Leeds and West Yorkshire
Free July 2009
chickenhawk heads we dance grammatics Live at Leeds Moorfest Rock Trumps Dave Simpson
5 Magazine Editorial 10 Live at Leeds 12 Chickenhawk 16 Heads We Dance 19 Moorfest special pull-out 24 Grammatics 28 Rock Trumps! 30 Album Reviews 32 Single Reviews 34 Preview Reviews 35 Live Reviews 37 Second Hearing - Your Demos! 38 One For The Road - Dave Simpson
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Following a series of allegations made in the Daily Telegraph, the executive leadership here at Vibrations wishes to clarify our position regarding a series of expenses. Despite his constituent home in the suburbs of Leeds, Rob Wright has been declaring the Brudenell Social Club as his second home, regardless of the relatively comfortable commuting distance. However I can vouch for the hours of dedication he puts into working from this location. There have also been reports that Sam Saunders has been “flipping” his main residency between the family home and Faversham; allegedly to offset the tax levied against J20 and dry roasted peanuts. In fact I recently heard a band that Sam had written about the previous month talking about “Flipping” Sam Saunders.
And then the BNP go and take 10% of the vote, and my argument is rather blown out of the water. I used to think that politics and music shouldn’t mix. I might even have said I’m as keen to hear musicians’ thoughts on economic policy as I am Douglas Hurd’s hip-hop debut. Then I saw Billy Bragg at Glastonbury in 1995 and realised it was possible for the informed and enlightened to use music as a medium for inspiring debate. I realise that peace in the Ivory Coast is unlikely to break out because Coldplay have a word. But that’s not the point. It’s about getting the issues out in the open.
However, I would like to assure the readership, that my own personal account this month of £10 (Live at Leeds ticket), £8.60 (round of coffees for interview), £36.47 (distributor entertaining) and £152,250.99 (Ferrari F430 Convertible, essential transport to gigs) are entirely above board and legal. The more that is talked about bath plugs, duck islands and moats though; the less is spoken about the real story in this region of late. By that I mean our collective epic fail in the European elections, which have somehow resulted in the most culturally dynamic and diverse county in Britain electing a former neo-Nazi into parliament. It is possible that some of you will be unfamiliar with the name Andrew Brons. For those of you wandering about his experience, he can presumably point to a colourful CV including stints in the National Socialist Movement (whose members were involved in numerous attacks on synagogues in the 60s) and as chairman of the National Front. Whether or not he would bring up his fine in 1984 for racist chanting including calling an ethnic minority policeman an “inferior being” while marching with NF colleagues shouting other delightful phrases such as “death to Jews” and “white power”. One suspects not. In all honesty, I cannot claim to have much in common with David Cameron (a man I trust about as far as I could throw his public relations team), but his use of the word “sickened” could not have been more apt on hearing the news. As a cultural immigrant myself (someone who has chosen to settle in Yorkshire for a better life despite being born near London) I have been a cheerleader for my chosen home in the face of deep-rooted suspicion on behalf of Southernbased chums. I have spoken at length about the cosmopolitan Mecca that we have here. How we are not all coal-munching, whippetracing, backwards Neanderthals and are in fact every bit the equal to our Southern cousins.
