Thursday, 27 February 2014

Introducing: Run Tiger Run.

Resembling the sound of Bombay Bicycle Club, and embracing the hazy sounds of dream pop/rock, Liverpool based band Run Tiger Run are certainly worth a listen. Here is their latest single 'Hummingbird'. The song contains outbursts of raw, scratchy, and atmospheric distorted guitar-filled choruses which echo sounds of the summer and festival season nostalgia.  Run Tiger Run have already supported JAWS, and secured a spot at Liverpool's X&Y festival, so jump on the bandwagon before it gets overcrowded...

To listen to their new single, click here.

Alex Turner's Brit Speech: Some much needed reflection.

Alex Turner was the center of controversy last week with his unconventional, ‘rebellious’ acceptance speech, claiming ‘Rock & Roll will never die’ which galvanized both criticism and appraisal.  His words have divided the nation, with some disregarding it as arrogant, pretentious nonsense, whilst others have glorified it as a heroic rebellion against the current dissatisfying pop culture. Generally, Alex Turner has been completely misunderstood. The fact that the mainstream media have transfigured and manipulated Alex Turner’s overt nonchalance into disdainful arrogance, magnifies their misinterpretation of something quite brilliant.

Every year, the Brits is forced upon us, and each year we eat up those tediously dull acceptance speeches, that reel of a dozen publicists, producers, and family names. It’s not vaguely interesting or captivating, and let’s be honest it’s hardly sincere, but it’s the staple element of any awards show.  Alex Turner interrupted the chain of ‘pop puppets’ being precariously grateful for their award and eating up James Corden’s tiring penchant for awkward one-liners. Alex dropped a dose of sincerity into the environment. And as we all know, overstated award ceremonies and sincerity, by the laws of physics, naturally repel each other.

 The Sheffield front man began his acceptance speech with ‘That Rock & Roll Eh?, That Rock & Roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp’. Now, immediately this is a dig at the current state of the music industry which is often exemplified in ceremonies like the Brits.  It would seem that guitar music has been marginalized for a while, but with Arctic Monkeys beating One Direction at this year’s Brits, the public are weaning back to the illustrious clutches of Rock & Roll.  He then delves into the intricate theories of the universe and states that ‘And I think the cyclical nature of the universe in which it exists, demands it adheres to some of its rules’.  It is around this point I expect that the critics and the media are deeming it as ‘pretentious waddle’, however coming out with something so profoundly abstract like this whilst somewhat intoxicated, requires some talent. Most of us can barely perform the facile task of walking in a straight line whilst under the influence, and Alex Turner uses the cyclical laws of the universe as a theoretical metaphor? Brilliant.

So, perhaps it did enter the territory of self-indulgent pretentiousness, but underneath that, there was sincere disillusionment and frustration towards the music industry, and an intent passion for the genre that made them who they are.  So far, critics have regarded Alex Turner’s final note of ‘Oh and uh, invoice me for the microphone’ before seconds later, dropping the microphone, as an arrogant little tantrum. Unfortunately, once again they have completely misunderstood the point. Alex Turner’s disregard for the microphone wasn't his pièce de résistance, the unorthodox, heroic disregard for the ceremony was. Of course, this begs the question, if they disregard the Brits so much then why did they go? Turner and Co have a history of stirring ‘controversy’ at award ceremonies. At the Q awards in 2007, Alex Turner claimed that ‘even I know Take That are bollocks’. What Alex Turner said last night, wasn't particularly controversial, however it just goes to show how easy it is to be controversial in today’s pop culture which preys on the outsiders who don’t express an opinion which fits the vacuous consensus. 

The speech can essentially be seen as an appraisal of the reckoning and abiding success of Rock & Roll, not arrogance. It was everything Rock & Roll is supposed to be, unpredictable, unorthodox and exciting.  In a way it was almost a humble gesture by devoting the award to the genre of music which inspired and cultivated Arctic Monkeys’ sound and attitude. It was also last week that Radio One producer, James Murphy, stated that ‘Guitar music is definitely on the way back’. Arctic Monkeys’ success at the Brits, voted by the public, certainly proved that. Alex Turner completely satirized the whole event and the music industry, whilst definitely aggravating many. However it was unequivocally refreshing, and it has irritated the little mind numbed ‘sheeples’ (Yes, a portmanteau of ‘Sheep’ and People’) who voluntarily brainwash themselves in the current depressing state of pop music. If it annoys those ‘sheeples’, who defy anything with an organic sound or a hint of musical talent, it’s probably a good thing. However, it’s unfortunate that the mainstream media disregarded his speech as ‘pretentious waddle’ rather than embracing the much needed rejuvenation of Rock & Roll. ‘Pretentious waddle’ or heroic defiance, it’s certainly put them and Rock & Roll back into the spot light, and for that, us outsiders who you spoke to and inspired, thank you Alex Turner - don't go away.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Temples 'Sun Structures' keeping the cog in the neo-psychedelic machine moving.

