election special alt track the lodger
Leeds and West Yorkshire
Free May 2010
passport Control my gig hell
Rob Paul Chapman email@example.com
Tim Metcalfe firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Martin email@example.com
The Contents 5 Magazine Editorial 10 Never Mind the Ballots 15 Passport Control 16 Lone Wolf 20 Alt Track 24 My Gig Hell 28 The Lodger 30 Album Reviews 32 Single Reviews 33 Preview Reviews 34 Live Reviews 38 Second Hearing - Your Demos!
Rob Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded and Published by Tony Wilby email@example.com Jack Simpson firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Contributors Danny North, Nelson, Neil Dawson, Sam Saunders, Kate Wellham, Rob Paul Chapman, Tom Martin, Rob Wright, Emily Clare Smith, Spencer Bayles, Mike Price, Steve Walsh, Puru Misra, Tom Bailey, Justin Myers, Greg Elliott, John Ford, Bart Pettman
Writers, Photographers, Artists, Sub editors and Designers Come be a part of it. firstname.lastname@example.org •
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Rob Wright, Reviews Editor, Vibrations Magazine PO Box 476 Leeds LS7 9BT
Lone Wolf by Danny North and cover shot vibrations 3
This month, you may have noticed, that some of the BBC’s key services are under threat of closure. This has caused debate, anger and outpourings of emotive support from anyone within shouting distance of a microphone. Personally, I am devastated and am only just starting to come to terms with how I am going to cope without a key platform that I have come to rely on daily. What am I going to do if they close down the BBC Good Food Guide? Explore the infinite alternatives available for free on the web, or possibly just go the whole hog and buy some cook books I suppose. Excellent. That’s that sorted then.
was a particularly interesting place artistically, and would I be interested in coming in to present a 1 hour special on the Leeds scene under their Listeners’ Choice format.
However, I am significantly less certain how I am going to plug the gaping hole that would be left in my life were they to shut down BBC 6 Music as well, as has been proposed.
I got the chance to play Napoleon IIIrd, This Et Al, The Butterfly, The Scaramanga Six, Vib Gyor and many others. Obviously some would have already been played on the radio, but many others hadn’t. I can’t think of another mainstream national media platform that would have given me – or many of those artists – the same chance.
I am completely aware of the arguments against 6 Music, that it doesn’t really represent independent music as they are subject to daytime playlists much like any other mainstream station. However, the scope of 6 Music is so much more than playlists. I’ve just had a check of my library and I’ve bought 1092 tracks via the iTunes store. I would say that 6 Music is directly responsible for well over half of these. If it’s an album I want, I’ll buy the physical copy from a shop. However, in the average day I will hear something I like on 6 Music and make an impulse purchase. Often these are independent artists likely to be pitching up at The Brudenell, Faversham, Well or Cockpit, and I am likely to go out and see them. One of the best gigs I’ve seen recently was Oh No Ono at the Brudenell. I now own both of their albums, but I can’t imagine I would have even heard of them, let alone heard them, had I not been listening to Gideon Coe as I worked one evening at my computer. Exposure and distribution are the lifeblood of independent music. A few years ago, I received a call from one of 6 Music’s producers. They said that they thought Leeds
I hope it might have made a very small difference to them too. I remember the impact on my band from being played on the station. It was about 3am on Sunday night/ Monday morning on Tom Robinson’s show, so not exactly peak time. The next morning, I found in my inbox a number of orders for our last single having heard it on the radio. Public service broadcasting at it’s best! However, the real niggle is the wording Mark Thompson used in his statement: The BBC intends to “focus on quality over quantity”. If that was the case I would be delighted, but whilst BBC 3 stays open, and 6 Music faces closure, even objectively this statement must be considered fatuous nonsense. 6 Music does not contain any programmes hosted by Danny Dyer. It does not send Paris Hilton out to report on people trafficking in Lagos, nor is it likely to commission a “point at the freaks” series such as The Boy With A Salmon For A Face or similar. And while we’re at it, has anyone actually ever met anyone
in real life who watches Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps? It is not about quality, it’s about ratings. Never has a more superficial channel existed than BBC 3. The programmes are conceived from the title backwards, specifically designed to draw in gawping viewers from the tabloid-friendly tag. 6 Music on the other hand, is public service broadcasting. It supports a niche unlikely to be sustained in the competitive marketplace. The issue is a much broader one than the future of 6 Music. It is the role of the BBC as an independent public service broadcaster, or as a Darwinist commercial animal there to gobble as much market share as physically possible, lest it invites criticism from The Daily Mail for not providing enough mass-appeal for the licence fee. It is a complex and highly charged debate, and one which there is not the space for in this column. However one thing remains certain at time of writing, that the BBC remains horribly caught between two radically contrasting remits, and rather than just pushing the panic button by hacking out a bit of cost here and there, someone really needs to sit down and have a think about what the BBC is and what it’s for. This is a big deal for us all in the music community, so get involved if you have an opinion on it. You have until May 25th: https://consultations.external.bbc. co.uk/departments/bbc/bbc-strategyreview/consultation/intro ATB. RPC
A Proper Musician? Feeling musically insecure? Worried that your soft spot for Girls Aloud makes you the cultural inferior of your mate with the mint collection of complete Hüsker Dü vinyl…? Allow JS Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ives, Lennon and our very own Sam Saunders to make you feel better.
Vibrations reaps the consequences of my investigations, of course. But if you are in a hurry, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my sun-drenched conclusion is: We are all proper musicians. There is a universal and democratic equality in music that cannot and will not deny anyone the right to make their own music whenever and however they damn well please. My case will call witnesses and draw attention to incontrovertible facts. I start with the self-evident generalisation that a proper musician makes proper music, just like the famous and most proper musicians. I looked first to call for testimony from modern musicians with serious names: Igor Stravinsky for example. His music (cf. “The Rite of Spring”) caused more rioting than the Kaiser Chiefs. He thought that his music was “best understood by children and animals”, the very beings with whom W.C. Fields (a very improper comedian) advised us never to work with and proof, surely, that the democracy of music covers a very generous range. The Grand American scourge of traditionalism, Charles Ives, suggested that “Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the
ears lie back in an easy chair”. His implication, I am sure, makes any uncomfortable, even excruciating music, eligible as a source of beauty. This generosity encourages even me to sing a little during the evenings. But if, members of the jury, you feel that I am picking out the modern awkward squad to support a dubious case, how about the 18th century? Johann Sebastian Bach, whose sacred bass lines lived on for 250 years to inspire the best of the Beatles, wrote “the end and ultimate cause, as of all music, so of the thoroughbass, should be none else but the glory of God and the recreation of the soul and mind.” Whatever vocabulary we use, whatever bass lines we hammer out, we are all God’s children, we each have a mind and a soul (however besmirched) and we all need recreation. So sing and be praised! Mozart, more of a melody kind of a guy than Bach, writing to his father, let slip his thinking on proper music thus:
John Lennon was not a tiny mind. He said, and with much justice: “Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.” The point he was making is that everyone is a proper musician, not because they have created their own fragment of “product” that can be branded and sold, but because everyone, anyone, can create the world of music on their own terms. Roaring along at a football match, humming to a baby, yelling with Bruce Springsteen in the car, or chanting the lyrics to Lady GaGa at the back of the school bus. It’s all proper music. And so is that first quavering song in the school play and the first disaster-strewn first gig with your first dodgy band. All music. All proper. Lady Gaga
With five sons, who all play music at least some of the time, it’s an everyday experience for me to be talking nonsense about music (and not just writing it). But I was taken aback recently when Son #4 referred to Son #3 and his London friends as “proper musicians”. The way he said it, it was clear that he wasn’t thinking of himself as being in that category. Not a “proper” musician? Even though he was principal oboe with Leeds Youth Orchestra, has gigged at The Cockpit, Leeds Met, Leeds City Varieties and The Primrose. How is that not proper? The moment passed, but the thought kept coming back to me during the peace of a sleepy week among Spanish hills.
“The happy medium - truth in all things - is no longer either known or valued; to gain applause, one must write things so inane that they may be played on a barrel-organ, or so unintelligible that no rational being can comprehend them, though on that very account they are likely to please.” I take this to be a call for simplicity and a good tune - surely things within all our capabilities? The sort of thing that would sound just fine on a harmonica or a penny whistle. Moving on a little, Beethoven’s romantic and revolutionary ideals led him to declare, magnificently and with canons, that: “Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” To put that another way round, even the simplest of us can express things with music that our tiny minds could never approach.
Vikram Seth at the close of his glorious novel “An Equal Music”, sets out a gentle outline of what such proper music could be like: “Music, such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness, why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music - not too much, or the soul could not sustain it from time to time.” vibrations 6
Rainbow warrior Whenever they’re allowed to dress themselves they inevitably wear terrible clothes; they’re completely detached from reality; any attempts to ‘get home with the downies’ is excruciatingly embarrassing, and their egos are so over-inflated that anyone would think they were rock stars. But enough about Limp Bizkit. Kate Wellham talks politicians.
Which is why, at election time, it’s easy to feel distanced from – and confused by - your own political system, and to feel as though you should leave it to people who know more about it to vote. But the truth is, you don’t need to be intimidated. In writing this column, and being roused by a lot of protest activity either locally, arts-related, or both, I already know which parties align with some of the things I feel strongly about on a local level. In Bradford, a couple of things that the majority of people have a strong opinion on are the regeneration of the city, and (one way or the other) its cultural makeup. On the latter issue, I’m not a skinhead, so that rules out one option for a start. On the regeneration front, I know just from following news stories and being involved in the protests, who reflects my views on things like the Odeon, the City Park, the hole in the city centre where a shopping centre was meant to be. I haven’t swatted to find out about these issues, they piss me off most days and I know who’s responsible. If I can find
a representative who is equally pissed off about them, I’ve found my man (or woman, of course). Leeds can afford to be – and in some ways I think is – less politically aware, in that it’s less ingrained to have to worry about what could be done differently. Financially it’s a more stable place, it’s a less culturally diverse place, and the council seem (from over here anyway) to behave more like representatives than career politicians making their mark. In Bradford, everyone has a better idea of how to run the city than the Council does, and over the past few months it’s all they talk about, so we’re raring to go already. You hear it on the buses, in the street, in the pub. We have a weekly boozing session we jokingly called ‘Putting Bradford to Rights Wednesday’ because no matter what we started talking about, it always came back to that. What about you? What do you want to change? Which candidates agree with you? If you don’t know, ask them, they’ll bend over backwards (probably quite literally) to tell you what they think, and no question is too insignificant. If it’s important to you, you deserve to know how they feel about it as well. What about things like the bin strikes, Hyde Park School, muggings and burglaries? You deal with politics every day, so you may as well vote as suffer or complain.
org.uk to do a quick quiz that lines up your own views with those of the main political parties. It was totally accurate. If you can take a quiz to find out which Hollyoaks character you are or chase lost animals round a virtual farm, you can do that. Speaking of which, social networking is a good place to do your research. Sit on Twitter for a bit and search #election2010, #labour, #libdem, #leeds etc, and there you’ll find a huge array of links and opinions in 140 characters or less, which is the total opposite of the timewasting waffle usually associated with elections. There’s no need to feel lost or silly, there are far worse things than being confused about which way to vote, like failing to even try any of this stuff when it’s so important to use your vote. I’m so serious I’m not even going to end this column with a joke. (Fred Durst, lol)
If, like me, you fall asleep at the mere sight of a tie, election time is one of the most tedious seasons you can imagine. With the country’s potential future leaders hiring billboards just to call each other pricks, and David Cameron’s ‘maybe he’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline’ dead eyes following you down the street wherever you go, it’s unsurprising that almost 40% of us don’t bother to turn out to vote, feeling too detached, bored or intimidated by this bombardment of mudslinging and cocksucking. Just when you think you know who the good guys are, you see another poster that tells you it’s a trap.
For the General Elections, I already knew how I wanted to vote, but I went to votematch. vibrations 9
Never Mind The Ballots
Photography by Tom Martin Panorama by Charlotte Watkins
David Cameron in Leeds, April 2010
We are – apparently – in the midst of Election Fever. We know this to be true, because every time you mention “the election” to anyone, they display all the classic signs of a serious fever: the colour runs from their faces, cold sweats, streaming eyes, wailing, and a sudden pressing need to visit the bathroom. But the relationship between music (especially grass-roots music) and politics – always the cornerstone of protest – seems to be changing, and perhaps not for the better. Rob Paul Chapman talks to some of the key people on all sides to asses whether the marriage between music and politics is experiencing a lover’s tiff, or has hit irreconcilable differences.
