Friday, 31 August 2012

Setstock Festival Review

Setstock Festival
Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
August 18th/19th 2012

My plan this summer was to head to Summer Sonic in Osaka, a big festival packed with internationally renowned artists. Then I heard about Setstock. For the same price as a one day ticket at Summer Sonic, I could buy a two day ticket at Setstock. Sure, I didn't know all of the bands, as they are all Japanese based, but I gave it a shot. This was a great chance to head to a two day festival, hopefully hear some good new music and most importantly, have fun.

If I could sum up Setstock in one word, it would definitely be just One of the best places to stand, believe it or not, was behind the sound deck (where they do all the technical stuff) on the main East Stage. It's a place where you can't even see one tiny piece of the stage, but everyone just wants to have a good time. There's singing, dancing, posing for photos, running round in circles, I like to think of it as the Fun Zone.

One band that turned the whole of Setstock into a Fun Zone was Ketsumeishi. I had never heard them before, but it seemed everyone else had, the whole crowd were at the band's beckon call. With lots of arm waving, dancing, cheering and towel spinning, a crowd favourite in Japan. Their sound is very J Pop and I won't be buying the album. However, having experienced them live, I enjoyed it and I have to take my hat off to them...and my towel before I swing it around my head. Their hit song was LOVE LOVE Summer, don't mind if I do.

Other musical highlights for me were Okinawan band Kariyushi 58, with their laid back summer vibes. Also older rockers Saito Kazuyoshi and Okuda Tamio oozed cool, rolling back the years, playing lots of hits...I think. Another veteran band, punks The Cro-magnons played with the energy of a band half their age, with the singer coming across like a 1970s Iggy Pop. There were other decent acts, including summer fun band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, they threw a few covers in, including One Step Beyond by Madness.

Good times aside, there are a couple of things to be wary of when going to a summer music festival in Japan. First the heat: it's proper hot, like the sun. Admittedly I'm from the less tropical climes of Wakefield, but Japanese summer standards, towel and fan are a must.

Also, halfway through the set of Saturday night's headliners Radwimps, the rain came in. There was talk of it being a typhoon, which I don't think was the case considering how quickly it passed. However, I was soaked like a drowning rat within around five minutes. It didn't spoil the festival though, as it was all better once I'd changed into dry clothes back at the tent.

So there you are, if you happen to be going to Japan next summer, go to Setstock, enter the Fun Zone and have good times! The music might not be the best, but the party definitely is.

Chris Cooper

Thursday, 30 August 2012

At The Edge Of The Peaks Review

At the (G)Edge of the Peaks
Sunday 26th August 2012

Sunday saw the latest northern instalment of David Gedge’s boutique festival, which has found a home in the quaint surroundings of Holmfirth’s Picturedrome. The old cinema retains many of its original features but has had seats stripped out, new bar areas built and a bit of a cosmetic makeover; meaning that it makes the perfect location for the first band on the main stage, David Gedge’s ‘other’ band, Cinerama.

Now I’m not a massive fan of this band and their chamber pop output, but I absolutely love The Wedding Present - more on them later - yet I enjoyed today’s opening spot far more than when I have seen them previously. I don’t know if it is that the current lineup just seems to work so well together or that the material has grown on me, but they impressed me and I found myself humming some of their tunes between acts, not that I had very long to wait.

Now this is the best bit about At the Edge of the Peaks: there are two stages, the main stage and a second stage up on the balcony, so that while one is in use the other is cleared and set up for the next act, meaning very little time spent watching sound checks! The openers upstairs, Cornelius Crane from Manchester, kicked the afternoon off with a fine repertoire of songs about life on the other side of the Pennines; they worked hard and put on a good show, despite the fact that their front man had to perform around a number of strategically placed buckets that were steadily filling up as the biblical deluge outside made its way through the ancient roof!

Queenie & The Pawns followed these lads, performing after Cinerama vacated the main stage and they couldn’t have been more different, soulful folk rock with a sense of humour and some truly skilful playing captured and held the balcony area’s attention throughout a set which could only be criticised for being too short.

As David Gedge curates the festival, this is also an interesting insight into what he enjoys. There are bands with links to his own bands like Yaz Bebek and The Evil Son, bands he enjoys himself like Nightmare Air and, in booking Cud, bands he grew up with!

He also invited Catriona Child along to read from her novel Trackman, which explores the ways that music can link into our emotions and create a soundtrack to the ups and downs of our lives; the chapter she chose to share with us featured The Wedding present’s song My Favourite Dress, obviously!

She was followed onto the main stage by Nightmare Air, a California noise trio but by now we were preparing for the first of the main events. By the time Cud hit the stage the audience had focused its energy on the main stage. Opening track Purple Love Balloon started the crowd bouncing in delirious unison and they didn’t stop until the band left the stage a sweaty, steamy 45 minutes later. It now appears customary for somebody to cover Kennedy to save TWP the bother of playing it. Last year it was the all-girl J Rock outfit Pinky Piglets (now known as Toquiwa) but this time Cud integrated it brilliantly into their final song, Only A Prawn In Whitby. A glorious return of the original line up in front of a more than happy crowd set the stage for the headliners perfectly.

Unbelievably, it’s 21 years since the release of Seamonsters, the Steve Albini produced follow up to Bizarro and tonight, as with every night on the current tour, it was performed in full. Now, that’s not the easiest listen you could come across and David himself acknowledged that, ending with the classic You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends to both lighten the mood and reinforce the message of an afternoon of exactly what it says on the tin, Mr Gedge and friends having some bank holiday fun.

The verdict: while maybe it lacks the festival feel in terms of size, it’s a great day out because of the venue, the quality of the acts and the opportunity to see something different; where else can you get yourself added into a Lee Thacker limited edition cartoon strip! Another reason it’s a raging success is the relaxed atmosphere with the bands hanging around to see the other bands and chat with their fans. See you there next year?