There is a theory that you should deny people like the BNP the oxygen of publicity. To paraphrase the great Linda Smith, I’m fairly sure many of us would quite like to deny them the oxygen of oxygen. But the more room we give these people to rationalise their abhorrent views, the more they weave the rope to hang themselves. So it’s up to us to engage. With honour, measure, dignity and the knowledge that a better argument presented in a better way will normally out these cretins for what they are. Andrew Brons was elected on a 10% share of the vote based on under 40% turnout. Casual voters tend not to go with extremist parties, so if you were one of those people who couldn’t be bothered to get out and vote, I’m afraid you are part of the problem. But perhaps it takes a dark period like this in our history to find the next Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan. And we can only hope that whoever they are, their name will live on well beyond the time that Andrew Brons and his like have scuttled back into the gutters of obscurity. Let’s just hope it’s a blip. But unless we make sure it doesn’t happen again, then we only have ourselves to blame. ATB. RPC vibrations 5
The beginner’s guide to alienating your audience. Some things are true. Some things are false. And some things are no more than hot air. What follows is a unique combination of all three, with the added appeal of being untouched by Wikipedia. My aim is to splash some cold water onto the parades, bonfires and vanities of all those who want to entertain the world beyond their rehearsal room. Are you a perpetrator or are you a victim? Read on, regardless. Here are nine bucketfuls of the icy stuff to keep you deflated and damp: nine descriptions of things you really shouldn’t be doing. Let’s go. 1) Hoping that one day you will be as good as The Manic Street Preachers, or Fugazi. This is silly. All the best things about older, “better” bands have already been done. By them. All you can ever do is annoy their fans by being ten years late, not so good, and an affront to the True Gods. Promising your “own new take” is guaranteed to turn heads in a way that you will not appreciate at all. 2) Telling yourself that you are only interested in “the music” when what you really want is an excuse for being generally useless as a human being. Why not become human first? Then be famous. Even if the famous bit doesn’t work out, being human is always worth the effort. And (this is a secret) it will get you better sex than fame. 3) Insisting that music is all about FUN and HAVING A LAUGH. It’s easy to forget that real clowns are pretty dismal folk, who work self-destructively hard on their art and who take a lot of things very seriously. They tend to know a lot about their craft and become terminally depressed at how hard FUN is. They don’t get lots of sex either.
6) Collecting memorabilia for “when we’re famous”. Hilarious video clips of you all in the van and posters from Dagenham with your name in small letters (and spelt wrong) are only ever valuable if: a) you do get famous; and b) no one collected them at the time. You know this but you still find yourselves doing it. 7) Getting the thing about diy, but thinking it also means diy professional management paraphernalia that emulates the material you have seen from full-time agencies. Why pretend to be a major corporation with money to waste on slick publicity, while claiming the kudos of diy?. It looks like Chump and the Chumpsters. Fresh from “The Apprentice”. If it’s possible to be natural - then why not give it a go? 8) Being bored. Bored is the status of a vacant mind, A vacant mind is the property of a vacant person. The audience only wants half an hour of your time, so what do you do with the other hours in the day? Sedatives and stimulants are common enough. Legal, illegal or just plain unhealthy, they all “work” up to a point. Children’s games, DVDs, breaking things, and upsetting other people by being wacky are other outlets. But why kill the time when it offers freedom and opportunity? How can you be creative if you don’t increase your cultural depth or push your creative limits into new shapes? Why not talk to other bands and listen to their sets? Watch the sound engineer working? Visit the city you are playing in? Photograph the audience? Teach yourself to draw? 9) Reading stuff like this article as if it mattered. Big mistake. Carry a large poetry anthology around with you. Poems are super-concentrated cultural bombs. You can read a whole one in the ten minutes waiting for your bass player to sound check, and give you enough ideas for a whole double album.
4) Believing that people will hear your real potential through all the veils of poor technique, a voice with no range, lyrics that don’t work, a lack of ideas, bad recording and the inherent badness of Myspace. If you know that what you are offering could be better, why are you offering it? Do you think your audiences won’t notice? Or are you counting on them being saints who will forgive you? 5) Becoming obsessed with drum tuning or the quality of the fallback monitors when the real problem is crap songs. Everything matters, of course. But if the material you are trying to perform isn’t inspiring and exciting you might as well stand up there naked with no instruments at all.
