Leeds and West Yorkshire
Free December 2009
us & Them end of year review jon gomm mishkin
Leeds Jazz Passport Control Headlies Brainwash Festival
@ THE ELBOW ROOM EVERY FRIDAY Friday 4th Dec
Friday 11th Dec
Ocein Reid / Pheonix Fall Secret in Today
Cats for Peru / Tokyo Heat NewBrascos / Leodis
DIE VIDEO DIE
Friday 18th Dec
RENAISSANCE DOLLS Zoo Policy Sailmaker
indie electro soul The Elbow Room, 64 Call Lane (nr Corn Exchange), Leeds LS1 6DT 0113 2277661 / email@example.com
Resident DJ Indie Bear Doors 8pm / Admission ÂŁ2
Facebook: soundpeople supported by
The Team Editor Rob Paul Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org
Design Editor Tim Metcalfe email@example.com
Picture Editor Tom Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviews Editor Rob Wright email@example.com
Founded and Published by Tony Wilby firstname.lastname@example.org Jack Simpson email@example.com
Advertising Department Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org Jack Simpson
Web Team Simon Hollingworth www.vibrations.org.uk Charlotte Watkins www.myspace.com/vibrationsmagazine The Contributors Nelson, Neil Dawson, Rob Paul Chapman, Rob Wright, Tom Martin, Sam Saunders, Kate Wellham, Steve Walsh, Claire Morris, Sophia Austen-Meek, Bart Pettman, Spencer Bayles, Mike Price, Tom Bailey, Emily Clare Smith, Greg Elliott, Justin Myers, Helen Skeet, Nick Todd, Puru Misra
The Contents 5 Magazine Editorial 10 Leeds Jazz 12 Us & Them 16 The Fight Before Christmas 22 Jon Gomm 26 Mishkin 30 Passport Control 30 Introducing @ BBC Leeds 31 Headlies 32 Album Reviews 34 Single Reviews 35 Preview Reviews 35 Live Reviews 36 Brainwash Festival 2009 38 Second Hearing - Your Demos!
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Cover shot Us & Them by Claire Morris Mishkin vibrations 3
TEARING MEÊAPART THEÊNEWÊSINGLEÊBY
THEÊPHOENIXÊFALL OUTÊNOVÊ23 (iTUNESÊANDÊAMAZONÊUK) M O R E I N F O A ND T HE NE W ʻ T E A R I N G M E APART ʼ M U S I C V I D E O A L S O AVA I L A B L E TO WATC H ON L I N E AT
Sometimes I like to think like Descartes. Not by sitting in a 17th century domestic oven in the former Dutch Republic for several hours at a time, but by questioning… you know… life, the universe, and everything... Cogito Ergo Sum and all that… Specifically, I like to think about our place in the grand scheme of things. Not mine specifically, as I know that to be 90% editing this magazine, 9% attempting to earn a living and 1% checking on the progress of West Ham United and the England cricket team. More, what is the point of Vibrations? This question tends to crop up most pressingly at around midnight on a Friday evening after around 5 or 6 continuous hours of interview transcription. I am fairly sure that the language used to raise such questions is a little more choice than our friend Big Rene D would have used. The one word that tends to come up is “Community”: we are here to serve a purpose, to report on the strengths, the weaknesses and the needs of our community. And it seems to be that sense of community that helps us – if you’ll forgive me the temporary indulgence of some sheepish self-owned trumpet blowing – to continually punch above our weight in the contributors we attract. None of us can seemingly work out why the others do it, but as long as this status quo exists in equilibrium we can continue to pump out the issues. By now you’ll have seen the simply outstanding photographic work of Claire Morris whose astonishing snap of production team GMJ adorns the cover. Like everyone else, Claire donated her time for free. As did GMJ themselves in putting together the remarkable Us&Them album to showcase the skills of some of West Yorkshire’s most abundant talent. If we tried to apply a logical, Machiavellian, Thatcherite thought process to all this, there is no reason why half of the people involved in the West Yorkshire scene should be here at all. Why does Jack Simpson collect the advertising revenue that keeps this mag running without receiving a scrap of recognition? Why does Tony keep us mothered and motivated to make sure we deliver what we promise without a mention? Why does Tim put hours and hours into the mag’s layout
from hundreds of miles away? And why do people like Jon Gomm, Kate Wellham, Sam Saunders, GMJ, The Brainwash team, and everyone involved at both the heart and peripheries of the scene commit themselves with such passion and abandon to the various causes around the Cities for no tangible personal gain? The clue is in the question. It’s a case of a passionate and unwavering commitment to, and belief in, everyone else. That – if you’ll forgive the lame hippy cliché – only by working together, can we produce the scene we deserve. It is for this reason that this scene actively puts up a fight against the manipulators and profiteers who seek to enter our community with the specific intention of taking advantage of the naïve, misguided or vulnerable. I had specific reason to appreciate the strength of this community and the people within it in the compilation of this issue. As you may have noticed, this is the annual Fight Before Christmas issue which you can read about later. We thought it would be fun to put the results out in a podcast, so I advertised on the Leeds Music Forum something along the lines of “Technical morons seek free loan of podcasting equipment and comprehensive idiotproof introduction to how to work it for Vibrations podcast”. Within a couple of hours, a note appeared in my inbox from one Mr. Peter Wright of the band Vessels. A gentleman I do not know particularly well and whose band I had not been 100% complimentary about in the review of their debut album (I was a relatively lone, and probably misguided voice; I should probably point out in retrospect). He had the equipment we required and would be more than happy to lend it to us without charge. What a gent. A day later I was welcomed into chez Wright, given a lovely cup of tea and loaned thousands of pounds worth of recording equipment with Muppet-proof instructions on how to use it. I was also soundly outclassed in a conversation
about Jazz, despite my interest in the field. On leaving I asked if there was anything at all we could do for him by way of thanks. “Actually, there is one favour I could ask of you and the mag if that’s OK?” And with that he scribbled a note on a piece of paper. You can see the contents of what was written on that piece of paper below. And I believe that to be the measure of the man. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. Perhaps I’m just feeling soppy because Christmas is coming. But you should all be proud. You don’t just contribute to; you are the greatest music scene in Britain. Have a fantastic holiday and see you in the New Year when I shall almost certainly be back to grumpy normal. ATB. RPC
Have You Lost A Guitar?
Vessels seem to have 1 guitar too many after a show, possibly Moorfest.
If you’re 1 short, contact
firstname.lastname@example.org vibrations 5
Crowd Tops Bill Looking for genuine star power? That elusive and mysterious X-Factor? If you’re facing towards the stage, you’re pointing in the wrong direction, argues Sam Saunders As the lightweights drifted away from the most accomplished and extraordinary pop performance of 2009 (Radiohead at Leeds Festival) I started to wonder about where things were going, culturally speaking. It dawned on me, gradually, that the limits of mass taste have simply burst. People can’t absorb any more. The musicians have just got too clever, too good and too complex. Musical first-aiders have to stand in the wings with remedial doses of strawberry milkshake to soothe the ravaged pallettes and dull the taste after so much raw spirit. “Little Boots, please!” cry the audiences. “Editors, if you have some!” and “What’s the blandest thing you’ve got?” The problem seemed, at that Radioheadache moment, to be that musical progress has to stop at regular intervals while the stragglers get their chance to wallow in therapeutic aural custard and get back in touch with their primordial pentatonic selves. Maybe. But, to be honest, I don’t think I had understood at all. My thoughts, accurate in their own narrow way, had simply missed the main story. The vanguard have always had their short triumphs, and new explorations have always had to start from scratch in darker corners away from the public’s prevailing anaemia. Bland is, let’s be honest, the norm in all eras. Leeds 2009 wasn’t the first such ebbing of the creative tide. So that thought was nothing to write home (or a column) about.
Take my Flickr pages on the web as an example. It’s obvious. For Leeds Festival 2009 I have 84 photographs on-line. The favourite 6 in terms of visitor views are all pictures of the crowd. Between them the half dozen have attracted over 2,000 views. That’s more than all the rest put together. Thinking back, I remember that I had taken a DSLR camera along for the first time and it doesn’t hide itself like my trusty Kodak point-and-click. The bigger fatter lens seemed to draw then in. People rushed up at regular intervals, posing unbidden and demanding that I take a photograph. They knew that somehow they would end up on the web or in a magazine. (check the inflatable blonde guitarist in the last issue of Vibrations). Is it not the case that sold-out gigs are always preferred to half empty ones? Why is that? In a crowded gig you can’t see the band and probably cant hear them very well either. But as a crowd you are proud and performing, applauded after each number by the band “Thanks Leeds! You’ve been a great audience!” Indeed you have. You spent the afternoon listening to the songs and checking the lines so you could shout along. You got the moves right, you surged and moshed or danced or whooped just as directed. You deserve the appreciation. You are the stars.
What I had belatedly noticed, if only the penny had dropped properly, was something else. It was something that runs through all the analyses and worries about what vernacular music is up to these days. Serious intellectuals and Melvin Benn probably spotted it shortly after Jacques Derrida published Of Grammatology in the late 60s. But I still haven’t read the seminal work and I’m not a Festival organiser, so I hope I can be forgiven for being a few decades late with the cultural insight. This bigger truth/not truth is that rock and roll has spontaneously done what punk rock intended but couldn’t achieve. It has totally flipped the pyramid, dudes. The people on stage are now the dreary lower blocks of foundation stone, while the audience, one at a time or all together, are the polished marble stars at the apex. And they know it. They are bussed to the show in costume, all madeup with lines and moves all rehearsed. Just look at ‘em go. They are not fans of the music, they are fans of themselves and fans of each other. Even when they do get near a stage they spend their time providing their own entertainment with fireworks, circle pits, barbecues, parish meetings, beer throwing contests, shouted witticisms, adjusting their hats and trousers and stage managing their comrades in cowsuits, like professionals. It’s as if all the year’s ragged Headingley street rehearsals have come good in one glorious riot of self-adulation.
And, like a star, the crowd has learned some of what’s expected of the exalted. Even though you are ready, and have been ready for an hour, wait just ten more minutes before going into the venue itself. Keep the band waiting, You are worth it! For ultimate power - stay home and play Guitar Hero, the ultimate reversal where the corpses of the former champions become the puppets and the devoted fans take over the whole show. Sam Saunders www.flickr.com/photos/samsaunders vibrations 7
art attack The City of Film is about to lose its beautiful Art Deco super-cinema (the UK’s last) and have it replaced by a faceless shopping centre. Presumably to match the other faceless shopping centre that is still yet to be built in the same city, despite being supposedly under construction for years. Kate Wellham had something to say about it, along with several thousand other people While the English Defence League conducted their noisy misguided victory march through the centre of Leeds – their only victory being that they were still alive by the time they reached the other side, thanks to police escorts they didn’t deserve – over in Bradford there was a contrasting protest taking place, as pensioners, families, little children and students quietly chalked their messages of discomfort on the walls of City Hall, on the flagstones of Centenary Square, and onto the silencing black boards of the Odeon. Sick of regeneration plans that are seeing the city pulled down around them, unconvinced by the consultation exercises the Council had dutifully carried out as obliged (and then ignored the results), the options were either a) bricks through windows, or b) bypass the censors and communicate with the local government in a way that could not be given a case number and filed away never to be seen again. Speeches were made on the steps of City Hall, and then we marched to the Odeon, where we chalked our support, our love and our disgust over every available surface. Little old ladies writing pleas in tiny neat loops next to anarchist kids making ‘FUCK’ every other word. I can’t imagine any other setting that would have seen this happen. By beautiful coincidence, the very day a demonstration was arranged to protest the coming demolition of the Odeon – the
UK’s last remaining art deco super-cinema, in the City of Film (you couldn’t make it up) – there was a simultaneous and anonymous protest about the Westfield wasteland. Westfield is the huge hole in the centre of the city that – thanks to a lack of proper penalty clauses with the developers – has been there for five years, boards rotting, weeds growing, a constant reminder of the shopping centre many of us didn’t want in the first place and now almost wish we had instead. On Westfield, there were huge poems that had been pre-painted and screwed to the boards, a professional job. ‘Westfield’ was replaced by ‘Wastefield’ – same logo, more accurate. The Democracy Wall was a stroke of genius, the writing continued with felt tip on white paint, and not one ‘Gaz woz ere’ in sight by the time it was full. The police were sympathetic, and broke their professional silence on occasion to express their sympathy. The council cleaners took their time washing the city clean of democracy, and left a few messages for us. One smiled at the democracy wall, sprayed it a little, concluded “it’s not coming off”, and left to cheers and applause. By Monday morning everything was gone, but the pages are blank for us again. To see more pictures from the protest, visit www.saveourodeon.com
an obituary, of sorts... Imagine my surprise when mere days after the copy deadline for the last issue of this illustrious organ, at the first gig of their 25th Anniversary Season, Leeds Jazz announced that they will cease operations after the last show of the season on November 26th. Being increasingly enamoured of jazz in general, and thankful that something like Leeds Jazz exists to feed my curiosity, my preview for the season was dutifully submitted in time and appeared in the last issue without – you would have noticed if you had read it – any mention of this sad fact. If I had known in advance, I would have tried to convey (in the parsimonious space allowed for this kind of thing) the shock and sadness I felt at the announcement but, more importantly, tried to encourage as many people as possible to get to one of the final gigs to see and hear just what you’ve been missing by not going in the past, whilst also giving Leeds Jazz the rousing send off they deserve. As it turns out, you’re probably reading this after the last gig has occurred anyway. So unless you’re the kind of Vibrations reader prepared to seek musical thrills outside the indie ghetto anyway, the death of Leeds Jazz has probably completely passed you by. Which is tragic. So why has this happened? It seems that a combination of three interrelated issues finally put paid to Leeds Jazz.