Matt Rhodie

Thursday, 23 August 2012

H.Hawkline Review

H Hawkline
22nd August 2012
The Hop, Wakefield

After a rather mad spring into summer period, it has been a treat to actually take a bit of time off from going to local gigs. A couple of festivals have instead taken their place with new musical discoveries being made. I guess it’s no surprise to need that break, especially after six months of compiling a book and then organising a festival. But after enjoying seeing Runaround Kids produce some new noises at Beacons last week, tonight The Spills treat us to some fresh material, in support of the fantastic H.Hawkline.

I think, due to the headliner, I was expecting an acoustic set, but I was wrong. Although relatively laid back and less fired up than usual, they worked through a set of newer numbers which on first listen are hard to judge. There’s no radical departure (thankfully) and the same grasp of the hooks and the interesting dynamics. Certainly nothing to worry about and I could happily have stood through the set a second time round just to try and get an idea what’s going on. So, pleasing that things are moving forward towards a second record, I look forward to catching them again soon,

H.Hawkline is visiting Wakefield for the third time this year as part of a four date tour to support his BlackDomino Box EP release (on Trash Aesthetics). He must be as fond of us as we are of him. Funny how the Merrie City takes certain bands to its heart. Sadly, the extensive tour has taken its toll on his wilting welsh voice and he struggles through the set, albeit in good humour. It’s no major disaster and on most occasions adds something to the songs, an extra layer of hurt if you like.

H.Hawkline’s songs are almost always built around very simple refrains, the same chords bouncing round and round. Compositionally, it is minimalism showcased but as with many great songwriters, it is his ability to infuse them with his own character that stands him apart. So the strained notes and uncomfortable air don’t take anything away. Tonight he is joined by a drummer only (who occasionally switches to guitar) and the set is his usual mix of dainty bare boned balladeering and the more guttural, ground out dirges – a balance that certainly helps keep the interest. And as an advertisement for the new EP – fantastic.

He’s a performer not afraid to engage an audience with stories and he had the whole room laughing away on many occasions with jokes and asides that simply wouldn’t make sense here. For his last song he got the room to bully Spills guitarist Chad to play with him on bass, then taught him the track on stage, before unleashing it on us. I think this air of the carefree is certainly part of the appeal with H.Hawkline and perhaps why he is so loved in Wakefield. I hope he makes it back soon.

Dean Freeman
Photo: John Jowett

The Unteleported Man review

The Unteleported Man
Philip K Dick

Ok, so this is kind of a rare PKD book, mainly due to the fact it was rejigged, expanded and then re-released as Lies, Inc after his death. I’ve not read this later version, so can’t comment on whether this is better or a now superseded version of the tale.

            However, it is an interesting read from towards the start of Dick’s expansion into Science Fiction. It shares the fast-paced structure of something like Dr Futurity with a similar lack of interest in any form of deep characterisation. Thematically it shares ideas with the Nazism of The Man In The High Castle and, naturally, the unreality of the universe, though in this case it is something much more tangible.

            The story goes that mankind has attempted to solve over-population by setting up various off-world colonies, all of which failed for one reason or another. However, a seeming salvation arrived in the form of a distant planet, colloquially known as Whale’s Mouth. For an absolutely nominal fee, Earth’s inhabitants can be teleported to this utopia. The only draw back is that the trip is a one way journey.

            With all supposed communication from this far off planet completely controlled by the same company who runs the teleport service, suspicions of everything not being what it seems grow amongst our lead characters. It’s a simple but very well executed conceit that deals in ideas of faith and turning a blind eye, whilst the obligatory nefarious organisation sits behind it all.

The difference from later Dick novels is that answers are revealed; ones grounded in reality and some form of sense. So it’s more of a traditional science fiction tale in that sense, albeit a well structured one. Some notable elements are the odd use of grammar throughout and the brevity of the story. Dick is often criticised for his poor use of grammar and constructing sentences that just don’t scan properly. The book opens with “Over Rachmael ben Applebaum’s head floated a creditor jet-balloon, and from within it’s articulation-circuit a flat but handsome, masculine – artificial, however – voice, boomed, magnified so that not only Rachmael  but everyone else crowding the ped-runnels heard it.” Slightly messy. For me, his ideas are the most important factor, but I also rate him as a strong novelist. However, The Unteleported Man is the most obvious example of this confusion I have so far encountered. It feels as if he is trying to forge a new style with odd short, jarring sentences and unexplained references thrown in which sometimes work, sometimes don’t.

The briefness of the story perhaps gives reason for this; the story was unfinished – at least, the fact that he had additional notes and chapters that were later used for the extended version suggests this. As a fan, I found it very interesting, a document of his progression. It’s unlikely that you will find a new version of this story but if you can pick one up on Ebay or in a second hand shop, I recommend it. The story, once explanations are reached, is surprisingly relevant to our modern world and unexpectedly aligns it with other Cold War / Post WWII novels with its ideas and messages, akin to some of Vonnegut’s work. At 124 pages, don’t break the bank, but as a part of PKD back catalogue, I found it an easy, engaging and enjoyable read.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Beacons Festival 2012

Beacons Festival
August 17th - 19th 2012

Without doubt, for Rhubarb Bomb this was the most anticipated festival of the season. Part curiosity and apprehension after last year’s flooding catastrophe but, for the larger part, the fact it had one of the best collections of bands on offer this summer. Still, with photo’s of vast, empty, waterlogged fields still resonating from the previous year it was pretty difficult to picture how this festival would look, let alone sound or feel.

            Upon arrival, first impressions are good as they are formed by the dramatic North Yorkshire landscape that surrounds on all sides. Gentle rolling hills and isolated country farms lead on to harsh, crooked peaks beyond. Yet it’s easy as could be to get to: the perfect getaway.