1) Are Pop Culture and Politics Tricky Ingredients to Infuse for the Amateur Chef? It is a modern phenomenon for politicians to feel the need to gain the empathy of the populace by demonstrating how in touch they are with the ever-changing landscape of modern music. And whilst there is no intrinsic harm in Gordon Brown declaring an unlikely affinity with the Arctic Monkeys, or the deliciously ironic image of the junior David Cameron bouncing around his £20,000-per-year boarding dorm to The Jam’s Eton Rifles, never underestimate the power of the politician to make prize berks out of themselves. heard Dido? Nicholas Soams probably likes Wagner, and that’s fine, he should say he likes Wagner!” He refers to the smirk-inducing incident a few years ago when the Tories were encouraged to come to their conference casually dressed while an interviewer prompted them on their popular music choices, seemingly in an attempt to appear ‘relevant’.
One man who knows plenty about the balance between politics and pop music is The Farming Incident’s Dave Proctor, a veteran of the music scene who’s politically charged abrasive proggy pop-punk spans two acclaimed albums “Our Glorious Five Year Plan” and “Nine Degrees of Torture”. He has decided to channel his displeasure at the state of the political system by standing as an independent candidate at the election in Leeds Central.
Music and Politics make for uneasy bedfellows, surely? “I’d agree with that” he says “does Liam Fox really like The Scissor Sisters? Has Nicholas Soams actually ever
The Leeds Music Scene is not overstaffed with Tories, let alone those standing at the coming election. Nick Pickles (“No relation to Eric, no relation to Judge and no relation to the dog that found the world cup”) fits into both camps though. As an acclaimed rock photographer who’s snapped everyone from Radiohead to The Kaiser Chiefs, he knows his music, and he knows his politics. He is mid-20s, engaging, funny, articulate, and impressively sweary, with a passion and enthusiasm for his subject and who seems unusually candid and open to debate. You can’t help feeling that a few years in Wesminster will knock that out of him if he gets there, but in the meantime it seems refreshing. “One of the most depressing attempts I’ve seen to ride on the back of popular culture recently was the SNP and the Lib Dems both comparing themselves to Rage Against The Machine being Christmas number one” he chuckles while burying his forehead in his hands in exasperation. “These people have interns, they have researchers, they have volunteers.” Did no one in their office say “hang on a minute, this sounds rubbish! We sound like a bunch of middle-aged people trying desperately to be cool! We sound like a bunch of wankers!” Does much of this stem from politicians
feeling the need to appeal to everyone on everything? “It goes two ways” says Pickles. “Politics is a very strange bubble to work in. In the same way that, if you go to a lot of people who work in the music industry and talk about having an office job, they will look at you with an alien face because it’s not a world that many of them can comprehend either.” Relating to the fast-moving world of popular culture is always going to be difficult unless you’re already in the demographic of people it’s aimed at. This appears to be something noticed by Rachel Reeves the young first-time Labour candidate who looks likely to win the seat of Leeds West. Recounting a recent conversation with a more aged councillor over a coffee she chuckles: “One of the councillors said to me the other day that they’d heard that something called ‘Facebook’ was actually a way of engaging with younger people. I was like “yeah, great, well done there!” Given that it seems a lot harder for politicians to get it right than get it wrong…:
2) Should Politicians Run a Mile from the Arts in the First Place? As things stand, politicians are an inescapable part of the musical landscape, whether we like it or not. The cosy love-in between pop and politics may have deteriorated to such a point that the two are barely on speaking terms. But they are still necessarily bound together by economics. Not a good thing according to Pickles: vibrations 11
To her, the success of the city as an artistic hub, is not just a ‘nice to have’, it plays an essential part in the prosperity of the city.
“Do you want politicians deciding which arts are culturally relevant?” he asks rhetorically. “The Daily Mail will have a go at the BBC about the amount of money it spends on sending people to Glastonbury, but you don’t see it having a go at the BBC for the amount of money it spends covering Wimbledon. The BBC sends more staff to Wimbledon than it does to Glastonbury. But because it’s the Daily Mail saying it, you end up with a debate about whether the BBC is spending too much money on sending people to Glastonbury.” Perhaps then, the problem is not so much the relationship between politics and pop, more politics and the media? The arts playing the role of the children, whose upbringing is being fought over between the two. “Something has gone fundamentally wrong when politicians feel so enthralled to the media that they can’t talk in a sensible manner about the experiences of normal people” he says. “Glastonbury is the biggest cultural event of its kind on the planet. For God’s sake don’t be jumping on the first bandwagon that passes just because it feels like there might be some people behind it. Otherwise you end up getting into whether Damian Hurst or Tracy Emin should get state funding because
a few people disagree with them. That is not what art is about. It’s a response to society and culture, and the last people we want talking about culture are politicians.” A fine artist-friendly sentiment perhaps, but as many musicians and artists will attest, the divorcing of art and state only works if there is enough funding around to support the creation of the art in the first place, where the market shows little interest. Dave Proctor has concerns. “I would say that musicians are drawn to who they believe will give them more funding” is his surprisingly brutal assessment. “The non-classical music industry – the pop industry if you like – doesn’t really get any funding at all. It’s all self-funded. Whereas the classical arts get massive amounts of funding. I have never understood why something that is popular can’t attract the same amount of funding?” Rachel Reeves is keen to defend the government’s record on arts funding in the region. “I think that Labour have done a lot for the arts over the last 13 years” she counters. “We’ve made theatre free for young people across 95 venues, including The Carriageworks and the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds”.
“Leeds is a hugely successful city, and that is not just because we attract businesses, it is because it’s a place that people want to live. What makes this a great city is as much down to the arts community as it is finance and business communities” she reasons. “As politicians, both nationally and locally, we need to work out – especially in such difficult economic times – how best we can maintain investment in the arts. Not just because the arts are obviously good for home life, but also because they play a vital part in economic regeneration and sustainability. They aren’t just investments into the arts, they are investments into the economy.” “One of the fantastic things about the arts, is that they are great ways of engaging people who aren’t always engaged by what might happen at school” she continues. “Some of the work that the Interplay Theatre Group have done, working with the Criminal Justice System is absolutely phenomenal and has completely changed the life chances for those kids”. A fine institution, but the relationship between legistators and musicians seems remarkably strained, as evidenced by things like the amendments to the Licencing Act. Whereas once, passions may have been mobilised, is the abiding feeling amongst artists one of resignation? Prompting question 3:
3) Have Artists Given-up Caring? Disenfranchisement from the Westminster elite is a concept as old as Hogarth. We have always distrusted our politicians, even without the tangible evidence of recent months. However, the prevailing feeling seems to be that artists have drifted further away from direct engagement from the mainstream political system.
“20-30 years ago if I had been going to gigs, I’d be seeing punk bands, reggae bands, dance and rave acts and eventually the bands that would go on to become Britpop bands. And politics would absolutely have been a part of these scenes” suggests Pickles. “Popular culture – whether that be music or art or literature – has drifted away from politics to quite an alarming level. Music has always been able to engage people where politicians can’t and make the issues relevant.” This would seem to concur with the general, anecdotal feeling “on the streets” as the politicians might say. But is this uniquely a UK-based shift in attitude? Tim Carey was Field Director for the Rock The Vote campaign in 2000, responsible for coordinating the initiative to get young people voting across the US. Since then he’s been a prominent Democratic aide in the House of Representatives. “Here in the 90's in the U.S. things were very good, and we saw a period of where popstars were expected to have opinions. We saw some decent pop music too. Correlative or causative?” Carey ponders. “I attribute this to the fact that we had a youngish somewhat progressive President and things were going fairly well, so there was room for concerts about Tibet and homelessness, runaway youth, etc. It was political, but very issues-based, rather than ideological. The last decade has been all about two wars and what it means to be American and patriotic, with us or against us, and all that. A really depressing time.” It seems that this need for bipartisan separation has been something of a global trend. Whilst in America this separation is more defined over key issues such as patriotism and foreign policy, elsewhere this is more of an intangible undercurrent. But it is clearly perceivable. Nick Pickles seems to agree. “I don’t think many artists feel part of politics” he suggests. “Politics is very relevant, but you get bands like Radiohead who convey a feeling of disconnection and disenfranchisement of the political process to a point where they can play No Surprises 15 years after it was written and the line that gets the biggest cheer is “bring down the government, they don’t speak for us”. Why is that? It’s not the artists’ fault, it’s the politicians’ fault. We run
after these people, where we think the power lies, but in the process we’ve left lots of people behind who are just as important and just as passionate, but they don’t feel relevant anymore. Perhaps that will lead to a new wave of protest art? Or a new wave of overtly political musicians? “Perhaps we will get to a position in 10 years when only 25% of people are voting” he offers. “And then we have a protest movement and the whole political narrative shifts, like it did in America, from a segregated society to one where people were saying “this can’t go on”. And popular culture played a hugely important role in that.” Carey agrees. And appears optimistic that, whilst things may get worse before they get better, the outlook should improve gradually. “I would suspect we're due for another shift, away from nihilism and back toward engagement” he reasons hopefully. “Frankly, we could probably use a good struggle in this country (maybe yours too), something we haven't had in decades. Comfort probably breeds apathy, and we've been very comfortable for a long time. It may be that our years of profligate spending, poor foreign policy and outright disinterest is all coming due and we are in for a period of active re-creation. This is something Obama speaks about quite a bit, so perhaps it will begin to take hold. In that environment, one would expect popular art to reflect some sort of opinion in order to appear relevant, no?” Rachel Reeves offers some perspective. “The challenges we face now are completely different to those that we faced back in 1997” she says. “How many people had heard of The Taliban in 1997 for example? Where did climate change feature in the Labour party’s manifesto? Back then it would probably just have been a few off-the-wall lefties who wanted a global financial transactions tax, but now all the parties are competing with each other to see who can appear toughest on the banks. It’s a very different world” A different world for sure, but why was it that artists were prepared to indulge us with their take on these issues a couple of decades ago, but as far as the mainstream is concerned – and
to a large extent the grass-roots too – musicians are staying away from tackling the big issues in their work?
4) Should We Blame Simon Cowell? “There are definitely problems with being politically motivated in music” observes Dave Proctor. “When you’re young you can be in a band, and basically just be gobbing off against The Man all the time. But what if you’re made an offer you can’t refuse in exchange for perhaps changing some of the things that you’re talking about”. “You can see it in X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. The end product is just geared towards selling stuff. You’re pretty sure that within 6 months of that artist releasing an album they are probably going to be back where they were before. They’ll have had a brilliant 6 months, but that will be it. You have people just sucking the talent out of them – and some of these people clearly do have talent – and then they’re discarded.” This career-at-all-costs view of popular music, driven by a mixture of self-interest, bloody-mindedness and narcissism is clearly not a unique phenomenon to this side of the pond as Carey attests. “The execs discovered early on it's bad business to turn off a potentially huge sector of the public by making political statements one way or the other” he observes with depressing accuracy. “I'm guessing the artists have virtually no leverage in this conversation, so why not stay bland and make a little cash rather than be outspoken and irrelevant? With success you'll at some point have fuck-you money, at which point you can do and say whatever you want, right O.J.?” Nick Pickles is equally cynical. “You get artists sometimes coming out in support of one political party or other, and often it’s not because of ideological reasons, it’s because it suits their commercial interests” he offers. “You end up with a situation like Rage Against The Machine, literally raging against the ‘machine’ of mainstream major-label manufactured music, signed to exactly the same label as the manufactured artist they are meant to be raging vibrations 13
against! How many people who bought that single thought they were campaigning for independent music? And yet exactly the same people were getting their money regardless of whether they bought that or the X Factor single.” Simon Cowell may be one of our most embarrassing exports, but the US has had an even higher profile pantomime villain in recent years, and this one had his finger on the big red button. However, unlike the UK 25 years ago, where the rise of conservatism sparked some of the greatest protest pop music we’ve seen, the reverse has occurred in the States. “In the last decade, we've been through this ridiculously annoying period where, after 9/11, saying anything remotely political was to be interpreted as either hugely unpatriotic and damaging to national security, or naive, stupid, fascist, dangerous, etc” muses Carey. “If you were an emerging pop star, would you be inclined to be politically engaged in an environment like that? To what gain? The result, in my opinion, was a deep nihilism, brilliantly reflected in mainstream pop music.” On this analysis, we must surely hope that the new-start the US appears to have been given in international feeling is not vulnerable to the apathy that crept into UK politics when a heroically-billed political leader failed to meet impossibly high expectations.
