Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ozzy Osbourne unveils tram named after him.

Earlier today in an event that could only ever happen in Birmingham I saw Songwriter, Singer, Musician, Actor, Author, Agony aunt and Rock Legend  John 'Ozzy' Osborne unveil a tram named after himself. Personally I would have gone for 'TrammyMcTramFace'  but I guess like those bastards who named the boat They wanted something a bit more formal. Though there will probably be a few more of these trams, so I hope that in the future I will also be able to board 'Tony', 'Bill', 'Geezer' or even Jeff Lynne to my rare visits to Coventry or Wolverhampton. Despite getting there exactly on time at 11am this morning Corpration Street was totally packed out. With a multicultural mix of photographers, hardcore fans and the general public to give Ozzy a cheer. Some important bloke who was in charge of making these trams made several announcements that 'One of Birmingham's favourite sons and Cultural exports was on his way. I think he did also refer to him as 'The Prince  of Darkness' but I got the impression that none of the tram authority were big Heavy Metal fans. Ozzy walked though the crowd to huge applause (despite not actually doing anything) as onlookers from every angle (even those looking through shop windows) cheered him on. There was a short interview where Ozzy was asked if there was any chance of a new album which Ozzy denied, and whether 'The End' tour would really be 'The End' which Ozzy confirmed. Both of which Sabbath fans already know. To be honest I couldn't understand a word Ozzy said. It might have been a dodgy mic, but all I heard was a low murmur. I could barely see him through the mob (rule)* of photographers, nor did I get to see him when he sat on the tram as it made it' short journey to New Street Station. The whole event was short and not many fans got to meet him. There was also an appearance from some other local celebrities - some DJ's from Free Radio (who got to take a selfie with him). Though (as my music taste isn't total shit) I had no idea who they were.

* Yes, I know Dio sang that one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crime and Punishmemnt 2011 - Null Ep Review

Null. - EP cover art
Right from the start 'Paralysed' leaps into action with deep bass, trap style beats and dark synths. Dan opens the tune with fast bars and some his darkest bars to date. CPK's last EP began with the faintly comedic 'House of Pain'. CPK have admitted to hating that song and paralysed is an obvious step in another direction. As usual Joey Sniper screams out the hook* while Dan and Glitch share bars which blatantly talk of mental health problems. Dan raps about how life is a bitch and he fucked it, suicide and 'dancing with Satan'. This darkness is balanced by some of the best beats Jason PV has produced to date. Paralysed may be a pretty depressing tune but it's surprisingly catchy. It could easily be rapped over by Desiigner or Future.
'Null' carries on in a similar vein, with more trap style beats but also some samples of traditional Indian music. Dan raps of burning down schools and how he's 'living in a porno because everyone gets fucked in my movie'. There's a very short guest verse from their mate Damian Hughes, which doesn't change the vibe at all. Much of the song feels very sparse with the backing track and verses both being given time to breath. It doesn't seem as rushed as a lot of modern day rap. 
The lead single from this EP is 'Rucksack'. Their usual heavy metal style screams and guitars are offset by clicky trap beats and (old School) Skrillex-eqse womps. Rucksack is their go at a protest song. There's a real sense of punk rock rebellion amongst the pleas that 'changes have to be made'.
CPK usually announce that they're about to play 'There's a reason storms are named after people' by warning that it's a very depressing song. It's a story of domestic violence, over a sparse backdrop of piano and distorted guitar. During their live shows this song can be very unsettling and it still has more or less the same effect listening at home. My only real complaint is that it feels like one of those acoustic Slipknot songs where they've tried a little bit too hard to be creepy.
While all of CPK are open about their love for grime music, the MC's this EP reminds me of the most are Eminem and Tyler, The Creator. While none of the tracks here are quite as gory in their imagery, and none of the lyrics are quite as violent, There is a similarity in their delivery, especially from Dan Carter. This is all much more Mashall Mathers than Slim Shady. While both Tyler and Eminem use black humour to their advantage, 'Null' is just black. Despite my critique this is a solid EP. It's well produced, Dan and Glitch both pull out some great bars, and overall CPK still sound very unique. Now go see them live.

