Sunday, July 24, 2016

MC Devvo, MC Starstruk, Crime and Punishment 2011. Live at the Rainbow review (23/7/16)

James Thomas here! The Internet's laziest music nerd, and now it's time for a review of a show I saw at The Rainbow. Birmingham's premier Grimetallers (Grime + Metal = Grimetal), Crime and Punishment 2011, Only finished their début UK tour (alongside Luke Rainsford, Lauren Marie and various local support bands) and they were already up to play a support show on home turf.  Being a veteran of many CPK shows, I knew what to expect. But their mix of Trap influenced beats, sampled guitars, screaming and bars made the majority of the crowd form a nervous circle, and facial expressions varying from utter confusion to huge smiles. They all made a nice effort to play the few more upbeat tunes from their small back catalogue, including storming covers of The Weekend's The Hills and Skepta's Shutdown. I ended up dancing alongside some geezer who kept asking me who they were, and I got the crowd to shout for an encore. Despite having a huge barrier to climb over in order to scream at peoples faces and playing to MC Devvo's crowd, CPK won everyone over, despite the depressing 'storms' being the finale.

MC Starstruk started his set with his own Skepta cover (That's not me) before boldly claiming to be better than Skepta. I didn't get any good photos (guess which numpty forgot his camera). So you'll just have to imagine a twat from Coventry, in cargo shorts, a t shirt reading the slogan 'prozzies for oldies' and balaclava rapping about his nan's mobility scooter, Coventry and 'smelly vaginas' on the song 'Sort ya minge out'. This was all paced out between spoken word skits where he explained that the balaclava was because he'd been claiming disability benefits and if they saw him jumping around on stage he'd have no money to buy drugs. He described himself as being a sexy Fred Durst, and during one tune had the crowd shout the chorus "wank off your dad and finger your mum!". He then went one further and had a wank on stage. Mc Starstruk's set was pure immature filth set to a barrage of some of sickest grime beats I've ever heard, and I'm still laughing about it now. 
MC Devvo  kept us waiting while he got lost in the backstreets of Digbeth. When he got on stage his mix of stand up comedy and rap tunes felt strangely sophisticated next to MC Starstruk's depravity. He told us all the strange story of how he went from kicking a pigeon to to performing on stage and why he's decided to quit. He had skits about shouting at trains, and He showed off his 2nd gen iPod (with all his backing tracks on) and when I asked what was on it waved it in my face and stole my phone. I stuck around to hear him go on about how shit Doncaster is and perform his hit songs 'Crystal Meffin' and 'lads on tour' and go on about how other MC's all hate him. It was funny, but not enough to stop me going home halfway through. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Busquitos (live at the Birmingham & Solihull Jazz & Blues Festival) Live Review 17/7/16

The Birmingham and Solihull Jazz and Blues Festival, is a music festival in the vaguest sense possible. All of the events are free and in various (mostly) outdoor locations across the two named town centres. My plan is to do a write up of the whole festival but one band were so good that I've decided to do a separate section about them. The Busquitos are four dudes from Holland who play a self proclaimed style of 'comedy jazz'.  The name refers to their hisory as a band of buskers. They all dress in rather natty blue suits with matching shoes and they played a huge mix of music, from classical pieces (they said they'd play some classical music to confuse us), Jazz classics and even TV Themes (they did an encore of Yakety Sax'). While Jazz gets a bad rap for being pretentious and dour, the Busquitos make it as much fun as possible. As musicians they are all very talented and able to play all styles of music easily, and double bassist Ronald sings in a pleasing Lois Armstrong style. Yet it's the spontaneity of their performances that make it fun. Whether that be Violinist Jelle, casually tapping me on the head with his bow, or mock fighting the Saxohonist Thomas with props, using their merch sign to fan an audience member down, or grabbing audience members and getting them to dance. At one point three of them decided to serenade a girl in the audience, before competing for her. Jelle grabbed her by the arm and walked off with her while playing 'here comes the bride', while  Thomas chased after them mimicking a police siren. For the finale they got two children to join them on stage, and they then went one further and had every child there, take part in the hokey-cokey. All very daft, but they played for two hours and the whole show was free.  It was
one of the best shows I've seen all year.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Luke Rainsford Album release show, Feat Bathtub, Flatline, Lauren Marie, Crime & Punishment 2011