5) Are Things Recoverable and Should Anyone Actually be Bothered? “I get a lot of emails from people who have very differing views on how we should approach the same issue” says Rachel Reeves. “And so clearly that is going to be difficult to maintain people’s expectations. Perhaps people think that politicians don’t talk the language of the rest of us. But on the other hand, if politicians make a gaff, they never hear the end of it.” It is hard not to sympathise with the politicians’ lot. They have been put through the mill by the media and public confidence in their representatives would appear, superficially, to be at an all time low. Politicians come in for a lot of flack for being driven by self-interest, but the passion of all the people I met to influence for the better seems completely genuine. “I believe that politics is still a vehicle to change things, that you can have a
huge impact on prosperity and welfare” she continues. “For me especially, [to be able to help] the poorest and most marginalised people, I think that politicians can have a huge impact on society”. Of course, we should not be compelled to vote, just because someone else thinks they are right, but I would argue that in the current environment, even the most cynical has a duty to vote for whoever they think is least wrong. I say this, because there is a much more disturbing spectre on the horizon than expenses scandals, nepotism, lobbying or any of the other obstacles to caring that the electorate has had thrust in their way. And this one thrives on apathy, as the less people care, the more it grows proportionally stronger. Dave Proctor explains: “I know for a fact, that come May the 6th, there would be no one on that ballot sheet that I would want to vote for” he says. “People who don’t believe in what the three main parties are doing are pretty much screwed. So they might feel that the only alternative for them is to vote for the BNP. And that’s not going to help anyone.” Does he really think that the “man on the street” who might have previously called themselves a socialist – so often associated with the philosophies of Robert Tresswell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – could really consider such a radical and divisive option? “Sadly, yes” he sighs. “In some cases it’s disaffection, and in others it’s a case of reading things in the media and assuming it’s true. There is a perception that it might be time to move ‘these people’ out as they are taking up ‘our’ jobs and ‘our’ resources. It’s worrying, because that clearly isn’t the case. The ideas that the BNP will often come up with appear to be local issues, about investing locally, but having got people engaged on local issues they will be like “how about we chuck in a bit of Nazism as well, eh?” Stoke – for example – used to have 60 Labour councillors before New Labour. Now there are 14 BNP councillors, a quarter of the council.” As a Labourite who will only have known the party as the ‘New Labour’ Proctor refers to throughout her adult life, Reeves acknowledges the issue. “Leeds West is what you would consider a traditional Labour area, and it is pretty much all white working class” she concurs. “There are people who will vote BNP because they feel
let-down by the three main parties and because they are afraid of change. And sometimes they will use Muslims and black people and Eastern European migrant workers as a scapegoat for the things that they are scared about. The BNP offer a simple narrative, which is “the reason you’re not getting a council house is because they are going to black people and Muslims”” continues Reeves. “It is a misleading and inaccurate narrative, but it is a message that does resonate with some people. They create scapegoats for wider issues in society”.
It’s the issue that goes to the very heart of why Proctor is standing, and it’s an issue that should concern anyone with a passing interest in their community, be it the music community, or society in general. It is clear, that the relationship between mainstream politics and music has drifted into far more marginal territory than it once occupied. Many would point towards the fact that musicians have not completely lost sight of the wider ‘issues’, and may well point to the admirable successes of campaigns such as Love Music Hate Racism. However, a general election is still the most effective way of influencing these issues directly. The vote for extremist parties such as the BNP may not be rising as dramatically as they would like you to think, but for every point the turnout decreases by, they become proportionally more powerful. “There are a lot of things that I am very unhappy about and probably always will be” declares Proctor, probably speaking for a great many people out there. “People moan about politics in this country, but then don’t do anything about it.” Our vote is precious. We have a responsibility to use it, and use it responsibly, whatever that might mean to you. vibrations 14
Passport Control because we can’t just let them all in… interrogation by Rob paul chapman Name:
Jim Bob Occupation:
Musician, author, renaissance wannabe Reason for visit? To read my new novel Storage Stories to the good people of Yorkshire and to sing them some songs and send them home fulfilled and somehow better people. Business or pleasure? A cheeky mixture of the two.
assure border control that you are not assembling a Southern army with the intention of invading? I hate London and everyone who lives there. Yorkshire is not known for its proliferation of gypsies, travellers and thieves; good, bad, average or unique; grebos or crusties… but we do have plenty of Goths. Is this going to cause a problem? No. I love Goths.
We’re on good terms with the local Lenny Kravitz and Terrance Trent Darby fan community – I trust you will not disrupt this? I am very tolerant to peoples with opposing views to mine. Even if they have no music taste. Anything else to declare? Only Oscar Wilde’s genius. You may now proceed through passport control. Please enjoy your stay in West Yorkshire. Jim Bob will be appearing at The Well on May the 13th
Is this the first time you have applied for a Yorkshire Visa? Yes. I have previously travelled as a tourist. Will you be staying with friends? If the Travelodge have an ice cream hover vending machine then yes, they will be my friends. Will you be bringing in any fruit, vegetables or meat products? I think my uber roadie/driver Mister Spoons may well fit all three categories. Any mammals, birds, rodents or reptiles either live or stuffed? (We have been informed you occasionally travel with a Fruitbat) I will be leaving my Fruitbat at home (happily kennelled, RSPCA fans). Did you pack your own case? Yes. My pants are my own business.
During your stay in the North, do you have any intention of attempting to cross the border into the Dark Side of the Pennines? And are you in regular communication with any affiliate of the Red Rose State? I used to know the Inspiral Carpets quite well. Our intelligence sources inform us you have been building up associates from Lands End to Southend and Chelsea; can you
Jim Bob by Andy Hollingworth
Have you ever been a member of any political or cultural movements taking a contrary stance to the Yorkshire philosophy? I’ve got a loyalty card for Caffe Nero’s. Does that count?
Lone Wolf Marshall Lore Sometimes a name change is as good as a rest. After things failed to spark for Paul Marshall he was reborn as Lone Wolf, and lo, via a promo that went viral, the sparks started to fly. He talks to Rob Wright and proves heâ€™s no sheep in wolfâ€™s clothing.
Photography by Danny North vibrations 16
“Alright you cahnt!” Not the normal sort of greeting you’d expect on a Sunday afternoon, but then Paul Marshall isn’t a normal sort of guy. In a good way. He barely pauses for breath as he apologises for one thing, explains another and gets very excited about yet another all at once; it’s like being in the path of an info-tornado, but I manage to cling onto some juicy nuggets of info before he insults me one last time and continues with his day: album, video, Peter Gabriel, Lone Wolf. Several Sundays later and I am ushered into Chez Marshall by a very cheerful looking Paul. A far cry from the man who only a couple of years ago posted a blog on his myspace despairing at the amount of effort put into making music to achieve a whole lot of sod all. As luck would have it, Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins and Bella Union left an encouraging message on his myspace page which led to a meeting in London and concluded in a shaking of hands and a record deal offered. For the last year or so Paul’s been working on his first album for Bella Union and he’s just got the finished product back from them; not only that but he’s just bust his live cherry as Lone Wolf, has a stunning promo from Broken Pixel in the bag and is about to hit the road with Wild Beasts. More than enough reasons to be cheerful. He still looks surprisingly relaxed considering how busy he is, lounging on his sofa and taunting his cat. He doesn’t even look flustered when I ask the obvious question about his name change. “It was just one of those things really,” he says, “I was sending Simon (Raymonde) these demos... he liked them and I just spat out ‘I wish I had a better name’. His response was one I didn’t expect: ‘change it.’” He almost ties himself in knots trying to explain why he’s changed it to Lone Wolf in particular, but essentially it comes down to him still being a solo artist but more than a solo artist; one that needs four pairs of hands to play his new stuff live.
Though Paul has been part of ‘combos’ in the past (memorably as one half of ‘Concentration Champ’), this is the first time he has been part of a band, albeit a band that will be mercurial but stellar in nature; the current line up is more of a super group, featuring James Mabbet (Napoleon IIIrd), James Kenosha (Duels) and Lindsay Wilson (Grammatics). “There’s been quite a lot of interest because of the line up but, to be fair, that line up is going to change,” he says, “so I’m trying to have a couple of divisions of people who know the stuff and who can come along and play. All the best musicians I know are taken, so I have to borrow them when I can.” Other prospective band members may include Wu (This Et Al) and James (Grammatics), but he’s suitably cagey about it. I suggest it must be hard having so many musical personalities in their own right sharing a stage, but he waves it off. ” We’re all friends and they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to,” he says, “but we’re trying to make it clear that I am Lone Wolf. I don’t want them to be downgraded in any way because they’re playing amazing stuff but Lone Wolf will always be me.”
“I was sending Simon (Raymonde) these demos... he liked them and I just spat out ‘I wish I had a better name’. His response was one I didn’t expect: ‘change it.” Though he may have changed his name and now hangs out with a bunch of musical mates, Paul remains reassuringly unpleasant, subject wise. Murder, death, betrayal and revenge still feature heavily in his lyrics, he assures me, but has been mixing it up when it comes to the delivery of said horrible tales, which may come as a surprise to anyone expecting the usual acoustic
fare. “I deliberately didn’t want it to have a guitar on [the opening track],” he says, “because it’s that thing of ‘oh, finger picky guitar – it’s Paul Marshall’. I wanted to ease any people who’ve listened to me in the past with that ‘oh, this is a bit different’ attitude and then bring it down.” Part of his new approach may be due to the influence of Christopher Janssen from Jenniferever, whom he spent six months living and recording with in Sweden, doing ‘crazy stuff’, including breaking into an unnamed concert hall in an unnamed town to use their Steinway piano. Unfortunately they couldn’t finish the album together due to bereavement in Chris’ family, but James Kenosha was quite happy to finish it off at his studios in Bridlington. The result is an album full of surprises, from Wurlitzer and string heavy lovelorn songs to funereal epics with reverb conditions taken from caves in Israel. With epic undertakings in mind, I ask Paul about The Video, a tribute to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ made painstakingly by Ash, formerly of I Like Trains, now an entity in his own right as Broken Pixel. It turns out Ash came to Paul with the proposal. “He said he’d love to do a video for me and Bella Union but he wanted to do this ‘Sledgehammer’ thing.” Paul admits that he was uncertain at first, not believing he had any songs that really lent themselves to that style of video, but on further examination found that his first single, ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’, was perfect. Paul and Simon both agreed to go for it, under the proviso that the video would use the lyrics from the song to storyboard much of the video, “like for instance there’s a Scalectrix going round my head instead of a train,” says Paul, referring to keeping your eyes on the road. Peter Gabriel was notified to obtain his blessing (he also requested to see the finished product before it was launched on You Tube) and work started in January and finished in March. Paul holds up the freshly burned copy of the DVD that he has just received - the work of nearly two months solid on Ash’s part with a budget of only £2000. vibrations 17
“I’ve been on set for a total of 45 hours,” he says, “It’s been gruelling. It’s a lot more fun to watch than it is to be in. The last scene took five hours and was for six seconds of footage. And that’s only me.” Ash’s hard work has already been noticed by Aardman Productions and may get him involved with ‘Sledgehammer’s 25th Anniversary celebrations. ”I’m so chuffed that it’s done and that something good did come of it,” says Paul, “‘it’s a big thing to attempt.” As his first video experience too, it’s going to be a hard act to follow. A tribute to Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head,’ perhaps? I scrub the thought before it does any serious damage. After such a long time spent in one studio or another, a stint on the road is just the thing to clear out the cobwebs,
admits, “but to finally have a lovely booking agent, a lovely record label (Bella Union) and a lovely publisher (Blue Mountain), it’s really nice to feel that after all that work the people that I really wanted to like it, liked it.” He’s the first to confess that his music is not, as it were, commercial, but is still glad to be picked up by ‘genuine music lovers’. “That’s why I’m happy to do the Wild Beasts tour, if you really love Wild Beasts, there’s a good chance you’ll be into what I’m doing. Not that I’m dismissing the Carling crowd,” he says quickly, not wanting to sound exclusive, “they wanna come, let them come.” He then gives me a sneak preview of the video, which has me giggling like an idiot. “It’s fucking mental isn’t it?” he says, beaming happily. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Paul: “This was the last scene we did (and compares to the rollercoaster scene in ‘Sledgehammer’) – it took about two hours.”