* I don't really know how to wrote about screams. I don't listen to much metal 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The best record shops In Birmingham (Update)

The Diskery is literally older than Rock ' N roll itself. While the area around it is has become more urban, more derelict and more gay, The Diskery is a glorious time capsule. Inside you'll find that it is rather small. There are two turntables, one is in a corner where you can listen in privacy, the other is behind the counter, if you ask nicely they might play whatever you give them. The staff are a varied bunch, but all of them are knowledgeable in areas of music and have stories to tell. You can expect to have a nice conversation as well as a cup of tea while flicking through the racks. As the name hints there is mostly vinyl, but there is a reasonable amount of CD's and cassettes on sale as well. The Diskery is packed full of records, you'll find jazz 48's and 78's, rock and pop records from the 70's and 80's. They do have the occasional bunch of rare records from the 90's and 00's but these will be expensive. You can find plenty of bargains amongst more expensive collectors items. I've seen first editions by The Rolling Stones, Primal Scream and Led Zeppelin amongst the cheaper stuff. The ceiling seems to be made up of old LP sleeves and promotional posters and  you'll find all sorts of oddities which may or may not be for sale. The records are spilt into sections. You'll find one section where LP's are split into price categories, the 'cheapo rock' section, a soul/funk section and loads of dance 12's. There is also a very small and very recent hip-hop section.
Relative newbies compared to The Diskery having opened in the 70's are Swordfish records. Unlike The Diskery, Swordfish has a great selection of new Vinyl alongside racks of older 7"s and 12"s. They have a lot of Jazz and left-field electronica alongside rock and pop. They've got loads of CD's both new and second hand. And It's still being run by the same guy after all these years. For new Vinyl my favourite place is Rise Records. As you'd expect from a store in Oasis, it's a specialist in rock, punk and metal, but he's got a load of indie and some hip hop as well. For new Vinyl I'm sure it's the cheapest in Birmingham and a lot of what he stocks is hard to find. It's worth making the trip because a lot of what he sells is indie only, so  if you like coloured discs and limited editions , its worth the trip  The guy who runs the store is knowledgeable and friendly. As is the guy who runs Milque and Muhle in Digbeth. M+M sells cassettes art prints and clothes as well as records. If you are into noise rock, hardcore or any other niche sub-genre you're likely to find what you're after there. You'll find new releases by less obscure acts alongside the oddities, and a lot of diy punk singles. And that about covers it. The custard factory does also host record fairs, and the new Urban Village does stock records as well. Other than that Urban Outfitters and HMV sell records in Birmingham, but you are much better off with the 4 above. Happy digging!

Note: You may notice that I posted a blog about record shops in my 'Best _________ in Birmingham' series. Yet I'm now more qualified to wrote this blog, as I am now a vinyl collector rather than CD buyer. If you are a regular reader then please let me know what you actually think of this blog and give me suggestions. I don't have that many friends so if you like the same music as me I'd love to meet you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Crime and Punishment 2011 + Better Than Never + Smart Casual Live Review. The Flapper 13/5/16

