Thursday, 28 March 2013

Broken Bones Review

Broken Bones 

This has been out a while now, but it’s well worth mentioning because you might have missed it. That would be a pity.

The album is tagged on Bandcamp as ‘blues punk Virginia’ which may be the first time I have seen those words together in any meaningful context, but as I listened through the album that description proved fairly accurate, if a little limited.

By the time you reach 9th track, No Heroes, the raucous guitars are accompanying a decidedly Virginian bassline and it seems that-  just like the barmaid in The Blues Brothers says- they do both kinds of music, “Country AND Western…!” That said, the lyrics remain stubbornly Wild West Yorkshire- “I went for a walk down Painthorpe Lane…” hardly Robert Johnson heading towards the mythical crossroads, but I like it!

Tracks like Pitbull Blues have a fuzzier, more bluesy edge; overall, this album displays a wide palate of influences: Dirty Jokes has a jangly 60s feel to it and Damages, the  longest track at just over five minutes, slows the pace down and builds to an anthemic chorus- but anthemic in a good way, yeah!

It is this variety that makes the album an easy listen and suggests that Johnnythefirth has some real potential sonically; they fuse and fade between styles comfortably yet never overdo it.

They are safely installed on the bill for Long Division 2013 and I would recommend trying to catch them live because this collection of songs feels as if they will be even more impressive out in the wild...

Matt Rhodie

Monday, 25 March 2013

Live At Leeds 2013 Preview

I have said it before and as I get older and more senile I will no doubt say it again; Live At Leeds is the beginning of the festival season and (fingers crossed on the weather) the summer, for me. It’s a distinct, seasonal marker on the calendar and I always look forward to it.

Naturally, city based festivals are close to my heart and Live At Leeds is great because Leeds is great. I just like spending time in the city; an afternoon into evening of drinking with friends in its fine bars would be enough, but then all this music too…

So, if I were scoring Live At Leeds out of ten, it’s like it almost starts on a five. For this reason, the actual line-up never bothers me too much. Or, it never worries me if there are no big draws, because the joy of Live At Leeds for me is discovering new sounds, being played to big and excited crowds.

That said, Darwin Deez is a definite attraction, especially as I only saw about five minutes at Long Division in 2011. His new album sounds interesting too; a little harder with the beats, a little darker perhaps. That should be a show to remember.

The other notable band is The Walkmen who are a band I’ve never quite clicked with. Every album I hear amazing reviews. I hear bits and pieces and like it. But I’ve never bought an album, and still think of The Rat when their name is uttered. It is perhaps because I’ve had little chance to see them live. This is their chance to impress and I hope they live up to their reputation. A raiding of Crash & Jumbo Records will surely follow if they do.

The rest of the top end – strong, but not to my taste. My eyes actually want to look at the bottom half of a Live At Leeds poster, to see what my new favourite bands might be called. The known names standing out are Dutch Uncles, Dinosaur Pileup, Sky Larkin, and Splashh but beyond that there is a plethora of unknown pleasures, waiting to be found.

And for those who have not been before, this feeling of discover is mirrored in the venues the festival uses. Spread across Leeds, we have venues ranging from tiny Milo’s to the established likes of The Cockpit and Brudenell Social. This is once more part of the charm. Some venues are a little too spread out but if we get that nice weather it just encourages you to spend time in the city. And although Brudenell is a little separate from the others, they’d be mad to leave out the best music venue in the North of England (I only limit it to that because I’ve not seen that many in the south, ok?).

These days, Live At Leeds makes full use of it’s Bank Holiday weekend, with The Unconference working as a networking / industry type event and their increasingly popular football tournament on the Monday seeing bands and labels square up to one another.

The bottom line is, for £22.50, I can’t see why, if you have even a passing interest in music, you wouldn’t go to live at Leeds. You can pretty much squeeze in 12 hours of music, if you so desire. The types of music, and the venues are pleasingly broad in scope and the atmosphere is always upbeat and optimistic.