Rainbow Warrior I feel sorry for Nick Griffin. No really, I do. Hear me out… Poor Nick probably spent the last weekend indoors, eating fry-ups scraped off his lapels (well, waste not, want not), watching a nice all-white sport like cricket on the telly. Maybe not cricket, actually, too many Asian players. Football? No, they’re all foreign as well. Maybe he just had a couple of lagers and fell asleep in front of Last of the Summer Wine. Such a shame. He couldn’t have had the weekend I did, and that‘s why I feel bad for him. It started on Friday, down at the National Media Museum in Bradford, where a lot of people with cameras came to take photos of Simon Beaufoy and his Oscar. He was there because he’s from Bradford, wrote Slumdog Millionaire, and came back to celebrate the city’s new UNESCO International City of Film status. Nick wouldn‘t have liked hearing all the speeches people like Monty Python’s manager Steve Abbott gave about Bradford‘s versatility and diversity being huge bonuses to film-makers looking for locations, helping it to win the award over Cannes, Venice and LA. I don’t think he’d have enjoyed himself at all, which is a shame, because Yorkshire’s had a bit of bad PR just lately, and ironically this seemed to restore a bit of national pride. Then on Saturday, he wouldn’t have been able to come with us to the Polish shop to buy crazy blueberry booze before the 21st annual Mela festival. He wouldn’t have been able to walk to Peel Park with us and the Ukrainian photographer we met on the way, either. He‘d have had to get a taxi, if he could find one he didn‘t mind getting in. When we got there, he’d probably have been hungry, but he couldn’t have had a pizza from the Italian food stall. He’d have had no fun in the African drumming circle, the graceful Indian dancer wouldn’t have impressed him, and whilst he might have enjoyed the colliery brass band, he wouldn’t have liked it one bit when they were joined on their parade by the Bhangra drummers. It’s not even as though he could dive into the Sunset tent to escape the heat and listen to some Strings of Kashmir like we did. And as for watching Slumdog Millionaire in the film tent afterwards - forget it.
I can’t imagine where he goes on holiday, other than perhaps Blackpool, or Texas, and if he does venture anywhere dangerous like Spain, he must get a bit fed up with the English theme pubs and substandard chips. Life must be a bit colourless for poor Nick, and his irrational fears. And now, of course, he’s so well known that he sees hostility in almost every face, and he’s left himself with no choice but to live in his particular bubble of Britishness that seems to depend entirely on what makes him feel at ease. Now that nobody from any other country (and most people from this one) won’t socialise with him, he’s only going to add to that list of people that make him nervous, and vice versa. It’s a vicious cycle, and I‘m sure it didn‘t start in adulthood; no wonder he‘s so grumpy. Maybe all that binds Nick Griffin and friends together in their curious club is a shared phobia that they can’t overcome without help. What if Nick were to suddenly be greeted in public at every turn, not with a food fight, but with the smiling, friendly faces of the people he’s so scared of - people who until now would want to avoid him as much as he wants to avoid them - until he was cured? What if, instead of seeing these people from a distance as a faceless mass, all plotting together to lay siege to his castle, he was forced to meet forgiving individuals who introduced themselves in the street, said hello, and then went on their way? It would take a lot of patience, but maybe we should be a bit more understanding - he’s a frightened refugee from a poorer place than we can ever imagine.
Imagine if he were in charge of the Mela, what would we be treated to? Morris dancing, probably. That’s the traditional English cultural display, our contribution to the world of performance art. Two days solid might wear a bit thin though. Maybe we could intersperse it with egg and spoon racing, a knobbly knees competition, and a bit of harmless football violence before the evening‘s musical entertainment (I couldn‘t actually find any instruments that originated in this country, so I presume this would be whistling).
live at leeds First stop Brudenell Social Club as Wonderswan chip up bang on 12pm. In truth, the latter part of the set doesn’t quite live up to the frenetic instrumental intro that brings to mind Oxford-based avant-noisters Nought, but it’s all good DIY indie rock none-the-less. We decamp from the Brud and head for the Met. It is here I purchase my first alcoholic beverage of the day, and either students pay nearly 4 times as much for a pint as they did when I was at University (11 years ago) or the Met have sky-rocketed their prices for the day. Ouch. Amazingly, International Trust start early. Neil Hanson is nothing if not ruthlessly efficient with his creative talents, so rather than waste valuable drinking time writing new songs, why not resurrect the personal back catalogue, and rework the Christmas single as a festival anthem? Making a
four musicians, and the astonishingly beautiful music they create, that should be recognised. I venture out into the sun once more with every intention of comfortably catching Micky P Kerr at The Cockpit. However, on turning the corner after the Scarborough Taps it appears that Richard Attenborough has chosen this moment to reshoot the crowd scenes from Ghandi outside The Cockpit. Plan B: The Hogshead for dinner and the welcoming, reassuring arms of Jeff Stelling on Soccer Saturday will have to suffice. The other must-see for the day are Duels, so the pragmatic decision is taken to return to the happy hunting ground of the Well, meaning the chance to catch the much-hyped Pulled Apart By Horses and a band called Youths into the bargain.