Smart Casual
You may have noticed that I've been giving a lot of free press to a band called Crime and Punishment 2011. While they divide opinion like few bands to hit Birmingham's music scene in a long time. The hype is building as Friday the 13th of may was their first ever headline show. Far from being unlucky, this turned out to be a decent night. Before all that though the first band on was Worcester pop-punk kids Bathtub who opened the night with their first ever Birmingham show. Afterwards came my faves Smart Casual, as I've pointed out before the fanbase of this band feels more like a minor cult than a usual fan following. It feels a bit odd listening to pop-punk music if you are sober or over the age of 14 and if you are in the Flapper at 7ish on a friday night  you're likely to be the former. However none of this bothered Smart Casual's fans. Right from the start, a small group of dedicated nutters were dancing about, while slightly more reserved people like me stood there and raised our fists and shouted along to the 'whoaaa-ohhs'.
Smart Casual's take on pop punk has a lot of nods towards heavy metal. Whether that be in Talbot's snare heavy drumming or the shredding of their guitar solos. What's really exciting about Smart Casual is how many great songs they have despite being such a new band. Such as the anthemic 'Festival Girl', the empowering 'Take back the power' and 'Keep you around' which Colin (their singer) admitted isabout getting over his ex. The best part was his total surprise at seeing Crime and Punishment 2011's Joey Sniper steal his mic for a quick scream. Later on Dan Carter took the mic to channel his inner Fred Durst for Smart Casuals obligatory cover of Limp Bizkit's 'Take a look around' which had the crowd erupt into a frenzy of violent moshing. 
While I'm a fan of Smart Casual I'm not really a fan of Pop-punk in general. So I didn't like Better Than Never as much. But like Smart Casual they seem to have a small but very enthusiastic crowd. Their singer jumped about the place in a pair of running shorts, kind of like Enter Shikari used to do. There's nothing hugely original about their sound but it was fun to say the least.
Understandably Crime and Punishment 2011 were a bit nervous about playing their first headline show. Especially with more established acts lower on the bill. Jason, started the show with a short DJ set which was reminiscent of his old Pink Violence solo material, with his face hidden by a massive parka. The ethereal Crystal Castles style electronica made a stark contrast to the dark trap/grime style beats used by Crime and Punishment 2011. By now The Flapper seems to be quite used to their mix of heavy sampled guitars, and grime style bars. So it was the perfect place for them to be. Their trap flavoured banger 'Paralysed' off their second EP 'Null' got things off to a heavy start, with Joey and Dan prowling around the room screaming and rapping.  By now I'm pretty used to  seeing them perform but it must still be a pretty strange experience for newcomers. For the first song or two they managed to stay on-stage, but not much later Joey and Dan walked back and forth in front of the crowd and Joey leaped on the bar to do a bit more screaming there.
Going to a Crime and Punishment 2011 show feels like one of those horror mazes, you never know when one of them is going to jump out of the dark and yell at you. The new material is their darkest yet They played two cover versions. Dan announced that they'd either play an old song that they all hate (House of pain) or a cover. The cover ended up being 'The Hills by The Weeknd. Their version happens to be a lot heavier, replacing the drops and and sultry croons of the original with heavy metal guitars and more rapping/screaming. To make things even better they ended the show with one more cover, which was a brilliant take on Shutdown by Skepta. I'd only seen Skepta play it live himself a few days ago and it was fantastic being able to hear it being played live again. It's so easy to join in and try to rap along, and the small crowd erupted into more moshing about. I started a chant of 'BBK! and even got my own little shout-out on stage. Backstage they were buzzing, it's strange to think they were ever nervous in the first place.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

An open letter to Azealia Banks

Hi, We've never met before, so you probably won't care about what I have to say. I don't really bother with twitter much nowadays. Partly because of the endless inane narcissism and sycophancy that makes up the majority of the posts. I could source this letter with examples of your stupidity, racism and petty feuds with  other celebrities  but frankly it'd take a very long time to go for your twitter feed and find relevant examples. Besides I can't because you've been suspended (hah!).
The problem is that I've been a fan of yours since 212 dropped, many many years ago. I waited ages  for the 1991 Ep to drop, but loved it despite only hearing two new tracks. I loved Fantasea, as it was a genuinely brilliant mixtape/album. Even 'Broke with expensive taste' was worth the 3 long years of us waiting for you to. I even saw you live at the Birmingham Institute a few years back and you were absolutely fantastic. I've ignored your racism, homophobia, and petty feuds with artists more talented than you. The Stone Roses in particular achieved more in one album than you have in your whole career.  Angel Haze ripped you apart on her diss tracks and all you came back with was the incredibly weak 'No problems'. The fact that you put being a bitch before being an artist has made me and a lot of people totally lose interest in you. After all this you could redeem yourself by putting out some decent tunes but 'Slay-Z' is just weak. A trashy attempt to jump on the trap bandwagon, when you followed your own path with a house style fore so many years.  I struggle to get past the first track.