Chapter and Verse:
Ashley: “The book effect was easier that I expected; I tore out pages of the book and replaced them with ones I had mocked up with Paul’s face on them. I was worried the font at the top of the page didn’t match up too well, but you can’t see much of anything as the pages turn so fast! The book was a text book of my Dad’s from his brief stint studying Law in the late 60’s... He didn’t mind me tampering with it as he ditched the course after a term to sell paintings in Manchester and have adventures. It took a couple of hours to do this scene.”
You Need Hands: The hands were an idea taken from Labyrinth (a film from the eighties starring David Bowie in a fright mullet); it took six hours.
Death, Ham and Bookcases: Paul: “For the
rotting skull, Ash said he used ham for my skin. And we had a coffin built, just to my size. One scene had to be a funeral, I mean this is Paul Marshall. Marcus, whose studio we borrowed to do some of it, will be using it as a bookcase.”
Chickening Out: Ashley: “I
and by a stroke of luck that’s exactly what Paul’s getting, courtesy of Wild Beasts. “I was fortunate enough to be picked by Tom (Flemming) as one of his tips for 2010 in the NME,” he says, “which was really lovely... and I got offered the slot.” Manager met manager and an opening slot was secured, with a place on Wild Beasts’ sleeper bus thrown in if he went solo. “It just makes getting around and being first on out of three bands a bit easier to bear for everyone,” he says before adding, “maybe not for Wild Beasts when I’m pissed out of my head.” Paul assures me this is the first of many outings this year, including festival dates, Live at Leeds and an album and single launch, he ‘bloody hopes’. From the sound of things, it’s all going incredibly well, especially after some pretty disappointing years, but I can’t help but wonder how he’s coping with the change from famine to feast. “It feels a bit overwhelming in a way,” he
Keep Your Eyes On The Screen Paul and director Ashley talk to Rob Wright about that “fucking mental” video:
Cross Vein Traffic: Paul: “The intro for Sledgehammer was all about blood and sperm and eggs, but we wanted ours to be the headlights of cars. There’s one capillary thought where he’s shaped the road shot for shot.”
Paul Marshall’s Extreme Close-up: Paul:
“I can’t wiggle my ears – they were pulled. My iris was naturally fluctuating there though – in beat with the music. I’ve got weird eyes.”
Impersonal Clown Make-up: Paul: “This bit was hell. They just had their thumbs in my face for six hours.”
was dreading animating the Chicken Dance, I’d heard Nick Park say it was a deeply unpleasant experience when he animated the original sequence. The hardest part was keeping the chicken upright and making sure the skin didn’t slide off (Nick Park was right..!). But Puppet Paul was a joy to animate, I just loosely copied the dance from the Sledgehammer video, adding an extra little pirouette at the end. The dance sequence only took 45 mins to animate with about 2 hours of preparation, trying to stuff the chicken with chicken wire.”
Clay Karma and Smart Old Blue: Ashley: “As for
the springboard idea; when the big plasticine head of Paul is pulling his eyelid down, he is performing Akanbe, a Japanese insult equivalent to blowing a raspberry. When he lets go and his eye pings back, it just seemed like a good idea to let his miniature version fly up off the screen. The Big Head plasticine sequence took about 6 straight hours to animate. One thing I doubt anyone has noticed is that the two cars that crash into each other during the plasticine head section are vibrations 18
modeled after the Red Car and the Blue Car (who have a race) in the 1989 advert for Milky Way. Plus the animals that cause the crash were the Stag and the Wolf from my previous video, On & On by Fossil Collective.”
Dancing Fools: Ashley:
“We drafted in 8 of Paul’s friends to do the main dancing sequence, then we had about 20 people turn up for the big group scene. There are pros and cons to working with people and plasticine. The clay doesn’t pull faces when you don’t want it to, but you don’t have to insert metal rods up the arses of real people to make them stand up. Actually, it was a lot of fun working with a big group like that. People contributed lots of new ideas as we worked and everyone responded really well to the bizarre things I made them do with their limbs.”
By no means a comprehensive list, but see if you can spot these bodies on freeze frame:Danny North on a chair Wu and Kelly (This Et Al) David Hemmings and Dan Howard (Wintermute) Marcus (owner of studio) and his baby daughter Jon Foulger (Duels) Fran Rogers Ash on a bike Paul’s mate Keith holding a trumpet Paul holding a mic stand which turns into a broom which turns into a lamp stand Peter Gabriel on a television screen The video of ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’ is available to watch on YouTube and Lone Wolf’s album, ‘The Devil and I’ will be available from 17th May
So take a good look at their face You’ll see their smile looks out of place If you look closer, it’s easy to trace… Alt Track and their fears…
Photography by Emily Clare Smith vibrations 20
Take two hip-hop-breakbeat post-rockers, add the prospective Mayor of Bradford, the face of Channel 4’s anti-BNP Campaign, a pair anarchic political irritants, and a bloke who proposes replacing all of Bradford’s retail units with the world’s largest network of pound shops, and how many people do you have? That’s right, still two. Kate Wellham talks to the double-headed musical wrecking ball known as Alt Track. Mark Collett not a fan apparently… I’m already beginning to regret pushing Alt Track for the election issue of Vibrations, and we’re only one question in: which way are they planning to vote? Pete wants to swap his vote for a shag from the Skipton Labour candidate: “She’s 21, quite a hottie, I’d vote Labour for that any day.” “We’re not in it for the politics, we’re in it for the pussy. Put that on the front cover of Vibrations,” says Micky.
‘land costs lives, don’t steal, don’t lie, Gaza, who’s wrong, Darfur, too long’, it’s not me saying ‘don’t steal, don’t lie’. It’s not me telling the world how to live because I’m in no position to. I don’t have the wisdom or experience to tell anyone how to do that.” “Yeah we were pretty young when we wrote that,” explains Micky.
Pete sees it as a logical conclusion that whatever stirs them to write, stirs them to action: “I think there’s a definite responsibility, not just as a musician” says Pete. “I don’t mean every musician has a political responsibility. Some people want to write love songs, that’s fine, that’s what inspires them to pick up a guitar and write a song. I just think you’ve got a responsibility to be true to yourself.
It’s not a great start, and seems about to get worse when Pete admits that actually he doesn’t know who he’s voting for at all… “No, I mean I’m giving my vote, have you heard of GiveMyVote.org? They go to foreign countries that our Foreign Policy affects – through climate change, international trade, war – and give them an idea of where the main British parties stand. On the morning of the election I’ll get a text saying ‘this gentleman in Ghana would vote Lib Dem’, so I go and register the vote for him.” *Phew*. I’ll level with you, Vibrations readers, I’ve been hassling to get Alt Track in the mag for a while now, simply because I think they’re a great band; that’s no secret. But when the political issue was suggested, I wasn’t alone in suggesting they’d be perfect interviewees. Their breakbeat / hip hop / post rock output is overtly political, for a start. Either dreamily idealogical (‘One’, ‘View From A Mountain’) including Martin Luther King soundbites, or righteously furious (‘A Nation Is On Fire’): ‘product placement, whatever sells / define yourselves in html / meaningless nothing, whatever fulfils / how do you sleep whilst your brothers and sisters are killed?’. It’s a call to arms, which has also had airplay on Radio One – a rare combination, since the best of intentions can so easily come off as cheesy a la Coldplay. “’A Nation Is On Fire’ is sort of a ranty, polemic, obviously political song,” says Pete. ”But a lot of the statements aren’t necessarily literal. There’s this one line
How old are you now? “19.” But lyrics are the easy bit. Alt Track put their money where their mouths are, which is what lends sincerity to what they say onstage. Whatever pisses them off – Aldermaston’s weapons plant, the demolition of Bradford Odeon, Burma, the BNP – if there’s a counter demonstration, they’re there. If there isn’t, they’ll start one. Micky recently facilitated a series of meetings about the English Defence League’s proposed visit to Bradford when nothing else seemed to be being done to deter it. His reasons are simple: “These people shouldn’t be able to invade our city. They don’t come from here, they don’t understand it, we’ve done our best to pick up the pieces from the Bradford riots and they don’t see the positive things that we’ve done.”
With us, I don’t know if political’s the right word - more just observational. We’re both vehemently anti-racist. Everyone’s a product of their environment to a certain extent. Like when we were packing the car outside Micky’s house the other day this black woman walked past pushing a pram, and there were these white girls on the other side of the street, about 12 or 13 years old, and they were going ‘Pakis, Pakis’, and she was African, firstly, which is just bad geography, and this poor woman was just pushing a pram. It makes you sick.” Yorkshire having been the county responsible for electing the first BNP MEP, it’s a fight that needs to be fought, and Alt Track – whether deliberately or not - are aiming for (and popular amongst) the same target audience as the BNP. vibrations 21
“The main people who are ignored by the mainstream political parties – and the whole political system – is the working class youth, and this is the recruiting ground for the BNP, for the EDL. They can feed them figures that are completely manipulated, taken out of context, and sometimes just an utter lie, and they believe it.
Pete: “I said to Micky ‘I’m going to need you to do all this shit; emailing, photocopying…’”
“It’s like a quote from ‘Mein Kampf’ which Nick Griffin has quoted in some of his speeches, ‘tell a lie and if you shout it loud enough and say it enough times, eventually they’ll start to believe it’, and this is essentially the philosophy of the BNP. I was reading their election manifesto today, and if they were in power they’d retract all foreign aid, every penny we give they’d just take it back and say ‘no, it’s not a British problem’, which is quite a dangerous thing, they want to withdraw from the UN, from NATO, from the EU. They want to bring back capital punishment. It’s just an awful political system. They don’t have any of the knowledge or experience, they couldn’t run a country if they actually got thrust into it, there’s no economist who’s a member of the BNP who could take care of the economy, there’s no foreign policy expert, there’s none of these people, they’re just a fucking bunch of arseholes.”
Pete: “We could be here all night.”
True to form, gobby Pete’s fronting a Channel 4 anti-BNP campaign after applying for it when he was ‘really quite fucked’. Pete: “I don’t remember what I wrote on the form but I got a call from a Channel 4 producer and it’s all gone horribly far out of my hands. I’m thinking I’m going to have to do it.” Micky: “By ‘him’ he means ‘we’, and by ‘we’, he means ‘me’.
Micky: “All the substance, essentially” Pete: “And I’m gonna to take the credit. I’m the face.”
them, and found their niche as soon as they got together, complimenting each other perfectly, and arguing constantly. Micky plays keyboard, Pete plays guitar. Micky sings, Pete rhymes. Micky is quiet and polite. Pete is… well, not.
What’s wrong with Micky’s face?