            Similar care has clearly been put into (almost all) other aspects of the setup. Although all the campers are initially pretty hemmed into the main field, a second is then opened. There is a relaxed feel on the campsite, always a good omen for a great weekend.

            But I’m here to see some bands right?! Well, to a certain extent, yes, but I’m also here to talk to people and have a relaxing time. And it’s the fact that Beacons hits these extra requirements that sees it score some serious extra points on your average, run of the mill festival.

            Musically, the highlights were numerous. A quick dash on arrival led me to just catch the start of Post War Glamour Girls on the large stage. Although annoying to them - bass amp issues led to a circling, elongated introduction whilst it was fixed – it did allow the tent to slowly collect a healthy crowd. It was the best show of theirs I’ve seen thus far. Brimming in confidence (as you would if you had Leeds / Reading shows ahead of you) the band rattle through mainly new songs, all sounding bigger and moodier than before. I’m yet to fully indulge their new EP, but with an album due next year, it all certainly seems to be heading in the right direction. The big stage suits their cacophonous sound and it is this in particular I hope they manage to capture when they next hit the studio.

            Elsewhere, the weekend threw up a nice mix of the familiar and the new. In the former we had Wakefieldians Runaround Kids and Imp, who both impressed, again with newer songs. I’m glad Beacons gave a couple of Wakefield bands the chance and I hope there are more next year. Imp were especially impressive (and not just because their set was at hangover-unfriendly midday). I love that all the members are such individuals and I could happily watch any one of them for the whole show. The beats impressed a lot today and the sound, sometimes muddy through the wrong PA really worked, helping all the little elements shine through. And the tent slowly filled over their set, earning them a whole heap of new followers.

            Runaround Kids had a slightly more appealing 16:30 slot. With their set now featuring a high proportion from this year’s various release formats and less from last year’s album, it’s a shoutier, punchier set – arguably tighter too – though some of the emotion within is lost with the constantly growling vocals. New song Blush sounds great but the chorus (now absent from my mind) seemed to feature a couple of rather sweet lines, but unexpectedly scream / sung ala lots of hardcore / wave bands. I get the feeling this change (which in general is no bad thing) is simply the introduction of new influences but there is a worry that it might all become a bit samey. But not yet. At Beacons, RKs own the stage and are one tightly wound, lovely whole.

            Both the Wakefield bands appeared in one of the smaller tents, which for my money was the best tent of the weekend, also featuring Wot Gorilla? who sublimely recreated some magic moments from their exceptional debut album, Stalking Horse, who threatened to blow the roof off the tent with a thunderous set of growling tubthumping (two drummers) and Holograms who I didn’t quite get to be honest. Not that they were bad. Think I’d had a few ales by this point but it was like some kind of wall of sound wig out, but using chords sliced from Lad-Rock songs. That’s a terrible description, sorry. I enjoyed it, my memory just fails me.

            Elsewhere, there were plenty of other tents to explore. A dance tent, which I sheltered in during the rain, seemed to be excellent. DJs featured heavily in this and another tent, plus the ‘Kopperberg Kube’. That’s probably a bit much for my liking, but no harm in the option being there. There were also other more acousticy tents and ‘Into The Woods’, the seemingly obligatory ‘arts’ tent (means you get more funding, see?). That said, Into The Woods was one of my favourite places to hang out. You had to take your wellies off to go in. Then you could sit on a random assortment of sofa’s, armchairs, cushions etc like you were in long forgotten antiques shop. They also served cookies and cupcakes and good tea.

These kind of touches appeared across the site and elevated Beacons. One of the best things for me, and it might not sound like a big deal, was the amount of space. My first thoughts were that it had seriously undersold. But the tents were full. The spaces between the stages were vast, meaning no mental crowds, very little queuing at the bars and lots of places to sit and chat with your mates. That kind of thing simply doesn’t happen at Leeds / V et al. I sincerely hope this was planning on Beacons part and that this element won’t be slowly removed over the coming years. It was perfect.

The main stage was a slight stumbling block when it came to the headliners. Roots Manuva / Wild Beasts / Toots and The Maytals are a great trio for a festival this size. But the main stage was in a tent, not to an open field. And the tent wasn’t quite big enough for these big bands. That said, if it had been an open field, like at Leeds Fest, it would have taken up all that lovely space I just praised. Plus, it would have meant fewer stages elsewhere, due to that sound leaking out. So, in balance, it was the right choice. And with lots of other things to do, it’s hard to complain. But I didn’t get to see any of the headliners. I guess if I’d been more bothered, I would have got down earlier.

I did catch Ghostpoet on the main stage and he was a definite highlight of the festival. I first encountered him supporting Metronomy at The Hop (a 200 capacity venue) last year sometime. I thought he was great, but I haven’t followed him that closely. I just heard whispers of Mercury nominations and the like. Maybe I had been waiting for Beacons, who knows? But the show was excellent. A simple setup of live drummer, guitarist and Ghostpoet himself on laptop / sampler etc worked very well. The music is incredibly diverse; hip hop, post rock, disco, indie – all fused through the Ghostpoet filter to produce something unique and charming. Bespectacled and polite, he gets the crowd bouncing around with ease. It’s music to dance and think to. Excellent.

The saddest thing about the whole affair was that I had to leave on Sunday. And the billing seemed to be heavily swayed towards that final day. Errors, Willy Mason, Cloud Nothings, Hookworms, Wave Pictures, Blacklisters, That Fucking Tank – missed them all. Course, that aint Beacons fault. It’s just personally sad because the general buzz I had about the whole thing would naturally have been risen significantly by seeing some of my favourite bands.