On a final, mixed note, Live At Leeds has come second in both of our previous Festival Of The Year awards. Two silver medals is an excellent record. But will this be the year it final steps up and claims gold? I can see no reason not, so if April is going to be as damp and snowfilled as the weatherman is suggesting, get a ticket to Live At Leeds and let it be your lighthouse out of this seemingly never-ending gloom of winter.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Clive Continuum

“Punk Rock”   
(see also: "Awards""Festivals" "Demos" "Respect" "Side Projects"  "Lyrics"  "Touring")

People say to me "Clive' (they say) 'you are a 65 year old man, isn't it time you knocked the old punk thing on the head? You've paid your dues, no one could have given more than you. Isn't it time you gave it a rest?"

This is mainly my wife, when she wants me to do the washing up. Or my pal, Lobley, when he's trying to persuade me to go on a fishing trip with him. I think he always hoped retirement would mean we could spend quality time together, not arguing about bass solos and brass arrangements.

But it's not something you can switch off. And besides, fishing can be punk. It's just not punk right now.

Because Punk is something that continuously evolves. And that's why I have continuously evolved. Most artists can't deal with that responsibility. They'd rather get a tattoo of a Chinese proverb and a spiky haircut and everyone knows the Chinese are the least Punk Rock nation on Earth.

It was Punk when John Lydon went on Celebrity Jungle People. It was Punk when he walked out. It was Punk when he did the butter advert. It was Punk he only did one advert then walked away, at the height of his fame as the face of butter. Can you honestly say you'd leave that behind?

And it was Punk when I combined Rockabilly Scat with Waltz-time Deathcore at the tail end of my Imperial Clubland phase. It was Punk when I went crawling back with a set of Sinatra standards. And here I am, twenty seven years later, performing a guerrilla gig every single day of the month when I should supposedly be doing chores or working like a chump, like what you do.

The only type of Obvious Punk I can stand is when the band is having a laugh. Punk is meant to have a sense of humour, of the absurd. It's these serious 'I am going to change the world' punks who are pathetic. You think the same three chords and some messy hair and a bit of shouting will change things? You're as bad as these pop stars.

They think they are rebels like Damon Albarn. Cult Robin Hood figures, who want to rob from the rich and give to themselves. Well I earnt my money pal, as well as my Punk Rock credentials, so don't steal from me. They'd think it was Punk to rob a bank, from ‘the man’, that kind of thing. They are wrong. A true Punk would storm the bank, waving a sawn off shotgun in their faces, grab all the cash they could carry, and then blow their own brains out. That'd show ‘em. These fashion punks don't have the backbone.

I feel like I'm shouting at a wall a lot of the time. This writings on a blog wall is the new way of that and it's just no good. People tweeter a joke they hear and think they are Michael Barrymore. I try and spread the real truth - not the ‘nod-wink, ha look at that’ reality most people prefer - and it gets me nowhere. I would be better off actually just shouting at a wall. Maybe people would pay attention to me then, instead of just walking past, eating their Greg’s sausage and bean pies.

I think Wakefield is the problem. So many people just bothered about wallowing in squalor, pretending they are living in some kind of Euro-Hippy squat. "Everything sucks!" Pretending they choose to be poor and helpless and that. Dressing scruffy is some silly code to them, "I'm part of the gang, I was rejected by society too." Yeah, because you are faulty goods, pal. If Punk is forced on you by circumstance, it's not Punk. Punk has to be a choice.

This is why I've been getting out to new places; Ossett, Purston Jaglin, Middlesbrough - to force this new choice on people. But it's tiring. I'll die like I lived - young and at the peak of my game. I'll never stop pushing things forward. But it'd be nice to know the spirit would be kept alive when I'm gone. Oh it'd be great to be out there with my pal, fishing the week away, or spring cleaning with Mrs Smith without a care in the world. But until these kids begin to even scratch the surface of understanding what Punk really is, I'm sad to say it feels like there really is no future. No future for you. No future for me.

Clive Smith

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Johnny Marr Live Review

Johnny Marr
The Leadmill
March 18th, 2013

Even as I walked through the doors, the age range of the gathering crowd in The Leadmill gave me reason to believe that we were about to enjoy a rare evening in the company of greatness; the expectation was Johnny Marr playing his solo album and a selection of his favourite songs from his past.