Firstly, and simply, not enough people went to the gigs. Given the fact that Leeds Jazz have provided me with some of the most mind blowing musical experiences of the last few years I find this particularly frustrating. So much great music being missed by so many people. Secondly, a squeeze on funding. It seems the gap between what Leeds Jazz took on the door and their running costs just got too wide. Of course, if the audiences had been bigger..... Thirdly, the people who made Leeds Jazz happen just got fed up. Fed up of spending most of their spare time and energy organising something that, apparently, no one wanted to come to and not getting paid a penny for doing it. But fed up of the music? No chance. Along the way, that music has included Spring Heel Jack suggesting a new musical language that spanned jazz, improvisation and rock; Sam Rivers playing music he wrote forty years ago that still fizzes with vitality and joy; Charles Gayle’s absolutely livid saxophone making me think there may just be a God after all; The Necks’ extraordinary suspension of time and space; and Ken Vandermark carving granite-like blocks of sound from thin air through his saxophone. Just what did I miss at all the gigs I couldn’t get to? And as for the gigs that happened after the copy deadline for this issue, I’m sure Trio VD’s splatter jazz metal continued to open out future possibilities; that Paul Dunmall, Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille drew fiery passion from the weathered language of free improvisation; and at the last gig of all, that Myra Melford, Chris Batchelor and Mark Sanders’ marriage of acoustic and electronic sound generation had not a single thought for nostalgia and considered only how to keep moving this whole thing forward. If Leeds Jazz has taught me anything, it’s that “jazz” represents all that is brave, questing, adventurous and honest about music. So why should your average music fan in Leeds care about the end of Leeds Jazz? Over the last few years, an enormous amount of attention has been focused on Leeds as a creative
seedbed of musical talent, but this has tended to concentrate on the indie-rock-pop axis. But the really great thing about Leeds has been the way in which this has been evident in almost every sphere of musical expression. And although Leeds Jazz are perhaps more reliant on external funding than other marginal operations like Cops & Robbers, their demise is perhaps a sign that the general economic squeeze is starting to have an impact. Is there a future for top flight jazz in Leeds? There have always been pockets of jazz promotion in the area but these have tended to be intermittent and concentrate on more mainstream British bands and musicians. But, apart from providing most of the young jazz musicians that play in the city, Leeds College of Music stages gigs by international jazz acts, although these tend to share the programme with classical and World Music concerts to better reflect the range inherent in their syllabus. Until recently I would have said the Leeds Improvised Music Association (LIMA) were poised to take up some of the slack left by Leeds Jazz, but that organisation’s near silence in recent months suggests they too are feeling the funding pinch. The LIMA splinter promotion arm The Spin Off has started staging weekly gigs at Santiago’s that draw on musicians from the LIMA ranks as well as catching some of the most exciting British jazz musicians playing today. And, ironically, Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton, which Leeds Jazz has used as a base of operations for the last year, are gradually developing a jazz promotion arm with real potential. So that’s it. In the end, Leeds Jazz didn’t want to be saved. Looking back at what they had done over their 25 years you can see why they may have had no regrets about not compromising on their mission to get some of the best musicians in the world to play in this city. Fortunately, Santiago’s, Leeds College of Music and Seven Arts are making sure the flame hasn’t been completely extinguished. www.leedsjazz.org.uk Steve Walsh vibrations 10
Us & Them as after all, they are only ordinary men…? 1 studio boss, 1 master-remixer, 1 studio boss/masterremixer, 1 well-meaning, but bureaucratic and mostly clueless city council... How did this lot conspire to make one of the albums of the year? “This album is a Facebook poke” they tell Rob Paul Chapman.
Photography by Claire Morris and Make-up by Sophia Austen-Meek vibrations 12
Any idiot can challenge authority. But working with authority for the greater good takes a lot more brains, nerve and patience. This is what the unlikely production team GMJ attempted, and to their eternal credit succeeded. I say unlikely, because sat around the table are a trio of Leeds alphas you’d have struggled to picture together as a team. The laid-back producer and Sponge Studios boss Jamie “Jam Sponge” Lambe, the articulate and considered owner of The Old Chapel rehearsal space Mark Hubbard, and the inimitable Gavin “Gavron” Lawson, 50% of the celebrated, now defunct duo Yes Boss, as well as one of the most in-demand remixers around. It seems highly appropriate that you’d struggle to imagine this unlikely combination working so well together, as that is something of a theme of the exceptional record they have produced. “It manifested itself from various meetings with Leeds City Council as Digital Week was approaching” explains Jamie. “We wanted to avoid do-gooders getting to spend lots of money on workshops or a little party for themselves. Which inevitably no one ever turns up to…” “… or knows about” chips in Gav “The actual people involved never seem to get anything out of it, which is part of our problem with what Leeds City Council do with their money” continues Jamie. “If you want people to crosspollinate, rather than trying to have people from different genres getting together for this amazing Benettonstyle life together, we wanted to make Leeds City Council realise that this sort of thing doesn’t work.” The thesis was, in essence, that the way to bring people together, was not necessarily by physically bringing them together. “People want to be influenced by other genres, but they are only ever at their most creative in their own environment” he reasons. Gav continues “We went to a meeting about what Leeds City Council could do for music in Leeds, and there we met Mark.” “What they wanted was a showcase that could demonstrate that creative media could do something exciting in the city” says Mark picking up the story. “Someone we knew had been approached by a Local Economic Growth Initiative – basically people
trying to get people into jobs – to say that Digital Week was happening.” “They really wanted a CD, something that they could put out” recalls Gav. “But trying to get a studio album obviously needs musicians” reasons Mark. “So how to best do that? Give a load of money to a studio and ask them to produce something? Or do you just try and get a snapshot of what is going on in Leeds at the moment. So we got chatting in the pub about how we might mix up some live bands, and some producers/DJs. We thought about getting half of each and getting them to swap tunes and do versions of each others’ tunes. That was the original premise.” “I like lots of different scenes, I like jumping in and out” grins Gav. “So you’ve got a metal band remixing a house track. It’s taking them out of their own environment, but keeping them in their own environment!” So with the idea formed – to mix up artists from the dance scene and guitar scenes and get them to swap tracks – the next challenge was how to shape this into something workable and practical, starting with which acts to pick. “We all knew of some great artists” says Gav. “Mark has some great artists coming through The Old Chapel, Jamie has some great artists coming through Sponge, and as I said earlier, I’m just the man about town!”
“At the moment you can’t hear the originals, so you can’t see what has been done with each track” suggests Mark. “But if you go back and Google these artists you’ll be able to see what has gone on.”
“Digital media has a lot to do with people being able to open their eyes to different things” agrees Jamie, picking up on the point. “It’s the iPod generation” exclaims Gav. “People always say ‘there’s a bit of everything on my iPod’” observes Mark.
“It’s true” Gav continues. “We’re at a time where people don’t listen to albums anymore, so what we’re essentially trying to say is here is an album that isn’t just one thing, it’s everything. You have “Everyone that we asked to be on there multiples of genres and people love it. Everyone you speak to these days you is on there. We didn’t pick through 50 say “what are you into” and they say “a artists” Mark continues. “This had to be done very, very quickly, so we had to put bit of everything”. pressure on people to say that this had The album may work brilliantly for to be done next week. So there wasn’t a the artists and the listener, but having lot of time for them to go away and think bankrolled it, what are the council’s about it. Which is great because you can ambitions? get some great results when people are thinking off the cuff.” “We are really happy with the versions of the songs” Gav says with visible pride. “Some of the metal bands didn’t really get what remixing was, because they’d never been asked to do it before. But they’ve taken influence from the original and created their own take on it, whereas a producer would have just sampled the parts. A band doesn’t have the opportunity to do that. The classic example is The Horror doing the Chris Dawkins track. Now I can hear that Chris Dawkins original track, the riff is still there, but it’s 180BPM and a minute long! But most people who will hear this album won’t know the original tracks, so it’s a completely clean slate.”
“I guess that the people that are paying for this want it to spark off new ventures, and that’s what it’s about for them” surmises Mark. “Success for them would be about job creation and creating work through music”
“But it’s also about people doing it for the right reasons” offers Gav. “People who love music, using music to get by, rather than just doing it for the glitz and glamour that some people think exists, but which really fucking doesn’t!” “It’s a great attitude to have, to take the career aspect out of it, but the ability to make money out of your art is fantastic” Mark continues. “You don’t have to sell your arse, you don’t have to sell your soul, but if you can perhaps get some work out of it that is going to pay your bills, then great! It might be about putting some background music on a website, or it might just be putting a gig on in town. There’s a whole gamut of stuff. It’s not about getting on stage at Top Of The Pops and suddenly you’ve got a career, because that doesn’t work anymore. There are plenty of different careers”. It seems that the council are attaching a lot of emphasis to the launch event, which will have occurred by the time you read this, the concept being that business and media types will be encouraged to try and create tangible work for the music and musicians
involved in the project. But it’s a fine balance between private, public and artistic sectors. “It’s the dead hand of government” Mark points out. “You can’t really advertise something as being a council-run event as far as I’m concerned. The only way that people will pay attention to it, is by not saying that it has anything to do with Leeds City Council! That said, the relationship has been very positive on a day-to-day basis. We are hoping that [the album] may well be the first of many” hopes Mark. “And the really good thing about it is that the council have paid for it. You can slag the council off as much as you like but they have done something really good for Leeds music here. It will spark off a few ideas, and it will get people wanting to do it again.
“We are saying thank you for investing in something that we believe in” says Gav, before Jamie launches into an impromptu rendition of “Thank You For The Music”. “You know that on Facebook there’s this ‘poke’ function?” tangents Mark. “Well that’s what this album is. It’s like going to everyone that’s involved in music in Leeds, and giving them a poke. Saying think about this, think about something different.” So what are the chances of a second Us&Them? “For it to happen again next year, it will need a bigger and better idea, which is something we are formulating at the minute. There are a few ways that I would like to see this go, and it’s about crossing into even more genres. Gav: “Perhaps a man playing the spoons…?” Jamie: “…with a French Horn section!”
the fight before Christmas And so it came to pass that on a cold and stormy night in a secret location on the very outskirts of Yorkshire, a specially selected crap team… sorry, crack team… of writers and photographers were summoned together, given assumed identities under the cover of night, and were brought forth to debate the 2nd annual Fight Before Christmas. If you missed last year, then you may be unfamiliar with the format, and believe us we use the word format very loosely indeed. Allow us to elaborate: Last year, we here at Vibrations decided that we wanted to bring further attention to some of the best records we’d heard in the previous 12 months. Perhaps they’d come out a while ago, or perhaps they’d slipped under the radar a bit. Sometimes the records that stay with you over time are not the ones that initially leap out when you have to review them after a couple of listens.