Temples first seized and cemented my attention when I saw them at Camden’s Electric Ballroom last November. I was prompted to see them by the brilliant, retro, Revolver-esque ‘Shelter Song’ that, for me, was undeniably the most memorable song of 2012. ‘Colours To Life’ also stimulated a rush of excitement and anticipation for an album, which would completely defy the populist, humdrum, talentless music industry that phrenic music lovers repel today.  Following the recent unveiling of ‘Sun Structures’, some may accuse Temples of being derivative or simply a by-product of albums such as The Beatles ‘Revolver’, or ‘Strange Days’ by The Doors.  Temples are hardly the avant-garde archetype and ‘Sun Structures’ may not be particularly revolutionary, but it’s certainly refreshing.

‘Sun Structures’ opens with Shelter Song, which immediately sets the tone for a hallucegnic journey down, what Temples have a labelled themselves as, a ‘neo-psych’ path. The use of vintage equipment to encapture the sound and spirit of the psychedelic scene of the 60s is perpetual in what is a strong opening track. However, the album isn’t just a nostalgic trip to 1969, it encapsulates the evolution of psychedelia, from The Beatles, to Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips, and puts a modern spin on it, with electric synths often creeping in. ‘The Golden Throne’ combines orchestral 60s pop with heavy with fuzz-pedal guitar riffs, which is more innovative than Temples critics would proclaim. The album’s highlight is unquestionably ‘Move With The Season’, a stunning, dazed, rush of intricately crafted melodic riffs. It avoids the pitfall that many psychedelic bands fall into by filling an album with distorted guitar, to the point where it becomes tiresome and all sense of melody evaporates with little substance left behind.

It’s extraordinary that this is Temples debut album. The mastery demonstrated in ‘Sun Structures’ would fool the listener to believing that this was their third or fourth. ‘The Guesser’ resembles a track that could appear on a Tarantino film, with heavy emphasis on the percussion side and hypnotic acid-soaked riffs. ‘Sand Dance’ magnifies the incurable hippy nature of the band, resembling some sort of ancient Egyptian ritual, and certainly something that would send a crowd at Woodstock into a hippy frenzy.  The album ends with ‘Fragment’s Light’ a dreamy, ritualistic two minute track (the shortest track on the album) with no heavy drums propelling the track, but the soft acoustic melody and dazed and suffused vocals carries the track by itself.

So far the album has divided both fans and the critics. However, as an album it embeds all the best elements of psychedelic rock whilst paying extra attention to sweeping, anthemic melodies. Whether you find this
‘ground-breaking’ or not, it’s an album which will keep the cogs in the psychedelic machine moving through 2014. Yes, the lyrics are hardly going to evoke emotions, or experiences that we can directly relate to, such as bands like The Smiths cultivated in their ingenious lyrics. However, this is an album that pursues escape from the dreary norms of everyday life, and everyday experiences. It thrusts you into a different world, a world of utopian day dreams and psychedelic euphoria. A desirable hide away from the incredibly tedious, superficial and aesthetic music scene which propels the talentless into stardom and success. Whilst this album will probably not be greeted with massive commercial success, it will appear in all of the music connoisseur’s beloved vinyl collection, as this is an album made to be played on a turntable.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Warpaint's Latest Offering

2013 was the year the all-woman four-piece Haim captured the whole of Britain’s attention (yes, even David Cameron acknowledged his utmost reverence for the band via Twitter), but 2014 is the year of Warpaint.

Fortunately for Warpaint’s fans, the band are in no way assimilated with David Cameron, or any other obsolete politician trying to stay in touch with the music world (and even perhaps the real world), in order to appeal to the younger electorate. In fact, with their debut only selling 30,000 copies, there is little to account for the talent the quartet from L.A have. However, with festival season on the horizon, and the release of their self-titled album at the beginning of this week, music critics will turn their attention to one of the most promising bands in the music industry today.#

I was lucky enough to see Warpaint at Brixton Academy last October, and was privileged to hear some of their new unreleased material. It was unquestionably one of the most endearingly bizarre gigs I have ever attended. It was only a few days after Lou Reed had passed away, and there was a cloud of aberrant pessimism shrouding the crowd of music lovers’ heads, as the DJ decided to put on Lou Reed’s discography to ‘warm up’ the crowd, which ironically served as a complete paradox to its intentions. It was an intense atmosphere, which would be hard for Warpaint to break, but with their innovative, refreshing dose of alternative soft-grunge rock, they restored the crowd’s faith in the music industry’s capability to produce something immensely great. Their self-titled album only reinforces this.