While more than enough people have been angered by your comments about Zayn Malik, what has pissed me off is your tweets regarding the UK scene. Grime is a part of our culture and your claim that no one here can rap is absurd. You think Drake, Pharrel, Young Lord and A$AP Nast would all be on Skepta's new album if the UK couldn't rap?  The new acts the UK is producing such as Stormzy, Novelist, and Bugzy Malone are every bit the equal of veterans such as Skepta, Wiley and JME. Outside of grime Roots Manuva has been putting out the best music of his whole career, Kate Tempest is both writing bars and novels. Lil Simz and Riz MC are making tunes that actually can make you think, and Sleaford Mods swear so much they put even you to shame.
You say we have 'no swag' and 'sound forced', but despite of Kendrick Lamar and Run The Jewels, and loads more making US Hip-Hop amazing again. I'm also hearing loads of talentless 'trappers' with all style and no substance, and nothing at all to say. Swag is no substitute for actual lyrics and ability to actually rap. Your own music has always been very style over substance. and desoite your ongoing twitter controversy your own lyrics are pretty shallow and meaningless. You say that The UK is a disgrace to rap culture, but we're the ones people are looking up to.  You know what? They'll forget your name soon, and won't nobody be to blame but yourself.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Skepta: Live at the Rainbow Warehouse (10/5/16)

It's hard to believe that there was once a time when it seemed that no one really cared to much about the grime scene. After Dizzee Rascal dropped his grime sound for a softer chart friendly approach, everyone seemed to follow in his footsteps. It was fun at first, seeing the likes of Tinchy Stryder and Tinie Tempah break through, but it quickly became rather depressing with, Roll Deep, Sway, Lethal Bizzle and eventually Wiley, cash in with cheap novelty pop songs. Skepta's current status as the king of grime is proof that you can be a success simply by sticking to your guns. To get the pre-sale for this show everyone had to buy Skepta's new album Konnichiwa. Which meant that everybody knew the tunes. The rainbow was packed full. Skepta attracts a huge audience of fans. mostly male, under 25, white, black, asian, whatever. Everyone was wearing black hoodies, took photos on their iPhones (Skepta asked us all to raise our iPhones later on) and seemed to be about 7ft tall. To tell the truth it was a bit dull for anyone other than hardcore grime fans until Skepta came on stage. DJ Maximum was spinning garage classics alongside hits from Drake, Montell Jordan and Young Thug.
Some local MC's started the show before Frisco and Shorty livened things up with their own hits, and the obligatory, 'Too Many Man' to warm things up. There was a lot of chanting BBK! and 0121 which reminded me of Trilla's underground hit of that name.
Skepta came onto the stage in a white hoodie, and went straight into rapping Konnichiwa's opening self titled track. He got 'Thats not me' out of the way early and the crowd went mental. Some kid hugged me and my friend and started going on about how it was his favourite song. Sadly the rumoured Wiley appearance didn't come about. JME wasn't there either, yet when another MC rapped his 'thats not me' bars, and DJ Maximum spun one of his tunes, the reaction from that crowd was so huge that Skepta's brother might as well have been there.
I knew I had to get down there so I snuck through the crowd, while Skepta played some hardcore fan favourite, mixtape tracks. I eventually got right into the centre for the ensuing moshpits for 'Shutdown' and 'It aint safe'. It was sweaty as fuck down at the front during those songs, but despite all the moshing and violent lyrics the vibes were very positive. It was an amazing place to be. Skepta said he was proud to be touring an number one album for the second time and bigged up DJ Maximum for his ability to DJ while checking the football scores. Despite being on stage for an hour straight, the set felt very short, There were so many great songs he could have played. Skepta invited every MC there to join him on stage for 'Man' and then left without an encore. It could have lasted another hour easily and I wouldn't have noticed. Time flies when you're having fun.