We decided to repeat the trick this year, but wanted to open the debate up to the readers. i.e. you lot. And it’s fair to say, that you overwhelmed us with the volume in which you responded. Obviously, we couldn’t include every suggestion you made, which contained the good, the bad, and the Galloway, but a fair chunk of the list is made up of your suggestions. Not that we necessarily always agreed with you. And so, armed only with several weeks of album-cramming, unwavering musical instincts, a belligerent attitude to any opinion that differed even slightly from their own, and some oven-baked nibbles combined with too much red wine; the panel assembled to debate the final shortlist and put it into some semblance of order.
This year, the panel comprised Vibrations editor Rob Paul Chapman, reviews editor Rob Wright, regular columnist Sam Saunders, celebrated musician and writer Spencer Bayles However, none of the team here and acclaimed photographer Bart are really fans of the traditional “list” Pettman. Given that the natural musical format, where a publication assumes preferences of this bunch of misfits the position of informing you what are could be described as somewhat definitively the best albums of the year. contrasting, it was no surprise that This stuff is, to a large extent, subjective. in many instances the only thing the panel could agree on was that more So rather than talk in absolutes, we got wine never hurts… Unless you’re Rob the writers to nominate their favourite records, gathered a few of us in a room, Wright, in which case the tumble down the steps on exit around 1am did indeed argued the various merits of each, and look fairly painful. voted on them, publishing the results in the December ’08 edition
Album summaries by: Rob Paul Chapman Rob Wright Sam Saunders Bart Pettman Spencer Bayles Kate Wellham Mike Price Tom Bailey Pictures: Bart Pettman hear the podcast at www.vibrations.org.uk Each album – which we had insisted must have been heard in full at least twice within 2 weeks of the panel meeting – was given an introduction by a sponsor from the panel. This was then debated for between 5-10 minutes before at the end of this rigorous session of frenzied conjecture, each panellist awarded a mark, based purely on personal preference out of ten. Of the panel, Sam proved to be the Len Goodman, dishing out a grand total of 151 points across all 20 albums, while Spence took on the unlikely Craig RevelHorwood role, sparingly awarding just 106 points, although Spence was barred from voting on one of the records when it emerged that he had played bass on some of the recording. Thus the mean score from the remaining four was used instead. The uncensored opinions – both glowing hyperbole, and astonished bewilderment – can be heard across two podcasts to be released through the Vibrations website in the next couple of weeks, for those of you keen to hear the arguments for and against each. Whilst we welcome your thoughts, comments and downright outrage at what made it, didn’t make it, and our subsequent thoughts on each, please keep in mind that this is very much a combination of personal opinions. We make no attempt to consider this remotely objective. So with that in mind, let battle commence….
19. Castrovalva Castrovalva Dan and Ant, not Ant and Dec, like it heavy. Seriously heavy. This debut mini-album is bass and drum (not drum and bass, there’s the distinction) and little else. It may sound like an even lower frequency tank, but this is sludgier, more abrasive and less inclined to make you dance. There is a third member, Leeman, who is now a permanent fixture but here only provides vocals on ‘Bellhausen’. This will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like your Earth and Sunn o))) and quite fancy a bit of local low frequency talent check them out. (RW)
off. In fact, if you don’t feel like starting a gang and piercing something then you were not listening properly. ROCK N ROLL. (BP)
15. Downdime Knowing Too Much
Despite a healthy number of indie guitar outfits in the city, there aren’t many that channel C86-style indie-pop, and certainly none that evoke that spirit quite After years of stumbling around the as much as or as well as Downdime. If national indie-pop circuit, Buen Chico dug deep and ploughed every last scrap the likes of The Wedding Present and Belle and Sebastian are your bag, this of their optimism reserves into This record will be very much for you. Songs Party, the sublime first 4 minutes and like the excellent Lessons and previous 25 seconds of this album. The result is utterly joyous. In truth, there is little else single Joanne being particular highlights here that can match the high watermark that make you wonder if they were hits 20 years ago and you just somehow of the opener – although the gorgeous missed them. The vocals may be a bit a cappella There’s No Machine gets close – but it doesn’t matter. This record lightweight for some, but indie-poppers will lap it up. (SB) is worthy of inclusion here for the warm fuzzy glow you’ll carry around for the rest of the day once you’ve heard track one. (RPC)
18. Buen Chico Our Love’s Enormous
20. The Cribs Ignore The Ignorant
Thought you knew The Cribs? That outspoken Wakefield trio who regularly dish up indie pop? Well revolution was afoot with album number four. Thanks to the help of the legendary Johnny Marr, the Jarman’s served up their most accomplished work to date. Their sharp melodies and catchy hooks are now accompanied with added depth. It’s no longer just verse chorus, verse chorus, but instead there’s a lot more room to breath, allowing tracks to build to a more 17. Alt Track Silence Is Approval gradual and rewarding climax, with ‘Victims Of Mass Production’ and ‘Cheat Why wail and moan about the world’s On Me’ being arguably both The Cribs’ problems (Chris Martin take note) when and Marr’s best in years. (TB) spitting unity over deep and dirty drum n bass, and taking the odd piano-led breather, sounds so much more like a call to arms? Mixing post-rock, hip hop and thoughtful politics that extend far beyond what they do onstage, Alt Track are one of my favourite bands full stop, let alone in West Yorkshire, for making you think as you watch them that if only they could reach the right sets of ears, the world might be a better place. (KW)
16. Yalla Yallas Act of Defiance The Yalla Yallas have a history of proving people wrong and their debut album “Act of Defiance” is no different. Drawing unashamedly on the influences that built punk and dragging them soundly into 2009 by their safety-pinned ears, frontman Rob Galloway cooks up a body of work dripping with humour, menace, and politics that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve just been told
14. Worriedaboutsatan Arrivals 2009 has been for Leeds the year of the two piece (though I have been told that if I turn up at Nation of Shopkeepers in a bikini again, I am barred for life) and Gavin and Tom are the quiet voice of this trend. Dropping the guitar solos, WAS decided to go for a more ambient approach on this their debut album, following in the footsteps of Brian Eno, The Orb and FSOL. There are still a lot of good beats in there, but they’re wrapped up in a hypnotic cloud of found sounds and laptop drone. Marshmallow dance. (RW)
11. Ric Neale Someone Else’s Home
13. Wintermute Robot Works A rather sad one this. ‘Robot Works’ marked the beginning and end of Wintermute’s career as performing artists, which is a shame because this is rather good. Collating the unreleased EP, ‘Fun With Wizards Stencils’, previous single releases and two new tracks, ‘Robot Works’ was a lively, complex, yet utterly poptastic album that, though math rock has definitely had its time, certainly showed promise in its new tracks, whilst creating definitive versions of their earlier work. ‘The Fall of Hans Gruber’ has some real balls, for instance. With any luck, this will not mark the end for this fantastic four. (RW)
Heaven knows, we are not short of reasons to curse the very day that Blunt, Grey and Johnson (J) picked up the acoustic guitar and offered forth a tirade of bottom-scraping ballarding-bilge from which the charts are yet to recover. But their greatest crime was to claim acoustic MOR pop as their own. Ric Neale has something to say about that. This is a small, yet perfectly formed package (the record, not Ric…) of prime Radio 2-friendly country-tinged wistful acoustic pop that sparkles with charm and sincerity. And if that description makes you wince, you’re probably a lot like me, just before popping this into the CD player. Delightful. (RPC)
10. That Fucking Tank Tanknology Light-hearted and accessible by Tank standards, Tanknology was still a juggernaut under whose wheels many listeners would perish. The brief solo acoustic track “John Faheyshanu” (notice the treasure hunt titles) is a pause to lay flowers for the dead, the rest is the mixture demanded by the fans, short riffing, minimal equipment, and maximum intensity. The three track conclusion is a classic of destructive fun. The brief homage “Bruce Springstonehenge” leaps off into prog heaven with the Wagner emulating “Prince Ludwig of Bavaria” and then trips out with Lemmy and pals in a silver machine called “Stephen Hawkwind”. (SS)
9. Chickenhawk Chickenhawk
12. If Destroyed Still True Seven Dials “Jazz” is an emotive word. And it would be easy to try and patronise a rock audience by selling this on its guitar credentials. But that would be doing both it, and its audience, a disservice. For this is an astonishing album on any level and in any genre. It understands perfectly the contrast between light and shade, that for the dischord to make sense, it needs to be rooted in some kind of tonal context. But academics aside, this is an album to truly lose oneself in, as it continues to send tingles down the spine time and again. (RPC)
Let’s get this clear: Chickenhawk went to the moon, man. Do you know any other band that can make this claim? No, you don’t. If this wasn’t enough, Chickenhawk’s self-titled debut boasts more riff per square inch than Black Sabbath, QOTSA and Megadeth playing a game of Twister at James Hetfield’s house. Couple that with some remarkable technical ability and you have… something. You definitely have… well, something. And it will make your retinas explode. Get in there early because endorsements from Leeds’ premier photographer (no, not me) and subsequent attention from the national press mean you will not be able to claim you heard Chickenhawk first for much longer. (BP)
8. The Old Romantic Killer Band The Swan With Two Necks Harry Johns (vocals/guitar) and Greg Holland (drums) make up ORKB and their nine track debut album contains a plethora of American influences including, grunge, blues, country and folk. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, rest assured there is also a smattering of home grown pop sensibility to keep each track catchy, short and sweet. Highlights include the infectious single ‘Lovers Pass’ then ‘Pigs’ and ‘Trouble Causer’ which veer between East and West coast college rock. As the title suggests, the finale takes a firm route to the deep-south, complete with slide guitar played through what sounds like a broken bottle, although this long player does include some quieter moments. (MP)
7. Heads We Dance Love Technology Is this the final nail in the coffin for the knuckle-dragging flat-earth nay-sayers, still in denial that there is intelligent life to be found on planet pop? For those who care to look, they will find a level of wit, insight and irreverence here unlikely to trouble fans of The Fratellis – how many other albums of party floor-fillers can you think of that feature a satirical critique of North Korean cultural policy? And yet, all this could be considered a pretentious irrelevance if it wasn’t for the fact that it nails its primary objective: It is deliriously, unashamedly and tremendously good fun. (RPC)
6. Sky Larkin The Golden Spike Let me start with a question: Where else can you find an album that covers geology, acrobatics, and the mutilation of one’s nearest and dearest with equal dexterity? Sky Larkin’s Golden Spike reveals itself with a lightness of touch that does not drift into the cutesy or the
inane. Instead it rattles along with driven simplicity. It is a simplicity that can only work with the intelligent songwriting of singer/guitarist Katie Harkin with a tightknit band behind her. This is Sky Larkin at their very best. Melodic, jagged sugar-pop music with a sour after-taste. (BP)
through tales of prehistoric crocodiles and threats of nuclear warfare. There are tunes aplenty too – in its third incarnation, Oblige reaches perfection, while Sobotka gives fans of The Wire their very own singalong. An album that raises the bar for indie-rock. (SB)
5. Wild Beasts Two Dancers Two Dancers was Wild Beasts’ second album within a year. It has seductive tunes and lyrical brilliance. “All The King’s Men”, “Hooting and Howling”, “We’ve Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues” “This Is Our Lot” and “Empty Nest” are vintage songs, as good as any of the indie best. Beautiful drumming and elegantly blended vocal virtuosity are highlights to listen out for. The band have opened up huge 3. The Scaramanga Six possibilities for articulate and intelligent Songs of Prey enjoyment. The smart money has moved in their favour - all that remains is for those who had given up on ladrock With the fifth SCARAMANGA SIX studio album locked into producer Tim Smith’s domination to come back out to play. studio, blistering live session recordings (SS) of established songs were released as 4. I Concur Hot Flesh Rumble, then followed by a Able Archer brand new distillation of everything at the heart of the beast. “Songs of Prey” It’s testament to the strength of I has pomp, drama and grandiosity hurled Concur’s music that, despite half of this recklessly into the void where hubris album’s tracks having been previously dare not show. The four piece version released on EPs and singles, it still of The Six is tighter and angrier than ever. The emotional eruption floods holds together beautifully as a taut and through every track and climaxes in thrilling10-song collection. Intelligent furious despair at Track 13 “By-Product”. songwriting abounds, with obscure and The whole thing is jam packed with unique lyrical concerns being matched Scaramanga flavoured nuggets of rock by powerful but controlled backing. and boiling rage. (SS) Frontman Tim Hann is your guide
