Friday, February 27, 2015

Rock N Roll is alive again! but was it better dead?

Slaves, Live in 2014.
Apologies for the click bait-y title, I know more than anyone that Rock n roll is alive and well and has been for several years. The point is that Royal Blood's performance at the Brits was a testament to the fact that the tides are turning. Royal Blood winning best new band is a sign that the industry has woken up to what the public actually wants to hear, which as it turns out is massive riffs. Thank god they won that award, can you imagine anything quite so emasculating as Jimmy Page walking on stage opening the letter and reading out 'The Winner is One Direction?'
Hastily assembled compilations by major label execs who are as clued up to the true redeeming power of R'NR, as I am to my tax return forms, are already hitting the market. The first wave of post 00's major label RN'R bands is upon us, Headed by the likes of Royal Blood, but also other amazing bands such as Slaves. What I'm worried about is the second wave. Rewind your mind back to 2005, The Strokes had paved the way for a host of amazing new young Rock and Rollers, Libertines, Vines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, DFA 1979... tonnes of amazing stuff. Fast forward to 2007, and bands are being signed for a quick buck, with no real plan or reason, The Pigeon Detectives, Little Man Tate, Hoosiers, Fratellis. This was the era of landfill indie, which gave us loads of indie dance-floor hits, but a lack of artistry. By 2008, the whole thing was nearly over, and teenage kids like me were getting into electro pop and dubstep. Bands such as Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, and The Maccabees, responded by getting cleverer. By making great tunes but also experimenting with their music. These bands paved the way for the current crop of louder, noisier, grittier bands. Peace, Palma Violets, Slaves, Fat Whites, Savages, Eagulls. Bands that felt life affirming, bands you could believe in. Rock n Roll's exile had served it well. Which is why the news that a band of welsh teenagers called Pretty Vicious, have caused a major label bidding war after only playing 8 gigs troubles me. Sure they could be excellent, but if labels are only ever looking for the next Oasis then the bands they sign will only ever be half as good as Oasis. If the majors nurture the next wave of bands the same way that the independents have done for bands such as The Horrors, then we could be in for a new golden age of rock. If they just sign any fucker with a guitar looking for a hit, then welcome landfill indie 2.0.


I have named quite a few bands here, by no means am I claiming that any of these bands are the 'Saviours of Rock N Roll', or slagging any of them off. I am just using them as examples. Just because I'm a big fan of Peace doesn't mean you have to be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beyond B-Town, Vietcong, Album Review.

2035:  A record shop somewhere in Birmingham.
A hipster picks up a copy of a  vynil re-release of Vietcong's fabled 2015 self titled début album.
Hipster: 'Man, I've never heard this album before
Other Hipster: You kidding me dude?
Hipster: I'm into Savages, WU LYF and Eagulls but Vietcong are one the few Post 00's  Post-Post-Punk bands I've not got into.
Other Hipster: You've gotta get that record dude.

That's the creative writing section of the review over. The point is that I really do feel that while now Vietcong are a new, if slowly emerging cult band, In the future they could well become as loved and admired as bands from the past such as Joy Division or Talking Heads are now. Unlike the former Vietcong's Tragedy seems to be behind them, having lost a member of their previous band Women at only 26. The band themselves have already suffered some near-death scrapes on tour themselves. This Début album follows on from the 'Cassette' EP. It's blistering stuff, dense and experimental, yet enjoyable and melodic. Many bands at the moment take inspiration from Post Punk bands such as Joy Division or Gang Of Four, and many bands take inspiration from Krautrock, which produced visionaries such as CAN and Kraftwerk. Yet only Vietcong have managed to pull these influences together, creating something much darker than their peers. There are no 3 minute radio friendly cuts here, the songs are all over 5 minutes long, which allow the band to jam and moments of beauty to emerge from the noise. Strong drum rhythms blare throughout, especially on the militaristic opener. Electronics back up the band on a few of the songs, but only really add to the mood.  The lyrics are dark yet poetic, deliverd by a growling voice, which echoes underneath the layers of instrumentation.
The first set of lyrics from the first song "Writhing violence/essentially without distortion/wired silent/ vanishing into the boredom", should give you an idea of the bands intelligent nihilism, and of how they actually sound like. 
This is an album that requires repeat listens, Songs such as Silhouettes, and Bunker Buster, reveal themselves as stand out tracks the more they're played. Overall 'Vietcong' is not a perfect album, but it possesses a very rare trait in music these days, it is totally unique.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Peace, Happy People: Album Review