On paper, they could be the dullest, most pious pair of yoghurt-weavers, or a couple of bitter crusties, but in actual fact they’re a lot more fun than that, which is why they could be so dangerously effective given a platform. For example, Pete is bursting with excitement at the news that BNP publicist Mark Collett has just been arrested over a plot to kill Nick Griffin: “I’m friends with Mark Collett on Facebook, I thought it would be funny because I think he’s a proper silly racist, and I thought maybe I could subtly mock him. So I wrote on his wall ‘you’re trying to kill Nick Griffin mate, you’re a fucking hero’, and he’s blocked me.” Micky, on the other hand, has decided to run for Mayor of Bradford, something he’s in turns serious and then not serious about: “I’m going to demolish the Odeon, put a big pool in the city centre that nobody needs or wants, waste all our money on that. More offices, more parking, more fucking coffee shops and chain bars and pound shops. I don’t want to have to count more than a quid. Why is it only every other shop that’s a pound shop? Why not every single one?” Playing since they were pre-teen, they’re musically mature beyond their years, having gone through several bands separately already between
They’re not unusual in Bradford, where the combination of relative poverty, a reputation blighted by racial tension and a strong DIY ethic – through necessity as much as choice – has led to the growth of a thriving counterculture based around places like the Treehouse, the 1in12 and the Playhouse, which are heaving even when Walkabout was forced to close through lack of business. Random Hand are friends, sprung from the same small Keighley scene – notably the place where Griffin gave the speech that saw him arrested for inciting racial hatred - and it can’t be a coincidence that they, too, make seething social commentary their main muse. Pete agrees: “Anyone can do an anti-racist song, but I was talking to Barney from Sonic Boom Six, and he says when he hears ‘British’ by Random Hand - you know, ‘stand up for the anthem, salute the flag’, hitting back against blind patriotism – the reason he loves that tune so much is that you can tell when they’re singing it that they’ve grown up around it, it’s a real sincere statement. “No modern music would have existed if we’d all stuck to ourselves and our culture, we’d all be Morris dancing. It’s fucking boring. It’s disillusioned as well, you can’t go back to the 1940s, and Britain wasn’t perfect then. People say ‘during the war we didn’t have these criminals’, but millions of our young people died during the war, we were fighting a fucking war. I was talking to Captain Hotknives’ mum, she actually said this, she said “Ooo there wasn’t all this fighting during the war!” vibrations 22
My Gig Hell For reasons best known to himself, Vibrations’ Spencer Bayles volunteers to subject himself to seven consecutive days of local gigs. No one argues…
Fanclub – including an eponymous one (which puts them in the lofty company of Living In A Box). I buy their CD, but decide in the car on the way home I much preferred them live. Ah well. Young Rebel Set are headlining, and seem to suggest silk scarves and Liam Gallagher hair-do’s are back. They’re evidently doing something right – their shuffly Coralmeets-Kooks repertoire has already found an audience that knows all the words. I almost feel a bit of a heathen to admit I’d not heard of them before. Day2 - Young Rebel Set
The concept is simple – to get a taste of what Leeds has to offer in an average week, I’m attending a different gig, from a different genre, at a different venue for 7 nights in a row. Can’t be that bad, right? Well, the gigs are being chosen by the editorial team, so it could go either way…
Day One: The week begins with an evening of post-rock
at the Holy Trinity Church. Anna Rose Carter opens proceedings with some gorgeous piano compositions. You can hear a pin drop (or indeed a sustain pedal squeak). Conjuring up the spirit of Michael Nyman, if she lived upstairs from you, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were living in a Jane Campion film. Next, the members of worriedaboutsatan stand at either end of a desk laden with samplers, jerking around like they’re playing table football while treating us to some skittering beats and atmospheric vocal samples. One of them bobs around so much he’d probably be quite handy with a bucket of apples come Halloween. In the bathroom, some wag’s put a worriedaboutsatan stamp on the toilet roll dispenser, which might literally scare the bejeezus out of someone on Sunday morning. Her Name Is Calla end the night with some brilliantly atmospheric soundscapes, punctuated by moments of intensely beautiful melody. It does go on a bit, mind, and those pews aren’t especially comfy... Day1 - worriedaboutsatan toilet paper
Day Three: It’s Wednesday, so it must be jazz night.
Well, jazz and other unworldly sounds at the Brudenell Social Club. Seth Cooke sits behind a bank of samplers, and probably calls himself a sonic innovator; I’d go with ‘purveyor of unlistenable noise’. Omnivore follow, and play what might be freeform-punk-freak-jazz. While dressed as cows. Disregarding little things like rhythm and structure, the three-piece run through half an hour of discordant noise with a sax parping randomly all over the shop. Acoustic Ladyland at least have a more conventional approach, so while not my bag, I could appreciate the musicianship. Definitely more punk than jazz, the bass/drums/guitar/ sax combo would give the average beard-stroking jazzer a hernia. There’s some innovative looping of the sax and some sinister basslines, but most dazzling is avant-garde leading light Seb Rochford – he of the amazing hair – maintaining effortless cool as he hits seven shades out of his drumkit. Day3 - Acoustic Ladyland
Day Two: Tonight it’s off to Oporto, where bands play
inside the big window like guitar-wielding animatronic shop mannequins. Albert Ross & the Otters are a lot less rustic than some Youtube research had suggested. For the most part sounding like a less annoying Mumford & Sons, they score extra points for having a cute blonde girl on melodica. Glasgow’s style-over-substance electropop duo Over The Wall are next, but lack the tunes of fellow Scots Three Blind Wolves, who take to the stage with a drummer who resembles a Kings of Leon and a guitarist who’s a dead ringer (no pun intended) for Nick Drake. They have some good pop songs – in the vein of Idlewild or early Teenage
All photography by Spencer Bayles’
Day Four: I was meant to be seeing Ellie Goulding
at the Cockpit, but alas, Little Miss Sound Of 2010 had managed to sell the place out long in advance. No big loss, so instead it’s off to acoustic night at Verve. John Newman kicks things off; an unassuming-looking fella, he’s got a vibrations 24
great, soulful blues voice, a bit Jeff Buckley and a lot Ray Lamontagne. A song called Mr Ben is dedicated to a friend, but anyone walking in halfway through might’ve assumed it was a heartfelt tribute to the cartoon character. Pippa Lloyd follows; Sing This Love is a hooky opener: for some reason I can see it working as a Balearic dance anthem. She’s accompanied by a pianist who at times threatens to overshadow the guitar, but is effective on a cover of Adele’s Chasing Pavements. Then someone faints. Come on, it was a good set, but not *that* good (joke). Word comes through that tomorrow’s gig is death metal, so I retreat home to mentally prepare.
guitars. But each to his own. I head back upstairs to flick through CDs. A bad idea as it turns out, as I find the Leisure Society’s album for a lot less money than I paid for it ten minutes ago in HMV. Bah, lesson learned. The white-walled venue downstairs in Crash is a useful space but feels quite soulless; Bilge Pump put on a fantastic show nevertheless – there’s a lot to be said for matching intricate musicianship with clever and witty lyrics; this lot really are the thinking man’s art-punk-DIY-noise-makers of choice. Day7 - Ellen
Day Five: In the Royal Park, someone’s murdering
Firestarter on the karaoke. I wonder if even this might be preferable to the ear-pummelling that’s in store in the cellar. I head downstairs and cower in the corner. Electric Mud Generator’s guitarist appears to be teaching the bass player some notes. What follows takes the form of a not especially interesting jam/dirge that feels like it lasts 10 minutes. Oh, hang on, it actually *did* last 10 minutes. The singer/guitarist is rocking the 70s hippy look, all long hair, beard, flares and barefoot; the bass player is evidently in training, only having got as far as the long hair and socks. Year Of The Man are a more interesting prospect, with their bowel-rumbling, fillings-loosening death-metal-doomrock. So far out of my comfort zone it’s on a different planet, I still find myself nodding along (but that might just have been a minor seizure caused by the super-heavy bass). I can’t make out a word the vocalist is screaming, though I suspect it might have something to do with summoning Beelzebub from the very depths of Hell.
Day Six: I have the evening off - hurrah! I think I’ll need
it too. However the day isn’t gig-free, as I’m off to an in-store at Crash Records. With the best will in the world (let alone a will that’s being seriously put to the test this week), it’s hard to say Double Muscle do anything other than shout over noisy Day6 - Bilge Pump
Day Seven: I’m off to the Adelphi to see a selection
from the second day of The Cuckoo’s Fest. The upstairs room has been done up for the occasion, and the atmosphere is fantastic. Hope & Social - complete with Butlins uniforms and 3-piece brass section - quite frankly own the stage. They encourage a level of audience participation befitting a much bigger band, getting the crowd to join in at every opportunity. The five minutes spent fannying around attempting to ‘summon the spirit of Rod Stewart’ could arguably have been better spent though. Ellen & The Escapades have a tough act to follow, and starting with the downbeat Run may not have been the best choice. The set soon picks up with folk-pop masterclass Without You, and continues to offer up the kind of gems that justify the band’s upcoming Glastonbury appearance. Of course, this exercise has merely scratched the surface of what’s out there seemingly every night of the year, but it’s nice to know so many bases are covered in Leeds. As for me, I’m knackered and need some sleep. Me at the end of the DAY7
Staying Special While many burn brightly but briefly, The Lodger’s steady progression is a textbook DIY success story. Through feted debut, consolidating follow-up, and now onto a worldwide release for their third compilation of indie pop gems, many young bands should take note. The indie band’s indie band talk to Spencer Bayles about the touring that’s got them here, from Japanese semi-stardom to the USA’s Twin Peaks Mullet Circuit.
If the ultimate ambition of the average band is to get a record deal and go on tour, The Lodger have quietly achieved a level of success on another scale altogether. Yet having toured in various countries and released records on a dizzying selection of labels, they remain under most people’s radars. Maybe it’s because this isn’t music for haircut hipsters, rather classic-sounding indiepop for people who swoon over Belle & Sebastian and Go Betweens records, appealing simultaneously to the unlucky in love and the eternal optimist.
The band, comprising singer/songwriter Ben Siddall, bassist Joe Margetts, guitarist Tim Corbridge and exSomatics drummer Bruce Renshaw, are renowned for their perky pop melodies and Ben’s deadpan lyrics that seem unafraid to cast him as perpetually down on his luck. The kitchen-sink dramas played out in the songs are a key factor in the band’s charm, the tales told being the kind that Mike Leigh turns into films and David Nicholls turns into books. It’s a similar ballpark to that inhabited by Stuart Murdoch, so
perhaps a lot of the Belle & Sebastian comparisons stem from the lyrical obsessions? “For some reason I am quite obsessed with what it feels like to be 16 and discovering love and relationships for the first time,” says Ben. Not a Leeds native, Ben grew up in Pontefract. “It’s an odd place,” he says. “If you try and do anything out of the ordinary, you’re seen as a bit of a freak. If you say you’re an artist, people just laugh at you. This is vibrations 28
maybe why I didn’t take it seriously until I came to Leeds.”
Crystal Stilts, with the US release of the new Lodger album on the horizon.
He started early in life; inspired by his uncle’s collection of new wave and punk records, he learned his first chords at 7 and wrote his first songs soon after. Not for him the world of the Top 40 and Smash Hits: “I was listening to John Peel and buying the NME when I was 9,” he recalls. Drummer Bruce, with whom he shares a house, laughs as he claims to have not known what the NME was even at the age of 15.
The band’s sound has worked in their favour Stateside. “There are a lot of anglophiles out there that really like the British accent and culture,” says Ben. Enduring lengthy drives while touring the States, some shows were evidently better than others: “We played a gig in a saloon bar in Wilmington, Delaware, where everyone had a mullet,” he recalls. “It was like Twin Peaks - very bizarre.”
Ben’s relocation to Leeds in 2002 led to him forming an early incarnation of The Lodger and writing what would become a string of increasingly memorable singles. Songs like Let Her Go, Watching and the powerpop rush of Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion very much defined The Lodger’s musical template. Their debut LP Grown-Ups was released in 2007; bittersweet songwriting at its finest, it appeared to perfectly capture the post-student experience in bite-size diary entries, with all but a small handful of songs conforming to the magic 3-minute rule of pop.
Even further afield, The Lodger struck a deal with Fabtone in Japan, who’d suggested the band’s sound would go down well there. “We played some shows, and it was amazing,” says Ben. They were even made to feel like real pop stars. “We signed autographs,” laughs Bruce. “It was a bit of a dream. I thought Jeremy Beadle might jump out at any moment.” Their Japanese fans are certainly dedicated. “We played at the Library in Leeds a year or two ago,” recalls Ben, “and a woman came all the way from Japan to the gig. I didn’t know what to do with her. Should I sit with her for the entire night? I felt responsible for the fact she’d done something so ridiculous.”