The reality was just that, but way more. The set was, on the whole, a muscular blast through his new album, The Messenger, as you might expect, but the experience was far better than that.

From the moment Marr arrived on stage clutching his new signature Fender Jaguar, which he perfected during his most recent ‘previous life’ as Johnny Jarman both in the studio and on the road with The Cribs, to the moment he finally left it he held the crowd in the palm of his hand. Captivated by a display of confidence, charm and virtuosity we were spellbound. I hope the smoke machine was placed behind his amps on purpose, because it gave exactly the right backdrop to the set; it was sizzling!

Opener The Right Thing Right set a high standard that was maintained right through to the final farewell of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. The new songs sound better live than on the record; it is as if they were written to be played live for you.

Now, this is where things could get awkward because a few songs in he asked about the long-closed Limit Club on West Street, a place he used to travel from Manchester to hang out in. This reminiscence was followed by the first of the four songs from The Smiths era that included, Bigmouth Strikes Again. This was obviously well received, but- and thankfully there is a but- the younger members of the crowd were here for Johnny, not Johnny from The Smiths and there followed an equally enthusiastic response for Upstarts! and Generate, Generate.

What Marr actually delivered was a clear statement that the present is more important to him than the past and he seems keen to remind us that he was in other bands too, by including the pick of Electronic songs too; tellingly, Bernard Sumner is the only previous band mate to be name checked this evening and I for one am glad.

For too long, the myth of Marr as Guitar for Hire, or Marr as the one who anointed Noel Gallagher’s rise to fame has got in the way of a wider appreciation of the ability, talent and sheer presence the man has. I imagine he is used to setting a place for the ghost at the banquet by now, but I for one wish people would leave it alone, stop using the S word every time they mention him and just enjoy the here and now!

Yes, it was great to see him and his band- and what a band he has put together- rattle the roof with London and deliver How Soon Is Now as if it wasn’t nearly 30 years old; but it was equally brilliant to hear his NME Awards cover of I Fought The Law because basically it was a treat to hear him play anything and everything!

Matt Rhodie

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Payola Review

Payola 1, 2 & 3
The Cribs
Wichita Records

When Payola was announced, it just seemed wrong to me. The Cribs didn’t seem to be the kind of band that would release a cash-in best of – and surely that’s something bands do at the end of their career, right? The cheeky title felt like a winking attempt to sidestep criticism, but in doing so acknowledged they felt criticism was justified and inevitable. But if there’s one thing the Jarman brothers can do, it’s get the fans excited. So instead of a disc of ‘hits’, we’ve got three, which all come together to tell their ten year history.

Payola 1 is the standard collection of singles and favourites, with one unreleased track on the end. They’ve decided not to structure it chronologically, so it feels more like the setlist of an amazing gig rather than an examination of the progress they’ve made over the last decade.

Whilst it feels like a missed opportunity to tell their unique story through the sounds they made, in this case, I think it works. It’s a pop album at its core; great songwriting across the board. The only identifiable changes are in the production; if someone came to this having never heard the band, it would be hard to pin songs to points in their career. Which is an odd way to say that they have consistently produced memorable, catchy songs. Only the very early songs, full of charm and naivety and the more complex arrangements of the Ignore The Ignorant era tracks stand out as something a little different.

It’s nice that this isn’t just a collection of singles; live and band favourite Be Safe, featuring Lee Ranaldo, is in there and the aforementioned newbie is Johnny Marr era outtake Leather Jacket Love Song. Perhaps it is the lack of shine on the production, but it certainly has the feel of the younger days it references, though isn’t quite a classic (excellent video aside).

The exclusion of Martell, Baby Don’t Sweat or even Housewife may be questioned by the hardcore, but the record basically fulfils its role; it tells you all the need to know about The Cribs across 22 tracks.