The album begins with the drifting and beguiling ‘Intro’, which doesn't build up to anything astounding and it ceases to fail to leave you enchanted, but after all it is only the intro. The album then delves straight into ‘Keep It Healthy’, of which Theresa’s ghostly vocals float through the disjointed, but nevertheless hypnotic, riffs. Theresa’s vocals are far more prominent in this album in contrast to their debut, where the vocals were more equally distributed between Emily Kokal and Theresa. ‘Love Is To Die’ which engenders the conflicting, and quite frankly frustrating lyrics ‘Love is to die, Love is to not die’ is perhaps the most anthemic track on the album, despite the band being unable to make up their minds.

There is an array of surprises that feature on this album, perhaps the most intriguing is the marijuana induced, Portishead-influenced ‘Hi’. The track offers provocative dub seductions, which befittingly suits Theresa’s term to embody the general theme of the album, ‘sexy’.  Aside from ‘Love Is To Die’, ‘Biggy’ is Warpaint’s exceptional moment of subtle musical genius. It’s the sort of track that Thom Yorke would have loved to produced, or written himself. It’s not something that will make you want to get up and dance with enthusiasm, but it will make you drift along on Warpaint’s enigmatic and nebulous journey to music’s utopia of subtle and intimate brilliance.

‘Disco//Very’ is the album’s most ‘upbeat’ track (although it’s conspicuously dubious to assimilate ‘upbeat’ with Warpaint), which is juxtaposed with dark and spidery tremors of bass and ominous lyrics ‘Don’t you battle, we’ll kill you, we’ll rip you up and tear you in two’. Stella Mogwaza’s mastery of percussion which has a heavy R&B influence supports the foundations of this track, as well as serving as the beating heart of the album as a whole.  
‘Drive’ is immersed with synths, which is underpinned by the bands hazy harmonious vocals and then fades out with their signature XX-esque guitar sound. The album ends on a stripped down surprise, ‘Son’, with guitars, drums and bass virtually non-existent for most of the track. However, this subtle stripped down side to Warpaint is soon overturned by a burst of eidolic vocals, and beautifully crafted soft-grunge with an electronic edge.

 It’s certainly not an album that will be engulfed by the mainstream, but Warpaint are inherently anti-mainstream, defying the stereotypes of the LA rock scene, and offering an interesting alternative to Haim.  Their debut album sounds more like a rambling scrapbook of their influences, whereas their self-titled album is shrouded with mastery, ambition, and musical prowess.  The band have learned to meld all of their talented elements into something incredibly fulfilling for themselves, and us as listeners. Each song carries its own distinct personality, and the album as a whole is a deeply personal and intimate record, yet with the help of Foals and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, it stands as a cohesive masterpiece. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Gone But Not Forgotten - Why the world fell in love with Lou Reed.

'Venus In Furs' was the first Velvet Underground song I heard, I was around 14 and at that age you feel like the whole world is against you, and that no one understands you. It's a conflict between wanting to be an individual but craving a sense of comradeship and belonging. It was also at that point in my childhood where I would hear my Grandparent's stories of the exuberant and exciting 60s. I consequentially thought that I had been born into the wrong era and this is perhaps where my mutual love for history akin to music stems from. I'm pretty sure I lived in 'Venus in Furs' for about two weeks straight, and that was it for me. After that I delved into the rest of their prolific work, and then finally became engulfed in Lou Reed's most critically acclaimed solo album 'Transformer'. It was also around that time I became obsessed with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. What connects these colossal artists together is that once you become obsessed with one song, you're in. From then on they become an important landmark in your life, and even though you progress to find new bands and fall in love with bands of the moment, you always find yourself returning to where it all started.