The title is a bit of a red herring, few albums open with a statement as poetic or poignant as 'Maybe it's me that's changed or the TV that's changed'... followed by 'The 90's were cool I have no doubt, The 80's were better I've heard all about'. Peace have been blighted by comparisons to 80's and 90's bands since their early demo's. Happy People is full of nods to the past, but the lyrics could only have been written by someone of this generation. Harry Koisser has matured into being the most insecure rock star since Justin Young. Yet there is an intelligence to Happy People that The Vaccines have never managed.
From the start the music feels more low key than 'In Love'. 'O You' is backed by an orchestra, but mostly avoids that 2nd album trap of shoving more instruments on everything.  It has a funky, off kilter feel, that sticks throughout the rest of the record. In the 10 track running time 5 of those songs are total funky bangers, 'Lost on Me'  and 'Money' are both incredibly funky, Yet are countered by the balladry of 'Under The moon' and 'Someday'. The latter of which sounds like one of one of Oasis's more laid back songs. Harry's lyrics about loneliness backed by a slow, slide guitar solo throughout. Half the album's budget was blown on 'World Pleasure', and it's lush orchestration. It's not as immediately lovable as most of their songs. Yet their ability to sound epic and funky at the same time (while rapping) is pretty astounding. In only half an hour, Happy People covers more ideas, sounds, genres, and touchy subjects than some bands do in their entire careers. For all it's nods to the past, Happy People is entirely 2015. A world where 'Bitcoin's pay for beatings' which will resonate with a generation, raised in front of blue lights, though terrorism, health scares, and Tory reigns, in the same way that Definitely Maybe did for the kids of  the 'cool' 90's.


Bonus Tracks
One of the few complaints I have about 'In Love' is that The definitive deluxe version, felt less vital and exciting than the stripped down 10 track one. Happy People avoids this by putting the bonus tracks after the main album. The remaining 8 songs are much weirder than the main album. They cover many styles of music, and are very experimental, yet feel weirdly throwaway next to the main record. Yet 'Flirting USA' and 'Love me' are great songs in their own right, yet maybe not as great as 'Perfect Skin' or 'Gen Strange'. If Peace had recorded a few more, then Happy People could have made a great double LP. The fact that for an extra £2 you get a whole extra albums worth of songs, just goes to show how Peace reward their Fans.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Swim Deep - To My Brother. Single review

yes, that really is the artwork
Remember when the Strokes dropped the first single off  'Comedown Machine? I cannot remember the song or it's title very well. At the time it felt utterly ridiculous, the curveball of 'Angles' was a surprise too, yet I am a big fan of that album, But 'One way Ticket', (I think it was called) was just ludicrous. Yet it worked well within the confines of what was a very disappointing record, and proved to be one of it's highlights. Now Swim Deep have dropped a similar curve-ball.  I must confess that for a while now I've lost interest in Swim Deep, they've been absent from the Birmingham scene for nearly a year now and their Début was a promising, but not exactly mind blowing record. Yet in places it was brilliant.
The first new taster from the new (Title TBC, Date TBC) second album, picks up where the last one left off, All clean production, melodies, and druggy positivity. Yet it's erm, shit. The bands live drums have been replaced by a sort of Andrew Weatherall style drum loop. Austin's vocals are lacklustre and buried way too deep in the mix. There's hardly any guitar, and there seems to be about 5 layers of keyboards. Even in the middle of a 90's revival it sounds dated. Yet underneath all this production,  and beats and stuff is a song that wouldn't wow me  if played on an acoustic, nothing about it lingers in the memory.  In fact I think Swim Deep aren't really a rock band at all any-more. 
Maybe after a few more listens I might love it. Maybe it might work better as part of the album, maybe it's an early mix which might be replaced with something better later on.  I'm going to be right back. I'm gonna take some acid, and listen to it again*.

*Don't do drugs kids. 

