Tuesday, 31 January 2012

John Cooper Clarke @ The Hop Review

John Cooper Clarke
The Hop, Wakefield
19th October, 2011 *

*Apologies for the lateness here - this has just been discovered, lost, in a folder of a subfolder on a hardrive in a cupboard.

A slightly oddly arranged evening, with the support bands playing downstairs at The Hop and John Cooper Clarke next door at Fanny & Barcadi's (due to capacity issues at The Hop). But an interesting one too.

Post War Glamour Girls were first up. Fresh from enjoying their fantastic single 'Splitting Pearls' I was very keen to check them out live. The first surprise was the age of this lot; baritone Nick Cave groaning and beautiful, powerful female backing

had led me to the conclusion they were, shall we say mature? Yes, mature. Surprisingly then they are all rather youthful and fresh faced, which for anyone who hasn’t heard them, will be of no interest. A young band? Good Lord!

But for me, it made me love them even more. They are so different from what I now see to be their peers and it was great to see a big crowd down there for them. Sinister, crawling novellas and impressive waves of sound, considering they are a pretty traditional 4-piece. I want more!

John Cooper Clarke appeared on stage with just a mic, a lamp and a table of gin. Well, that and his book of poetry. I was intrigued to see what he would be like. I know about him, but little of him. Like fellow Mancs Peter Hook and Mark E Smith he was around at the birth of punk at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. But would he be living off the past like Hooky or still pushing an individual furrow like Smith? As it happens; neither. It's hard to say since I wasn’t even alive back then, but I get the feeling that he is probably just STILL DOING THE SAME SET as he was 40 years ago.

He doesn’t wallow in the past by telling old stories. He is, surprisingly, a gag man, rapid fire 1 liners. Some are funny, no denying, even against my better judgement.

Some are very suspect. We are perilously close to actually collapsing the universe as it seems JCC is determined to return us to a WMC in the 1970's. I feel uneasy as one section starts with 'Bloody Gypo's eh?' to riotous applause. There are bits about Dyslexics. I’m not offended, it just seems real old skool. But the crowd, sycophantic to the core lap it up. It's funny to see some of them mouthing the words of his punk poetry to utter perfection.

Act aside, JCC is amiable though slightly wobbly on his feet. That'll be the endlessly flowing gin then. There's a warmth, and a slight absent-mindedness too that makes him seem quite sweet. Not the fiery, terrifying proposition I had expected and seemingly, not a cynical exercise in raking the past for some of that filthy lucre; more the wheeling out of an artifact, perfectly preserved. The museum piece rallies angrily and joyously for one more night.

And with the headliner out of the way, we head back to The Hop for the main support. Skint & Demoralised are an entity I have not come across for a long time. It's been an interesting journey over the last few years for Matt Abbott and one which I have followed from a distance. Tonight is the first time since the dual release of S&D albums 1 and 2 last month that I have seen the new lineup and they instantly impress. The spoken word stuff is now predominantly left to a billing of 'Matt Abbott' only. The light, 'Indie-Streets' vibe also seems to have been left behind. Tonight S&D are a muscular force of pent up energy, a raucous and shredding performance of character and passion. I enjoyed the fact they felt like a 'real' band, not a singer/songwriter and some brought in backing band. The tight stage helped, all 5 members battling for room and bouncing around one another.

It all feels like a much more appropriate setting for the kind of scenario's Matt writes about and he seemed to revel in it, giving much more of a engaging 'front man' performance. With the band already working on demos for a 3rd album, it really feels like they are riding a wave and on tonight's performance I hope they keep on riding it for a long time to come.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 27 January 2012

Hannah Trigwell 'Not Enough' Review

Hannah Trigwell
'Not Enough'

How many times does a busker stop you in your tracks and demand your attention? Well, Hannah Trigwell’s story begins in this unlikely fashion; Leeds-born Hannah has achieved over 2.5 million views on her YouTube channel and she has supported Boyce Avenue, among and attracted attention from Radio 1 Introducing… among others over the past twelve months.

Her first single, Headrush, was released in April 2011 and it’s a beautifully rich statement of intent; ‘stripped back acoustic pop’ will be the label that follows her around if this is anything to go by, she has an engaging voice which can sound delicate and powerful at once.

Not Enough showcases her ability as a vocalist while Break your Fall drips with the pain of the heartbroken and creates a mood that is at once upbeat and yet tragic. Herein lies Trigwell’s talent: less is definitely more and the power of restraint she shows, to avoid the clichés and stick to the basics, is the hallmark of talent and understated quality in my opinion.

