Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Stacks. Live at the Wagon and Horses, 26/7/14 Review

It wasn't long after Soldier had left the stage that The Stacks had  come on. The sun had gone down and the garden of the Wagon and Horses was packed. there was a  guy peeping over the fence next  door to take a look at the action and a young boy, clearly very excited to see the bands ahead. I had never heard of The Stacks before this show. It was quite a surprise going from the no nonsense rock n roll of Soldier to the Bratty punk rock of The Stacks. And it took me a little time to warm to them. The crowd absolutely loved them though. The energy coming off them is incredible. It was hard to deny that it was a great show. Despite splitting  a string on the first song and having to borrow a guitar from The Rebels the show went brilliantly. The three guys on guitar bass and Vocals were right at the edge of the stage the whole time, facing the audience, and putting as much energy into the show as they could.  While this is definitely music suited to a party, there does seem to be a slight political leaning to one or two of the songs. Especially the finishing song 'All the Ugly People' I was chatting to their drummer afterwards and he was telling me about how, without wanting to put too fine a point on it he felt that our generation hasn't really achieved much. It can't be defined in the same way the the generation of the 60's can, and the the songs do seem to reflect this. That song in particular has a great chorus which all the crowd could sing along too. The Stacks play Punk-Pop the way it should be played.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Soldier. Live at the Wagon and Horses, 26/7/14 Review.

One of my very first blogs was about Soldier, in fact thety were a great influence  on the B-Town Blog, After seeing the hype around Peace and the like thinking back to seeing Soldier support MONA the year before made me think about the bands I knew of that were not getting the same hype. Now, Two years later Soldier are back but with a few changes. Staying true to their name the band have persevered, while 2013 should have been a breakout year for them, they seemed to hit a few setbacks. I was a little sad at first to hear that  their old singer had left the band. After all he was my Aunts, Boyfriends, mate as well as being a nice guy and a great front man. Happily though the new guy is every bit as good, with a bit less playing at being a rock star and more of a down to earth presence on stage. He comes across as a bit tougher, more Liam Fray than Liam Gallagher if you get what I mean.
The old songs all sound as brilliant as ever, with 'We Love you' and broken Bones proving highlights.
Soldier stand out a lot amongst the B-Town types, they are great musicians, the guy on guitar in particular. unlike the B-town bands their music is more in the vein of Oasis than Wavves. This is music for the 9-5ers rather than the students.  Unfortunately for them there was a  bit of a gap between the stage and the audience, in fact they thanked me for standing at the front. I'm sure everyone else who was there will agree with me that this was a great set. And I'm happy that a band I've always had high hopes for are still brilliant

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Rumblestrutters. (Live at New Street Station)
The one thing about Birmingham that I love  is that you never really know what you might find around the corner. After a long day at work in New Street train station I walked around the corner and found three guys playing rootsy folk music. It turns out that they were called The Rumblestrutters and were playing as part  of the (30th) Birmingham international Jazz and Blues Festival. They're from south Wales, they've been performing together for little over a year.  these three played a bit of both Jazz and blues, choosing mostly songs from the early 20th century era of blues. including covers of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and various more obscure jazz and, Jug and blues bands from the time. Their instruments included a jug to blow in, Guitar, Ukelele, Kazoo, washboard  and harmonica, which made for some brilliant railroad inspired rhythms. which they felt was fitting considering the location.
The show lasted nearly two hours and me and many other people in the station sat down to watch it all. Despite that rather downbeat nature  of the songs they were playing, The Rumblestrutters made a fun and and engaging performance, whether that be from discussing  the history of the genres they played or the stories behind the songs themselves. Other highlights included a kazoo solo.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and the mood was nice and laid back. it was worth missing a bus or two for this.  If I can get myself out of bed early enough I might check out The Rascals of rhythm tomorrow at 12:30 in the Mailbox 

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Kalidoscopes, Angry Lennox, The Scribers (Live at Talk)

Hello again! First of all an apology. I'd like to apologise to my readers  and the bands in these two blogs, seeing as it has been a good week or so since I've posted about an actual band, mainly because of work, my holiday and other stuff I wanted to write about.

So let me rack my brains and go waaayy back too... Saturday the 28th of June. Where I caught a Killr Punx gig at Talk night club in Birmingham.

Due to Garden -a new band made up of ex-members of local groups such as Wide Eyed, and Heavy Waves- pulling out. The first band I got to see was The Kaleidoscopes, now slimmed down to a three piece including two guitarists. Last time I saw them they were a bit weedy, but they've changed a lot. their psychedelic sounds are now a fuck load louder, as the two guitarists take turns to make deafening noises.  I can't say much considering I was only there for 5 minutes but it sounds like these guys are improving.

Angry Lennox were on next and sadly they are not as good as their brilliant name. From what I remember, they were a three piece, a little bit older than most of the kids in these B-Town bands. they hail from Wolverhampton and cite Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr as influences. I remember them being a pretty straightforward, and very loud rock band, but maybe a little lacking in X Factor, I liked them but didn't love them.

The Scribers seem to have been going for a while now, back when I first started researching the scene theirs was one of the names that first started to come up. there seems to be a little bit of a misconception about this band though, they are definitely not indie band, they are punk rock pure and simple. or maybe not, due to the bass and echo coming from the guitarists pedals, I was getting a real dub/reggae vibe, which reminded me of Public Image Limited. as the pictures show (this was the only band I bothered to take any of) it was all pretty intense, with the singer screaming his lungs out. I'm not quite sure what happened towards the end but the band seem to have had some kind of technical difficulties, the guy playing guitar seemed a bit angry about something, though it all sounded ok to me. 
Despite the sets anticlimax I really enjoyed this band. 