So all in all, a success? Certainly, though there were some teething problems. The toilet situation for one, which was simply a huge miscalculation. 20 toilets on the main campsite does not compute. It was horrific. The main arena was criminally under-populated too. In fairness, Beacons realised this pretty quickly and sought to rectify it (though I had seen no change by the time I left Sunday morning). But it wasn’t a malicious piss take of its customers, like you feel it is at the large scale festival. Just something to learn from.

I’d have really liked a record store too. Beacons had some rather lovely merch of their own laid on but having been wowed by some of the bands I would certainly have bought their records. Yeah, I can do it now I’m home, but sometimes you need to catch people in the moment. And it’s just a great thing to browse through. Next time please!

Finally there was the weather. Friday night featured some torrential downpours. And I’m glad it completely pissed it down. Because the site held together perfectly. It allowed Beacons to prove it had learnt from last year. As if to reward us all for weathering the storm, the sun came out for most of the rest of the weekend. We need never mention flooding again.

So a success it was. Beacons clearly has a strong and passionate connection to the grassroots of multiple music scenes and with it’s attention to detail and respect for artists and punters alike, utterly did them proud. The positivity of the weekend shone through and it more than lived up to our expectations. I’m excited too, because there is potential for it to go further; this is only the beginning. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 20 August 2012

Garforth and Myers S/T review

Garforth and Myers

Rory Garforth and Adam Myers are musicians from Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. An area not always noted for its beauty or subtlety; but Garforth and Myers bring forth delicate acoustic songs filled with dark shimmer and wonder that take you to another world.

Much like the atmospheric black and white photos of twisted trees and faint fuzzy figures found on the artwork, the ten songs on this collection create lush soundscapes of secrets, yearning and of time passed.
Bonfires, the opening track talks of ‘Shadows’ and ‘Gallows up on the hill’. Two main acoustic guitars tangle very technically to create a lovely sound. The addition of stand up bass, subtle percussion, strings and female backing from Emma Johnstone complete the Fleet Foxes feel on this record.

Detailed finger picking guitar bubbles under most tracks washing the songs along, with another more simple melodic line alongside.  The repeated chorus’ on Bonfires and ‘left, gone and past’ on closing track Tonight are coloured in with beautiful backing vocals and strings that are both lush and lonely. 

Throughout, both Garforth and Myers share vocal duties, Garforth stands out on Mirrors with a pin drop opening. These songs have clearly been put together with great care and attention and the production is immaculate.

Rhythm is provided by the Andy Seward/Keith Angel collective, who also produce, and the songs with the electric guitar and Hammond organ are more poppy. Ghost Writer would be their cross over hit. With an almost Arctic’s (Don’t sit down...) and Dylanesque style quirky lyrics, this is the lightest song and is my personal favourite on here.

Lonely and haunting - English Folk at its most delicate and refined- Garforth and Myers are scarily good musicians armed with a bank of well crafted songs we can all feel something to.  Self released and recorded down the road at WaveLength Studios, this is a proper local outfit to be proud of.

Paul Bateson

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Festival In The Comfort Of Your Own Home

Now, if you’re reading this I take it that you love music and, if that assumption is accurate I’ll assume you could probably add the word all, or at least ‘most’, to the beginning of that statement. Good, because I want to explore something…

This weekend, Bloodstock 2012 really grabbed my attention. It’s a growing metal festival which, since its inception in 2001, has aimed to bring some of the more obscure, maybe more extreme and novel metal acts to the British public: this year’s lineup included Sepultura (down to one original member); the perennial Canadian underachievers Anvil (if you’ve never seen Anvil! The Story of Anvil then you’re missing a treat) and the Norwegian Black Metal pioneers Mayhem, appearing without burning sheep heads on this occasion with Alice Cooper going head to head with the Olympic closing ceremony as Sunday’s headliner.

The lineup isn’t the main thing though, although it did excite my inner metalhead. Neither is the fact that one of the stages is called the Sophie Lancaster Stage as a touching tribute to the young girl murdered in Bacup, Lancs in 2007 just for looking different, which is to be applauded, but the big idea that grabbed me about Bloodstock 2012 was the fact that Dailymotion streamed all of the action from the main stage for free all weekend.

Now think about this for a second, here is a festival that I would never pay to visit that is beaming itself into my PC for free, allowing me to take my pick of their main stage bands. In one way that sounds ridiculous because festivals don’t do well by giving things away, but looking at it from a fan’s point of view it is absolute genius. Would I be writing this if they hadn’t offered live feed? No, so one motivation for a festival to do this is clearly publicity; an even better motivation is, hopefully, love of the game, the lineup was heavy with ‘vintage’ acts staffed by rock n roll survivors yet all of them seemed genuinely happy to be there, even Mayhem who have something of a reputation for their awkwardness and unpredictability!

The idea of a less mainstream festival finding an audience beyond ticket buying fans using the internet is very interesting. The question I quickly found myself asking is would this work for a large commercial concern like Reading & Leeds, or might it suit a smaller festival such as Long Division?

Think about it, I would dearly love to watch The Cribs and The Cure at Leeds this year, but I’m not going because I’m too miserable to have to put up with a load of undergraduate girls having a now essential rite of passage experience at a big festival, ignoring the bands to update their Facebook status, but if I could log on, watch the bands I really want to watch and do it in the privacy of my own home I would.

Would I pay for it is the big question? Well, I reckon I might because there is already a precedent here, Football Player which, ‘for the equivalent of 10p a day’ webcasts the matches and loads of extra video from the team of your choice, allowing you to watch the away games you would never go to.

For a large festival this is a sound idea because the paying audience would cover the costs, the punters could access the bands they want instead of having to rely on the often patchy TV coverage and they are taping the acts anyway for the TV broadcasters. Simples.

What about a smaller model then, would this work at Long Division?