Artists like Lou Reed are timeless due to their profound lyrics which are relevant to any individual in any era, be it in 2013 or 1967. Music like this has no expiry date. 'Pale Blue Eyes' particularly spoke to me when I was going through a rather difficult time in a relationship, and has been covered by so many other influential artists, The Kills version of the classic is perhaps my favourite. Despite having little commercial success in terms of selling physical copies (although I am sure that will imminently change) The Velvet Underground have provided inspiration for so many successful bands today. You will find few artists who do not cite Lou Reed as a huge influence, and he has probably inveigled other artists to cover his material more than any other singer/song writer, ever. It was only this morning that I started my day listening to 'Vicious' from the 'Transformer' LP and so to hear of the tragic news this evening was all the more overwhelming and quite frankly, staggering. Whilst the the world of music has suffered an immeasurable loss, his prolific work will continue to inspire future generations and he will certainly not be forgotten. For some one who led such a debauched and turbulent chaotic life, it is actually astounding that he didn't make it into the infamous '27 club' and made it to the impressive age of 71, not that that makes the loss any less calamitous. I'm just searching for some silver linings and i'm sure Lou Reed, of all people, wouldn't want us to feel dispirited. 

Goodbye Lou Reed. Thank you for helping me and many others through the hard times. 

Arctic Monkeys at Earls Court, 25th October.

The quartet from Sheffield played the first of their two highly anticipated sold out gigs at Earls Court in London last night to a myriad of anxious and exuberant fans. As I was lucky enough to see their headline set at Glastonbury back in June, my envisaged expectations were markedly high. However, it is habitually difficult for bands to transfigure that sacred festival atmosphere into monstrous and characterless arenas which so often lack intimacy and can often erect barriers between the indispensable relationship of the band and the fans. Although as I discovered, Earls Court is distinctively different, partly due to the huge bands it has played the role of an invaluable host venue to such as the infamous Oasis gig in 1995, The Rolling Stones and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Character and history are crucial imperatives for an iconic venue and the historic 1930s arena certainly incorporates those components.

The band walked on to the extended haunting intro to ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ with the
towering, statuesque letters ‘AM’ illuminated behind the band as Alex delved into playing  the instantly recognizable riff, of which the crowd harmoniously chanted too.  If a riff initiates a mammoth sing-along in complete unison, then that is the self-evident indication that you have made a colossal hit. Alex and co then unleashed ‘Brianstorm’ to the increasingly psyched up and zealous crowd, which soon descended into beer-throwing, mosh pit-induced chaos, to the point where Alex had to intervene and say ‘You’re going to take care of each other, aren’t you London?’ then immediately propelled the audience back into chaotic turbulence by persisting with the rest of the song. The band now had the crowd in their hands, entranced and anticipating what the rest of the night would entail.        

Alex’s enunciated vocals during the set radiated through the masses of fans, without the dishonourable helping hand of a pre-recorded vocals, which so many ‘artists’ or what I like to refer to as ‘Pop Puppets’ rely on today.  The band are righteously moving away from relying on songs from ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’ and the latest material from ‘AM’ preponderantly took over the set list last night. Some fans may deem this as a significant flaw in their set, but there is nothing more obsolete and repetitive than a band relying on material they wrote seven years ago. Such nostalgia suffocates and inhibits progression, and Arctic Monkeys are demonstrably keen to progress and reinvent themselves, emphasised by Alex’s slicked back quiff and sartorial elegance in contrast to the scruffy indie look they embraced during the early days. However, for those that may voice their outworn complaints for the lack of old material, they threw in ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance floor’ for old times’ sake. ‘Fireside’ was perhaps a track on AM which was overlooked by the more domineering, stompy and confident songs such as ‘R U Mine?’ and ‘Arabella’; however last night, it was the track the stood out as the most memorable for me. It sounds almost as if it could be on a Last Shadow Puppets album, but then it throws in a ‘Humbug’ tinged guitar solo towards the end, combined with Turner’s ingenious lyrics riddled with intricate imagery and metaphors which had the most mesmeric, awe-inspiring effect.

Arctic Monkeys concluded their mesmeric set with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ to which confetti was fired and smoke diffused through the immensely crowded arena. The only disappointment perhaps was that ‘Mad Sounds’ didn’t make it onto the set list, a personal preference to ‘I Wanna Be Yours’. However, the end was in fact further in sight and more was to come from the boys in the band, as Alex and company returned to stage and addressed the audience with ‘Can you stand a couple more London?’ to which they received a predictable enthusiastic response. In the encore they played ‘Snap Out Of It’ and an acoustic version of ‘mardy bum’ which induced a mass sing-a-long, swaying arms and occasional glimpses of lighters flickering amongst the crowd. 

 Alex’s natural fondness of word-play was enforced one last time as he said ‘Come closer, can I ask you a question?’ and the ended the night with ‘R U Mine?’ to which beers were thrown, and the crowd knew every word, which just emphasises the universal popularity and profound admiration for ‘AM’ as an exceptional piece of work. The album will be looked back on in years to come as the ultimate pinnacle for the band; it is their ‘Abbey Road’ and last night’s performance at Earls court will unequivocally be the pinnacle  in their extraordinary journey, just as it was for Oasis. There are few gigs that leave me in an unutterable state of complete awe and unfeigned admiration, but Arctic Monkeys at Earls Court was deservedly one of them.  

