Thursday, January 29, 2015

Peace, Live at the Institiute (24/1/15)

The 24th of January was (only) the 4th time that I'd seem Peace so far and the first time I'd seen them (amazingly) in over a year. Each time I've seen them. They've gained confidence and been better than the time before.  What was really noticeable is that Harry Koisser has undergone a Marc Bolan style transformation. Sporting a natty brown fur coat, an earring and half arsed blonde highlights. He's now more badass, more rock n roll. Life on the road and outside of Birmingham has made him much cooler. The lyrics and tone of the songs have changed ever so slightly, while the songs on 'In Love' were about love and youthful optimism, the songs off the upcoming 'Happy People' are slightly darker. 'I'm a Girl' is about gender politics, and there was a slower Ballard about loneliness which felt ironic to me, being surrounded by teenagers making out. Older newbies such as 'Lost on me' and 'Money' are already fan favourites, the albums not even out yet but everyone went mad for those songs, and knew all of the words. Peace are every bit as much fun as they ever have been. 1998 was the high point for me, words cannot describe the joy of hearing that song live. This time it was performed with no gimmicks, no confetti or double neck Gibson's.  The song itself was enough.
As usual banter was kept to a minimum, With Harry occasionally explaining what the songs are about  and whether we were all having a great Friday night, before realising it was Saturday.

The crowd were in a party mood well before Peace had even come on stage, and by starting the set with 'higher than the sun, and follow baby, the crowd instantly became a moving, sweating, clothed orgy, of kids, crushing each other, and pushing forward. If this had been done in the Temple rooms, someone might have died. I lost my shoe at one point, and found my filthy van on some guys foot, having lost his Chelsea boot. before I'd found my disgusting filthy shoe though Peace had a few more songs to play. After cooling us down with the slower 'Sugarstone' they finished with 'Wraith', one of the funkiest songs they've got. Then just left, as the guitar feedback made a repetitive bleeping noise for a few minutes. Once people had cooled down the inevitable cries for an encore had started. AS if they were ever going to leave us there. The encore mixed new tracks 'Someday' and 'I'm a Girl' and 'Lovesick' which the crowd loved. Harry informed us that they'd be doing a DJ Set later, and that we were all welcome if we wanted to hear 'Uptown Funk' played 15 times. I'll tell you about that later.  

B-Town Rating 9.2/10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beyond B-Town: Why I love R.E.M (and you should too)

I'm aware of the fact that R.E.M were far from the worlds coolest band, who after 1996's 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' fell victim to the law of diminishing returns. Yet in the near 4 years since they spilt. I feel that it's time R.E.M gained the acclaim which other 80's bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain (who I cannot stand) or The Smiths, are still awarded. Sure, even with his long flowing locks of hair, Michael Stipe wasn't as pretty as the young Morrissey and his nasal voice may annoy some (as nasal singers go, no one beats Liam Gallagher).
Yet there is a bravery and honesty to R.E.M that set them far apart from their peers. Check out their début British TV performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Stipe and the band going accapella on a cover of 'Moon River', as just their voices fill the tiny BBC studio, That took balls, and then launching straight into 'Pretty Persuasion' (you can watch the latter below, Skip to 0.35).
The album that defines R.E.M as one of the greats in my mind, is 1988's 'Green' which captures a perfect balance between upbeat, yet political pop songs such as the awesome Vietnam War anthem 'Orange Crush' to 'Get up' (which is simply about getting up in the morning).
Yet it is the ballads that are the true classics. 'You are the Everything is one of the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard. 'The Wrong Child' gets me every-time, I am moved by this sad tale every time I hear it.
Musically R.E.M were hugely diverse on those first 6 albums, blending blues, folk, country, funk, and later on even Hip Hop. They could play Mandarins, Accordions, Pianos and add them effortlessly into their sound. I even love Shiny Happy People, which while infuriatingly catchy, is still a bloody brilliant song. Later they went all mopey, and in the process sold millions of records, but before Stipe went bald he left a treasure trove of great albums to hear. And I bet that The National, Mac Demarco, Parquet Courts, Merchandise, and all those other American bands that claim to love Pavement, secretly love R.E.M.