There are two issues here, does it stop people attending, or help those who couldn’t attend anyway. Guess there’s a balancing act, but at the end of the day it’s up to the market; supply and demand and all that… It’s an interesting point though isn’t it?

Cost, quality and accessibility are the main factors, if you could control what you were seeing and when you saw it this would become a tempting option; for promoters it means reaching a new, wider audience without alienating or inconveniencing your paying public, now that has to be a bonus, for the bands it’s the same thing, getting their music heard by a wider audience.

At the end of the day, heavy metal made me think about something new this weekend. When was the last time you could say that!

Matt Rhodie 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Protectors in Fukuyama, Japan

Reporting live from Japan is your Fukuyama correspondent, Chris Cooper

When I first heard from Bomb head honcho Dean that a Wakefield band were playing just down the road from me I was pleased. When I heard it was Protectors, I was delighted. I used to love watching Pylon and Dugong gigs back in the day and have been listening to the Protectors album recently, having downloaded it from Bandcamp.
First up were some decent support bands. 下町マンドリル (Shitamachi Mandoriru or Down Town Man Drill if I'm reading it correctly) and Anti Clockwise (above) were pure balls of energy. Technically brilliant with shouty hardcore vocals for good measure.

Sandwiched between the two were Minor Aura, girl fronted perfect pop punk. They ended with an excellent cover of Toots and the Maytals' Pressure Drop. Wasn't expecting a Japanese band to cover that, nice.

I managed to watch Protectors literally once or twice before I departed the Kingdom of Wakefield for the Far East. In England I thought they were good, in Japan I thought they were amazing. It may be that they have got better as a band or it may be they were buzzing off the crowd...I don't know but it was simply a fantastic gig.

Apparently the promoter apologised that the gig would be empty because it was a Thursday night. From where I was standing though, it was pretty full and the people who were there were dancing, maybe even singing a bit and definitely having a great time. The smiles on the faces of Protectors were echoed in the crowd and from start to finish everyone was in high spirits. The band's use of a bit of Japanese here and there (good evening, thank you very much, cheers) endeared them even further to the audience.

They played a mix of songs from the album and some newer ones. What I like about Protectors is the spot on harmonic balance of the music, driving drums and the tuneful power of the vocals. They are clearly a band that have been playing together for years and play, move and breathe as one.

About halfway through they played a cover of The Cure's Push. I had always thought Protectors were influenced by bands like Dinosaur Jr, Teenage Fanclub and Pylon. I'd never really thought of The Cure before but it fit perfectly. Imagine pulling Robert Smith's head off and replacing it with a yellow smiley face and you're just about there I reckon.

They finished with a cover of a song by Wakefield legends Chopper. They were a bit before my time, but members of the crowd even seem to know them, awesome. I have written in the past about the notion of Big in Japan being a myth. Maybe it isn't, or maybe it's more like 'Big But Just A Little Bit in Japan'. Either way, I'm glad I drove down from the mountains where I live to enjoy a wonderful performance.

I have always wanted to start a band in Japan, now I will definitely get on it, Protectors you have inspired me. Other Wakefield bands, or British bands in general get yourselves out here if you get the chance. There may not be loads of money in it (I really have no idea about this – maybe ask Protectors) but it's an amazing experience. 

Japan Loves Protectors!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Issue 3.2 details

Our second issue of the year has arrived and we will be slowly distributing it in the usual places (keep an eye on our Facebook to find out where). So what have we got?

Written about

Laura Slater – The first of what will hopefully be a string of features on Artists who are managing to make a living from what they do. First up; Laura Slater, Wakefield based designer of bespoke textiles. Runaround Kids – Bassist Jack Winn shares his tour diaries from the band’s recent jaunt around Ireland. Olympics – Dave gives an alternate tracklisting to this summer events. It seems Danny Boyle was paying attention when we sent him an advanced copy… Retarded Fish – Dan Stringer tells the story of how his band Retarded Fish came to support The Cribs on their homecoming gig back in May. See part one HERE. The Buffalo Skinners – We speak to the cross-Atlantic buskers about their inspiring approach to being a band. Life Is A Motorway – Clive Smith shares his philosophies on life and music. Louise Distras – An interview with Louise, who is has been touring round Europe and getting some amazing press of late. Escape From Stand 14 – A short story by Stephen Vigors. FixingA Hole Records – An interview with Kei Dohdoh who runs a record label in Japan and is currently taking Wakefield band Protectors around the country on tour. Give Me A Beat To Dance To – A personal take on the importance of music in our mental wellbeing. Follow The Drum – Roland X asks if you have what it takes to become a star. Endtroducing – This issue we meet the amazing H.Hawkline and find out what his favourite David Bowie album is.

Written by…

David Cooper – Plays and sings with Balloons and enjoys tending to his allotment. DeanFreeman – Currently reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Matt Rhodie South Yorkshire correspondent, blog contributor. Matt Sidebottom – Graphic Designer by trade, total dude in his spare time. CliveSmith – Currently compiling his greatest hits collection, entitled The Colossal. Dan Stringer – A very nice man who plays drums in Retarded Fish! Laura Thompson – Plays and sings with Fur Blend and writes a blog. Stephen Vigors – Freelance writer, has a short story blog. Andrew Whitaker – Sings in Red RidingQuartet, likes a good pint. JackWinn – Plays and sings with Runaround Kids. Roland X – Angry at this sick and disturbed world.

And designed by… Matt Sidebottom.

With Thanks to… (our kind sponsors)

Also, don’t forget we now have a wee shop where you can pick up our book, T-shirt, Tote bag and a yearly subscription to RB itself. All goes towards keeping the zine going!