Payola 2 is a collection of B-sides and rarities that comes with deluxe versions of Payola 1. It is a strong collection of 18 tracks and certainly of interest to someone like me who has the albums but few of the singles. Though not quite in the realms of The Smiths or Radiohead for quality B-Sides, they do sit closer to The Beatles or The Manics – there are a couple of exceptional tracks here, but largely the band made the right choices.

A couple of unexpected sonic sidesteps like Glandular Fever Got The Best Of Me and Don’t Believe In Me sit amongst noisy, scuzzy slabs of Cribs-esqe Indie rock, just with less hooks. The pleasure is in seeing how they sit by the tracks on Payola 1. Advice From A Roving Artist is a blueprint for Be Safe, though in this case, it does stand on it’s own two feet as an essential entry into their canon.

Don’t You Want To Be Relevent? is an absolute gem that shows in 2007 these guys were unstoppable. Better Than Me recorded by our good friends at Greenmount Studios is another highlight and So Hot Now is a blinder – all would have made great A-sides.

Payola 2 does a great thing of making their A-Sides seem even greater, just through virtue of that fact most bands would be pleased to just have Payola 2 in their catalogue. Knowing what they can achieve at their best justifies their decisions here to leave tracks as B-Sides. It’s an interesting lesson.

Payola 3 is a collection of demos that was given away free with NME. The draw was the inclusion of the first three recordings ever made under the title ‘The Cribs’. These are especially sweet, sounding just like the kind of thing you’d hear any band in Wakefield record and as raw as you will ever hear them.

Diclomax Retard naughtily steals from Nirvana’s Even In His Youth for it’s verse and the Grunge / Punk influences are worn proudly on the sleeve. Like Payola 2, it is a great education for a band. How did they go from this, to Another Number and onwards (third track Melmac being the clue) ? It’s a brave thing to lay it all bare here, for everyone to see and hear.

The rest of the collection is not nearly as exciting. It does backup what made Payola 1 so good – at their heart these are just incredibly well written and constructed pop songs. Even here, in demo form they work just as welll. Some collections of this type would end up showing the vital role a producer can have in making a band work and work and work on perfecting their writing, putting the chorus in the right place, placing each hook and melody with precision. This shows they did that themselves, almost from day one.

Even little touches like the rasping hi-hat in Men’s Needs; I had always presumed it was a production touch, but here it is. I’d have liked more outtakes and unreleased stuff, but hey, it’s free, so who am I to complain?

The three records tell a compelling story. And they are an excellent document in showing why The Cribs mattered to so many. The only lingering question is whether there will be anything else to follow it. With all members now performing with other people with varying degrees of seriousness and with this record - a career retrospective no less, not being promoted with a world, or even a proper UK tour, you have to wonder if all that has become a bit tiring, no matter how much they may love it.

But as the year winds on, I expect there will be further, fan friendly nods of appreciation. An arena world tour is not The Cribs way of passing on their thanks. But, if anything, a fan focussed thank you would be more likely to suggest this could be the end.

In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull felt like an attempted return to their roots, but a lot of bands end that way; going back to where it started. Even that Abbey Road style ending, could that be seen as a sign?

Whatever happens, I think we can be sure they’ll never stop creating music. It’s who these three people are, and more than anything across these three records, a passion for creating music that expresses that inescapable need and reason to do something (anything), to celebrate life and be true to yourself is not just evident, it is the lifeblood of every single moment.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Patron Saints Of Lost Causes Review

The Patron Saints Of Lost Causes EP
Buen Chico
Philophobia Music

Like a Bueno (the Kinder-made, similar sounding chocolate bar), Buen Chico have a soft, smooth interior with a nutty undercurrent. Unlike a Bueno, however, Buen Chico are not one of my favourite chocolate bars, but that doesn’t take anything away from their musical prowess. Buenos can’t write pop songs anywhere near as good as Buen Chico’s. One day, when I’ve finally finished writing my memoirs, I might write a thesis on Bueno’s seminal third album of traditional English folk ballads, but for now I’ll refrain from sliding off into mad tangents and review an EP far superior to anything released by a confectionary chocolate bar: Buen Chico’s The Patron Saints of Lost Causes.