Worcester's Bathtub were the opening band on one of the most diverse line ups I've ever seen on stage, who opened the show with a short but frenetic set of pop punk tunes. Next up was Lauren Marie, whose illness didn't seem to affect her voice, or her acoustic set of originals and covers. Next up were Flatline whose bruising metalcore tunes are wildly different from Bathtub's pop punk, despite sharing the same singer. Flatline have a habit of moshing around with their own fans. For a while I decided to stay back die to a justified fear of being kicked in the face. Next up were Crime and Punishment 2011 starting their first tour with one of their best shows yet. In case you haven't heard their music yet, it's pretty much a mix of heavy metal guitars ans screams, grime style bars and ethereal atmospherics and trap style beats. Dan Carter threw a bunch of Skepta lyrics into his bars and then threw himself into a wall, before rolling around on the ground and jumping around a bit more. Jason and Joey screamed a lot, and Glitch spat bars from the stage. The inevitable cover of Skepta's 'Shutdown' ended proceedings. All this madness is just another day for CPK, who are probably supporting a band near you this week.
If you've been to any gig in Birmingham lately there's a decent chance you'll have seen Luke Rainsford. Whether as the singer in pop-punks Layover*, or playing his own acoustic songs. Tonight he played his début album 'I'm nothing like my dad turned out to be' in it's entirety. The album hasn't been released physically. But it is currently on bandcamp for 50p. Luke Rainsford's acoustic songs are in the same pop punk style of his main band, but are very personal songs dealing with mental health, loneliness and the occasional love song. It clearly meant the world to Luke being surrounded by his friends, and seeing them sing the words with him and join him on stage. Despite the major chords and upbeat sounds, Luke's songs deal with issue such as depression, alcoholism and growing up. But thankfully don't veer into Ed Sheeran style mawkishness. One of the girls who came along said she'd come along to have a cry. She wasn't alone, I think everyone felt a bit emotional after hearing him play the album in full, I know I did.


Monday, July 4, 2016

The Best Albums of 2016 (So Far)

1. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity 
Nonagon Infinity is a sort of never ending circle of frantic percussion (they have two drummers), demented lyrics that could only be written by a stoned Aussie, fuzz soaked guitars and a cheesy but fun Hammer horror style aesthetic. This is Psych rock on steroids, it puts a huge smile on my face and you can bet it'll be number one when the full list is out  in December.
Key Track: Gamma Knife

2. Whitney - Light Upon The Lake
Whitney make the sort of music that will be handed down on Vinyl from concerned parents to heartbroken teenage sons for decades to come. Light Upon The Lake is a break up album, but alongside the gentle balladry are some fantastic upbeat tunes. This album is unashamedly retro but  heartfelt and beautiful. Key Track: No Woman

3. Skepta - Konnichiwa
This had to be good. With the longest gap in Skepta's discography and some of the best singles Grime has ever produced, Konnichiwa had to be good. Despite featuring American stars such as Pharrell, A$AP Nast and Young Lord. Koninichiwa is distinctly British yet also hugely diverse. From Boy in Da Corner style futurism (lyrics), Dirty south style gangsta rap (It Aint Safe), and trippy cloud rap (Ladies Hit Squad). Skepta has pulled off the unique trick of taking Grime global without compromising his integrity in the slightest. Key Track: Shutdown

4. David Bowie - Blackstar
I personally feel that it does David Bowie a disservice, to remember him as simply Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane. Blackstar is the sound of a legend at the top of his game. Contemplating his mortality while taking bold new steps into Drum & Bass and Hip-Hop. Bowie left us with one of the best albums of his career. Key Track: Girl Loves Me

5. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
Most of Post Pop Depression sounds exactly how you'd expect a band that's part Iggy Pop, part Queens Of The Stone Age and part Arctic Monkeys to sound. PPD, is a strange but compelling record that in places sounds like rougher version of Arctic Monkey's AM, and features both lush orchestras and stripped back acoustic tracks. PPD is hugely varied in style but compelling throughout. Iggy Pop sounds more passionate and angry than he has in years, singing about sex, capitalism and death, on his search for 'American Valhalla'. Key Track: American Valhalla

6. Amber Arcades - Fading Lines
A lovely record of sun-baked psychedelic indie rock. The slacker vocals and hazy production hide some fantastic songs. Some of the tunes such as 'Come with me' are full of big melodies and memorable hooks. While 'Turning light' is the band at their most psychedelic. Amber Arcades were a highlight of Lunar 2016 and have sound-tracked my return to normal life since then.
Key track: Turning Light

7. Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered
In which 'Cornrow Kenny' proves that his demo's are better than most MC's hit singles. Many of the songs are more cryptic than 2015's Masterpiece 'To Pimp A Butterfly'. This is a plus that makes Untitled Unmastered a much more relaxed and fun listen. Much of the jazz influence from TPAB is still there, such as on darker cuts, 01 and 02, while 07 features Kendrick half slurring over some infectiously trippy beats. 07 also features a demo of 04, which out stays it's welcome but does give a glimpse into Kendrick's working process. Key Track: Untitled 07

8. Chance The Rapper - Colouring Book
It's not quite the masterpiece some have claimed it to be. I don't think the high profile guests suit Chance's style and the production is at times garish. However Colouring Book is redeemed by Chance's likeability and some great tunes. While 'Acid Rap' mixed Gospel, funk and soul, with a conscious take on gangsta rap, Colouring Book pulls off the same trick but it's about Chance's love for god and his family. A lot of it has a Bon Iver, type auto-tuned sound,while ballads like 'Same Drugs' and 'Summertime Friends' are surprisingly, bitter-sweet tunes about the trials of growing up.
Key Track: All Night

9. Levelz - LVL11
Levelz are a collective of Manchester MC's who are totally independent, producing all their own songs in the studio they own. Think of them as the Happy Mondays, to Bugzy Malone's Stone Roses. LVL11 is hugely varied, from Ska to Garage to Funk, but every song is a massive banger. Every MC in the collective has mastered his craft, and the fast bars and thick Mancunian accents hide a political anger and dry northern humour. In short LVL11 is one of the best albums/mixtapes to come out of Grime in a long time. Key Track: Rowdy Badd

10. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
Human Performance, is the album I've wanted Parquet Courts to make since I fell in love with 'Light Up Gold'. They've finally found a sound that is uniquely theirs. the lo-fi racket of earlier recordings has given way to a more mature sound. Little keyboard melodies make the songs stanhd iut more melodically, while Austin Savage's lyrics on the human condition are as strange as the artwork he drew to accompany them.
Key Track: Berlin Got Blurry

11. Metronomy - Summer 08
While I was sad that Metronomy are no longer touring, Summer 08 does a good job of making up for that. This album has all the eccentricities that made me love Metronomy in the first place. Such as got Joe Mount doing his own female vocals, cowbell, DJ scratches, dark synths and loads of cowbell.  Summer 08 isn't Metronomy's best album, but it's their most fun to listen too. Key Track: Old Skool

12. Fat White Family - Songs For Our Mothers
If proof was needed that Fat White Family hate their own mothers here it is. This album is the sound of evil. Parts of it are un-listenable. 'Deuce' is the sort of demonic chant that could summon demons to your bedroom, and 'When Shipman Decides' is genuinely disturbing. Songs For Our Mothers is on the list because it is fantastic in places. It's ambitious and fiercely political. In our PC age Fat White Family write the sort of songs no one else would dare. It's a middle finger in the air to fascism, conservatism and simultaneously a peek into the minds of a band that is tearing itself apart. Key Track: Tinfoil Deathstar

13. Denzel Curry - Imperial
While the style currently in vogue in Hip Hop is slurred half rhymes over trippy ethereal beats, Imperial mixes the trap production style with Denzel's fast bars and insightful lyrics about his lifestyle and what makes him the man he is. Imperial is a hard kitting mix fast bars and huge beats and it marks Denzel Curry out as one of Americas best MC's.
Key Track: ULT

14. Allan Kingdom - Northern Lights
Even Drake must feel jealous of Allan Kingdom's knack for mixing catchy hooks with fresh production. Northern Lights is jam packed full of Hip Hop bangers. Every single tune on this tape could be a hit single. Key Track: Monkey See

15. Riz MC - Englistan
It's not exactly a fun listen but I believe that everyone in England needs to download this mixtape. Riz tackles racism and islamophobia, while rapping about the struggles muslim's face on a daily basis, whether that be with cultural identity, depression or honour killings on the heartbreaking true story 'Benaz'. Riz deserves credit for the forward thinking production, and for his sense of humour, but Englistan is important because of its message. Key Track: Englistan

OK so there is a tonne of cool records still due to come out this year. There are a lot that I've wanted to hear but haven't got around to, (e.g. Savages, Car Seat Headrest.......) and there are some I've just ignored (Beyonce, Kanye West).
This is by no means a complete list but what the fuck right?