Friday, January 27, 2017

J-Dead Headspace EP Review

You may know J-Dead as 'Glitch' or simply Jake from the  Birmingham based Grimecore outfit Crime and punishment 2011.  You will know of them if you have read this blog before as I have been covering their shows extensively over the past year. Shortly before announcing his decision to leave the group Jake released his first solo EP. Entitled Headspace.
The shows he has performed as J-Dead have been sombre affairs. While CPK shows have been notable for the screaming, jumping and self injuring antics of Joey sniper and Dan Carter. Jake has always been the slightly quieter and thoughtful member. With this new project he is going for more of a spoken word style, which can be compared to the storytelling style of UK rappers such as Kate Tempest, Loyle Carner or Roots Manuva.
The opening track 'Dreamer' sets the tone with it's sparse piano sampling production, with elements of dubstep style drops, courtesy of Sam Jewson who produced the whole EP. Lyrically the song  is a more thoughtful look at relationships and the paranoia as well as mistrust that goes with them.  Where the protagonist seems unsure as to whether his girlfriend is having an affair or whether he is simply over thinking and over analysing their relationship.
Track two 'In The Dark' is in a much different style. The backing track consists of violin and lightly strummed acoustic guitars, which play a folk style reworking of The XX's song 'Shelter'. J-Dead reworks his own verses from Crime and Punishment 2011's song 'There's a reason storms are named after people. While the bleak story of domestic abuse is roughly the same, the backing track actually contrasts with the more sombre lyrics. The overall mood is more hopeful than the misery of the CPK original. On this cut J-Dead declares that 'He's trying to be a role model for the other children who suffer from similar troubles'. With songs like this J-Dead is tacking issues such as depression and abuse head on. 
Headspace is one of the most openly personal tracks Jake has penned so far. For the first half of the song, Jake narrates his teenage years over a sparse backing of piano and drums. The song is a discussion with himself about how he came to terms with man hood after his dad leaving him and the bullying, relationship problems with girls and how he has changed over the 10 years since then. The song covers a lot of the things that have happened to him over the past decade, and the mental health issues that he currently deals with. Lines such as 'my psyche's delivering me death threats' are particularly telling. Jake's rapping is conversational and his voice cracks under the weight of the story he is telling. Unfortunately the production seems to let the lyrical side of the song down, with a barrage of synth sounds that almost drown out Jake's voice appearing halfway through. 
The real tear-jerker of the EP and all of Jake's live sets is the final track here, 'I'll See You in the morning'. Thankfully the guitar and drum based backdrop for this song suit the lyrics a lot better. While the song doesn't go into great detail about what exactly happened, Jake focusses on what he was doing and feeling on the last night he saw his dad. Jake is not the sort of writer who clouds his thoughts in metaphors, so while it isn't an easy listen, it is cathartic and intensely personal. Compared to the versions I have heard live, it is much faster, and fleshed out musically, but the overall power of the song has not been diminished. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Smart Casual: End of an era. Live review. Sunflower Lounge (7/1/2017) Feat Dom Glynn, Who Saves The Hero, Matchboy

Right from the very start the tiny Sunflower Lounge was packed to it's full capacity as Dom Glynn, (7.2/10) started the show off. Dom is somewhere between a singer songwriter and comedian. His deep singing voice and acoustic songs, were mixed with strange self depreciating spoken word ramblings. The highlight being the glorious love song about 'the one who got away'. 'The one' of course being Jesus Christ himself. Which inspired a hilariously sacrilegious sing-along.
No Smart casual show is really complete without an appearance from their welsh mates Who Saves The Hero? (6.8). WSTH have a clear love for pop-punk that goes beyond mere nostalgia and a friendship in Smart Casual that has resulted in loads of in-jokes and on stage banter. Musically they are everything you'd expect from a welsh pop punk band, including the slightly American sounding vocals. They did a flawless cover of Sum 41's 'Fat lip' and let Smart Casual's Colin join them for a cover of his favourite song, Blink 182's 'Dammit'.
Kineton newcomers Matchboy (6.8) made a welcome change of pace from pop punk with their own more graceful take on rock. Giving off a bit of a 90's vibe and covering both Lower than Atlantis and Foo Fighters. I was impressed by their musical ability and how good they sounded despite being such young lads and having played for such a short amount of time as Matchboy.
I don't really like Pop-Punk but I do love Smart Casual (7.6). So it was with sadness that I learned that the band's singer Colin was to leave the band. I'm happy that the band have hinted at plans to continue, but before that rather than just boot Colin out, they decided to give him a proper send off.
Smart Casual have a small but very passionate fan-base and there was a very upbeat, friendly atmosphere in the room. The parents of Nathan 'the human meme' Talbot were present to film everything as the band launched right into the empowering punk rock of 'fight to the end' with it's slightly ironic chorus of 'this is not the end you're not finished yet'. Colin repeatedly thanked everyone in the crowd for letting him live his dream. He later individually thanked everyone in the band (who got a chance to show of their musical skills), and some of the other people who had helped the band out. Yet the show was anything but sad, featuring several jokes about how everyone of his songs is about his ex and how all of their stories seem to involve both Talbot and fast food. The bands usual medley of their heaviest track 'the underclass' and cover of Limp Bizkit's 'Take a look around' caused a frenzy of moshing. While they had the crowd jumping around to many of their other songs. Colin performed his epic rant during 'take back the power' for the last time. Smart Casual finished the set with the last song he wrote for the band 'Same lies (different reasons)', which is also about his ex, and the first song they wrote as a band, Smart Casual's anthem, 'Festival Girl'. However the show was not over yet. Boyz 2 Men's 90's hit 'end of the road' playing through the PA inspired a mass sing-along and crowd wave.