2. Blue Roses Blue Roses Pardon the histrionics, but Shipley’s Blue Roses aka Laura Groves has created possibly the most beautiful debut since Kate Bush’s ‘The Kick Inside’. Strong words, but these are gorgeous songs – stunningly overlaid vocal lines, devastating melody, a voice that melts your heart. Incredibly rich, you may need to take these songs slowly like so much Christmas pud, but it will do your heart a lot more good, though it may well break it. All good, but particular highlights are the pizzicato charm of ‘I Am Leaving’ and the remarkably nautical ‘Coast’. If you like it lovely, you need this album. (RW)
1. Grammatics Grammatics This is music whose emotional hedonism is immediately accessible. The general sound might be heard as somewhere near Patrick Wolf or Antony and the Johnsons. The forms, themes and tunes are individual and distinct. Working with James Kenosha on production and recording, the band have a warmer, fuller sound than on earlier releases. Owen Brinley’s pure voice and Emilia Ergin’s bold cello playing are the outstanding characteristics. Songs like Broken Wing and Polar Swelling stand out even in such a uniquely fine collection. Laura Groves contributes vocals on a couple of tracks. (SS)
last.fm figures for plays and listeners and plays per listener at midday on november 5 2009
Artist by tracks played
Artist by number of listeners
Sorted by plays plays
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
The Cribs Wild Beasts Grammatics Sky Larkin Blue Roses Wintermute Worriedaboutsatan Heads We Dance That Fucking Tank Buen Chico The Old Romantic Killer Band The Scaramanga Six I Concur Chickenhawk Alt Track Castrovalva Downdime The Yalla Yallas Ric Neale If Destroyed Still True
7,196,584 775,643 320,662 254,488 98,817 95,765 66,025 61,176 55,243 28,218 15,685 12,103 9,787 8,921 7,742 4,555 2,021 557 191 105
listeners 358,405 47,800 24,180 29,315 8,076 8,003 4,907 10,461 4,923 1,958 1,133 956 2,708 650 2,717 229 613 177 14 16
Sorted by listeners plays
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
The Cribs Wild Beasts Sky Larkin Grammatics Heads We Dance Blue Roses Wintermute That Fucking Tank Worriedaboutsatan Alt Track I Concur Buen Chico The Old Romantic Killer Band The Scaramanga Six Chickenhawk Downdime Castrovalva The Yalla Yallas If Destroyed Still True Ric Neale
7,196,584 775,643 254,488 320,662 61,176 98,817 95,765 55,243 66,025 7,742 9,787 28,218 15,685 12,103 8,921 2,021 4,555 557 105 191
listeners 358,405 47,800 29,315 24,180 10,461 8,076 8,003 4,923 4,907 2,717 2,708 1,958 1,133 956 650 613 229 177 16 14
last.fm data at November 5 2009 (all tracks, all albums, all time) vibrations 19
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Gomm, but not forgotten Photography by Emily Clare Smith
It’s been five years since guitar maestro Jon Gomm’s debut album drifted out into the musical ether to much acclaim. After false starts, abandoned efforts and a little help from the ghost of Douglas Adams, his second long-playing record, is about to be unleashed. “It’s a weight off my shoulders” he tells Mike Price It has been a busy time of late for Leeds-based singer-songwriting guitar virtuoso Jon Gomm. Numerous gigs played, plus a new album about to be released on the not-for-profit label ‘Performing Chimp Records’ means there is never a dull moment. When I caught up with the man in question on a dark Friday evening recently, he had just driven up from the south-west after a clutch of shows down there and was also planning a suitability spooky Halloween gig at Wakefield’s Chantry Chapel the next evening. But only after attending a peace rally in Leeds to counteract another march by a political organisation who will remain nameless on the same afternoon. Despite his evident tiredness that we can reasonably attribute to a 200 mile drive on a Friday afternoon, Jon seemed incredibly upbeat about the album release as I chatted to him about that and his superb show-stealing performance at this summer’s Moorfest in Skipton. I opined how different the atmosphere seemed during his set in contrast to most of the other acts that played that weekend. Whereas most artists commanded a small hardcore audience plus a lot of transient people entering and leaving throughout each performance, it was almost as if everyone stopped what they were doing when Jon took the stage to hang on his every word. Jon seemed to agree. “I’ve been playing in Leeds for a while now and a lot of festival goers will have been from this area. Also when you’re a solo artist and people get familiar with you and the things you say, even if they don’t know you, they feel they do, so that makes a gig become more intimate”. When listening to Jon’s music one might expect his early influences to be perhaps Dylan or Drake, the truth is very different. “My dad’s guitar hero was Hank Marvin so I spent a lot of my younger years listening to The Shadows and I can still play loads of their songs now” he confessed “The first time I played in Italy at a big guitar festival I saw internationally renowned acoustic
player Tommy Emanuel at an aftershow dinner and he was entertaining the other musicians by knocking out Shadows numbers between courses!” Mr Gomm also explained how he is lucky to have received invaluable tuition and advice from a host of journeyman blues players such as Walter Trout and Bob Brosman, who used to perform at his dad’s club in Blackpool when he was younger. “Because money was tight, some of the acts used to stay with us as it was cheaper than a hotel so instead I got a free guitar lesson.”
It is safe to say that Jon Gomm is a self-confessed guitar geek on the quiet, as he further explained his guilty pleasure whilst talking about a recent visit to see Sub-Pop veterans Mudhoney when they played Woodhouse Liberal Club earlier in the month. “I was very two sided when the whole Seattle thing broke, as I would be listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam with my mates but then at home I’d be listening to Steve Vai and Van Halen.” This affection is also reflected by Jon’s extensive and varied collection of guitars. Gomm is of the opinion that the acoustic guitar is perhaps the most versatile vibrations 23
instrument there is, in terms of the range of sounds you can make with it, even compared to the electric guitar, “Unlike the acoustic, the electric guitar is just designed to do a job and it is pretty rare to see someone just playing electric guitar and singing at a gig with nothing else” It has been over 5 years since Gomm released his debut album ‘Hypertension’, so I asked him his views on how the Leeds scene has changed in that time, particularly with the increase in traditional music acts. “Actually I only normally notice stuff when it’s lacking, so when I see bands creating music influenced by stuff only a couple of years old I think that’s tragic.” Jon’s new album has been six years in the making, and it’s clear this has taken its toll “it’s such a weight off my shoulders and I’m so looking forward to saying to an audience for the first time “this is a track off my OLD album””. When challenged on why the second album has taken so long, Jon cited many factors, not least a hectic touring schedule resulting in more than 150 shows a year adding “I need to play a lot of gigs, firstly to earn a living, but also because I find playing live sort of addictive and much more enjoyable than simply practising, in fact, if I don’t play live for a couple of weeks then I start getting anti social.” The second album has also endured a change to cover artwork and title due to delays and the ultimate postponement in its original format as Jon felt that without the ‘fresh start’, the project would never have been finished. The new album title ‘Don’t Panic’ pays homage to ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ which Jon explained is 30 years old this year, adding that the new cover artwork plus the theme of some of the album’s material reflected urban alienation, together with how man has been removed from his original species. Throw in a splash of subtle humour and you have themes which resonate throughout Douglas Adams’ celebrated work. Jon also intimated that he is far happier with the quality of his second album compared to his first recording “When I listen to the new album I can now say “This is really good”. The first album was basically a demo which I used firstly to get gigs, and secondly so I had something to sell when I played gigs”. When I asked whether the gap between albums was because of a lack of material, he explained
his writing process and spoke of the total investment required in every song but added that there is plenty more material in progress and the next album will be sooner rather than later. He then explained how his song writing style has changed, “every time I write a song now, I think about how this will work as a performance and how people will react to it. You can’t express yourself if there is nobody there to express to.” The relationship between music and lyrics is also a point of interest, Jon insisting that his songs have to make some sort of coherent sense to him without the use of abstract phrases and clichés. He is also pleased his second album embraces broader musical styles including country and jazz as opposed to him being labelled ‘just another acoustic solo artist’. In fact, Jon explained that having been in a country band for years before going solo, he thinks that the genre has influence far beyond its traditional boundaries. Interestingly, Jon regards Kurt Cobain as one of the ultimate country singers. “A lot of people find this odd, but to me you can’t get more depressing than good country music and that’s basically what Kurt Cobain did, particularly on Nirvana’s last album.” In contrast to
the ‘Hypertension’ album that featured songs by Radiohead and Bob Marley, you will find no covers on ‘Don’t Panic’. When questioned whether any future recordings were likely to contain any songs by a third party, he indicated that he might consider recording Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’ but on reflection suggested “maybe I should get people to write in!” Jon is still a big fan of the city’s music venues and having performed in several so far, regards Brudenell Social Club as his favourite place to play due to its inclusivity, musing “No matter who you see play there, they each regard it as their own venue and as a result it’s like the main hub in Leeds”. It is fitting then that the venue will be where the new album launch gig takes place on 6th December. Jon also went on to heap plenty of praise upon the city’s legendary music promoter John Keenan, particularly how he uses the much maligned tribute band to help subsidise other up and coming artists. The promotion of ‘Don’t Panic’ will be further aided by yet more gigging, perhaps some TV appearances and probably one or two features in music and guitar magazines, both in the UK and in Italy. Let’s hope the third album enjoys an easier passage. vibrations 24
n o i t c a in There aren’t many bands in Leeds who can just pop ov people, cavo er to China, play to 15,00 rt 0 embark in wh with Olympic mascots, eelchair-boun d disco faceoffs, attempt to commandeer antagonise the authoritie s, th bring metal to e “Chocolate Thunder”, the kids, and time to pop b s ack to the UK till find on occasion to blow-up a dru respect, Mish mmer or two. In that kin find them se crowd of one . “You’ve jus lves in a t got to believ in your shit” e they advise R ob Wright. Photography by Bart Pettman
In 2006, five young men from Leeds with a prog metal bent scooped the Bright Young Things award, got a video made as part of the 20/20 Vision initiative and released a well received EP called ‘State of Mute Fear’. Then in 2007 they vanished. Sort of. Okay, not really. The band were and are Mishkin, and I am sitting in the basement of (newest addition) bassist Dave’s house. All five of them are looking at me, defiant in their non vanished state and sporting a lot less hair than they did before (apart from guitarist Jimi MacGregor, who still models a fine barnet). “We didn’t vanish,” says Ben Davy, vocalist and one of the three remaining founder members, “We just went somewhere else.” Somewhere else indeed, for it appears that Mishkin have been putting it about and getting noticed in a little place called China. It all started in 2007, when Mishkin were approached by the organiser of Beijing’s Midi Festival, an outdoor rock festival that has been going for ten years and draws around 15,000 punters – essentially China’s equivalent of the Leeds/Reading Festival. Ben still has a
look of surprise on his face as he talks about it. It would have been foolish to decline such an offer, so they made their preparations and set off. It was not all plain sailing though.
Unfortunately, these two tracks never got to see the light of day as, after an extensive UK tour, original drummer Mark Forster decided to quit and threw any plans the band had into disarray.
“I was in a wheel chair,” says Ali Epstone, long serving guitarist. Before going to China he had broken his foot leaping a stream, meaning he would have to go to Beijing in a cast and wheelchair.
“Finding drummers is quite difficult, it turns out,” admits Ben. Regardless, auditions took place with a certain degree of success. “You’d have ones that were really nice guys and they’d get to the drum kit and they’d be like that,” says Jimmy, waggling his arms about weakly, “then you’d get guys that were really wicked, then they’d go ‘I’m mental!’”
“These guys would get drunk and run me round when I was in that bloody wheelchair,” he says glumly, “ I remember one point when we went to the opening of a nightclub and there was no-one else there... and we all had to do a dance off, with them spinning me around on the dance floor.” After playing to over 10,000 people at Midi, Mishkin went to Shanghai, where they were to record two tracks with the Shanghai State Orchestra. “The composer guy did two arrangements based on tracks from State of Mute Fear’,” says Ben, “and we did a live recording with this orchestra in this huge studio. It was really surreal, because it was in this Middle Eastern block, all falling apart, then when you got to the top there was this amazing studio.”