*Wiley will always be the godfather, no one can take that away from him.
** If you want to see good photos of the show then visit

Thursday, May 5, 2016

God Damn + Weirds + History Of Sex. Leftover Photos

Other stuff I didn't mention
  • I lost my hat on the stage but quickly swiped it back, Indiana Jones style
  • There were actually some girls there
  • One guy had a santa hat on for some reason 
  • I met the drummer afterwards and bought a t shirt and 7" off him. I told him that I'd seen them 4 times and some guy, who couldn't even remember how many times he'd seen them called me an amateur. I told him that at least I'd have some hearing left. He was nice though. 
  • My new T shirt has boot prints on it because of a guy crowd-surfing
  • Thom found a guy's passport and gave it back to him onstage 

God Damn + Weirds + History Of Sex. Live at the Sunflower Lounge Review (4/516)

Its a slight disappointment that History Of Sex are not a Dave Gorman-ish power-point presentation about the birds and the bees. But a really good Birmingham based trio, This was their first ever gig sand  they sounded surprisingly good considering that. Their music is loud, riffy, groovy and very bass heavy. Which is odd considering that they don't have a bassist. Their singer is a tall, skinny geezer who half raps/half screams over the noise the other two make. They made a great start to the night and are one of the best new Birmingham bands I've seen in ages.
As their name hints  Weirds are a bit of something different. They seemed almost like two bands. One being a grungey rock n' roll band  (e.g. Drenge) the other a hip electronic-indie project (E.g. East India Youth). It was the strange ethereal keyboard sounds and deep echo on the singers voice that made them sound unique, alongside the heavy riffs and crashing drums. Both the singer and guitarist decided to join me halfway up the stairs, while the guy on bass was happy to just stand playing and headbanging in the middle of the crowd. Their music is a strange combination, but I felt that there was something original, and also kind of brilliant about them, weird as they are. 
For some reason God Damn had 'Nights Outro' (from Metronomy's brilliant 'Nights Out'). The twanging out of tune guitars of that song were an odd choice but, it was a brilliant tune for building the suspense. The room was completely packed full of obsessive, sweaty fans. There was an odd burning smell from all the sweat, and blood red lights flooded the room. 
If you haven't been to a God Damn show or heard their music then the name should explain it for you. Their music is an insanely loud mix of fuzzy guitar pedals, frantic screaming and punishing, pummelling drums. Basically, its heavy metal stripped back and taken back to its black country roots, with all the fun that's missing from the screamo bands intact. If you've heard the LP 'Vultures', it's like that. But louder. Both the band and fans were constantly crowd surfing, as (guitarist/singer) Thom pointed out, we all felt like we'd had 'the opposite of a shower'. God Damn sweat buckets onstage, which makes holding them above your heads difficult. He also announced that their label*  had made the 'stupid decision' to let them make a second one, to a roar of approval. God Damn's new bassist made an appearance. He looks vaguely like Jared Leto and got the job despite not being 'slightly chubby enough'. The new single 'dead to me' (which is about making friends, apparently), is already a fan favourite despite being weeks old, another new track 'Ghosts' also confirmed that there's no change in the bands sound on LP2. Sadly a curfew meant that we had to end with God Damn's slow ballad 'Skeletons'. Some people stood still and sang along for a few minutes, until the huge guitar riffs got people crowd surfing again. And like that it was over. The show felt a bit short, but like all God Damn shows, very sweaty, very loud, and loads of fun.


*  They are signed to One Little Indian Records, Home to Bjork!