Dean Freeman

First Takes... by Mark Wynn

First Takes, Mistakes and a Selection of Exercises in Being A Bit Shit

What can you do with a fiver? A pint and some chips, a few newspapers, umpteen Mars bars…
Mark Wynn appeared at Henry Boon’s during Long Division 2012 and this CD and homemade book of poems is what I spent that fiver on. Money well spent? Yes.

What Wynn does brilliantly is play with words as easily as he does your expectations, his song craft is a delight and his delivery transforms the details of every day drudgery and disappointment into joyous, cathartic moments of shared crappiness that we can all associate with.

One voice, one guitar and one mood mainly, but all delivered with a wicked sense of timing, some lovely self-deprecating ad libs and a big dollop of skill. I love the outsider feel to both the music and his poems, Wynn doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics in life- such as failure, buses and why Morrissey should shut up and let other people have a say about the weather!

Matt Rhodie

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Lines by Audit Control

Audit Control

When this dropped through my letter box I was a bit confused; the opening track comes in like a potentially enormous stadium anthem, a bit U2 but not in a bad way. As this debut progresses, what becomes clear is that across the ten tracks on offer, there is a determined effort to forge a sound of their own; Scott Caudwell’s vocals are central to this, he echoes and booms across the album. That said, I want to draw a parallel and say like a Huddersfield Ian Curtis, but that could be over doing it, although on When We Run and People Like You, People Like Me and Sense he really does lift the songs with his bold, strong voice.
There must be a label for this, I’m not too bothered what it is, so I’m going with ‘polished indie pop’; there is a definite early 80’s echo of grey skies and coldness in the mix which make it an appealing prospect.

All in all this is a somewhat confusing record to write about, I must say I have enjoyed other things more this year, but you can’t deny that there is an ambitious statement of intent here and I found myself snared on some of their catchier tracks. Well worth a listen. 

Matt Rhodie

Saturday, 4 August 2012

August Review Roundup

Roland X attacks our growing 'to do' pile between watching Team GB clean up at the Olympics

White Heat
Self Release

Ok, I know nothing of this band. Rhubarb Bomb was sent a link to soundcloud with the two tracks from their single. No bio, nothing. I could look it up, course, but on this occasion I kinda like the idea of having no point of reference; purely on the music.

So, lead track Smiles shows White Heat to be rather noisy outfit with a slightly under produced but huge guitar sound. It’s driven, echo laden post-punk with reverb drenched female vocals that sways between generic Indie riffing and very interesting wall of noise harmonising. It’s works its way into your brain no doubt and doesn’t mess about – three minutes and we are done. Flipside Hymm is more reflective, a lolloping beat and rolling jangle mixing in with a pretty woozy vocal. It’s a simple sound but well executed. A huge guitar crash seems to be taking the track into a huge My Bloody Valentine type conclusion… but doesn’t and the songs rotates round once more, saving the full on climax for the end. It’s pretty impressive actually and I hope this in particular gives an indication as to where the rest of the band’s material lies. A mix of Nu-Shrag and My Bloody Valentine isn’t a million miles off and this is definitely worth checking out.

Too Many T’s

Too Many T’s are a Hip-Hop duo from London and this is kind of a five track limited edition taster EP. Clearly geared towards people who have just witnessed their infectious live show it’s an upbeat record, heavy on beats and breaks and PLENTY of bass. It certainly has an early ‘90s bloc party feeling to it, especially on opening pair Hazard and 1992, with hints of Paul’s Boutique type smart partying rhythms, though there’s no heavy sampling, just a bouncing vibe.

It Ain’t Right , which is kinda the lead track on here, features a sweet looping dancehall backing; the introduction of trumpets, jazz piano and vocals loops straight from yr Gran’s 78s is very well executed.

In fact, if anything, this EP shows off the duo’s skills as producers more than as rappers. As I’m well aware from their lives shows, the boys defo have the skills to pay the bills and these are always placed at the centre of the show. Here; the focus feels like the backings, purely because they are so good. That said, the interaction which makes Too Many T’s so special is here in spades, closing track Plum Jam! especially evocative of their obscenely good fun live show.

Steve Chapman Smith

Listen up, I was all set to hate this. I don’t know why. It’s the cover of someone who I presume is Steve. He’s singing into a mic, eyes all screwed up with is hair swished back like a terrible ‘80s rock star. The only oddity in this scene of cheese is the fact he’s holding an acoustic guitar.

And thus, six tracks of acoustic based songwriting (although the last is a Stones cover, urgh). But once the CD gets whirring, it aint bad. Opener and title track Rise is all about standing up to the government and showcases Steve’s powerful and passionate vocals, despite it being a bit too Americanised for my liking. It’s all about pulling together, being pawns in a game, selling people down the river, about thieves and liars. You know the score. What can I say? It’s well done.

The EP proceeds with a full band, kicking out some looping Americana / country styled musings. It really aint my bag. I can’t stand that country twiddle. But I can tell that Steve Chapman Smith is the real deal. It’s also clear he’s not just working through familiar genre tropes for the sake of it; there’s a proper sense of authenticity here, using music to get a message across. He believes in what he’s doing and has managed the difficult trick of transferring that to record. I have nothing but respect for that.

If anything, the EP is a bit one paced, despite variations for the backing band. It seems to plod at a similar tempo but as an intro into what Steve is all about, I totally get it and would certainly recommend to country music lovers, who like a bit more of a lyrical edge to their singers.

Tender Trap
Ten Songs About Girls

Opening track Train From King’s Cross Station could not be more atypical of the Indie-Pop revival, but in the best possible way. Within three seconds, I get the band and am transported to many excited evening in the Indietracks Disco.