The follow-up appeared a mere 12 months later. Life Is Sweet had a more polished sound, and it was clear the dreaded second album syndrome hadn’t struck. I suggest to Ben there appears to be a clear thematic lyrical progression – having dealt with emotional relationships for the first time on Grown-Ups, Life Is Sweet rejoins him a short while later having found a place in the world. “It doesn’t need intellectualising,” he counters. “It’s basically someone in their 20s writing some songs, documenting what it was like to be me at that particular time.” Single when writing the debut and in a relationship for the follow-up, it’s not so much life imitating art, more life informing art: “It’s not that there’s a considered progression - it’s just kind of what happened to me.” The first album came out in the UK on Angular Records, a London-based label run by bassist Joe, with the follow-up released on Leeds’ own Bad Sneakers. An American deal was done after Slumberland Records’ founder Mike Shulman purchased an early Lodger single from the band’s website. “I just cheekily emailed him back and asked if he’d be interested in working with us,” says Ben. The label had been dormant for a few years: “My getting in touch made him start it up again.” Slumberland has since gone from strength to strength with bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and
The schedule to release an album every year came a little unstuck at the beginning of 2009, when sessions for a third LP didn’t work out. Most of the recordings were shelved, but four songs were taken to producer Alan Smyth, who’d produced their first two albums, to work his magic. These appeared last summer on the I Think I Need You EP, which came out on Spanish label Elefant. “Not a lot of labels would have wanted to do a one-off single,” says Ben, “but luckily Elefant were running a 7” club at the time, featuring one-off releases. I thought it’d be a curious thing to do.” The EP is a gem, its title track ranking as one of the finest Lodger songs to date. Not that a lot of people will have heard it, without access to Spanish MTV: “There was pretty much no promo in the UK, but people who wanted to know about it could find it.” The new album, Flashbacks, was produced by Richard Formby, fresh from working on Wild Beasts’ Two Dancers. Musically it’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and existing Lodger fans certainly won’t be affronted by anything - with the exception perhaps of the mildly unsettling feedback that slips in and out of hypnotic opener Back Of My Mind. Ben’s compositional process, however,
is changing: “More and more now I’ll record a few sections on a computer and then move them around within the song. It’s getting more complicated – I’m trying to think less about jangly guitars, almost taking that out of the equation, thinking about the fact that other things have to have a featuring role.” The instrumental palette on Flashbacks has been bolstered by additional brass and strings. So what next, an orchestra perhaps? “I don’t want it to get that big,” says Ben. “Besides,” adds Bruce, “we can’t fit them in the basement.” Being able to fit in the basement may well be a prerequisite for the next album, as Ben’s decided to produce it himself at home. Is it a case of having reached a point where you trust your own instincts enough? “I’ve watched Alan Smyth and Richard Formby at work and I’ve picked up an enormous amount about how to do it,” he says. Formby impressed with his ability to make things sound more ‘realistic’: “I want things to sound like they’re actually being played by people rather than being quantized.” Increasingly inspired by the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, Ben’s also taken with the idea of “rampaging through different genres, doing whatever you think is right at the time.” As a starting point, a b-side on new single Have A Little Faith In People consists of a vocal over layers of Casio keyboard, quite a departure from the typical Lodger sound. With Joe now living in London and Tim in Berlin, the mechanics of the band have naturally changed. “We’re collaborating over the internet,” says Ben. “I send them tracks, they record their parts and email them back.” The geographic differences have led to more sporadic bouts of band activity; the album launch gig in April being their first Leeds show since the end of 2008. Ben sees Flashbacks as completing a trilogy, and this, coupled with a move to the suburbs from his previous base in the student heartland of Hyde Park, suggests a fresh start next time. Whether lovelorn songs about failing to get the girl morph into tales of late night drug binges in LA remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: “It won’t be me moaning about relationships,” he confirms.
REVIEWS albums Lone Wolf The Devil And I
that occasionally lapse too far into the adolescent or absurd (‘I’m a cough drop on a hill top’) I say occasionally because for the most part his beautiful, mercurial voice overcomes this stumbling block. Surely a reputation worth hanging onto.
Lone Wolf, the artist formerly known as Paul Marshall, has made some changes. Solo guitar, out; multi instrumentalism in. It has been a good choice.
As well as being musically rich, it is stylistically varied too. ‘Dead River’ is country, western and proud, ‘Soldiers’ is old English folk, ‘Devil and I (Part 1)’ is a waltz... no, a dirge. Each style is carried off with confident aplomb in a series of appealing sorties. Though it’s a quality release throughout, there are clearly two stand out tracks, ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’ and the titular ‘The Devil and I’. ‘Keep Your Eyes…’ throbs with life, its pounding beat and relentless yet shifting melody that builds to an ecstatic song and dance of a more post-punk ilk. At the other end of the scale is ‘The Devil And I’, a downbeat waltzing anthem with unsettling key shifts, massive reverb and a triumphant/defeated howl at the world. One catchily hummable, the other heartbreakingly gorgeous. If any criticism could be levelled at the album, it would be at some of the lyrics
I’m very much looking forward to seeing them live. Mike Price
Burning Hank Seriously, it’s getting us down now
A surprisingly warm Wurlitzer ushers us into the album on ‘This Is War’ and proves to be the perfect accompaniment to Paul Marshall’s warm, smoky, dark vocals – a moody Gerry Rafferty. Though picky guitar does appear on later tracks such as ‘We Could Use Your Blood’ and ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’, there is a lot more besides: swooning strings, booming drums, jagged electric guitars and demented piano. Musically, it is as rich as you could want it to be.
England in 2008, implying that we all slept through it.
This local sextet first appeared on my radar when I saw a clip of their hilarious take on the Nativity, ‘Oh Joseph’ (filmed at Brudenell Social Club), portraying the carpenter from Galilee as a soft touch for standing by his ‘unfaithful’ wife and raising someone else’s child. Burning Hank have been making music together for less than a year, so the release of their debut album ‘Seriously, it’s getting us down now’ is no mean achievement. In that time they’ve also made an appearance on BBC Leeds’ Raw Talent, so it looks like they’re going places, and having listened to the 12 songs here, it’s not difficult to see why. We have spade loads of pop sensibility, tinges of dry humour, irreverence, music hall slapstick and a bit of politics, coming together in a slightly ramshackle collection of kitchen sink indie-folk which gets better with every listen, and will bring a smile to the face of all but the most ardent of Daily Mail readers. Vocal duties are shared throughout as ‘Cake’ kicks off proceedings with a swipe at the ruling classes. ‘Worried About Coop’ is a tribute to cult series repeats on daytime TV, in this case Twin Peaks. ‘Birthday’ turns the traditional anniversary rhetoric on its head and into a skilfully worded ode to the avoidance of various amusing ways to be killed. The 47 second ‘Modern Medicine’ warns of the perils of drug use and closing track ‘Earthquake’ pokes fun at the seismic activity that struck the north of
Quack Quack Slow As An Eyeball
Back in the midst of the noughties, Leeds started to throw out some pretty interesting duos and trios, full of punk sensibilities, diminished wotsits, funny song titles and absurd names. Last year, That Fucking Tank, one of the founding fathers of this musical Dadaist movement, almost leapt into the realms of mainstream by getting a good review in the NME. Rather than end an era, it seems they have started one; the lunatics are taking over the asylum. Quack Quack are an experimental super group of sorts built around Neil Turpin’s faultless technical drumming, Richard Morris’ energetic keyboard playing and Stuart Bannister’s primordial bass and this album captures them at their most progged up and jazzed out. Time signatures are cast willy nilly over ever looping and shrinking riffs, upheld by a strong pulsing undercurrent of subsonic gymnastics. That’s the muso version. For us mere mortals; it’s like listening to Emerson Lake and Palmer play children’s theme tunes for programmes that don’t and never could exist. For instance, take the bouncy synth trombone and tickly synths of the animal porn track, ‘TocH’. Not likely to make Cbeebies. Or ‘Cakes are Easy’, an ice cream truck loaded with psychedelics. Hmmm, Nickelodeon will pass. What about the suicidal Billy Joel figure on ‘Three’, one hand toying with a pistol, the other with the keyboard. Right, CBBC might buy that… My overplayed point is that this is challenging, difficult music, with extended jazz/prog noodling that could wind you up – if it wasn’t that it was so damn familiar. It might be the krautrock element, might be the touch of Brubeck vibrations 30
or could be the really silly names (‘Phonehenge’, for goodness sake) but I like to think it’s the ghost of Ron Pickering, calling you across the ages to a shared childhood that never was. Away you go! Rob Wright
Castrovalva We Are A Unit
Kick’ and Leemunised them, though ‘Bison’ is a bit cut and paste. In short, this is a furious album that will crush bones but also split sides – it’s funny, deliberately so, but that doesn’t soften or diminsh it – it sharpens it. Not the prettiest of things, but two blokes good, three blokes nasty! Rob Wright
Mark Wynn Backstreet Ballads (and Assorted Wrecks) Vols 1&2
“Futures bright/Futures coming/Futures falling out the back door screaming/ So come and have another round/ Grab a bottle drink it down/Hide your head from the sun”, which is typical of the sentiments expressed in many of the songs, with couplets or even single lines (“Here comes your lovers loveless fist”) leaping from a song like a slap in the face. Of course, Wynn’s songs could be more reportage that memoir (“So here’s memories and pictures I dug up for you/ If they hold stick em in your purse”), but he sounds like he’s lived it all and that, really, is Wynn’s greatest achievement with this deeply impressive set of songs. And it’s not all bleak. The very articulation of despair and desperation through music can act as a purgative, shaking a defiant, if possibly drunken fist at the troubles life can throw at you. Steve Walsh
It seems only yesterday that I was saying that Castrovalva showed promise but were missing something, that something being a bit of vocal exuberance. Well, whaddya know…
Robin James Saint Jude
Authenticity counts for a lot when you want to produce worthwhile music. Take Mark Wynn, for instance. There’s no real reason why a young singer songwriter from York would choose to write county blues songs. It’s a genre so bound up with the struggles of America’s poor white trash that it would be easy for a skinny English boy to look foolish using it as a frame to hang his muse on. And choosing to release the whole thing as a double CD package suggests either hubris or a supreme self confidence. We live in a time where it is too easy to judge on first impressions – I’m just Instrumentation is sparse, with Wynn’s as guilty as the next person. Especially picked guitar and banjo supplemented when it came to listening to this album. by near ambient bass and percussion touches from producer Sam. Wynn has I thought that it was just another middle From that point there is no let up, but this a cracked, husky voice that hints at of road record, with no depth or passion. filth is unnaturally seductive – Leemun rather than resembles the likes of John However after several plays without never croons, but occasionally his voice Martyn, Jim White and, yes, Bob Dylan. having the compulsion to skip any of slides into a chocolaty parody of Billie But the intonation is oddly clear and the tracks, I realised it had grabbed me Holliday, luring you in on ‘We Don’t Go precise with a few idiosyncratic tics that from within. To Ravenholm’ and ‘Triceratops’ before help to give him an individual sound. The album is recorded in a raw manner grabbing you by the hair and slamming But it’s the intensely vivid content of (no auto tune here) but played and sung your face repeatedly into the coffee with the confidence and poise of an table. Fortunately, these seductions are the songs that make Wynn sound so authentic. It’s almost like country blues artist who has found his own artfulness rare and you can mostly brace yourself is the only format that could adequately and is comfortable within it. Recorded against the psychotic brutality of ‘Thug express his life. with a single microphone onto a tape Life’, the sodomisation of Bad Manners recorder doesn’t diminish its appeal, in by King Crimson on ‘Hooliganz R Us’ And what a desperate, blasted thing fact it enhances its allure. If an album (and a fleeting mention of Pogs) and that life seems to be. Drink, drugs, should be used as a template for music the three-legged race of primal scream despair and disappointment suffuse students so they could understand, how therapists of ‘Outlawz’. every song and you wonder how anyone to arrange, produce and record without could survive such a life. For example, They’ve also taken a few of their older having millions of pounds worth of the chorus of ‘Listless Dreams’ goes tracks, ‘Ravenholm’ and ‘Bison Scissor equipment, this is it. Actually, it’s not just the vocal gymnastry of Leemun Smith that has made Castrovalva 2.0, it’s the whole new badass attitude. From Anthony Wright’s dirty, evil, distorted bass and Leemun’s vocodered screech smothered over Daniel Brader’s naked, nervous beats on the intro you get the idea that something nasty is going to happen – and so it does, as ‘Pump Pump’ explodes like a puddle of volatile bile aimed at the trendy music tourist – that voice pitches schizophrenically, spewing a torrent of filth while the bass hammers it home with a riff worthy of These Monsters. You can feel the spittle.