Buen Chico have always occupied a nice place for me. Back when I was a promoter of sorts they played one of my early forays into organising stuff. While they have tweaked their sound, sometimes subtly and sometimes obviously, they are still essentially an amiable pop group that have stumbled into a guitar shop and began thrashing through Pixies numbers like they only have their instruments hired out for twenty minutes before the mean shopkeeper takes them back.

During live shows I remember the guitar head always bounced like it was headbanging at a Black Sabbath gig – the instrument thrashed around in a recklessly controlled manner. To me, at least, they always sounded like Belle and Sebastian during an anxiety attack.

Nowadays guitarist and songwriter Morgan Tatchell-Evans twinkles the electronic ivories and Wot Gorilla? man Matthew Haigh has stepped in on strings duty. Elsewhere remain Kirsty Doan (bass) and Alan Kenworth (drums).

The result, as you would expect with an extra member, is a bigger and fuller sound. There is also a more varied array of reference points to be plucked from songs sitting in different mindscapes. There are the usual rudimentary thrash-alongs (The Golden Ones) done in their standard, likeable way, but there are also noises I haven’t associated with Buen Chico before. There is a murkier, almost Velvet Underground-esc, sound to some songs, as if their youthful exuberance has been tamed by the ways of the world, and considering the lyrical content – such as laments upon the shackles of work-life – then this may well be the case. The input of keyboards too, provides further eclecticism.

The stand-out track is This Is Just A Thing That I'm Doing, with its wry words, wiry guitar and well-crafted vocal parts it is a perfect example of what Buen Chico do best, and I would be suspicious of anyone who acted with revulsion upon hearing it, as well as anything else on this EP.

A fine effort indeed.

Your move, Bueno.

Stephen Vigors

Friday, 15 March 2013

Cyclone Review

The Michael Ainsley Band
Philophobia Music

Cyclone is the new album from The Michael Ainsley band which is, as far as I can tell, something of a Wakefield ‘FrankenBand’ formed by Michael Ainsley, who until now has been mainly seen live behind an acoustic guitar, and composed of members of Retarded Fish, Runaround Kids and St Gregory Orange. I had already enjoyed Michael Ainsley’s previous EP, Out Beyond The Blue and I was excited to get into this more substantial release.

Opener, Anne Bonny’s Boat, has a folky groove with a crisp modern edge to it, like a tweed M&M! It also has that instant familiarity, which I always take as a good thing, which tells me the band knows exactly what they’re doing!

Title track Cyclone is darker and more representative of the album as a whole; the lyrics are clever and sound like they are delivered with a wry smile, while the chorus suddenly allows the clouds to open up while the verses quickly throw a wet blanket over it all again to show us that there is a well-disciplined hand at work behind these songs. 

My particular favourite is Happy To Stay, which is worth pre-ordering the album for on its own merit: it is the catchiest thing I have heard in ages and, after just one listen, it had me humming and singing it all day long just itching to hear it again.

Another highlight is Long Distance; a poppy, punky story of love across the miles which I can’t wait to hear live because it has a real spring in its step. It’s short, purposeful and to the point and that could be said of the whole of Cyclone.

Basically, this is the next step for Michael Ainsley, having recorded all the parts himself on his previous recordings he now has a band that allows us to witness things live; they’ve already played Power’s Bar in Kilburn and The Hop over the last couple of months and they supported The Cribs in Preston last month. They have a good number of gigs booked in as they prepare to release the album on the 18th March and you can of course see them at Long Division on 8th June. If that’s too long to wait, why not come along and catch them in Barnsley on Saturday April 13th when they will be playing another LD warm-up show at Rebecca’s on Shambles Street alongside Aztec Doll and The Exhibition. See you there!

Matt Rhodie

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Rites Of Passage: Corporate Festivals and High Street Music Chains.

Music is a passion that develops over the course of your life. You don’t emerge from the womb beat-boxing 5/11ths time to avant-garde free jazz.