On a more positive note, the new Peace album has arrived at my house, expect a full review shortly.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Laws of Music

1. The James Brown paradox: The more attractive, rich and famous a male singer and songwriter is, the more unhappy in relationships he is.
see also, Simon Neil, Drake, David Coverdale

2. Julian's Law: The better a band's first album is, the more likely the rest will suffer by comparison: E.g. The Strokes, Nas, Franz Ferdinand, Oasis

3. The Abuse Law: However badly a woman is treated in relationships, and in general life, the more critical acclaim will follow her work. E.G. Etta James, Sharon Van Etten, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin.

4. The Paedo Law: A famous musician can get away with almost anything except child abuse. In which case he (or she) can kiss their career goodbye. E.g. Ian Watkins, Gary Glitter, Michael Jackson.

5. The Difficult album: No matter how many albums an artist releases, at least one of them has to be either total shite, or not appeal to the bands fans. E.G. R.E.M, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes,

6. The Filler Law: The longer a wait between albums the higher chance there is of rubbish live albums, remix ep's, rarities compilations, greatest hits, singles comps etc  being released. E.G. Nine Inch Nails, Muse,

7. The Morbid Inevitability: If a musician dies young, fanfare will follow, and every single diary extract, demo, doodle or painting will be released  to the public, regardless of the moral aspects. E.G. The Notorious B.I.G, John Lennon, Nirvana, Joy Division, Jeff Buckley, 2pac

8. The Inevitable Spilt law: The more famous a musical couple the less likely it will be they can keep it together: E.G Michael Stipe & Courtney Love (Yes they actually dated), Jack and Meg White (not siblings, once married), Thurston Moore & Kim Gordon (from Sonic Youth)

9. Bono's Law: If a Rock Star uses their fame for a good cause people will hate them for it. E.G. Bono, Sting. Notable exceptions: Win Butler, Adam Yaunch

10. The curse of electronica: Electronic music can be dated back to the late 1960's (some say 1920's). Yet people will always see it as a new thing. Idiots who've never heard of Silver Apples think Skrillex invented Dubstep and is doing something new, and yet more idiots will assume that because these artists don't use traditional instruments by trade, that they're untalented. E.g. Early psych - 60's-70's, krautrock/prog rock - 70's, electro pop - 80's, Acid House - 80's-90's, EDM - 00's - Current.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Peace at the Institute (what happened next)

Normally I don't tend to write about what happens if I go out after gigs because I might write something I'm not supposed too, or it might just not be interesting enough to share. But on this occasion I think it's worth writing about, because I forgot the names of everyone I met, and Hot Wax could probably use the publicity. After the gig I went and got food, took a selfie and headed down to The Sunflower Lounge, I said hi to Connor Hemming, who thankfully didn't want to punch me after that live review I gave him.   From there me and my friends got a taxi (which I still think was a waste of money) and queued for the Hot Wax DJ Set, things were promising at first as some great tunes were being played,  including a bit of Parquet Courts and oldies, such as CSS, Strokes, etc etc.
After seeing the painfully self concious hipsters around me, including some dick-head dancing by himself in the corner dressed in a white poncho and some sort of Native American headdress. I decided that whether my friends would abandon me or not (they did, although  guess I left them) I wouldn't give a fuck what people though of me. So once Harry and Dom from Peace took to the decks and played 'Uptown Funk' for the 5th time I decided to take my dancing up a notch. I attracted plenty of attention  from people trying to keep a very wide berth around me. Yet there was one man who saw me differently, one man who saw me as a challenge. Nearly a foot taller than me, decked out in a black leather jacket, with a fuzzy beard and fuzzier man-bun that somehow didn't make him look like an idiot. We competitively threw shapes at each other for nearly half an hour, by the end of which I was completely exhausted. I joined him and his friend for a fag (I don't smoke) and he told me that he was a professional dancer until he had an accident some years back and that he was impressed that I managed to kick his ass in a dance-off.
He then asked me if I wanted to come back to his, and the moment he realised I'm not gay, was rather disappointed when I said no. and I started trying to get with his friend, which annoyed him more. anyway turns out he was sort of going out with her anyway. I'm not sure what was going on with them really. They asked me too look after a friend of theirs, who I felt no chemistry with at all, and I ended up losing her. By this point my other friends had all gone off.
Good night though, and props to Peace for playing great tunes all night.