 * I really hate that word

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Connor Hemming, Pink Violence: Live at the Flapper (9/1/15)

Connor Hemming

'You have got to give me a good review now because I've seen your dancing' is what Connor Hemming said to me by the bar in Reflex club Birmingham, at around 12:30ish AM.  Rewind a few hours before and Connor's set was one of the most memorable I have seen in some time. Right now many people are amazed by the technical wizardry of Royal Blood's Jim Kerr, and his abilty to make the noise of 10 electric guitars out of one bass. Similar is Connor Hemming's ability to conjure an incredibly unhinged noise out of his acoustic guitar, filling the small venue with a barely coherent mess of punk rock noise. He managed this with no rhythm section, no drums or bass, just an acoustic guitar and two pedals. When those pedals started malfunctioning it only added to the awesomeness* of it all. His own songs were barely coherent enough to review, sort of half political folk troubadour, half punk rock hero. After a bit he asked if anyone liked Beck, cue cheers from the audience and swore, cos then he'd have to do the cover. He murdered** 'Loser' and also claimed that Peace are 'wank, although unsurprisingly, he loves Fat White Family***
Later on I asked him what he's so angry about, and even he doesn't seem so sure. Whatever he's so angry about though, made him a photographers dream, and I feel that anger has been captured in my pics. Afterwards I got the impression that he wasn't too happy with the show, but Connor at his worst is a lot more fun than most bands at their best.

 B-Town Rating 6.8/10

* I typed rawness, and awesomeness came up on the spell-check, I felt that was an improvement on what I meant to write.
** His words.
***Who doesn't?

Pink Violence

By now I've seen Pink Violence a couple of times, the biggest surprise this time was that he'd bought two keyboards to use alongside his laptop. Though he barely used either of them. His new look is going anonymous, hidden under a large parka. Though his sound is the usual mix of Crystal Castles samples, hip hop bass and ethereal witchouse, all blended together to make an engrossing listen.
He finished the set by playing the Eastenders theme tune, walking out through a door on the side of the stage, and not reappearing for 10 minutes. As it was his birthday, me, him, Connor and Cassie all went clubbing. That's another story though.

B-Town Rating 6.4/10

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Chalet Lines, Cassie Graves: Live at the Flapper (9/1/15)

I hope I'm not the only one that finds the Flapper ridiculously hard to find, by the edge of a canal, sort of opposite the NIA. Finding it proved to be a maze of, locked gates, walls and tower blocks.  It's a nice pub though, and the nights free entertainment was provided by Chalet lines, Cassie Graves, Connor Hemming and Pink Violence.

Chalet Lines

The man who was this night known as Chalet Lines  makes 'insomnia pop'. Very mellow relaxed songs, that are just him and his lovely voice.  Even by the standards set by lazy mellow indie songwriters Chalet lines is lazy, openly admitting that his recordings so far, on the 'You don't win friends with sadness' EP are of bad quality and that he needs to write more songs. His songs appear to be inspired  by 'bad sleeping patterns, girls' and his interests are 'falling asleep on the bus + riding the bus + the bus service'. Despite the obvious piss taking Chalet lines slacker pop is enjoyable, He did a cracking cover of Pixies 'Where's my mind?' and got the night off to a decent start. What is really impressive though, is that it finally occurred to me that I had seen him play before, screaming and shouting in the incredibly noisy, grunge/punk band Enquiry. These two musical projects of his are the exact opposite in almost every single way.

B-Town rating 5.2/10

Cassie Graves

Cassie Graves is sassy, sexy and soulful. She's a singer songwriter from London, who takes inspiration from Amy Winehouse, and paid tribute to her in a song written by a friend of hers, unfortunately she had to stop the song half way through as she forgot all the words to it. She coped with this well though, just getting on with the next song. She was backed by a guitarist, who impressively, she had only met that morning. Luckily for him her songs were simple, yet it was the power of her voice that really shone through. Overall it was a set that I really enjoyed, but I think she has made more of an impression on me as a person, than as a singer/songwriter.

B-Town rating 7.2/10

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bands to Watch in 2015 (part two)

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Psychedelic rock didn't quite blow up in 2014 as I predicted, it just carried on slowly growing. With the news that both Pond and Tame Impala are releasing albums in 2015. Psych could finally make the breakthrough it's threatened to over the past few years. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizzard are another amazing Australian band, who release two albums a year on average. The last of which, 'I'm in Your Mind Fuzz' came out in December, their first for UK label Heavenly. If these guys can put out another two in 2015 and a UK tour then cult success will surely be theirs. So everything they've put out has been brilliant.  KG+LW are far more fun than the moping of Tame Impala, their songs all sound as if they are melting into your ears, and they're essential listening for any fans of psychedelic rock

Two Birds, One Stone Later cover artI was curious to see what else was on the Clue records label, when I came across the brilliant début album from Narcs, 'Two Birds, One Stone Later'. It's by no means a perfect record (in fact it's the imperfections that make it such an exciting listen) but it contains a handful of amazing songs, from the epic closer, 'Tall Grass' to riffy monsters such as 'Collisions'. Overall their sound is not quite grunge, not really indie. Imagine Placebo, but a lot heavier, and stripped of all their clean production and radio friendliness, and that may give you an idea. The 'Two Birds..' LP may have been released in 2013, but they released plenty of stuff in 2014, and I'm hoping that they can follow their label mates ALLUSONDRUGS success by gigging, and putting out an amazing second LP in 2015.