Instead there are certain rites of passage, a fact I was reminded of as the Leeds Festival line-up was announced yesterday. To my tired eyes, it appeared predictable, dull and easy. Of the headliners, Biffy Clyro are the weak link; unquestionably ‘huge’, they have yet to transcend to the ubiquitous level of the other two. Evidence? I saw Pointless the other day. They were given as an answer and Xander looked very confused. You can see I am being scientific about this, right?

But Leeds Festival is for the kids. It is a key part of growing up, not just as a person but as a method of expanding your musical taste. The key demographic is the 16 Р21 age bracket, so it makes sense that they start repeating themselves every five or so years. Green Day may seem awfully pass̩, but I have to remember how important Dookie seemed to me when I was 16 and be glad they are up there, getting young music fans excited, as they did for me.

Co-incidentally, the first festival I went to was Leeds Festival in 2001. Eminem headlined, Green Day were second headliners (behind Travis) but best of all, the first band I ever saw at any festival was Biffy Clyro, who opened the Radio 1 stage at midday (those guys have certainly earned that headlining slot the hard way).

We need those big names up there. It’s about more than the music; it’s the truly awful spectre of brand recognition. V Festival have totally given up the ghost and gone for a celebrity pop bill this year. Leeds Festival only ever did the same thing, but for the more ‘alternative’ demographic.

That’s why we’ve seen Marilyn Manson, Axl Rose, Dave Grohl and the rest up there. Because it is exciting to see famous people on a stage when music is this vast, unknown world - before cynicism takes over. Recognised names are also helpful to attract the other key demographic; passive music fans. People that look at the Leeds Festival line-up and say “I’ve heard of Green Day!” But that’s a whole other story.

The important thing is to accept Leeds Festival as an essential part of developing musical minds. We shouldn’t sneer so much. The festival seems to be in rude health, but what if it disappeared? This is what worries me about HMV, another essential rite of passage.

I don’t go to HMV because they don’t have obscure hand numbered Arab Strap Japanese Import 12” vinyls with signed poster inlays. But when I was a kid, when the possibility of starting my own music collection became an exciting possibility, HMV was amazing. Having it on the high street was perfect; whilst mum plodded laboriously round BHS, I could wander the aisles, soaking in the names and genres and covers.

In contrast, I was in Sound It Out Records in Stockton the other week. It’s a great Indie shop with a strong local following, very friendly staff and a wide range of stock. I was flicking through racks of vinyl amongst other shoppers – all male, all thirty plus – when a teenage girl came in. She looked a little scared, or perhaps just daunted by the make shift style of the shop. She asked to hear a record (Doolittle) and then scuttled away without making a purchase.

Was it too big a step for her? I felt the same the first time I went inside a comic book store. I’d feel it now if I went in an antiques shop. There’s no sign outside the door with a man holding his hand at shoulder height saying ‘You must be this much of a music fan to enter” but it sure can feel that way.

Even if independent music shops benefit from the closure of HMV, are they able to adequately fulfil the role it played in the development of young musical minds? And equally, a shunning of or the disappearance of large scale festivals, as far as they sit from our ethics and preferences, could potentially see a chain reaction that removed the smaller, more niche festivals we enjoy. You could even track this idea back to the disappearance of Top Of The Pops, or Smash Hits magazine. Seemingly tacky, but they were such an important potential Trojan horse into young people’s lives.

Streaming sites and free downloads facilitate the consumption of music, but they don’t cultivate a love and appreciation of it. This is our biggest challenge for the future, one that will be much tougher without these ‘first contact’ moments.

Dean Freeman

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Synesthesia Review

The State Of Georgia
Pop Crisis 

The State Of Georgia (aka Georgina Jakubiak) have managed to perform a mini David Bowie esqe come back with this, their second album. Five years ago, around the demise of The Research for whom Georgina sung and played bass, she was often sighted around Wakefield and Leeds with her massive electric piano, and equally huge and beautiful singing voice.

But then she seemed to fade away a little. A few email requests for gigs and Long Division from myself were responded to with the news she was busy with other things, and nothing much seemed to be happening. What a shame, I thought, and had just about decided that I may not hear her again.

Then, just at that very point, I receive a new album through the letterbox. Ok, the surprise wasn’t quite up there with Bowie’s Where Are We Now? but it was a pleasant one all the same.