From that point, things got a bit Spinal Tap, with the band going through about five drummers in quick succession. Then, in February 2008, they went back to China to do a series of workshops for children around Shanghai. “All these different schools within two or three hours of Shanghai,” says Ben, “from little kids who couldn’t really speak properly to eighteen.” The workshops would take the children through the writing and rehearsal process then culminate in a big show at the end of the day. Hard work, but very fulfilling. On the back of doing these workshops, Mishkin were contacted by the Shanghai Culture Bureau and asked to do the
Shanghai Music Festival, all expenses paid as well as booking fees, on one condition. “We had to write a pro-china song,” says Ali bashfully. “It wasn’t really pro-China,” counters Ben, “It was more about unifying the world...” Sounds ominously totalitarian. Their first draft wasn’t exactly what the bureau wanted. “There were a couple of negative political aspects in there,” says Ben, shrugging, “a subtle thing we thought we’d get away with. But we didn’t.” There are of course alternatives to outright civil disobedience. “We went to this bar and wrote a really cheesy song,” says Ali cheekily, “we thought we’d make it as cheesy as possible knowing that it was... not taking the piss... okay, taking the piss. And it was awesome.” Adding to the awesome cheesiness was R & B legend Carlton J Smith, who they bumped into at aforementioned bar and offered to help them out with the lyrics back at his suite. “That’s where we found out he was called Chocolate Thunder,” laughs Ali. Fair enough. There are worse terms of endearment. True to their word, the government set up two huge gigs in Shanghai Square which pulled a most eclectic crowd. “There were little kids down there,” says Ben, raising his hand in the metal salute old grandmas giving it all of that.” Unfortunately, after one of these gigs, one punter got a bit too into it. “There was drink being spilled everywhere,” says Jimmy, “so when I felt this splash I thought someone had spilled their beer on me. I smelt it and... I had chunks in my hair.” I refrain from saying ‘that’s sick’. Following the gigs, the bureau then sent them on a tour of China to help prepare the country for the arrival of Western culture. Huge parades were staged, involving Russian and Brazillian dancers, Shaolin monks,
Chinese drummers and... them. Doing goat horns. On the back of a truck. Unfortunately, they had no electricity so they couldn’t play. But they did have a mascot. “We were next to one of those guys in inflatable suits, one of those Olympic mascot pandas,” Jimmy says, fingers raised, “representing.” On returning to the UK at the end of 2008, in what was now becoming a habit, they lost another drummer (according to Jimmy, he ‘exploded’) but gained an invite back to Shanghai in 2010. They also lost their bassist, Tom Ramsden. “He faded away,” quipped Jimmy. So they found themselves with another offer they couldn’t refuse, but only half a band to take it. After experimenting with a drummer who was so antisocial that Jimmy “wanted to crush his head and eat his brains with a spoon,” they decided to lay low for a while and concentrate on writing. That and keep Jimmy from killing anyone. Until now. Well, they still don’t want Jimmy to kill anyone. Over the last couple of months, they‘ve got back up to a full complement of band members. First to join up was Brady Nixon, a blonde dreaded drummer from Middlesbrough who’d had dealings with Mishkin in the past. The bassist required a little more work and another round of auditions. “There was this guy who said ‘I did a backflip on stage and landed on my head. And I’ve got a really bad hangover. And I’m clinically depressed.’” Ali laughs at the thought. Their bassist of choice – Dave – was a lot more stable and didn’t come from an audition. “We’d agreed to not get people randomly,” says Ben, “then I said I knew this guy.” “He’s called Dave for goodness sake,” blurts Ali, “everyone has a mate called Dave! Plus Dave has got a cellar, can drive... oh, and he can play the bass.” Though their official re-launch gig is at Rio’s on the 21st of January, they’ve already played a couple of ‘warm up’
gigs to some decent crowds, including a couple of hundred bodies at Carpe Diem. But it’s a return mingled with joy and sadness. “We’ve watched bands come and go,” says Ali, “there’s so many bands that we’ve played with and been friends with and they’ve all gone; just given up.” Ben nods. “I think you’ve just got to believe in your shit. You see all these bands who do great things and then it all becomes a bit difficult. But we’ve got Rio’s now and they’ve given us some sweet gigs.” One band of peers that are still going are old friends Middleman, but apart from being pally with them, Mishkin see themselves as very much outside the typical scene. “There seems to be a big fashion cliquey scene which is fine...” he says, uncertain of how to explain himself. Ali chips in and helps him out. “We’ve never been put on THOSE bills.” “There are shelf lives for certain bands. Then they all split up and join other bands,” continues Ben, “which is fine.” He then says something utterly contentious about their exclusiveness, but fortunately Jimmy pulls it back in a single statement: “We’re just misunderstood metal.” So, there you go. They didn’t vanish. They’ve been differently busy. They’re now about to go into the studio and record an EP’s worth of material from their near year of writing and start to put it about a bit. “We’re gonna go and knock on people’s doors and ram it down their throats until they tell us to fuck off,” says Ben, “then come back.” Jimmy looks disgruntled. “I’d tell you to fuck off if you rammed something down my throat.” A seemingly good cue for me to let them get on with it and leave.
Passport Control because we can’t just let them all in… The Proclaimers’ Charlie Reid: Vital import, or excess baggage? Rob Wright dons the latex gloves of fate and prepares to pass judgement. Reason for visit? Gigs in Sheffield and Leeds Business or pleasure? A complete pleasure. Will you be visiting friends? A few thousand, I hope. Do you have any liquids or canisters with you? Beer, wine and Macallan whisky. Any fruit, vegetables or meat products? Road Crew
Have you ever been a member of any political or cultural movements in opposition to the Yorkshire philosophy? None but have visited Lancashire. Will you be going on Ilkley Moor and, if so, will you be wearing a hat? Yes, First world war German helmet. Anything else to declare? Yorkist solidarity. You may now proceed through passport control. Please enjoy your stay in West Yorkshire.
Is that definitely a musical instrument in that case? Ask the above.
Introducing @ BBC Leeds As Alan Raw and team headed West for the first ever West Yorkshire Raw Talent – part of the BBC Introducing network that Raw himself effectively pioneered – Vibrations’ Sam Saunders was on hand to see the story unfold on the show’s debut recording. As Alan Raw and team headed West for the first ever West Yorkshire Raw Talent – part of the BBC Introducing network that Raw himself effectively pioneered – Vibrations’ Sam Saunders was on hand to see the story unfold on the show’s debut recording. On Monday October 26th, BBC Leeds recorded the first ever West Yorkshire Raw Talent Introducing programme. I was there looking over shoulders and being nosey. The pattern is that Alan Raw, Kate Prothero and Graham Albans put the material together on Mondays at the Leeds BBC Studios and broadcast the show on Wednesdays between 7 and 10 on all Radio Leeds' frequencies and on DAB in the West Yorkshire area, streaming on the web and available as an iPlayer repeat throughout the following week. That first night was under lots of pressure to do well. On top of that, a first-choice acoustic act couldn’t make
it and a brand new eight piece Leeds College of Music band SoulDelic were drafted in. Not all of them could fit in the studio set aside, so there was a running search for a way to capture their sound. In the end (keyboard and EWI players sitting out) they were just soooo good. Stars already. With the uncertainties of new working environments and untried formats it was a miracle that, Kate, Graham, and Alan kept everyone sweet and the job got done. In the middle of it all Gary Stewart popped in on his way to another gig and recorded three impeccable tunes and a pro-standard interview. I stumbled through my bit: Graham Albans edited it to make it seem like I had been talking sense. The music was the thing though. CDs and BBC Introducing Uploader tracks provided Grammatics, Micky P. Kerr, ODi, Heads We Dance, Breaking The Illusion, Silverlode, Ellen and the Escapades, Trapdoor Minotaur, I
Concur, Kinch, Maggie8, Sketches … and heaps more. The very first tune played was the window-rattling pomp of "Misadventure" by The Scaramanga Six. Perfect start. It had always felt odd that BBC Leeds has not honoured its own gold mine when Radio 1 and 6Music have been plundering it for years. All should now get themselves vigorously involved. It's like the last piece in Leeds' independent music jigsaw. Every artist with something to hear should get onto that Uploader with their best. They should also take the gig listings seriously - Kate Prothero does a big call and Camille Ainsworth did a great preview for this year's Brainwash Festival. Labels, promoters, Dadagers, Mumagers, friends who help - get on the case! Above all, make sure you listen, and send feedback. www.bbc.co.uk/music/introducing
In Touch, In Brief, Inaccurate Leeds Venue Stormed in Reported Occult Scandal Popular local bar-venue The Wardrobe was cordoned off yesterday evening as the night-spot’s future was plunged into doubt amidst reports of the venue acting as a front for illegal occult activities. Police arrested a robed-woman in a distinctive pointed hat who has since been linked to a number of incidents around the country. The RSPCA were also called to the scene after a shocked member of staff found a bound big cat which had been reported missing from Windsor Safari Park earlier that week, apparently captured for animal sacrifice. The Police and RSPCA are believed to have escorted the Lion and the Witch out of The Wardrobe at around 4am on Sunday morning as staff were clearing up after the venue’s regular Saturday night of ‘technically proficient jazz’. Eye witness, Chad Coolbeard, a parttime barman and student of ‘Acid Jazz Studies 1992-1994’ told Headlies: “At first everything appeared to be normal, but as I was cleaning up, I realised that behind the impressive range of premium European vodkas, The Wardrobe had no back to it. As I walked through, I appeared to be in a strange snowy micro-climate and there was this crazy chick about to stab this laid back lion. It was like, totally random”. At time of going to press, internet sites were reporting that local acoustic troubadour Gary Stewart was also placed at the site, protesting about “not really having cloven hooves, these are just for show…”
Emo and Tweecore City Centre Non-Face off - Riot Police Not Required Speculation is mounting that Leeds is bracing itself for yet more lack of conflict this weekend between its burgeoning rival tweecore and emo movements.
The complete absence of aggro is due to take place around the former shopping centre, now rich man’s folly, the Corn Exchange for most of Saturday and possibly a bit of Sunday, depending on the weather. Shoppers have been advised by local police that “if you see anyone with an asymmetrical haircut or a nice cardigan, be wary that nothing untoward may happen.” Emo spokesperson Swoon McMope was quick to assure the good people of Leeds that “we’re just trying to express ourselves. If that involves not getting up in anyone’s grill, then so be it. It’s our life.” A spokesperson from the tweecore camp was unable to comment due to bashfulness and a bad case of lint. This non-event continues a long tradition of Leeds alternative nonaggression tracing back to the goth movement’s two step forward two step back nonfrontation with shambling baggies in the summer of 1989 outside Le Phonographique.
Leeds-based recording project James Kenosha not involved As Dave Snarky gears up for the release his debut album on his own Bedroom Label, the Leeds music community is reeling from the shock news that James Kenosha has not been involved in any part of its creation. Dave, who records in his own bedroom, commented “James Kenosha? Yeah, he wanted to be involved in the production side of things, but I told him it was a one man operation. He went away in a right sulk.” James was unable to comment as he is involved in several projects at the moment, including new recordings of semi-tuned whistles for post and milkman, a three-year-old’s xylophone composition, and several playground taunts directed at overweight children. Friends have said that he is ‘devastated but pragmatic about events.’
Dave is currently working on a new track for laptop and ocarina which he hopes to record later this year. When asked if he would consider working with James he shrugged and said he would “certainly consider it, if it brought an end to the teary 3am phone calls.” James is currently involved in a remix of Dave’s recent release with fellow introvert Whiskas from every bloody thing else.