Don’t just take my word for it, on the 23rd March 2012, she’s playing at Henry’s Bar in Wakefield. Whether you see her live, or visit http://www.hannahtrigwell.co.uk/music to have a listen, do have a listen. It will be time well invested!

Matt Rhodie

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Grand 'Harbour' Review

The Grand
Self Release

Wakefield three piece The Grand have released another impressive bout of powerful indie-pop having previously brought out a self-titled EP. There is obvious influence from bands like British Sea Power, however they have definitely put enough of their own stamp on the music to avoid sounding like a replica of anyone else. The EP opens with the understated title track which sounds like you could easily be at a harbour, the band then move into some much more bouncy pop music showing some good variety. On the more upbeat songs on the EP the lyrical content is sometimes less cheery giving out a good contrast. A lot of the beats on the latter tracks also have a 50’s and 60’s rock and roll feel brought into the modern day which really seems to work well. All six of the songs on the record are of good quality and if these first two EP’s are anything to go by any further recordings from The Grand will be highly anticipated.

Matt Hill

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Soulmates Never Die "Dance Contest Winner" Review

Soulmates Never Die
Dance Contest Winner
(Cowsnail Records)

Dance Contest Winner is the debut EP from Soulmates Never Die which is the solo project of Leeds based singer songwriter Josh Lewis. The five tracks are rife with a brand of anti-folk which seems to be a response to the recent influx of folk music into the mainstream. As a completely DIY project, Josh records and produces everything himself, bringing folk music to where it came from. All five of the songs are short and sweet, whilst containing both honest and humorous lyrics. Although there is open bitterness towards the change in folk music the songs still speak for themselves and come across really well. It could be interesting if Soulmates Never Die start receiving some attention whether the whole anti-establishment attitude can last, but hopefully he can do it on his own terms as this is a highly enjoyable EP in which the home made feel adds to it rather than taking any quality away.

Matt Hill

Sunday, 15 January 2012

8 gigs that happened in Wakefield, in 2011

I guess I should have got this list together for Christmas shouldn’t I? Or published it 00:01, Jan 1st. Clogged up the twitter feed – look at my list! Of things!

Yeah well, I was having some fun and taking it easy. But as I returned to work and a face full of tedium, looped and slowed to the pace of an ice age, I started thinking about some of the cool gigs that had happened in Wakefield over the last year. It’s not definitive, but it’s the ones that stick out in my mind. I think it shows what a cool and diverse range things have happened, if you bother to come out and give something different a try. So, in no particular order:

23rd April
The Hop

Part of the enjoyment here was that I got to help promoter Chris Morse out with general hosting skills. So, I helped serve up Morseys infamous slow cooked chilli to them out on the rooftop. I ran the merch stall too and got some records for my trouble. And on top of that I got to interview Marc Riley who’d popped over from Manchester to watch one of his favourite bands.

But the gig itself was great too. One of those great times when a band have clearly been booked just before a mass of praise and press has swept them way above the level that would usually come to Wakefield. The room was packed and well up for a good time. The band sounded so good and it was just a joyous night, probably the sweatiest night I’ve ever encountered in The Hop.

Darwin Deez
11th June

Obviously Long Division was a biggy for us. So many great bands, yet I can really only take everyone else’s word for it. The most I saw of any band was 2 or 3 songs, tops. The stand out moment for me was Darwin Deez in Mustangs. I mean, that alone is pretty mental in itself. What a strange clash of cultures, the NME cool list into Mustangs, home of the kind of people and crowds we actively work against.

But as I walked in, to witness choreographed dance moves I wandered what the hell we had done. I looked around and saw the joy on everyone’s faces, people moving around, smiling, laughing, clapping. It felt great, a sense of spectacle, a real event that we’d made happen in Wakefield. It felt special, and kinda summed up the joy I felt for Long Division as a whole. A great day.

8th July
The Hop

SO LONG I had waited for this! Pylon split in 2007, cancelling their ‘last ever gig’ that year. I’d forgotten until I found an old poster the other day, but they were also meant to play a gig for me whilst I was promoting gigs in Leeds as Geek Pie a couple of months before. It had become a sad series of similar stories over that last 6 months. I had just wanted to see them ONE MORE TIME.

And so in July, we did. I guess it would be hard to appreciate if you didn’t love them the first time around, but I can honestly say, the family tree of Rhubarb Bomb and the bands it loves and supports can be traced all the way back to them. The gig itself was wonderful, every song a pop gem, the crowd bouncing and singing along. The ‘hits’ just kept coming. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but really, if you don’t know owt about Pylon GO LISTEN NOW, then come back, and we can talk properly.