The band are a combo of various IndiePop legends and this is the band’s third album. Immediately, with that first song, it is clear to see that this is their best album yet. Many a-time I have stood watching yet another Indie-Pop band and thought, yes, I like this but by god, I could write these songs. Two chords, twee melody – done. This record immediately catches me out with my arrogant boasts, because it shows you need something a little more than that. This has the simplicity of all great pop but opens Pandora’s toy box full of clever tricks and feels like a whole lot of fun, much more than my cynical ponderings (Though Step One is humorously so, in its checklisting to fame).

The combo of the female vocals, in their many forms, is a recurring great touch. Like the massed vocals, the work of the whole band swamps into a magnificent whole. Behind it all is a strong sense of purpose, individuality and tru-feminist positioning. There’s a wave of emotions across it all, but even when they are being wry or melancholic, the sheer sunshine of the record shines through. It’s fantastic, and effortless too. Though the obvious touchstones of Shrag and Evans The Death are almost too blatant to mention, the similarities are there and for fans of those bands, this is a dead cert. But the appeal spreads a lot further. I reckon if we all bought this and played it at full blast the summer would have no choice but to return.

This literally fell through my letterbox in the middle of this review writing session and I really don’t feel like listening to anything else now. This is tricky, but I am thrilled to have discovered a proper gem of a record amongst this to do pile. Cheers Tender Trap!

Wot Gorilla?

This record is awesome. Math / Prog type rock doesn’t strike me as something that will immediately engage. So, I got myself a nice big cup of tea and some biscuits and settled in for the long haul. But – bugger me – it’s got some massive pop elements amongst the crazy time signatures et al. And I’m straight in to it.

The band are from Halifax and mix the expected oddness with some kind of post hardcore. So it’s weird jazziness and proper bouncing punkiness. I don’t know how the hell they pull this off but they completely do. The vocals recall the non shouting elements of bands like Touche Amore. SB features an intro like a much better Biffy Clyro – you know the thing they tried to do on Infinity Land? I think it is the singing that ties this crazy patchwork together. Many of these freewheeling prog bands make the mistake of producing music entertaining only to themselves, but here the more accessible vocal lines draw the listener in.

I’ve not had chance to digest all this yet. Wot Gorilla combine their influences in a way I’ve never heard before and I can’t remember the last time I thought that. It’s fucking crazy. The sound is new and innovative, but even within the realms of melodic mathrock they bring something of their own to the table; a more accessible charm without tuning down their idiosyncrasies one iota; what an accomplishment. After this initial listen, I can’t really do the band justice with my words – my apologies. But this is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in a long time and I strongly recommend a look / listen

Evans The Death

Aw man, how slack is Rhubarb Bomb? This has been out months and it’s only just been passed to me. Well, we are within the orbit of planet Indie-Pop once more but a little scuzzier, a little more positively shambolic; cacophonous. The five piece make a breath-taking racket, immediately smashed into your face with opener Bo Diddley.

What surprises is the range across the record. Morning Voice is a gorgeous piece of music, epic and grand and life affirming. The voices in Indie-Pop can tend to be drenched in reverb but here the pure power of Katherine Whittaker‘s voice is brought to the fore. It’s incredibly adventurous and confident.

I like how the album appears to have been designed with the old side A and side B in mind. Morning Voice is followed by the second side’s (and single) Threads. It’s an horrific wall of growling noise tamed by the bizarre refrain of “Why did I watch that documentary?” This kind of punky, run away train type three minute smash-up seems to be their calling card, but each example on the record has something different about it and the album flies by. The band made a great impression at Rhubarb Bomb’s Long Division for the ferocity and energy. This record shows a broader range and does what any debut should do; excites, energises and head-spins with its power, yet creates many possible signposts for the future.

The Tracks

Ambition / Pretension. Such a hard line to straddle. Here, we have the second album from The Tracks and I have to admit the first passed me by. Obviously it was a success, hence the second. First impressions are mixed; the artwork / packaging are professional and seem to suggest a rather doomy, post punk outfit. The album credits show that the members don’t ‘play’ their instruments, they ‘perform’ them. The book doesn’t have page numbers; it has Roman Numerals. The album opens and closes with tracks called Prologue and Epilogue, there is a song called A Friend Called Silence and every page of the booklet had a black and white shot of at least one band member looking into the middle distance, or straight through you, like they are so tortured etc etc.

But, y’know, someone’s obviously told ‘em they need an image and a pose to hold, so they’ve gone for it. And if the music works, that falls into place. But the image and style always come second. If the tunes don’t back up the PR, you are gonna end up looking a bit silly.

So after perusing the sleeve for a while, I’m quite surprised by what emerges from my speakers. In contrast to the design, the album is a rag tag collection on unconnected ideas masquerading as an album. First track proper The Mood opens with an Editors type piano riff spiralling which offers early promise of something quite accomplished and moody. However, once the full band enters it quickly falls apart amongst 101 guitar moves and an atmosphere free production. This is the difference between writing a nice riff and actual songwriting. A promising opening wasted.

But then it gets weirder. The gloomy post punk cover is long forgotten by track 3 which is a simplistic, punky smash and grab that sounds like it was written by a bunch of sixteen year olds a month after getting guitars for Christmas. Lyrically, it is awfully empty and unsophisticated and this track starts a routine of incredibly obvious chord progressions and signposted ideas. The production doesn’t help; certain interesting elements that point towards the seeming post-punk influences, the wandering, exploratory bass and distant synths are hopelessly implemented and the feeling is of grand ambition left wanting in a rather embarrassing manner.

A positive is the variation of styles across the 11 tracks, but none are especially impressive or interesting. Quiet number A Little While Longer - so insipid it could be sung by Ronan Keeting - is at least an approach that is accomplished with accuracy and a certain degree of modesty and sweetness. Elsewhere, some moments come together, the central musical segements of I Need You show where this album was intended to sit sonically and other tracks display and early Killers-esqe attempts at danceable anthemism, but as an album, it doesn’t hang together.