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Babyshambles in Bristol - The Last Of The Rock Romantics.

Yesterday I attended what was my last gig in Bristol after it being a suitable setting for seeing my favourite bands throughout my adolescence, and what a high to end it on (no pun intended) with Babyshambles. Miraculously and surprisingly the band arrived on stage vaguely on time, suggesting that perhaps the tables have turned and could we possibly see a punctual and more reserved, mellow Peter Doherty? No, is the simple and straight answer to that. Babyshambles embrace the debauchery and chaotic nature of Doherty's prowess on stage, and last night certainly proved that those elements were still potent in the bands manifesto.
The band began the night of exponential chaos with 'Delivery' from the Shotters Nation LP to a devoted and welcoming crowd, beer was thrown, members of the crowd were taken out by security who shared increasingly uneasy looks of concern on their faces, and Doherty immediately had the crowd in his hands like some sort of punk puppeteer.

Babyshambles then delved into the songs from their recent LP 'Sequel to the Prequel' including 'Nothing Comes To Nothing' 'Farmers Daughter' and 'Fall From Grace'. 'Nothing Comes To Nothing' particularly seems to bare resemblances to the likes of The Smiths, which is no surprise as Peter regularly cites The Smiths as being a huge influence, that juxtaposed with Peter's raw, raspy and unrefined vocals gives it that raw, iconic, British punk sound. The main premise of the difference of a Babyshambles gig to any other, is the fans. Peter Doherty's fans are unambiguously devoted and erupt with complete admiration and glorification when in close proximity to such an important icon in the music world, thus creating a distinct atmosphere. The justification for such idolization of a character so hounded by the press is also just as transparent. It was The Libertines that broke the
boundaries between the fans and the band with their infamous gigs at their London flat, intimate venues and a proclaimed appreciation and respect for their fans. It would appear that this tradition has a line of continuity throughout Peter's work. The other point is how accessible he is, and this was emphasized last night with Peter taking gifts from the crowd, picking up trilbies, and actually talking to the crowd which appears to be something of a novelty with other artists today. His lyrics also seem to relate and identify with the youth more than anyone else, his observational method of writing such as 'There are few more distressing sights than that, of an English man in a baseball cap' has influenced songwriters such as Alex Turner. Being a published poet, and a well established singer/songwriter, it is no surprise that 'Sequel To The Prequel' is also filled with glimpses of natural creative genius, rejuvenating that affinity with the youth of today.

The other notable highlights were 'Fuck Forever' - nothing gives such a sense of comradery than hundreds of fans harmoniously singing (shouting) 'Fuck Forever' few live experiences will ever surpass that. 'Killamangiro' also sent the crowd descending into chaotic turmoil, of which was openly embraced by Peter. However, Peter entered classic shambles territory as he downed drinks with the crowds cheer and appraisal, and with bassist Drew looking on with concern and apprehension of what the rest of the night would entail. Just after the band unleashed 'Fuck Forever' half of the band mysteriously left the stage, leaving Peter to improvise with some old Libertines classics such as 'Time For Heroes' and 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'. Luckily, Mick (guitarist) came on to help and they performed a Ska-esque version of 'I Get Along' with Peter trying to compensate for the missing drummer. It was completely unrehearsed, unexpected and all the more exciting. 'Unexpected' being enshrined in the core of Doherty's endearing and bewildering character.

 Mick then began playing the instantly recognisable chords to Oasis' 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' with an increasingly more rowdy and intoxicated Doherty singing along, and finally the Sound-tech guy joined the improvised, erratic set and provided the beat. Peter also covered 'Twist and Shout' and this brilliant unprecedented, unpredictable set
went on until the lights came up and the o2 pulled the plug on the microphone and the amps, leaving Doherty lying on the floor until he finally took the hints from Mick and walked of stage. It up-ended every expectation I had of Babyshambles, and myself and the rest of the fans shared the same mutual feeling of gratification, particularly when the set went wayward. The sense that we had witnessed something particularly special. I've seen The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys and The Cure amongst others, but nothing comes close to what I was a part of last night. Peter definitely lived up to his notorious reputation of being the last of the rock romantics, the remnant of true British Rock n' Roll, and that for all his foibles embracing the best of British culture.

Thank you, and Goodbye Bristol. Next gigging Utopia, London.

If you haven't got hold of a copy of  'Sequel To The Prequel' then here's a taster of what's on the album.