It’s difficult to distinguish which are the outstanding songs on this album, the selection and arrangements of the tracks are flawless - from the opening track, ‘St. Jude’, to the last, ‘Lullaby’, you are taken on a journey of sophisticated wit and charm, accomplished through wonderful melodic harmonies. The only critical word that I can say about this album is that it is only 32 minutes long, leaving you wanting to hear more. It’s a pleasure however to review such a talented artist. Robin James I salute you! Puru Misra
Lost From Atlas Lost From Atlas When I was little, guitar bands were all that I cared for. No singers, No soppy lyrics. Just THE TWANG. Lost From Atlas are just THE TWANG and for that I salute them. Orlando Lloyd plays bass and Liam Ledgeway plays drums: but only so that Danny Gallagher can shimmer and twinkle and roar and grumble with the guitar. It’s a very agreeable sound. I have let it roll through my sound system more than a few times. I know there will be plenty of admirers. There is a problem though. The problem is that the album never lifts off like Explosions In The Sky. There is no development or dramatic movement that might build a crescendo or carry a theme and keep your ear moving on. Unlike Minus The Bear or Wintermute, they don’t tease you into dancing or offer any vocal commentary either. It really is hard core: nothing-but-the-guitar playing. There are nine clever, decorative and attractive programme pieces instead. It just cries out for guts and soul. It demands more crazy maths and less careful arithmetic. And some of the very well played passages tease my memory with where I first heard them. Sam Saunders
Various Artists: A Collection of Calamity Volume 1 Rock and Roll Circus has provided a haven for budding local talent for more than 3 years now. This cracking compilation, available for free from Leeds’ best music retailers, (you should know who they are by now), showcases those artists that have benefited from the unique creative environment these rehearsal studios have to offer. The
18 tracks provide a surprisingly good advertisement for both the range and quality of acts that have torn it up inside the former munitions works, a far cry from the Armley building’s former purpose. We get more than the usual Northern Indie fare here as we kick off with ‘Thirteen’, a fine psychedelic stomp courtesy of local outfit The Bacchae, and also their opening track from their debut EP. Just Handshakes (we’re British), who recently adorned the cover of this fine magazine, also feature in this lineup with the shimmering summery pop of ‘Brass Knuckles’.
breaks down to an acapella conclusion, not returning for a big pay-off chorus. It leaves you wanting more, which might just be the point. Spencer Bayles
Brouhaha Brouhaha You wait ages for an experimental band to come along, then π come along at once. Describing themselves as alternative jazz grunge, it is clear that their debut EP will not be a loving tribute to Coldplay.
There are plenty more surprises here too, none less than the sublime duet ‘Behind the Door’, featuring Gary Stewart and Ellen Smith as they spar together to produce wistful European tinged folk. We also get The Hydropaths ‘Good Men’, continuing where The Pogues left off and catchier than you might think. ‘Erotic Miles’ is 5 glorious minutes of Stooges influenced mayhem from quintet Rentboys, climaxing with the band being abducted by aliens from a 1960s B-Movie stuck on fast forward.
Most of the six songs on this offering are built around a saxaphone and guitar in dialogue with the drums trying to get a word in edgeways. Though tunes are cast aside in favour of riffs, the pairing of the sax and guitar is actually quite melodic, reminiscent of Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbe in Gong during their hey day. The effect in general is of a 60’s/70’s freakout, but with samples from Bill Hicks (on ‘Incredible Weapons’) and Lion-O (on ‘Thunderbone’) to give a more contemporary feel. Like peers These Monsters and That Fucking Tank, These are just a few of my favourites, no it’s not an easy listen but an interesting doubt you will have yours too as there one. Part of the genre that avoids a is plenty more to choose from here. All genre. I can say is, if this CD represents just a fraction of the bands that Leeds is Rob Wright currently nurturing, long may it continue. Mike Price
SINGLES & EPS
Bearfoot Beware Bearfoot Beware
I owe Leeds quartet Bearfoot Beware an apology. Upon receiving their latest EP for review I had nothing but the worst expectations. Maybe it was the childlike Their name suggests an everyman pub- quality of their press release, maybe it was song titles such as ‘Bernard’s rock outfit, but Club Smith’s debut EP Watch’ and ‘The Age of Stupid’, or suggests one eye on a bigger, brighter circuit. Musically they’re in the ballpark of maybe that they couldn’t spell barefoot Friendly Fires or Editors, and a typically correctly, but it all felt just a bit too polished production from the ubiquitous amateurish and immature. but reliable James Kenosha means they Well, I stand corrected. Sure their can certainly hold their heads up in such contemporary indie sound does borrow company. heavily from every band to emerge as
Club Smith The Loss
Stadium-sized melodies are matched by intelligent lyrics. ‘Courtyard’s chorus firmly and repeatedly insists “You can never say this love was wrong” when you suspect its intended recipient thinks differently.
NME fodder over the last few years, but there’s an unmistakable energy to Bearfoot Beware that really stands out, particularly in EP highlight ‘This Is The Armada’. Catchy, playful and fun, you’ll feel wrong for liking it, but we’re all allowed a guilty pleasure from time to time. Whether they go on to change the world is far from certain, but you can’t fault their enthusiasm.
Most of the plaudits however will rightly be reserved for opener ‘Lament’, the kind of magnificent pop song most bands would sell their drummer for. Tom Bailey Sparse, tense verses lead to an absolute sucker-punch of a chorus. After two minutes of pop bliss it gradually
The Red Pills Missiles
The Ran-Tan Waltz The Ran Tan Waltz
it with, let’s stick with ‘The Heartfelt EP’, showcasing both Imp and Jeremiah.
The Red Pills don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s evident from the pictures in the liner notes and their nicknames such as ‘Private Parts’ and ‘General Ignorance’. This is also evident in their music. The 7-track E.P. kicks off with ‘Sexual Air Supply’, a moderately paced rock ‘n’ roll tune with a dirty sounding riff to accompany. And so it continues: classic rock riffs, with sweeping solos over the top and songs about women and sex. Last track ‘Epitaph’ is probably the finest example of this combination as everything seems to just fit together perfectly. ‘Harriet’s Got Herpes’ is another track that grabs the attention. It’s fast and... catchy.
Opening with some solo drumming on ‘The Beat Generation’ this EP immediately grabs your attention, but it’s hard to put your finger on what type of E.P. this will be until the bass and guitars are introduced into a mid-paced Indie style track. This is about the point of the E.P. you start to lose interest. The blurb on the back of the CD promises rock from its ‘Counter culture origins’ but musically these songs never really threaten to make an impact.
No prizes for guessing that the Wakefield based Imp list Pixies and Dinosaur Jr as influences, but there’s certainly something memorable about their two contributions ‘Party’ and ‘Great Jaguar’s Triumph’. The former is the more impressive – with a superb building intro, the latter a more straightforward hook led Cribs-esque affair. An unusual combination of Americana and West Yorkshire that, even though it really shouldn’t, somehow works.
There’s technically nothing wrong with this: the band all sound tight enough and the E.P’s produced well enough, but like many of their contemporaries in an already over-subscribed scene, the songs don’t grab your attention enough to warrant further listening.
Moving onto Jeremiah - think The Moldy Peaches, think She Him and you’re there. Whilst both ‘I’d Rather Be Here’, and ‘I Was Your Knot’ do inevitably become infuriatingly repetitive, like all whirlwind romances they are good while they last and will charm even the most cynical of hearts – if only for a few spins.
There are however, some very sketchy moments. It’s difficult not to notice some of the dodgier lyrics presented on the record: ‘I can’t seem to make myself heard, she won’t listen to a single word’, in ‘Psycho Girl’, just seems a little juvenile. Also the phrase ‘sleeve of wizard’ is probably the most dubious attempt at innuendo I’ve ever heard. At times the guitar solos also dominate too much and sound out of place, but that is just a small price to pay for a record that is just good fun. Justin Myers
Volcanoes Sugar and Snarls Four tracks of Yorkshire (2005) vintage. The throat of Alex Humphrey’s, the back beat shuffle of the Hair, the stomp of The Kaiser Chiefs and something synthesised thrown in. It’s a crowdpleaser blend that bounces along with confidence and no small skill in the composition department. (Samson Beford). ‘Level Up’ has squealy synth pitch bending and dances like a fool. Dayglo maracas please! ‘Fret In The Moon’ also flummoxes expectation with a Scaramanga flavour that delivers into beer brained mayhem. ‘Pigs in Blanket’ is a jazz lilt with a good double vocal line. Filler rather than thriller, it shows off arranger talent but doesn’t hold the attention. ‘Fathoms has the triumphal guitar entry that would set stadiums on fire but the rambling lyric doesn’t quite hit the stride that should follow. The Arctic Monkeys still have their name embossed on this particular tin of acid drops. Sam Saunders
Tall Like Giants 0.5.0.6.0.9 – 188.8.131.52.1.0 Tall Like Giants appear to have taken on board lessons from M83’s ‘Summer = Youth’ album from a couple of years ago, making an 80s-sounding homage that avoids the obvious shinier clichés from the era and instead opting for the more interesting shoegaze-guitars/lofi-synth end of things. It’s a successful exercise too, creating four highly atmospheric pop songs. The glitchy beats give it a contemporary edge, while the vocals fluctuate somewhere between Ian Brown and Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue. Particularly effective is the evocativelytitled opener ‘Till Dawn We’ll Fly Kites’, with its woozily intoxicating quiet-loudquiet rush of soundscapes.
Sam Airey Season’s Change Setting up as a folk singing troubadour is a pretty dangerous thing to do. With just a few well chosen words and a guitar at your disposal it’s a pretty exposed platform and it’s easy to look inept. If you have a voice like Sam Airey, all oak smoked and impossibly weathered for a 22-year-old, you’d be off to a good start. And if you had the knack of writing measured and mature songs of love and death that sound traditional but at the same time fresh and buoyant, like Airey also has, you’d be laughing really. And then if you got a producer who could record your precise guitar playing perfectly in balance with your voice and the other minimal instrumentation, well that would be a bonus. Brilliant. And I don’t even like folk music...
It’s nicely packaged, with a title that’s either the dates of recording or a Donnie Steve Walsh Darko-like end of the world premonition that hasn’t come to pass. They do however lose points for their press PREVIEWS release’s questionable claims – sure, it’s a good record, but has there really by Rob Wright been ‘unprecedented hype’ around their Live at Leeds/ELFM ‘unique style’? Spencer Bayles
Imp / Jeremiah The Heartfelt What do you get if you cross late 80s American Alt rock, with kitsch male / female vocal interplay. Well, until I think of a witty enough label to forever burden
Musicathon Numerous venues / Seacroft Methodist Chapel 30th April to 3rd May/1st May to 2nd May The cross city festival yet again promises to be such a talent filled affair that to begin to list the bands on offer on the bank holiday weekend would do every other band omitted a disservice. vibrations 33
ELFM 24hour Musicathon by Tom Martin Be prepared for massive queues and sore feet though. Or if you are more of an armchair gigger (or chronic agoraphobic), tune in to East Leeds FM for their annual Musicathon – 24 hours of live music broadcast from Seacroft Methodist Chapel. Either way you look it at, it’s a good weekend for music and an excellent weekend for Leeds music.
quality guitar action. This year’s crop are the highly influential Pino Forastiere who will be flying in especially from Rome, hot on the heels of his US tour, and Stuart Ryan, acoustic guru for Guitar Techniques magazine. The event will be headlined by Leeds’ own Jon Gomm, so expect things to get a bit widdly.
Pattern Theory Until The Light Takes Us The Packhorse Hyde Park Picture House 14th May 8th and 9th May Norwegian black metal might be seen to be an acquired taste, but regardless of the music, the whole ‘burn churches and murder other black metal band members’ thing is a bit more interesting than the whole Blur vs Oasis furore. Featuring music from Burzum, Gorgoroth, Sunn o))) and Boards of Canada to name a few and taking an in-depth look at the cause and effect of black metal, this will be more than your average rockumentary. Turn it up to 666.
Leeds Guitar Night Brudenell Social Club 14th May Jon Gomm has gathered his axe wielding mates for another night of
One for the post-rock fun boys this. Pattern Theory buggered off to Berlin to be all bohemian and write an album and stuff, but now they are back. For one night only. Actually, with their electro post-rock groove and new found cosmopolitanism (unless they’ve only been going to brit-themed pubs) this should be fun. Plus we’ve got a bit of transatlantic émigré Juffage going on too. It’s like a foreign exchange, only without the threat of trans manche violence.
Maybeshewill / Nedry / worriedaboutsatan The Packhorse 2nd June A night of bands without spaces from
promoters This Is It Forever, featuring Leeds’ electronic ambient maestros worriedaboutsatan and Leicester’s Maybeshewill. Okay, so Maybeshewill sound a bit... a lot like 65daysofstatic aaaargh, what’s with all this not using spaces! – but they know how to build a song. A bit of electronic beepery from Nedry and worried, a bit of guitar from Maybe, a bit of moodiness from all – what better way to start your post election summer?