Devil ‘literally’ has all the best tunes Concerns about a dip in quality chart music over the last few years, received an unusual explanation earlier this week, after a statement issued on behalf of His Satanic Majesty, Lucifer revealed that he has been stockpiling the world’s best new music for a number of years and plans to release a debut double album for Christmas. Reluctantly, the Association of Regional Songwriters and Entertainers (ARSE), confirmed that many of their members had lost out to the Prince of Darkness in a series of high-stakes chess matches, having pledged their best hooks and lyrics as collateral. “Apparently acts have been duped on the promise of infinite fame and fortune, but the result has been somewhat different” said a major label A&R man. “As a result they’ve been forced to hand over their work to a shadowy figure who has no idea what to do with them… clearly this is the behaviour of someone with an inside knowledge of the music business”. One local band who will actually be benefitting from the release are theatrical rockers The Scaramanga Six, who signed an historic pact with The Devil back in the late 90s. Bassist Steve Morricone commented: “We initially raised eyebrows when we signed,” he said, raising an eyebrow, “but we’re getting a 50/50 split on the proceeds, so whose laughing now?” By Rob Paul Chapman and Rob Wright vibrations 30
REVIEWS albums Jon Gomm Don’t Panic This has been a while in the offing so one can assume that a certain amount of care has gone into the production of these eleven tracks. There are no covers here; no mash-ups; no parodies. Just Mr Gomm and a microphone. The fact that it is a completely solo project (only one unnamed guest vocalist on ‘What’s Left For You’) is something to be admired in itself, especially when this is such a full sounding album – percussion is tapped on the body of the guitar, bass, rhythm and lead parts are played simultaneously. Appreciate that, then get down to the music. Tunes are there, but only as basic structures. The essence of each song is Gomm’s Green Gartside-esque vocals and his incredible technique, picking out lines that dabble in the chromatic, the pentatonic and other scales that sound more magical than musical. When he does try to go a bit mainstream on ‘Gloria’ it doesn’t quite work. In fact, when he abandons vocals entirely on ‘Topeka’ and ‘Wake Up’, that’s when he really shines. You get a lot of variety here, too. Surrender’ is the dirtiest of blues, ‘Weather Machine’ is Rush-style fantasy prog, ‘Temporary’ has strong hints of classical. There are flaws, though – the lyrics can be clunky and over romantic, but if you consider this as an acoustic equivalent of Satriani’s ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’, the flaws make sense. It’s all about the guitar. Rob Wright
William Gray None Of The Above Former joint-frontman of rollicking good-time bluesy rock ‘n’ roll band quits rollicking, starts to refer to self with full name in apparent attempt to be taken more seriously, and embarks on career as acoustic troubadour. Oh God... This could be messy…. This could be… …but isn’t.
Although the sweet but unspectacular opener ‘Stop The Rot’ encounters some mild turbulence, hinting at a potentially dangerous near-miss with bland balladary, by the time we’ve bedded in with the borderline bonkers second track ‘Freaky Dreams’, it’s clear that this is the eclectic and idiosyncratic ramblings of an effortlessly talented songwriter. The acoustic singer-songwriter market is nothing of not crowded, with the overwhelming majority of hopefuls conspicuously lacking anything in the way of unique selling points. But the languid, nonchalant approach to structure displayed here, veering between amusing and touching works a treat. A rich and hugely varied pick ‘n’ mix of charming and occasionally bewildering ideas that never threatens to outstay its welcome. Really rather lovely. Rob Paul Chapman
I Concur Able Archer
above the rest – a slow, earthy funereal grind that swings majestically along, breaking into waltzes to keep you on your toes but remaining utterly epic. Occasionally Tim’s voice is drowned by the scintillating guitar, but the broad scope of this album is worth it despite this minor quibble. A slow burning pleasure that lures you in with familiarity and lets you have it with musical force. Rob Wright
Fieldhead They Shook Hands For Hours Fieldhead is the solo alias of Leedsbased artist and promoter Paul Elam. Those aware of his role in The Declining Winter and his sterling work as one half of Forest of Sound will have a good idea of what to expect from this debut LP. It’s an immersive experience best listened to as a piece, where traditional hooks make way for mood and texture meticulously constructed out of a variety of electronic and acoustic elements. Melodies abound in understated forms, shimmering hazily above grainy, shuffling rhythms, bathing in tape hiss or building into hypnotic, throbbing drones. The music recalls Boards of Canada in the sophistication of the arrangements and Hood in its subtle suggestion of the landscapes of our nation’s more northerly climes. Indeed, at times Elam even (successfully) veers into Murcofstyle sound art. Closer ‘Introductions’ is an eerily gorgeous highlight, the track achieving an epic sweep as it surges to a climax before finally dissolving into a sea of crackling static. Greg Elliott
I Concur have always struck me as a straddler of genres and open disparity, but hearing this album gives their work a renewed wholeness. Though at least fifty percent of the material has been heard before, familiar tracks have been re-recorded and remixed to the point where they sound totally new: ‘All Exits Are Blockades’ is punchier; ‘Oblige’ has had the jangle removed; ‘Lucky Jack’ goes from being cyber to subterranean. The biggest change to these older tracks is Chris’ souped-up guitar – now a huge cumulus nimbus of a sound only previously heard live. A real musical makeover. And in case you are thinking the album is just a remix job, please rethink; new tunes ‘Sobotka’ and ‘Grandeur’ are both very competent, if a little too Interpol, but ‘Your Words, Your Dialect’ lifts itself
Josh & Co. Limited Through These Eyes Bryan Josh, long-time leader of York’s Mostly Autumn, originally released this 14 track album back in 2008. Josh plays guitars, bass and keyboards and writes and sings the songs. Mostly Autumn’s Gavin Griffith adds drums and Olivia Sparnenn is an effective second vocalist. It’s a year old, but its roots are four decades away. Tolkien, Timothy Leary and fluently melodic solos are the touchstones. And it is faultless stuff. Production values are high, the sound is clear and Josh et al can play. No question. It’s a concept album too. Broadly drawn, it’s a journey through the dreams of a man who could have been playing in vibrations 31
The Moody Blues, Thin Lizzy or even Pink Floyd. In “Through These Eyes” the fantasy seems to be a party attended by dead celebrities, being entertained by a band of Bonham, Entwhistle and Mercury. It’s brilliant music for a very specific niche. Sam Saunders
Alt Track Silence Is Approval Alt Track have a sound career and an outstanding album in them. Unfortunately this isn’t it, but there is more than enough promise here to hint of great things to come. As an entity in its own right, it’s a bit of a game of two halves. Musically, this bristles with the excitement, invention and endless wide-eyed possibility of youth. There are some genuinely thrilling moments here, with a frenetic pace set from the off, that arcs and veers in a fashion that hints to what it must feel like to co-pilot with The Red Barron.
there’s the monstrosity of ‘One Day’ by By By, hopeless unless of course you like your music out of tune and your singers to sound like they’re dying.
It isn’t all bad. Lapels present the first track on here that entices you to listen, and the likes of The Spills follow suit with Best not try this at home, kids. ‘Oh My Days’, which has a hook-line and Rob Paul Chapman everything.
The Bundesrats’ ‘Whippersnapper’ is the highlight here with its mix of The Josh Lees Aquabats and Gogol Bordello; it really Faith In A Box made a difference to a record which is to say the least less than mediocre. Josh Lees is a 17-year-old Leeds College of Music student, and this is his Justin Myers debut album, independently produced.
The Yalla Yallas Act of Defiance
A worthy introduction, but their next record should be awaited with greater interest.
It’s middle of the road pop-rock all the way, so if you’re looking for experimentation, this probably won’t float your boat. ‘Burnt Out’ and ‘My Mind’ up the pace with some choppy electric guitar, but even they barely break a sweat. There are some good songs here – ‘Power Of A Moment’ in particular has lovely vocals and a cello floating in the background; ‘I’ll Be With You’’ wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking a teen drama. The faux American accent he overuses here would certainly aid that ambition.
However, this same youthful enthusiasm is also evident in some occasionally wince-inducing lyrics. Whilst the passion and sincerity are certainly laudable, the politics here – which probably make perfect sense in the 6th form common room – are awkwardly exposed on disc. But this is a relatively minor quibble. The musical scope displayed here, which ranges from the engaged guitars ‘n’ beats of Asian Dub Foundation on A Nation On Fire, through to the semiambient A View From The Mountain (its lovely vibe only spoilt by an ill-advisedly obvious Martin Luther King sample) illustrates both the abundant strengths and occasional weaknesses of this record.
feels too long to sustain its punch and the listener’s interest. But if you get bored, you can always use the time constructively to bring down the banks, the government and society. Or alternatively just break something.
Shambling punk-rock outfit known for their incendiary, occasionally inspired, occasionally car crash live shows fronted by a borderline-unhinged wide-eyed lunatic partial to announcing unrehearsed material live onstage and expecting the band to keep up, attempt to make proper record… …The odds being offered on a complete disaster were shorter than Nicolas Sarcozy in Brobdingnag.
Occasional lapses into lyrical cliché don’t help either; surely no one’s crying out for more songs about having wings and flying? It won’t be for everyone – earnest religious songs have more barriers to break through than your average pop record. A good start nevertheless. Spencer Bayles
Us & Them
Think of this less as a remix album, and more of a musical wife swap. But – somehow – this has turned out significantly better than it had any right to 8 acts exchanged tunes for a couple of Rob Paul Chapman be. Hell, you could go as far to say that days, and were tasked with “remixing” it’s actually rather good. each other’s work. This is of course fine if you’re an accomplished remixer, such Those looking for the future of punk rock Various Artists Gavron or Chris Hawkins. But what do should look elsewhere, as this does Some Things Still Matter you do if you’re a death metal band who nothing to stretch the boundaries clearly wouldn’t know your fruity loops from your established in ’76. But for pure energy, When a compilation is released hula hoops? passion and surprisingly considered you would expect to find a mixed comment, it nails its targets with ease. bag of hidden gems and not quite The answer is a varied, inventive and I’d argue there is no album that sums accomplished songs. ‘Some things still hugely enjoyable series of reimaginings matter’ provides both but sadly it has the up 2009 better than one that includes a spanning every conceivable genre of track called Love, Anger & The Credit latter in droves. music, that provides an exhilarating Crunch, and yet doesn’t come across as introduction to a host of scenes that Angry Sandwich kick off proceedings remotely hectoring. would rarely have reason to interact. with ‘We Like To Party’, which will make If there’s a significant criticism, despite you want to do the opposite. Then Whilst Heads We Dance’s deliriously only being 45 minutes long, it still vibrations 32
entertaining version of JD73’s Ascension kicks things off in some style, it is arguably the more eyebrow-raising pairings that produce the most bountiful fruit. Chickenhawk’s barnstorming reworking of Gavron’s Future 2012 is particular treat, while the reverse fixture is The Prodgy at their very best. Nom De Strip’s cheeky peak-a-boo version of That F*cking Tank’s Keanu Reef – teasing and tantalising the listener with a variety of high-kicking diversions for two and a half minutes before whipping off the final layer to reveal something resembling the original – is great fun. Expertly produced by Gav Lawson, Jamie Lambe and Mark Hubbard, it is the trio’s own track, Grass Is Greener, as marvellously reimagined by Skavolution that provides the unexpected highlight. A triumph on every level. Rob Paul Chapman
EPs Ian Williams Bible Black Heart EP Never judge a book by its cover. With that in mind, I won’t judge this by its artwork either. Nor will I judge it by its rather morbid opening line; “What I want most… is to die”. The reason why? After a few listens this EP reveals its inner beauty. Williams’ vocals sound mature, like a man who’s really experienced both the highs and lows, and is a lot better off for it. Combining this honesty with sparse production, Williams succeeds in creating a dark, yet warm sound, with highlights being the hypnotic ‘No More Shall We Roam’ and mellow closer ‘Still Around’. Not to be overlooked. Tom Bailey
The Bundesrats Half Finished Horse EP This skanked-up operatic offering from Wakefield’s Bunderats is a mixture of magic and madness. Opener ‘Whipper Snapper’ is definitely the strongest with its syncopated spasms that urge you to the dance floor. And that’s not all; this track successfully blends rock with ska and then tops it with mock-operatic vocals, creating a Queen meets The Specials ambience. But that excitement vanishes: ‘Don’t’ suffers from messy arrangements; there is also an overload of repetition on ‘Why
Do You Have To Know?’ But not all is lost; ‘Response’ boasts fantastic scuzzy guitar and organ synth sounds, and closing track ‘Hush It!’ demonstrates another mellow dimension to their repertoire. Overall a good debut.
Beneath The Spire Ruberlaris
Opening track ‘Fuck The Label’ is catchy with good use of a saxophone, making the angry subject matter seem actually quite pleasant. Second track ‘Smokescreen’ is however nothing more than a continuation of the opening track. ‘Sum Up, Come Down’ and ‘Jackanory’ are more of the same but ‘Holly’s Song (Last Train Home)’ is genuinely enjoyable. Though it has elements from the other tunes the lyrics are good.