Next up: Part two, including Enquiry, Platypus Baby and Swerve.

Friday, July 4, 2014

An Open Letter to George Ergatoudis.

Dear George

Are you a fan of The Stone Roses?

I wasn't until recently. My dad owns a best of album of theirs and like it says on the case it is 'The Best Of' The Stone Roses. I didn't get it, I felt the songs were great but the whole CD itself was a bit bland, a bit of a slog to get through. The other day though I bought a copy of this seminal d├ębut album. I suddenly understood the hype, it's not just the hits on that record, every song is pretty much perfect. As a whole the album still bursts with the same youthfulness, the politics, the drugs, and the sense of the band as underdogs triumphing over a scene that initially didn't care.
Ever since Linkin Park's Hybrid theory changed my whole perception of music I have been buying albums, and  even though only a handful of those records have really impacted my life, albums like 'The Suburbs' Unknown Pleasures' or ...entroducing. These are complete statements, music is art. You don't just mash up all of Leonardo Da Vinci's Artworks onto one canvas to save time, you take the time to appreciate each one.
What people don't realise about truly great albums is they take time to become Truly great albums. Pet Sounds, 36 Chambers, The Velvet underground And Nico, these records took time to find their audiences but the people who discover them year after year after year will treasure them. You can quote all the statistics you like, but music is art, and as long as great art and great music is being made, people will want to hear the album, because the album is a complete statement. I don't want my music to just be files I have on a screen, I want to something I can own, that I can touch, not just something I'm borrowing from a site.
Beyond the press, the hipsters and the live shows (no matter how great they are), albums are the benchmark that new bands rely on. Take Viva Brother, it all seemed to be going so well for them but the album was crap, palma violets for a while looked like they were similar, a mediocre band riding a wave of hype. but the release of 180, is the reason why people still care about them. 
The Vaccines for instance have never had a top 10 single, but they have had two Number 1 albums, this is because the fans wanted to hear the albums, they waited for them and bought them rather than just cherry picking the favourites.
see how fans react when their favourite band announces a new record. Or how in Hip Hop, beyond free mix-tapes albums are becoming an essential source of income for new acts. Last year both Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery proved that even in electronic music, the album can still be an artistic statement.
I really couldn't care what the statistics say, although the rise of independent shops and HMV's reporting that this year their physical sales have risen by 12 per cent.

Anyway none of this matters, you are the boss of Radio 1 not the music industry itself. So what I will say is this. Rock and Roll, is not 4 pretty boys playing guitars. Go back to the start and watch Jerry Lee Lewis, or Little Richard (both famous pianists). They laid the groundwork for Rock N Roll. They showed that it is dangerous, it is about sex, it's about rebellion and youth energy. Rock n Roll should hit like a punch. Sure, good stuff gets played on your station, but nothing vital, The 1975, Bastille, Imagine Dragons, this is not rock n roll music, anyone who thinks so just knows fuck all about music.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beyond B-Town: Death Grips have split
Do you remember where you were when you first heard Kennedy was shot? or the events of 11/9/01?
I do (the second one anyway).
I also remember where I was when I first heard Death Grips. It was 2011 (I think) I was unemployed at the time and after having spent a disappointing day browsing the web for vacancies, took a look at an NME blog post and recognised the cover of Ex-military above the stream. It's one of those album covers that is destined to be iconic, a picture of the groups main MC which with it's worn out creases has a timeless look about it.
Ex-Military begins with the sound of Charles Manson ranting, and builds up the tension slowly throughout 'Guillotine'.  It's not Rap music as such, nor is it Hip-Hop or Electronica, while the music still sounds futuristic 3 years later the use of samples gives the record a timelessness. Of course what really stands out is how extreme it is, I truly believe that no one out there has ever made a record as   heavy as anything in Death Grips back catalogue. They put all those death metal bands in the shade.
 I have only seen a handful of photographs of MC Ride but in each one he looks absolutely terrifying. he exudes danger and menace. His lyrics are violent and the delivery is more ranting than rapping. Throughout the EX-Military album the range of styles and invention is truly awe-inspiring. its a record that is destined to be a classic.  Yet the problem is that the whole music of Death Grips is pretty much the same as pornography, shocking at first, but with repeated exposure it becomes little short of ridiculous.
The rather petty fall out with their label, (publicity stunt or not) has clearly contributed to the demise of the group. I've not heard much of the first record they put out while signed but No Love Deep Web was awesome, seeing the band ditch the vague hip hop style for stripped out, uncompromising electronica. the title tracks were obvious highlights of the mix, it kept me entertained for a while, but by the time 'Government plates' got it's release last year I found it hard to stay too bothered. Its a strange thing to say about such an eclectic group  but I knew what to expect. This years 'Niggas on the moon' mixtape is part one of a double album, with each track featuring Bjork's Sampled Vocals.

Overall I'm not sad that Death Grips have split up, in less than 5 years they have released 6 albums, somehow got signed to a major and fought the power by telling them to fuck off. They have made their drummers penis famous, and have now wasted the opportunity of a lifetime by pulling out of a NIN / Soundgarden tour. I'd imagine that a lack of money, from  releasing all the songs for free is partly to blame. I reckon they'll all go onto other successes. If you have not heard their music yet though, then now is the time it download some of those albums. Because there will never be a band quite like Death Grips again.