Look back through the blogs I've written before and Duke will be the band  that comes up the most, I've followed them from their humble beginnings, playing open mic's at my local pub, joined them on a trip to London last year and seen them gain more support, as they carry on gigging. 2015 may be the year they start to break through, as I have a hunch that if they play their cards right they may get signed. If you're a fan of Ocean Colour Scene and Oasis, or simply prefer good songs to cool trends, then Duke could be your new favourite band.

Ancient Voices

Brummie Hip Hop duo, Ancient Voices, impressed me with their demo tape last year. A completely unique take on hip hop, melodic but gritty, and grimy without being grime, the name is apt, as Maseo Kham's slow deep raps sound a thousand years old. Backed by production that reminds me of the dirty, scratchy quality of early Wu Tang Clan. So far Ancient Voices have nothing like the success they deserve. Their Facebook has under 50 likes, which is bewildering when the music being made is of this quality.

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens are already very successful in their native France, yet in the UK they are sadly almost unknown. This is a shame because pop music of this quality is hard to find at the moment. Not far off from Florence and the Machine or Lorde, Christine and the Queens make beautifully subtle electronica, which is much more lively than the 'London Grammar-eqsue stuff that gets hyped over here. Christine sings in a lovely French tongue which compliments her music perfectly. In fact while you're checking out her stuff, listen to Francois and The Atlas Mountains, another very underrated French group.

Birmingham Round Up

Don't think that I've turned my back on B-town just because  I've included French pop music on this list. I'm currently loving the Superfood album from last year, 'Don't Say That'. Which is far better than I ever thought the band could be. I'm frankly annoyed at myself for not having seen them properly live yet (I'm not counting the time I saw them support Peace). I want to make amends for this in the coming months. Swerve and Curb have both put on blinding sets in Birmingham last year, the former are grungey and raw, the latter are very funky, and britpop-eqsue. I will continue to support them both in 2015. EKKAH and Juice, both have a lot of buzz right now, I've not written about them as i've not seen them yet, but I will be seeing juice support Peace on the 24th. I still have high hopes for the electronic noise of Pink Violence, SWOOPENTHEENG, and The Grapham Water Sailing Club and there is a fantastic blues rock band called Vault of Eagles, who I saw in December and loved.

Other great bands I forgot to mention
Little Death Machine, ANiMA, Fizzy Blood, Only Shadows, The Mighty Young, The Kaleidoscopes, The Vectors, The Stacks, Ghosts of Dead Airplanes, Ratel, Soldier, The Mourning Suns, Marshmallow Palace, Alex Moir, Why? Said The Moon To Earth, Women, A Werewolf, Deaf Inspector, The Coal Porters, Milk Teeth. 

Overall I have no idea whether the bands in these two blogs will break through, regular readers of my blog (if I have any) will know that I've buzzed about all these bands all last year. It's not about success, or who I think will be successful, it's about who made my 2014, and therefore deserves to make your 2015, in some sweaty dive on a week-night, see you there.

Picture credits

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bands to watch in 2015 (Part 1)

Billed on the BBC sound of 2015 list but a sure way to lose your bet. They won't win, a teenager who makes beats on his laptop, or a 'soulful' folk singer will.  It's a shame but that's just the way things are. SLAVES are totally ace though, they have made punk rock fun again without sacrificing any of the passion, rawness and honesty that makes punk rock great. They're sarcastic as hell, and funny as fuck as their borderline misogynistic lyrics show, 'How's Amelia? IS SHE STILL UGLY!!' or the even better GIRL FIGHT! GIRL FIGHT! make me lose my appetite! (the song is 15 seconds in it's entirety). They are also amazing live, and need to be seen before they become huge.