The big change is that, with a new backing band, this is much louder than before. Most songs are still built around Georgina’s impressive piano playing and smart songwriting, but have been given a massive jolt through an energetic, creative backing and some highly imaginative production.

First single Deaf Dumb & Blind opens the record and realises what seemed to be an unlikely claim on the press release; a Skunk Anansie influence across the record. It’s there in the deep, sub-grunge guitars that populate the chorus and feels like a statement of intent.

The record develops well; third track Earth Angel has some interesting synth and electronic rhythms that bring to mind Bat For Lashes or Bjork at their most accessible.

That album title comes from Georgina’s tendency to see songs and sounds as colours (it’s an actual medical term) and rather than being a faux artistic comment, it actually makes sense as the album moves on. The vocals and piano tie them altogether, but each has its own distinct feel which I feel is partly down to the songwriting, but also down to the use of a strong supporting cast.

The middle of the album is populated by two Ryan Jarman contributions, one on guitar and one on backing vocals. Certain production elements bring to mind one half of the production team’s own band – Middleman. The Beast morphs string samples into some kind of euphoric rave-noise over a thumping four – four bass drum. The record closes with Georgina singing with a backing of harmony singers, and nothing else.

In short, a lot of thought has gone into it. It’s not just ten tracks that happen to sit together on a playlist. There’s a massive, pure talent on display here and whether your love of music is one of technical appreciation or simply a heartfelt, gut instinct, this will certainly leave your heart and your head in a very good place.

And we finally got her for that Long Division appearance too…

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

No Strangers Review

No Strangers
Self Released

No Strangers only formed last year and while I found their self-titled EP consisting of People and End of an Era a little bit ‘easy’ at first in terms of familiar reference points and the influences showing through in their style, I can’t criticise that too much because this is a release that suggests some real potential.

At times the ‘krautrock’ is turned up a little too much, making both tracks quite similar, although at least they appear to have decided what their style is, what their ‘thing’ is. It is not just lazy writing to say that I hope they continue to experiment with this. It is friendly enough on the ears to be an interesting proposition in the future, when they have more material to explore and maybe begin to challenge their limits and their audience a little more. 

Matt Rhodie

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Can You Keep A Secret? Review

The Birthday Kiss
Can You Keep A Secret? / Worth It
Death Party Records

In a recent interview Ben Siddall, instrumentalist and songwriter for The Birthday Kiss, described the band as “a bit of and Indie Supergroup”. Whilst I am sure that he had his tongue pretty securely in his cheek when he said this what cannot be doubted is the pedigree of the band. 

The Birthday Kiss are made up of the aforementioned Ben Siddall, formerly of The Lodger and Sarah Williams former vocalist with The Research. Both bands hailing from sunny West Yorkshire. 

The first track Can You Keep A Secret? runs in at just over three minutes and introduces itself with galloping drums and simple guitar before bursting into life with Sarah’s sweet and timeless voice. The song is beautifully crafted and realised, kicking into a joyous crescendo with the horn-accompanied chorus and a drum roll to die for. 

Worth It carries on in the same vein. A punchy, tight, wonderfully produced and written song with a chorus, carried again, by an exquisite vocal performance and production.   

Both songs are of a type and capture the spirit of those big sounding mid 60’s classics. You know the ones, where a “girl” singer with a pure and powerful voice (think Petula Clark or Sandie Shaw) gives full throat to a well written and crafted song (think Downtown or Always Something There To Remind Me). These songs, however, are far from being 60’s throwbacks. The sound the band produce is reminiscent of that era rather than aping it and both songs are of such quality and the execution so perfect that they comfortably stand on there own merits. 

In the interview referenced above Ben states some of his his current influences as being, Italian Disco, XTC, early House and Kraftwerk. I can’t say that any of these influences are detectable here so maybe these two tracks give a taste of the talent on show rather than indicating The Birthday Kiss’s direction of travel. Either way I will be listening out for their next offering. 

The Birthday Kiss will be playing Wharf Chambers, Leeds on 5th April and I cant wait to see how well they do this stuff live.