The Light Streams The Lost EP
A neat EP of four well-balanced tunes, The Lost EP keeps it simple. Andy Hawkins’ bright, clear production helps this Americana-tinged rock band stand out. The cello on ‘Save Me’ is a treat. Some of the Springsteenish guitar moves in ‘Whatever Gets You Through (Gets You Through)’ are bang on - I thought its introduction had more than a shiver of Fairport Convention’s classic opening to “A Sailor’s Life”. Maybe the vocal tracks don’t have the burnished voices of the American bruisers, but the guitar drama and truckerisms hog the middle lane like a happy man in a good mood. Sam Saunders
The Truth About Frank Neon Fractured Night EP Could it be possible that the Truth About Frank is a new Kraftwerk, or a new take on Looper? In a word, no. This is new, fresh and very original. For all you minimal house or techno fans, this is one to watch out for. This six track EP would work well at a gathering in a alternative room, and would have people from all walks of life congregating and stomping to the untamed rawness. The second track ‘When The Lights Wear Out’ is definitely one of the best on this EP with its fuller more robust sound. For myself, however, the runaway top tune is the final and epic eleven minute long track ‘The Grey Legend’. If you love to get wired on your music, you will enjoy this religiously. Puru Misra
Ruberlaris are not a million miles away from jazz. More accurately however, they are a ska band.
If Ruberlaris were to write some new songs and not just regurgitate the same one, they’d have promise. A selection of songs next time please. Nick Todd
SINGLES I Like Trains Sea of Regrets New name but the same, new sound but still ‘Trains, and this new single sums up that difference beautifully, even though it leaps on the climate change bandwagon. Opening softly, wrapped in strings, Dave croons to the sparest of melodies, throwing in vocal hook lines that hint of stormy seas ahead. When the melodic tempest does break, it is huge – a singalong chorus, tremulous guitars breaking on Simon’s mighty rhythms, Alistair and Guy adding vocal solidarity. Simply epic stuff. New ‘Trains are bigger, bolder and... happier? Rob Wright
Fiction and The Fear All The World is a Stage It’s easy to find yourself consumed by the comforting melancholy produced by Leeds based, electro rock band Fiction and The Fear. This accomplished demo opens with title track ‘All The World is a Stage’, submerging the listener in bubbling electro crescendos, captivating choruses and poetic lyrical imagery. The B-side ‘Hardly Believe What I’ve Seen’ follows, mixing piano ballad with electro beats before exploding into a wall of sound. A great political sample is featured adding an against-the-system attitude, reflecting that of Nine Inch
Nails, whose musical influences are also apparent in each track.
If Marmite was transformed into a piece of music it may sound a bit like this, because you’ll either love or hate it.
Karl Culley Bundle Of Nerves Singer-songwriter. A term that fills me with dread. Fortunately Karl Culley delivers something good. There may be nothing new in his whimsical lyrics, but his superb finger picking really grabs attention, setting him apart from the average strummer. His unique, more percussive style, gives the track a groove, moving along at a relaxed, but urgent pace. This may only be Culley’s second single release to date, but on this evidence expect big things.
Stemming from Leeds, this four piece love to play aggressive, dense tracks using frantic riffs and heavy drums, which will either stimulate you with intense delight, or have you running for the nearest exit in complete disgust. And for this reason alone, I like it, for its pure attitude, sticking two fingers up to the world, and saying ‘yeah that’s us!’ Puru Misra
The Mike Alexander Memorial @ Rio’s, Leeds – 7th December
Castrovalva Thug Poetry
For all thrash fans in Leeds, it will probably come as a shock that Mike Alexander, bassist for Huddersfield thrashmeisters Evile, died suddenly only a few days into their European tour with Amon Amarth. Hearing about the death of a young and vibrant musician who leaves a family behind always seems especially cruel, but if there is any consolation it is that he will be sorely missed by many. To this end, Rio’s will be opened up on 7th December for fans to pay their respects. The line up is yet to be announced, but proceeds will go to Mike’s family and a raffle of metal memorabilia will also be held to raise funds. Deeply sad news.
Castrovalva have changed. Leemun Smith has gone full time; the missing element has been found. ‘Thug Life’: 30 seconds of swearing and gunshots herald a bust open Prince riff and driving beat to accompany Leeman’s distinctive wail. Then everything happens at once in synapsescrambling cacophony. Confusing, exhilarating and amusing. ‘Outlawz’ sets you up with a gentle intro before tossing you into a cauldron of screams, riffs and beats, high and low range but no middle. Castrovalva have become a band of frightening extremes, but it’s no bad thing.
Eureka Machines Being Good Is Okay But Being Better Is Better Am I the only person in Leeds that still hasn’t heard Eureka Machines? Seemingly yes, but my own musical inadequacies aside, this offering serves up a perfect introduction. Taken from 2008 debut ‘Do Or Die’, ‘Being Good…’ hits with an immediate blast of their upbeat rhythms and addictive choruses. New song ‘Living In Squalor’ is more of a slow burner, but there’s no denying Eureka Machines have found their niche. The only uncertainty: deciding whether they’re a great band who like being silly, or a silly band who happen to be great. Tom Bailey
Kong, Blacklisters, Talons @ Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds – 6th December I love free stuff. It makes you feel all loved by complete strangers. The above gig is free... but might not make you feel all loved. It will make you a bit deaf though as this heavier than heavy triple whammy will be abusing your eardrums and making you burble insanely into your pint of Leeds Best. Go down, grab a pint of good booze and a bowl of good grub and prepare to be entertained by some of Manchester’s and Leeds’ scariest men. Rob Wright
Part Time Renegades @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds – 31st December Happy new year, mofos! Yes, I have it on good authority (Peter Wright himself) that Peter Wright and friends will be reuniting this new year’s eve to get their Rage Against The Machine groove on and see in 2010 in wild style. If anything could persuade you to tear yourself away from Jools Holland and his Hootenanny, then this would be it. Other players are yet to be announced, but it should be a mega hoot. I know what you’re thinking: flip you, won’t do what you tell me. On this one occasion though? Rob Wright
LIVE Vessels/Humanfly/ Eagle Eye @ Brudenell Social Club Two fixtures of the Leeds musical underground with a resurgent local side project on warm-up duties. Eagle Eye are an LS6 trio featuring That Fucking Tank drummer James Islip and are making a return to the live circuit tonight. Raucous and confrontational, their songs are constructed out of synths, barrelling riff structures and calland-response vocals. vibrations 34
Humanfly are nothing less than venerable at this point, having spent the better part of a decade arriving at a progressive metal sound executed with staggering precision on the likes of ‘A Passage To Reykjavik’ - their truly monumental closer this evening. Since the release of their long-playing debut last year Vessels have all but confirmed the potential for greatness. This potential lies namely in their ability to seamlessly integrate diverse musical forms and transcend the shackles of genre– their capable musicianship has always been a fun diversion but in watching their development from slightly underwhelming post-rockers to sublime stylistic alchemists, it’s the continual refinement of their unique sound which has been the real joy to witness.
The Cribs @ O2 Academy, Leeds
The Cribs live by Justine Trickett
If this was an opportunity for celebrating a triumphant homecoming gig, it was the audience that seized it rather than The Cribs themselves.
The band waste no time rattling through a career spanning set, with Ryan pogoing energetically around the stage at every opportunity, Gary proving he’s I Like Trains/Swimming a fine rock singer and several thousand @ The Cockpit people bellowing along to every word. What with all this going on it’s hardly Open to disparity going to the Cockpit surprising the Jarmans forget to always stirs in me mixed emotions, but with Trains on the bill, I am expecting my introduce the indie rock legend standing emotions to veer heavily in the direction to their right. of good via bad. Without a doubt, Marr joining has lead Greg Elliott
They’re also rather good at picking support bands, and Nottingham’s Swimming continue the trend. Despite the disjointed banter, their performance is confident and uplifting, a harmonious mix of post rock sleet, psychedelia, electronica and tremulous, folkish vocals. The overall effect is huge. Just… lay off the chat. A single light cuts through the dry ice like the beam of a lighthouse. Five men (the new boy is Ian from Redjetson) step from the gloom – a little bit of Sister of Mercy may have rubbed off on I Like Trains. ILT have a new brighter, edgier sound and they look invigorated. Of course, favourites ‘Terra Nova’ and ‘Rook House’ make early appearances but they are starting to sound tired, even though the songs are still very powerful. In short, they are moving on and will have to choose their luggage carefully. The power house epic that is ‘Sea of Regrets’ and a weighty version of ‘Spencer Percival’ close an evening that has been more than a gig – this has been a paradigm shift. Rob Wright
to an exponential increase in media attention on the band. Everyone wants to know why they attract such heavyweight collaborators. But has Marr actually had much effect on the band? Marr certainly fills out the band’s sound live but his influence on the songs themselves has been negligible. The Cribs are poised to become a very important band, and Marr, like the rest of us, just wants to see how far they can go. Steve Walsh
Vic Goddard and Subway Sect/Plastic Fuzz/Model Warships @ the Theatre in the Mill, Bradford Model Warships is just Michael Waters playing idiosyncratic songs using a wildly inventive style of electric guitar playing and a vocal styling so mannered his words are rendered almost incomprehensible. At first, the whole thing just sounds ugly but as the ears attune it becomes apparent that Waters is just unique. Should we be worried that Plastic Fuzz hasn’t become a major pop star yet on the back of Dots? Mark Shahid himself doesn’t seem perturbed so I guess
we should relax too. Although Shahid seems to be in a cheerful mood, the six song set is built around some of the heavier songs on Dots. Although punk rock made a show of celebrating individuality over more traditional musical skills, the detached stance of Subway Sect was profoundly shocking to audiences geared up to release pent up anger. Because they didn’t fit the pattern, the band spent the 80’s gradually disappearing, leaving the kind of legacy that’s the perfect seed for a cult to grow from. So has it all been worth hanging on for? ‘That Train’ is a passable country blues and ‘Blackpool’ is surreally charming, but many of the songs struggle to rise above lumbering pub rock. Unsurprisingly it’s left to seething alive versions of those original singles, ‘Ambition’ and ‘Nobody’s Scared’, to provide the best moments. Steve Walsh
Wonderswan/The Medusa Snare/The Acutes @ Nation of Shopkeepers Three affiliated Leeds acts line-up for another splendidly free show at Nation of Shopkeepers. The Acutes are returning to the live circuit - their material this evening is all-new but the two-piece’s ability to produce songs of wit and invention from a restricted musical palette remains undimmed. They certainly have the creative edge on the two bands following them, both of whom seem primarily concerned with emulating their primary influences. Wonderswan make no bones about their reverence for the so-called ‘slacker’ bands of the early Nineties - they’re even decent enough to have a sense of humour about it. The songs don’t do any disservice to their musical antecedents either - the likes of ‘Furrpile’ and ‘Hey Nature’ contain some lovely hooks and display an open-minded approach to melody and composition, whilst the band’s performance is tight and lively by comparison to the vague droning of The Medusa Snare whose set precedes them tonight. Nevertheless, Wonderswan’s adherence to a sonic template laid down twenty years ago will prove irksome for many. Greg Elliott
Pat Crowne/Mishkin/ Madame Laycock & Her Dabeno Pleasures/ Burlesque Dancers @ The Well
The Scaramanga Six @ The Peacock Lounge, Huddersfield