Of all the bands I've encountered, ALLUSONDRUGS are one of the hardest working, they've gigged all year in a tiny white van making money off their frankly awesome t shirt designs. Currently based on tiny independent label Clue records, Their music is every bit as inspiring as their work ethic. Fitting into their own little niche as Northern England's very own mini-Nirvana, their music is loud, grungy but full of dry northern humour and lyrics about anxiety. When I saw them headline TALK in 2014 their set was awe-inspiring, they put energy worthy of Wembley into tiny shit boxes across the country. Perhaps more than any other band ALLUSONDRUGS deserve to make it in 2015. check out their song 'Nervous', and their label mates Narcs, and Forever Cult when your at it.

Remember Poppy And The Jezebels? Poppy Twist now stands up and plays drums in Table Scraps.  Whose output so far consists of a cassette tape and a vynil of the new single 'Bug'. They play the sort of two chord rock n roll that makes the The White Stripes seem rather complicated, and twee in comparison. Their singer shouts throughout their sets, so much that in between song he's still deeply breathing, as he regains composure. Table Scraps are amazing live, and the rawness of those performances, can be heard on record. if you like your rock n roll noisy and raw then you'll love Table Scraps.

Having been going for 5 years give or take, and surviving the loss of two members, including their bassist who has had to recover from a car accident, God Damn are finally starting to break through. They've been tipped by NME, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, and Brumnotes. A sure sign that they've got enough crossover appeal to make them a big deal. But no column inches accurately describe the sheer joy of a God Damn gig. Those who've seen them come away with massive grins, permanent tinnitus and a compulsion to talk about them as much as possible, I've only seen them twice, yet I've come across people who've seen them up to 25 times. If Lemmy decides to retire (like that's ever gonna happen), then God Damn will be Motorhead's worthy successors.

My relationship with BWR started in late 2013, as they'd read my blogs and wanted me to write about them. I went along to see them, loved it, and almost a year later saw them again, they remembered me and shared their beers with me. as well as being some of the most hospitable people I've ever met. They're in a class of their own when it comes to Birmingham bands, they're fantastic musicians. Their confidence, and songs evoke Oasis at their peak  yet there is a solid blues heart at their core. Danny Core's got a genuinely soulful voice, with a King of Leon-ish tone to it. BWR's no nonsense rock n roll played with heart 'n soul, has won them a loyal fanbase in Birmingham, and Germany too for some reason.

On the face of it 'zeeebra fucking katz' is not too different to any other rapper. He's Black, Handsome, collaborates with dance producers and raps about drugs, expensive champagne and bitches. This is where the similarities end. ZK is smarter than his peers, his music is dark, a world of sophisticated debauchery that's far more Chanel than Gucci, more Vogue than Cosmo. I saw him support Azealia Banks in 2012 and his show is hyper-sexualised, he spent most of it veryically dry humping his cohort, Njena Redd Fox. His 'Champange' mixtape from 2012 is hard to find but worth it. Yet it's his flirtations with house music from 2014, such as '1 bad Bitch' and Tear the House up' that are among the most exciting dance tracks since '212', if he puts out more like it, and an album, stardom could be his for the taking.

* pic nabbed from

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Paradise Forum Birmingham. Big changes due to happen

Watch the video below. If you cannot be bothered to watch a 5 minute video let me try to explain it to you. As you may already know as a brummie (or anyone with even the vaguest of ideas about Birmingham), our city was bombed to shit in the second World War, The Nazi's caused a lot of damage. Yet the damage their meagre bombs caused, did not last quite as long as the eyesores that the architects of the 60's and 70's erected in the place of our lost buildings. The old and frankly hideous Bullring has now been replaced by the 'Armadillo' which still looks as good as it did in 2003. The old New Street station is being replaced by an equally hideous new one, and the old gargoyle of a library has been replaced by a beautiful one down by the ICC. There will be traffic problems caused by this new development which will start when the regeneration starts tomorrow, and will not end for a few years. If you want to find out more about this I suggest you stop reading a music blog and find an actual news website
On the plus side the new buildings are a tad more attractive than the ones that were in their place, and the Town Hall and BM&AG will remain intact (thank GOD!). Although Brummies will moan regardless. Its the usual stuff, shop's restaurants, flats. The alternative culture as always will be in Digbeth, where the rents are low (although on another note Primark is planning to buy and redevelop  the area the old HMV used to be, they say that vintage shops might open in that area).  While we mourn Subside and the (old) Snobs, this new rather small area will gain the redevelopment it has always needed. Birmingham is a world class city, it's time it looked like one.

If you do watch the video out it on mute, and open Swim Deep's 'King City' which is much more fitting