised to see such an empty room, there was not more than thirty people there.

The few that were there were definitely treated to a fine show as TSDOLE mostly played songs from their critically acclaimed second album, Drown Your Heart Again. The influence of early material from the Pixies is fairly obvious as well as taking on a sound similar to bands like British Sea Power which seems to be proving popular at the moment.

While TSDOLE kept the crowd entertained one thing that impressed me was during their penultimate song, which also featured an accordion, the guitarist was managing to roll a cigarette with one hand while continuing to play. It is this sort of feat that impresses me rather than the pyrotechnics of a huge stadium show.

Overall TSDOLE provided a thoroughly entertaining evening and I hope they pick up some more fans along the way so they can continue releasing albums like Drown Your Heart Again which was one of the better records of last year.

Matt Hill

Friday, 6 May 2011

Metronomy @ The Hop

April 22nd
The Hop, Wakefield

Up on the seldom seen (or used) roof terrace of The Hop, Metronomy sit in the baking April sun - the hottest April on record in a very many years. Their new album, The English Riviera is inspired not by Ibiza or such scorching holiday destinations, but by the British Seaside and tonight it feels as if Metronomy have brought that feeling with them; not just the sun and the temperature, but the relaxed and homely atomosphere too.

An optimism and sense of excitement rests over the collection of gig goers out in the courtyard as they wait. I bet a lot of them would be happy to stay out here all night, such is the relief that the spell of good whether wasn’t a fluke, it’s a full on April summer. Marc Riley is around, having made his way over from Manchester after praising and playing the band on 6Music almost non stop for months now. As they all make their way upstairs, the temperature increases yet more; it’s a sell out show… and this is before the dancing starts…

I haven’t seen, or really heard Metronomy since their self titled debut album when the band were more a two piece, creating music closer to IDM, almost exclusively instrumental. I enjoyed it, yes, the quirks and charm of their take on that particular genre were clever and engaging. But they just slipped off my radar. As such, I’ve got two records to catch up on tonight, but it’s the new songs I want to hear most, with The English Riviera receiving astonishing reviews across the board.

The band, now a four piece take to the stage to rapturous applause. The band kick straight into ‘We Broke Free’, the first track proper from the new album. It’s a different sound to what I expected and I feel rather foolish for having let them slip me by for all this time. It’s a sound that vaguely reminds me of a fair few things; early Bloc Party (or more accurately where Bloc Party should have gone after the first album) – also The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem. Pretty much all the songs feature vocals now and it’s just really fun. The band seem to be having a great time. The room is swaying. The trademark massive lights on their chests are there, synced up with the music and, it’s got to be said, the room seems pretty synced up with the band too.

The singles from the 2nd album I part recognised sounded revitalised and even better than I recalled; the live band set up – guitar, bass, drum plus some keyboard and occasional saxophone brings a lot more out of the songs. In particular set closer RADIO LADIO transcends the archness of the original and becomes a woozy, smart irresistible anthem.

It’s always a little suspicious when a band gets massive across the board praise, especially a band who you have heard so much about in the ‘in the know’ press – they must have sold out right? It is so pleasing to see Metronomy simply got better. They were good before; they just got better at being better.

Words: Dean Freeman
Photography: Joel Rowbottom -
(except setlist by RB)