Three whole issues have passed, and I have sailed through my self-imposed The Grande Madame and cohorts get vow of fan-boy silence concerning all the evening off to an improbably good things Six-related in these hallowed start. It’s the surrealist storytelling and pages. But with this 6-month exile now ostentatious theatrics that grab the elapsed, it’s time to pig-out on a 2-hour attention, but some deceptively excellent Scara-binge in the company of a roommusicianship that keeps you there for full of fellow nerds. Delirious exaltations. well over half an hour. For those unfamiliar, The Six who are With the on-stage cavorting of some four can lay claim to being one of the burlesque dancers getting some of the ultimate cult bands. more junior metalheads into a lather, the The Scaras always attract a select, arrival of Mishkin just about tips them yet fearsomely devoted fanbase. But towards feral frenzy. I cannot pretend the sense of anticipation amongst the to be a particular aficionado of this sort highly respectable turnout, awaiting of thing, but it is clear we are watching some master technicians at work. It’s is this epic pre-Halloween assault from a bit like staring at the Humber Bridge. It Huddersfield’s most despicable may not be tremendously enjoyable, but guitar-duelling behemoths in this quite you can’t help admiring the skill it’s taken stunningly opulent venue, is tangible. The conversation is also impressively to get there. The metalers are loving it though, and it would take a cold heart to nerdy. Perhaps putting off the casual passer-by with the lack of support act, deny them their fun on this of all nights. the unlikely location, and the potentially ear-battering endurance test we are We are suitably – and necessarily – sweetened with more burlesque, before being asked to submit ourselves to, this is one for the hardcore only. And another endurance test is promised. out they have come in abundance, The promoter has tipped us off that Pat musing and speculating on possible rare Crowne is – apparently – horrifically offensive on a whole new unimaginable nuggets likely to be unleashed. level. We are treated – if that’s the right Bar a brief wrong-footing technical issue word – to the sight of a large tattooed arising from a fused neon applauseman wearing nothing but a pair of sign (if this doesn’t mean anything, superman Y-fronts, an open towelling dressing-gown and a balaclava; holding you’re best off not asking), the doublemarathon set more than matches the a child’s plastic axe. He then proceeds self-induced hype. Opening with a to mime to a backing track of ambient blistering version of The Throning Room bleeps while a vocal monologue from the more commercially-minded concerns – primarily – ‘killing pricks, to Dance Of Death, the band tear through get chicks’. And it is… utter genius. a truly heroic set taking in material from It’s a word that is bandied around way all 6 studio albums, including the great too often for far lesser talents, but if you lost 5th studio album A Pound of Flesh. have ever wondered what it is like to see The crowd – which includes those who inside the mind of a psychopath, this is the real deal. Compelling, chilling and – have travelled, in some instances, hundreds of miles for this – lap it up, on occasion – blackly humorous, this is before collapsing through air-guitar quite exceptional performance art. It’s induced exhaustion. Superb stage also not remotely offensive. I guess it depends on your standpoint, but if you’re make-up, some wonderful visuals and the truly sumptuous décor of The the type who looks at albums like OG: Peacock Lounge only intensify the Original Gangster as a work of masterregular sense of theatre and occasion satire, rather than Daily Mail-baiting you get at a Scaras gig. provocation piece, then you’re likely to be on the same wavelength. The payA rare collectors item to be cherished in off (and without resorting to spoilers, I’ll the memory banks for years to come. just point out that I am NOT a prick) is devastatingly effective. Rob Paul Chapman As befits this Halloween, this is scarily good. Rob Paul Chapman
brainwash festival 09 thursday - Brainwash IV An antiquated ballroom plays bizarre host to the opening of the fourth Brainwash Festival, but in many ways the whole night seems loosely Blu Tacked onto the festivities, hanging off the wall as its own separate entity. Things kick off with Paper Tiger, their electro hip-hop producing an uninterrupted mix of electronicallydistorted sax over break beats, live samples and scratches and inspired rapping. This sound, reminiscent of The Roots and Jurassic 5, maintains a distinctive hypnotism as each song merges ingeniously into the next. Then comes Diagonal but as they fluctuate between commercial and extreme experimentation, it isn’t particularly easy on the ears. Only the last track with its 7/8 grooves captures my imagination but it’s too late. In the end, great musicians stuck in their own isolated sound bubble. Finally the main attraction: Jaga Jazzist. This Norwegian ten-piece use an amazing range of instrumentation to produce euphoric soundscapes, blending every popular music genre to create a truly unique experience. The electronically tinged sounds move from futuristic big band to dramatic James Bond style themes. This is the most accessible experimental jazz I have ever heard – a definite eye opener. Helen Skeet
friday - Brainwash IV It’s day 2 of Brainwash Festival IV and tonight’s line up is not for the fainthearted. When Blacklisters are the first band on a bill, you can bet you are in for a treat. Not satisfied with threatening his own vocal cords, singer Billy Mason Wood takes the show to the crowd and nearly lynches his own bassist in the process. After my eardrums get a gentle pounding from B, it’s time to receive a simulated sex act. Really. That aside, Bad for Lazarus deliver a set packed with enough raw filth, spit, blood and stage antics to remind you just how hazardous it can be to get too close to a rock band. If that was not enough, Friday night revellers had Chickenhawk to contend with next. Fast-becoming the Leeds metal-connoisseur’s band of choice, vibrations 36
Chickenhawk have the live performance to match the tunes. Can you have a sing-a-long at a metal gig? You can now. Sadly, not nearly enough people stick around to be destroyed by Castrovalva, the only band on tonight’s bill that have carved out a genre all of their own, if only they could name it. Noise-Hop? Thug-core? Whatever it’s called, it’s only for the tough.
5-piece gothic death metal exponents Year of the Man have turned the Royal Park Cellar into a dungeon. Dressed in monk’s robes and Michael Myers masks for added effect it’s once more loud enough to remove all sixty four fillings from my teeth. I will be sending these boys my dentist bill. Still enjoyed it though!
Quite a crowd has gathered for Leicester’s Maybeshewill, which seems to have spooked the four lads. Regardless, their set is tight and exciting, even if Vessels and 65daysofstatic may sue. They shoulder technical difficulties well however and ‘This Time Next Year’ is good enough to be forgiven plagiarism... ahem, tribute.
I head back to B2 and see Sketches setting up. I caught these live at Moorfest in August so stuck around to check them out. Compared to most 4-piece guitar bands they’re a pretty decent outfit, delivering a spiky little set including their latest single ‘We keep on Moving’.
Jonquil look similarly bemused, but they’ve just arrived from Hull so... understandable. Fairly out of place but Bart Pettman pleasant– like Alan Price jamming with Foals, or Ben Folds. Due to delays, their set crashes into These Monsters, which is as chaotic and macho as is expected. saturday - Brainwash IV Semi-naked guitarists and a wobbly saxophonist stagger about, endangering Having had such a blast at this year’s Welsh veteran metal trio Taint are a bit of the audience with noise and motion. ‘Live at Leeds’, I was itching to try another indoor mini-festival. The format a departure from the rest of today’s fare Tangible, psychedelic sonic attack. and a thinning crowd are testament to was as before - a sort of Rock and Roll that but what do they know? They must Taking to the stage in stripped down speed dating if you think about it, with all be saving themselves for Pulled Apart form, Vessels are unusually brief in the profits going to charity I hasten to by Horses who are on later. setting up, but there is nothing slight add. about their set. ‘Altered Beast’ surges from the stage, full of riff and fury, Anyway kicking off my all-dayer I head kindling the band’s energies which build towards Brudenell’s splendid main stage to an ecstatic climax of infectious yet to watch Wonderswan whose Grungeambient melody. lite indie sounds great in front of an admittedly smallish crowd. BLK JKS, all the way from Johannesburg, set about laying down Next up it’s through to the smaller room some good old fashioned psychedelic and I’m surprised to find it’s packed out rock, albeit with a dash of dub and bass. for Invisible Cities, who are also a locally Though the vocals are drowned out, the based four-piece. However, the similarity mix of seventies rock and South African ends there as we’re talking folk-rock Pulled Apart By Horses by Bart Pettman tuning is an intriguing one. instrumental this time. Nice in places although it reminded me of The South Oceansize are a long time setting up Finally, with my hearing on the wane, Bank Show theme tune. and once they have... I can’t work it out. it’s down to the lovely folk chanteuse Back into the main room again for the Fran Rodgers to ensure I don’t go home They should be just my sort of thing: they’re prog and they’re connected to moody prog of Monster Killed by Laser completely deaf. B2 is packed (that’s who rumble through their set although where they all went) and the atmosphere Cardiacs. What they lack is hooks, and what is more they look very compressed throughout I can’t help thinking how is nice and cosy as our heroine takes much ‘Guitar Laser’ looks like Phil us on a journey back to a time when the on the small stage. Tufnell. Bronte sisters were getting through a By contrast, Grammatics look very box of biros a week. happy on the smaller intimate stage of I then wander down the road to the the Pulse bar. I’m surprised the place Royal Park Cellars and catch most Mike Price isn’t packed out, especially when they of the set from electronic post-rock produce a set of such sexy intensity. crossover worriedaboutsatan. Boasting Owen prowls in his space, eyeing the barely more than a laptop each, the duo sunday Brainwash IV crowd and effortlessly putting his all into faced each other like two schoolboys it. Every song sounds pristine, so good it engaged in the deciding game of Entering the permadark of the Pulse makes you feel good. battleships. It was also ear-splittingly venue, I am assailed by noise and fury loud and hugely enjoyable. unparalleled as Her Name Is Calla round Bereft of costume and playing with a Once more to the Brudenell main stage off their set. It’s only a taste, but a strong mere eight members, Efterklang should one. Harsh at the best of times, this is a by rights be less effective. Totally wrong. to watch Humberside 3-piece Tubelord Eight voices is just as good as a choir knocking out a sort of taut choppy power brutal rendition. Good. and Casper Causen in civvies is such pop. The crowd has swelled significantly By way of uplifting juxtaposition, Nancy a cheerful fellow – you get the feeling to some 200 who lap it up. Elizabeth in Mine is very pleasant. that you’re being allowed to come to an Her authentic Wigan voice and timid I head into Number 2 once more to impromptu jam. It’s a feeling similar to bonhomie make it difficult not to like her, that you get watching Sigur Ros their take in the gloriously bonkers Ben so it’s a good thing she plays well. ‘Feet tour DVD. Only this is live and lovely. Weatherill and the Trumpets of Death. of Courage’ with its ersatz percussion of The best way to Efterklang, really. Our eponymous lead singer sounds foot and chair and the audience supplied somewhere between Bryan Ferry and humming chorus are points of note but Rob Wright Russell Mael and the quartet definitely it’s all good. have something about them... vibrations 37
lsh Steve Wa
Mopping-up the miscellaneous stuff we’ve been sent that doesn’t fit anywhere else in exactly 20 words from exactly 2 listens. Miscellaneous Submission of the month: Goodbye Good Goodbye Good Genre hopping and mostly upbeat electro pop-based adventures that sometimes sound weirdly avant garde and in places are brilliantly inspired.
The Rest: The Craze Love is the Key EP
Silvertin Shocked to the Core
Four songs of dull, featureless, clichéd, pop-metal that allegedly last eighteen minutes but seem to take years before mercifully ending.
Tasteful, restrained, expertly played grown-up rock songs fatally weakened by unconvincing vocals and an aimless, seemingly random approach to arrangement.
Bleachbaby Stamp Her Out Made up of the bits of recent “sassy blonde” fronted bands and designed to make a surefire fortune. It’s shit.
The Ryots EP Shit bands sometimes help out by having a shit name. Think Pigeon Detectives, Fratellis, but only the very worst bits.
All Your Peers EP
John Ellis Wabi-sabi 21© Expansive suite of electronica pieces inspired by Japanese Tea Ceremony. Sound pretentious? Yes, but some of it’s actually rather good.
Thief Taker EP Comments on Silvertin would suit this lot. There’s no urgency, no compelling reason why the songs should exist at all.
Big, muscular, brooding, anthemic, folk tinged rock guitar workouts benefiting from a meaty production. AOR played and sung with conviction.
Last Temple Orchestra Let’s Pretend
Islands Lost at Sea Platypus Fink
Two songs of Killers, Maximo Park inspired hand wringing pop-rock that are just wrong in every department. Give up now!
Wilful, playfully eccentric lo-fi approach producing surprisingly sophisticated and inventive results. Wobbly Dog’s loopy, minimalist rap metal is, frankly, ace.
St. Gregory Orange Hearts Are Tape Machines
Young St. evidently spends lots of time fiddling about with electronic gadgets. One day he may produce some interesting music.
The Compression Au Naturel
This Wakefield 3 piece do a passable sludgey American stoner rock, with suitably ragged musical edges and flat, monotone vocals.
Night Herons Bury Your Head Sexless, tuneless, clueless disco-pop. In their hilarious press release the band say having a female singer makes them “unusual”. Barking.
Leodis Dead of Night Bluesy, early 70’s rock that’s turgid and badly played. Dopey lyrics and guitar solo overload complete the all round malaise.
Am.I.Achilles? Crowds Aren’t Good Peculiar jangly guitar meets bass-heavy postrocky angular pop. Songs seem to be reaching for something just out of reach. Exhilarating.
Performance tips No.134
Be prepared for anything
When your passion is in your playing, it’s easy to forget that accidents happen. Make sure you’re covered against all eventualities by joining the Musicians’ Union, where you’ll get the right advice, as well as free instrument insurance, public liability cover and access to a huge network of your fellow musicians.
Contact us today to see how we can help you:
0161 236 1764 www.musiciansunion.org.uk LiveInTheNorth@musiciansunion.org.uk
Published on Dec 1, 2009
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Jon Gomm, Mishkin and Brainwash festival.