Freschard / Stanley Brinks
28th September
The Hop

Their third time to Wakefield; the first due to On The Ride (Hooray!) and the second for Long Division. The third saw them play at The Hop as part of their european tour. It was a different kind of night, with tables, candles and chairs laid out in the upstairs room. It was a quiet one, but a great one too. It had something that a lot of the gigs their can lack; atmosphere. And a sense of occasion too. Stanley and Freschard were in good spirits; once again I popped upstairs to see them and found them eating Morseys chilli – they were thrilled. It’s nice when people are glad to be in Wakefield. This happiness came across in both their at ease sets, with sweet asides and it sticks in the memory for being a lovely SOCIAL evening, sat with friends, enjoying good music. Doesn’t happen as much as it should.

The Spills
28th October
Chantry Chapel

Launching their ace debut album ‘Occam’s Razor’, The Spills hosted a lovely evening at Wakefield’s hidden gem of a venue, Chantry Chapel. ‘Above Us The Waves’ were the best I’ve ever seen them and ‘Yard Wars’ (Mike Ainsley and Tim Metcalfe) played their first gig (I think…). But The Spills themselves were great and the whole night had a sense of occasion, camaraderie and community that seems to have been lacking in recent times. Rammed full, people singing the words back, and basically a wave of goodwill from audience to band. Everyone knows The Spills have been working so hard for so long – I think everyone was just so pleased that they repayed the faith by busting out a top notch album. The fact it was BYOB, and I brought plenty, might have helped too…

Zoey Van Goey
5th November
The Hop

Personal highlight for me. I love this band and have been to Scotland to see them a few a times, so it was lovely to get them down. They are such lovely people and it was great to once again play host and see people have fun visiting our city. The set was special too, with a remix, full on dance conclusion to the evening. As the audience left, we had our own Indie disco (about 8 of us), then went to Inns for a few more, called in at the Pie Shop, then back to ours til about 4am. Top night.

28th March
The Hop

What do I recall about this? I’m not sure. I can’t even remember who the support band was. I just have a memory of sitting and watching Spokes, with about 7 other people at the end of the night. The crowd had vanished, as it often does at the end of a Hop night. But those who stayed saw wonderful understated set by a great band. One of those special moments when you feel you are ‘in on the secret’ whilst everyone else is off getting pissed and been stupid.

Mike Ainsley / Mi Mye
25th February
The Hop.

Now, this was A LONG TIME AGO. I might be getting confused. I know Mike Ainsley, launching his album, played a great set with a full backing band. A great set, another great atmosphere and sense of kinship. The part I’m not sure on is whether this was the first time I saw the newer Mi Mye lineup. I reckon it was. The first time we saw the 3 piece Mi Mye was a bit of a revelation. EVERYONE loved the old band. But ALMOST EVERYONE loved the new one a little more. It was emotional and personal and, well basically the songs shined.

Honorable mentions (i.e. I couldn’t make it)

Babies, Spills, Fur Blend
November 20th
The Hop

Reports informed me this was AMAZING, Spills on top form, Fur Blend outstanding and Babies, another great booking by Morsey.

The Lovely Eggs / Wave Pictures weekender
Dec 3rd / 4th
The Hop

On The Ride again! What a double whammy of a takeover. Bringing back some of the great bands from Long Division paid off with some cracking gigs.

Willy Mason
18th May
The Hop

Why didn’t I make it to this one?! I cant remember!

26th March
Balne Lane WMC

Complete sellout gig, a great accomplishment. Great use of Balne Lane for another large scale gig. Well done Chris Morse.

Nick Toczek - "The Britanarchy EP" Review

Nick Toczek and Threshold Shift-The Britanarchy EP (Not-A-Rioty)

Writer Nick Toczek has collaborated with Bradford based band Threshold Shift to release this riotous punk rock EP. The record is definitely high energy and lots of fun to listen to without exploring any new horizons within the genre. Despite not being particular innovative the band provide some good, simple and sun songs with Monkey Brain and Shitsong standing out the most. Nick Toczek and Threshold Shift have shown that music doesn’t always have to be new and exciting to be good as they have provided a fun record which is an enjoyable listen.