This record feels typical of an age where it is so easy to release music. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If I’d come across this as a set of demos, I may well have been more sympathetic. But if you are selling this to people as an album, your SECOND, I expect something little more accomplished than this. Just look at the debut albums I’ve reviewed today.

The songwriting and lyrics are especially poor (it always confuses me when money is spent on making a booklet full of average lyrics that say nothing). Having seen The Tracks live halfway through compiling this review, I was astounded that a) the music sounds a lot bigger live, stronger than the weak production here and b) they carry such an offensive arrogance that I was literally left speechless. Jeez, I don’t mind people being a bit rubbish, but working hard to get better, and to learn from mistakes. But to be this bad and think you are so good, so much that you openly offend your audience. Shocked, completely shocked.

So, aside of my opinions on the music within, it is hard to see the point of this album. It is simply too much of a step too soon. Ambition is great, and I don’t want to squander people’s enthusiasm, but it’s back to the drawing board here. More, better ideas – PLEASE. If by some miracle the band were signed, then I am sure that they would be asked to change their name (poor for Google) and their first album on a major would be marketed as their debut. This would most certainly be swept under the carpet. The best they can hope is that The Tracks will be what Wrinkle are to The Cribs, but on the evidence of their second album the only conclusion would be a series of self released albums, beloved by their parents and friends and ignored by everyone else, much like the running joke of that other Wakefield loser, Clive Smith. Time for a rethink.

Roland X

Sampler Review - Red Riding Quartet

This two-track sampler featuring Over & Out and Together comes on like just the sort of thing I seem to love at the moment; the opening bars feel like nostalgia drenched dirty rock from the 70s in the mould of Led Zeppelin or The Who, but happily as the story unfolds there is a much more modern dynamic at work.

Both tracks showcase Andrew Whittaker’s versatility as a vocalist, he mixes moody, melodic vocals with a nu-metal howl; this pretty much sums the sound up too, it’s both bleak and beautiful stuff, just like the David Peace novels which inspired the name, as moments of glacier pure guitars seem to slide into powerful gusts of choruses against a heavy grey sky.

Sadly, the band is losing their current bass player as he is emigrating, with last weekend’s show at Clarence Park being your last chance to see this line up. Despair not, though because as one door closes, another often opens- if you enjoy this as much as I did, but you can actually play bass, then you could join them!

Have a look at them here whether or not you fancy a tryout!

Matt Rhodie

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Post War Glamour Girls Interview

This year, the annual Futuresound competition was won outright by Leeds band Post War Glamour Girls, meaning they will have the opportunity to play on the NME / Radio 1 stage at Leeds & Reading Festivals. We had a quick chat with them about this awesome achievement.

With the maximum amount of respect, your sound doesn't strike me as one that would typically win a competition like Futuresound - it's something more complex and slow burning - which for me makes it seem all the more sweeter. What were your hopes when you first entered the competition?

I think it's fair to say we hoped for it, but didn't pin any hopes ON it, if that makes sense? It was just another gig which, if it happened, would be a pretty bloody good opportunity. The concept of music as a competition is something I whole heartedly disagree with and we never saw it as 'us vs them' with any of the other bands, not least because a lot of them are our friends. Like I say, most 'battle of the bands' type events are poor, they aren't cool and they rarely promote artistic integrity beyond their own financial gain. However, we did it (just like Pulled Apart By Horses and The Cribs) and it paid off. Personally, I think Futuresound is different because the gigs are run properly, in a decent venue with good sound and I believe the prize is actually worthwhile; that 'prize' is my teenage dream. Regardless of whether we had to enter a competition to get there, even a band with the most humble musical ambitions wouldn't turn down the chance to play that stage. I just hope people see us as more than competition winners, it sounds like we won a raffle…

There has been a huge momentumn behind you over the last 12 months. Did the Futuresound gig feel like culmination of a particularily fruitful period?

I think so, yes. You take the opportunities as and when they come, and we try not to think about what we may or may not get, only what we've got. We've worked incredibly hard over the last year developing our sound, gigging, recording, releasing, promoting and we've always been extremely grateful for everything we've received. I kind of wonder if we're cheating to be playing that stage after only a year and a half as a band. But then again, and I say this with genuine sincerity, we have worked hard for it. A lot of bands don't like to admit to that, which I think is a shame. We truly believe in the music we make, it's hard not to sound pretentious when you say that…

What has changed in the immediate aftermath of the win?

The band have received a bit more attention which is great, but we're still just carrying on as we always have. It's all about writing songs and moving forward musically as opposed to second guessing what people want from us and losing track of what we want to get from being a band. Despite the fact we would love for this to be a job, I wouldn't like to get bogged down in anything that detracts from our creativity for the sake of financial gain or a rise in popularity, though I am in now way opposed to any of that if it's on our own terms. I used to bemoan all my career driven friends for their materialistic ways, but since I watched The Sopranos, I kind of just want a huge fucking house and lobster for tea every night, so who knows if we will sell out should the opportunity arise...

I might get to meet Dave Grohl
I'm still on the dole… 
I might get to meet Robert Smith
The Rock n Roll life style's still a myth… 
I might get to meet Tom Meighan
I don't want to…

Who were your own highlights of the Futuresound shows?

The Wind Up Birds, Two Trick Horse, Super Luxury.

How are you going to prepare for the Leeds and Reading appearances?

I keep having a recurring nightmare where I get locked in the van… I can see the stage from the back of the van, but the band can't hear me and don't know I'm trapped in the van… they're all on stage and James Thorpe-Jones (guitar) is just playing the opening riff over and over and over again. I'll probably try to avoid getting locked in the van.

Where's best for people to go to listen to your music if they've not heard it yet?

You can buy our new e.p here on vinyl, cd and digital download. That or come see us live.

Dean Freeman