Karl Shore

Monday, 4 March 2013

Long Division Warm Up Gigs

As you are surely aware, Long Division was built on the back of Rhubarb Bomb’s long term support of Wakefield bands and a desire to get them heard by more people.

Some raised eyebrows were directed towards our seeming preferential treatment of a particular Wakefield based record label. Whilst I have no problem with declaring that, yes, we have put on a shedload of absolutely awesome Philophobia bands, it did feel like it was the time to spread the net a little wider. Different styles, different sounds, different faces.

So we asked bands based in the WF postcode who hadn’t played our main day before to send us some links and words and picked a selection of them for our warm up gigs, which will take place in March.

The bands were offered the chance for us to charge an entry fee, which would have gone 100% to the artists, but they preferred to make the gigs free. I’m sure there is an article in that decision somewhere, but I’ll come back to it later.

So, instead we have four gigs of four bands over four weeks. And here they are, with at least four of the bands ending up playing the Saturday of Long Division on June 8th. I’m properly looking forward to seeing and hearing some new stuff, I hope you can make it down too.

The Hop, March 8th

 Velvet, March 14th

The Hop, March 21st

Velvet, March 28th

 *Note that the last gig's headliners are actually from Leeds. We are really pleased to have teamed up with Jonny The Firth and Wolfyboy Records for Long Division 2013. They will be curating the stage at Velvet and Witch Hunt are a taste of what they have lined up for June 8th.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Les Revenants Review

Les Revenants
Rock Action Records

Mogwai are a great band to follow. They have a fan pleasing knack of going above and beyond knocking out a studio album every two or three years. Each album / tour cycle is usually accompanied by something a little more unusual; there have been EP collections, rarities / early work compilations, tour only releases, BBC sessions, a live album and two remix records. Following in this tradition, Les Revenants is their second soundtrack, in this case to a French TV series.

Their previous soundtrack Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was surely one of the least likely football background noises ever. There wasn’t a drunken Oi oi oi or crowd singalong moment in the whole thing.

It was also pretty sombre, and at times felt a little incomplete without pictures to accompany it. Les Revenants feels much like an album in its own right.

It has the quiet, sinister feel of their studio work; those tracks that can tend to pass me by on the first few listens, when the ear shatteringly loud riffs are battling for my attention. Here, it is all relatively quiet. I’m tempted to compare to Come On Die Young but it wouldn’t be accurate; although lacking in distortion and white noise, the tracks here don’t force you to tease the hooks out like their excellent second album did.

Because most of the songs are short and are designed to soundtrack a TV show, there is an upfront nature to the song hooks and structures, even if that hook is a mournful cello or (as is often the case) a plodding piano.

But where Zidane… largely washed over, however pleasantly, here we see not only a tighter, more concentrated set, but also a wider range of tricks. The electronic pulse that guides Jaguar is anything but gentle and This Messiah Needs Watching builds like the Mogwai of Scotland’s Shame. In fact, that song is a good indication; closer Wizard Motor begins in similar fashion but they grows into the loudest track on the album, sputtering beats and layered guitars suggesting the band were finally letting themselves go.

But most striking of all is What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?, their version of a traditional arrangement, complete with a group singalong. It reminds me of Arab Strap’s song The Week Never Starts Round Here and is without doubt the jolliest thing they’ve ever done, in its own way.

At fourteen tracks, it is the longest album Mogwai have given us, at least in terms of tracks titles. It suggests, as does the music, that they were genuinely inspired by the project. Though individual songs don’t stand out as much as they do on their best work, it is a highly accomplished album from a band in a very healthy state.

They’ve long abandoned the 15 minute post rock headaches and this is clearly the music they love now. Their last few studio albums have not quite combined the quiet and the loud tracks into a perfect whole; that goal, alongside reducing track lengths to something more user friendly does appear to have been their aim since Mr Beast but by letting the loud side go (probably because they know they won’t have to tour this extensively) they have created something more focussed, artistic and, yes, rather beautiful. Fingers crossed the TV show gets a UK airing.

Dean Freeman