Matt Hill

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Boxing Club "Bunch 'O' Fives" Review

Boxing Club
Bunch ‘O’ Fives
12 Rounds Records

The first thing that grabs your attention about this EP from the Wakefield trio, Boxing Club, is how it’s been packaged as an old jukebox record giving it a nice retro look. The retro feel continues with their music as they provide some impressive blues inspired rock. The first two tracks, Bound by Design and Passing Through, are far more in your face with big riffs and some nice harmonies from the start. The final two tracks on the EP, Right on Trend and Scumbag, are more melodic but still carry the same energy as earlier songs on the record. Throughout the record the band have provided some infectious pop with opener Bound by Design standing out the most. With a forthcoming album out soon as well as impressive recordings such as this all the signs seem positive for Boxing Club.

Matt Hill

Monday, 9 January 2012

Marble Valley 'Breakthrough' Review

Marble Valley
Sea Records

Released back in October, this is the 4th offering from Steve West (Pavement) and his long time ‘other’ band and it has been my soundtrack to the early part of this fledgling new year.

I had never come across this band before, but they were easy to like; from West’s laid back vocals to the catchy and insistent melodies, I found time passed quickly with this album playing. They have crafted a delicate collection of sonic landscapes that range from the country-tinged clear blue mountain lake of Sweet Compression and The Dan Map Experience to the rockier outcrops of Tokyo Hands and Groover, the lithe guitars of which demand one’s attention with their measured persistence. Even the seemingly Burns inspired ode to drinking, Chin Chin which closes the album, is alive with understated charm.

Lyrically, there’s some skill here as shown in the bittersweet, philosophical phrasing of Good Life, which laments that other than dying everything has been grand! Across the 13 songs on offer here there is a sense that attention to detail and an ear for a pun matter more than mainstream success, although the word pop isn’t one I would hesitate to level at this album at times and that is no insult. Compared to some of the music you will hear this year, this definitely deserves your attention!

Matt Rhodie

Friday, 6 January 2012

Tiny Planets - 'The Trick Is To Keep Breathing' Review

Tiny Planets
Philophobia Music

Recent explorations through the archives of Rhubarb Bomb led me to find a review of the first ever Tiny Planets gig, which took place on 5th September, 2009. It was hotly anticipated as they shared members, including singer Craig Newman, with former Wakefield legends The Old House. Without wishing to speak for everyone in attendance, I think that peculiar pop brilliance held by The Old House WAS present, but it was also clear this was something different. At that time, it was hard to tell whether it was a step forward, or sideways, but was promising all the same.

Regardless, there was a definite desire for a record. A free demo and an appearance on a Philophobia Compilation aside, this is that first record. It may have taken along time, but now I hold it before me I am actually glad for the wait. For one, the band have slowly improved over the last 2 or so years. More importantly, the shadow of The Old House has long passed, allowing this to be judged completely on its own merits. So, with that in mind, I command you to delete this paragraph and the last from your brain and begin afresh.

‘The Trick Is To Keep Breathing’ is a 5 track EP by Wakefield alternative rockers Tiny Planets. Initially, it caught me off guard. I think I must stand far stage left at most gigs because my overriding memory from any Tiny Planets gig is the huge crunch of guitarist Ash’s looping squall bashing around my head and making it happy. With a few exceptions (‘I Was Born’) that is less to the forefront than I’d expected. What IS present though is some mighty fine songwriting, delivered with real skill and character.

Opener ‘Jetstreams’ is a great example of this; knowing when to sit back and let the story tell itself with relatively gentle movements, slight intonations in the guitar lines over direct, prowling beats showing utter confidence. The emotional swell bubbles under the surface, carefully released at key points. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s the smart way to rock the fuck out.

Craig’s distinct vocals are key here. He avoids lyrical clichés, but wraps his unlikely musings in the sweetest melodies, with a pinch of melancholy, and a side of optimism. I really connect with that voice; it works for me, but that’s different for everyone. What is clear, taste aside, is the fantastic way which the lead vocal and that lead guitar intertwine; a gorgeous and complimentary duet (‘Islands’ is a great example of this).

If you retrieve those first two paragraphs from your minds recycle bin, I will say that there is a certain ‘Old Wakefield’ vibe to this record, which is NOT to say it is looking backwards. It has charm in bucketloads and an untouchable sense of carefree enjoyment, just in its own existence. It is music for the love of music, the big group vocals of ‘Hardly At All’ and ‘The Trick Is…’ drawing that sense of community and friendship together in uplifting fashion.

But, I hate myself as I write these words. Why does this need to tie in to Wakefield? What has that got to do with it? With this EP, Tiny Planets showcase some things that I, personally, tie to Wakefield, but this has got fuck all to do with geography. It’s a masterful example of what it means to young and full of the joy of exploration; condensing the fleeting moments of wide eyed wonder into warming pop songs, with your friends alongside you. I love the feeling that it inspires in me and I love this record.

Dean Freeman