LIVE David Thomas Broughton / Lone Wolf @ Brudenell Social Club Lone Wolf represents the metamorphosis of Leeds singersongwriter Paul Marshall into the leader of a musical collective drawing its membership from an impressive roster of notable local acts both past and present. Unfortunately his rich voice, assured grasp of melody and capacity to write a majestic hook remains hamstrung by sporadically clunky lyrics which even take the edge off current single ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Road’, in all other respects a near-masterpiece. It’s hard not to feel that Marshall
and his accomplices are scrambling to contrive embellishments upon a sound which is beset by fundamental problems - indeed, David Thomas Broughton provides quite a contrast this evening to their carefully stagemanaged performance with his largely improvisational approach. As this exiled Yorkshire eccentric doesn’t rehearse, his shows are unpredictable affairs, often brilliant, sometimes shambolic but always thrillingly unique. Tonight he seems less interested in giving voice to his achingly sad and darkly comic songs than he is in constructing their musical backing from loops of fragmented guitar, coughs and – in a moment of particularly unsettling genius – a pair of rape alarms set off in the heart of the unsuspecting crowd. Greg Elliott
and Quack Quack may have been trailed as a ‘battle’ but in reality it’s a masterpiece of unity and precision which demonstrates the awesome percussive power of both bands. Greg Elliott There are so many drums on stage that it looks like the Edinburgh Tattoo has spontaneously combusted to be replaced by three cheerful looking musos. Neil Turpin remains one of the most accomplished drummers in Leeds and his syncopated rhythms are as infectious as they are complex. Shame there’s hardly any space to dance. Richard Morris manages well enough, looking like Rick Wakeman on a four pack of Relentless. Throw in Stuart Bannister’s funky bass and it’s like being trapped inside an Atari 2600 or on the set of some way out seventies nature programme.
Vessels / Quack Quack / Juffage @ The Library
My how Vessels have grown. Gone is the chaos, replaced by a new unprecedented level of professionalism... and visuals. New Juffage may surround himself with tracks (one called ‘Swooping Feltch’, the paraphernalia of experimentalism according to Peter) push the boundaries but what really impresses about this of their post-rock roots while the Chicagoan polymath is his ability to old stuff segues seamlessly. Peter press technology into the service of such chats comfortably with the crowd, the exceptionally fine songs. mercurial Tim leaps between drums, Indeed, the fundamental quality of those keys and guitar, Martin is a solid presence and, according to the visuals, songs is perhaps undersold by his hyperactive, confrontational approach to Lee... loves his mother. But as the unrelenting power of ‘Altered Beast’ performance – as he scrabbles to build complex loops or charges into the crowd leaves the crowd breathless, it is the armed with cheap stereos it’s difficult to happiness that this band now exudes that makes them undoubtedly one of the focus on the music itself. best bands in Leeds today. The subsequent collaboration Rob Wright between the four drummers of Vessels David Thomas Broughton by Sam Saunders
Bilge Pump / Audrey Chen / Ashtray Navigations / Spoils and Relics @ Brudenell Social Club and Royal Park Cellars The first leg of Leeds promoter British Wildlife’s fourth annual celebration of the vaguely leftfield gets off to a less than auspicious start with a pair of local acts guilty of mediocrity at best and selfindulgence at worst. Sound art duo Spoils and Relics are unable to transcend the grim reality that they’re a couple of blokes standing immobile in a pub basement, while Ashtray Navigations subject the Brudenell to half an hour of interminable psychedelic twaddle. Thankfully Baltimore-based Audrey Chen is able to rescue the good name of the avant-garde with as startlingly original a performance as the Royal Park Cellars is likely to have seen for a long while. Primarily a cellist, Chen explores the full range of possibilities offered both by that instrument and her own voice – in tandem with analogue electronics and the murky, subterranean ambience of the room this makes for a captivating and haunting experience for a disappointingly sparse crowd. Back on the floor of the Brudenell the upward trajectory is further steepened by Bilge Pump. Their brand of lithe, jazzy post-hardcore might date this super-tight Leeds trio were it not for the fact that throughout their long career they have existed in a state of utter disconnect from the more transitory aspects of the music they play, continuing to steadily refine and improve upon a sound whose popular heyday was nigh on a decade ago. Tonight they’re simply fantastic, bringing wry humour and a refreshing lightness of touch to music which is intense but never self-conscious, fun but never throwaway. Indeed, their easygoing manner and spontaneous approach may ultimately keep them in obscurity - but it also makes them one of the most genuinely exciting underground bands currently operating. Greg Elliott
British Wildlife Festival @ Brudenell Social Club/ Brudenell 2, Royal Park Cellars, Hyde Park, Leeds Leeds has become quite adept at hosting these mini-festivals using a clutch of indoor venues close together. vibrations 35
From personal experience, they also have some crucial advantages over “proper” festivals namely that it doesn’t matter too much if it rains, the toilets aren’t minging after 15 minutes and you can retire to a proper warm bed at the end of the day. Having immensely enjoyed last year’s ‘Live at Leeds’ and ‘Brainwash’ festivals, not only for the variety of acts I saw but also the quality, I was therefore eagerly looking forward to yet another opportunity to unearth some top notch local talent to start the new decade off with a bang. Despite some high points, Wildlife didn’t quite live up to this promise. Throw in a sparse attendance and a drummer’s tackle and you’ll begin to see why. Notwithstanding, I did manage to flit between venues and catch several of the two-dozen live bands tearing it up on the middle Saturday, starting with experimental post rock trio Kogumaza and their hypnotic down tempo fuzz. Their 5 song set was good in places but a little monotonous after a while, unless you’re packing the sort of skunk that would make even Posh Spice start necking Snickers by the dozen, in which case you’d love them. Diving into the Brudenell snooker room next, I catch Stuart Bannister (one third of Quack Quack) joined by nothing more than his box of electronic gadgetry, and watched by about 10 people. The results were a bit like turning an analogue radio dial from one end to the other, just noise really. Not to be deterred, I paid my first visit to the Royal Park Cellars to catch guitar/ drums duo of doom Khuda looking very intense as they went about their business. Indeed each track slowly built to a crescendo, picked you up and shook all the teeth from your face. Ear-splittingly loud but actually rather enjoyable. Still in search of my first vocalist, my needs are partially sated by nu-jazz quintet Human Hair but Wrongbot revert to type with a collection of loops, samples, dots and beeps reminiscent of Missile Command. Indeed their kit looks like it was obtained via a ram raid on Tandy back in 1984, with the swag kept in Gene Hunt’s lock up for the next 25 years. Trio Hired Muscle finally deliver some proper vocals, combining a contemporary percussive and choppy guitar band sound with a psychedelic blues twist, whereas quartet Blacklisters prove to be an altogether more sinister and forceful proposition.
British Wildlife Festival by John Ford
I’ve been meaning to check out Napoleon IIIrd for a while as I’ve heard some interesting things about him from a guy who sometimes cuts my hair (TMI?). He doesn’t disappoint, treating us to a one man show containing voice, trumpet, guitar, and numerous other gizmos to produce something quite original. Throw in some catchy songs and you’re onto a winner, certainly more deserving than the sparse but nevertheless appreciative audience. The less said about next act Hunting Lodge the better, and then the drummer takes his pants off! (That’s all he was wearing in case you were wondering). There’s never a copper around when you want one. OX Scapula don’t succeed in snapping me out of my trauma and then to round things off, Mr Bannister is reunited with his two Quack Quack band mates for a series of jazz-prog noodlings, certainly more accessible than Stuart’s solo material but that’s not really difficult. A bit of a mixed day this time......oh and my team got beat 7-1. Mike Price
Kit Downes / Flux / Matthew Robinson-Max Sterling Duo @ The Wardrobe, Leeds In staging their three concert Piano Series Leeds College of Music based promoters Northern Bloc Collective clearly had to juggle artistic impulses with commercial necessity. It’s a fine balancing act, but despite between act announcements that sound like commercial breaks and the occasional seminar like interaction between stage
and audience, the music at least explores and reaches and occasionally dazzles. As students at the College, the support acts by their very nature display technical, compositional and performance techniques in development rather than fully formed. The duo of Matthew Robinson and Max Sterling, on clarinet and bass respectively, start nervously but reserve their stronger material for later in their short set when they are playing with more conviction and verve. Quintet Flux are a vehicle for saxophonist Oli Bentley’s vigorous and dynamic compositions. Although some of the tunes sound like generic exercises, at his best Bentley can deftly combine styles in tight arrangements. Drummer Glyn Rhys Daniels supplies rhythmic support that is solid and abstract by turns. Pianist Kit Downes is one of a sizable bunch of rising stars in British jazz at the moment with the collective potential to make this country the source of much influence in jazz and modern music over the coming decades. Downes features in several regular working bands but, as he tells us before he’s played a note, he rarely gets the chance to play solo. His slight bohemian frame seems at odds with the pitch shiny black mass of the piano, but Downes knows how to caress light and shade from the instrument as well as punch blocks of sound from the keyboard. The set ranges freely between some of Downes’ own written pieces, improvisation and audacious deconstructions of Thelonious Monk. But the highlight was a near barrelhouse blues tribute to guitarist Skip James. Steve Walsh
lsh Steve Wa
Your CD-Rs deserve a second listen. So we’ll listen twice (and twice only) and then type. 20 words per demo Keep ‘em coming... (OK) Mouthy, self confident beyond their abilities indie rock band with lame and ill advised Kaiser Chiefs reference. (Er, no thanks)
Blues Party People’s Game Authentic bottleneck blues from the Cheshire swamps? Apparently! Son House crossed with The Fall. Footie protest song a mistake though.
Mr Pasty Only on the Weekend
We Sell Seashells The Cosmic Trilogy It’s barking, its deep, it’s ludicrous, it’s meaningful, it’s occasionally brilliant – it’s unadulterated Prog-Rock and it will EAT YOUR BRAIN!
Two Skies Fearsome guitar heaviosity with feet planted unapologetically in 60/70s blues drenched hard rock (Sabbath/Zep). Lyrics don’t bear much scrutiny though.
Interminable, profoundy confused genre skipping rag-bag from musicians who should know better. Couldn’t even bear to listen to it twice.
Looking for sophisticated, cool, smokey voiced, sexy, contemporary jazz vocal stylings? Rodina’s yer woman, as it were. Hose me down!
Hollie Sheard & Friends All Here
Music so laid back, tasteful and inoffensive it’s like the aural equivalent of reading a Laura Ashley catalogue. Curtains...... cushions....
The Peppermint Lounge Inspired and wildly audacious mix of played instruments and music or voice samples conjouring a louche, sensuous and edgy world.
Serious, well crafted and sprightly epic indie mostly, and they manage to muster a couple of drop dead killer choruses.
Tiger Shadow Stripe 1 EP Improbable mix of funk, reggae, dub, bhangra, hip-hop and electronica that just about works. Lyrics often trite and cliched, though.
Arthur Rigby & The Baskervylles On My Own Two blokes, big ideas, create octet orchestra to make chamber pop songs. Divine Comedyesque. Refinement required but lots of promise.
New York Alcoholic Anxiety Attack From Bradford but sound like the sweaty, scuzzy swamps of Alt-Rock Central, USA. Probably makes perfect sense live and drunk.
The Bambinos In Bed With.... Punk-fucking-rock! With witty knobs on! Weirdly camp Americanesque vocals, from Wakey?! ‘Slidy Slidy’’s about mine shafts and, er, it’s ace!
Dead Horses EP3 Three tracks of ambitious but unimaginatively arranged, dour quiet-loud-quiet epic rock. Perhaps benefit from better production and more wit.
Hollie Sheard & Friends by Jonathon Geraldie vibrations 38
Performance tips No.23
Don’t Lose Control
Trying to do too many things at once can be counter-productive. If you’re getting this frustrated by the business of music and would rather channel all your energy into creativity and performance, why not join the Musicians’ Union? The Musicians’ Union can offer you advice on contracts, legal issues and disputes, as well as free equipment 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.theMU.org liveinthenorth@theMU.org
Published on Apr 30, 2010
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Lone Wolf, Alt Track, The Lodger