I have not seen Duels since the marvellous Barbarians Move In album came out. The addition of Forward, Russia main man Whiskas on guitar and keyboards adds yet more spice. It sails a little close to indulgence at times, but there is enough quality here to make it work comfortably. Having reached lager saturation point, it’s now time for a pint of quality hand-pull at The Packhorse in the esteemed company of Cowtown. What I know about the mysterious world of DIY (music, rather than hardware consumables) can be written the back of Noel Gallagher’s Book of Complicated Chord Progressions. However I have always found Cowtown to be nothing more and nothing less than a tremendously exciting pop group. They are as fantastic as always. In search of “melodies” (by special request of the other half) we end up at The Elbow Rooms. By now I have little patience for dozen-deep bar queues. My mood is further darkened by my inability to hate James Owen Fender. By rights, the cheery folky indie pop with blue-eyed soul overtones should be tipping my righteous irritation dial into the red, but actually it’s perfectly decent. How annoying. What’s also annoying is that Middleman are due on stage, and as yet are not even in the building. A late running gig at the Brudenell as the backing band for Mye Mye has somewhat thrown the schedule out. Impressively they do make it across town in good time though and are as entertaining and crowd-pleasing as always. A massive crowd clearly has more energy than me, and throws themselves about with wild abandon.
little go a long way. A pleasant stroll through town leads us to Joseph’s Well in plenty of time for Wild Beasts. The military precision applied to logistics means also catching Tigers That Talked who hack through some epic, folky, theatrical indie music that bears more than a passing resemblance to Arcade Fire. Perfectly decent.
It seems that PABH are another of the day’s big draws. I squeeze into the back of the Well by the sound desk before they close off the stairs to further punters. The crowd go crazy, but I remain unmoved. The music fails to connect on any meaningful level. The crowd whoop with delight as band members clamber up amps and monitors like they’ve never seen it before.
The decision to arrive in plenty of time for Wild Beasts appears astute as a sizable queue is now waiting at the top of the Well’s staircase trying to get in It is clear what the gap between those on their way up and those already there sounds like. Hayden Thorpe’s voice mesmerises as always, but it’s the complete package of all
Youths are pretty good though. Is there is something inherently wrong watching a stage full of bare-chested teenage boys cavorting and writhing camply around the floor while churning out exhilarating and inventive punkpop?
The organisers will come in for a bit of stick for the queues for both venues and drinks. But they are victims of their own success. Big queues = people showing interest in local music, and for this we should be very happy. A resounding success. Rob Paul Chapman I managed to catch 8 acts at 5 different venues, kicking off at the lovely Holy Trinity Church with Fran Rodgers who, despite one or two equipment hitches, delivered a 5-song set of haunting gothic folk, ably supported by Linz Wilson (bass/cello) and Bruce Renshaw (drums). The acoustics complimented the richness of Ms Rodgers’ voice as she combined this with guitar and dulcimer, building up
layer upon layer of looped vocals, creating her very own delicate wall of noise in front of a modest but appreciative crowd.
energetic Cardiff-based trio who induce a mass stage invasion at the end of their frenetic and hugely enjoyable set. Security staff are not amused.
Next up, following a dash to Joseph’s Well, was supposed to be the much talked about Wild Beasts. Unfortunately too many others had the same idea so I spent the duration of their set in the queue outside. Fortunately, my next choice of band were on straight after so I watched Dartz set up AND play, although I’m not sure their choppy indie pop was entirely worth the wait.
Gently rounding off a cracking day, I return to Holy Trinity for a late night appointment with Marina and the Diamonds, joined by perhaps 150 in the pews as our barefoot heroine takes to the pulpit with her 3 piece backing band. Unfortunately the church acoustics were less forgiving for her more powerful sounding brand of electro-pop. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
Speeding to the Cockpit to catch the 5pm set from Sky Larkin, I just make it as singer Kate sound checks with her unique take on ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. The place was jammed and up for a perfect set of crisp power pop. They weren’t disappointed. The sound quality, somewhat mixed on previous visits, is loud and clear today. I will be sending stickman Nestor the hospital bill to repair my perforated left eardrum.
Off to the Faversham for a double header; first up is Merseyside quintet Soft Toy Emergency who are a revelation. Yes, their sound is clearly influenced by acts such as The Ting Tings, but the spiky synth-pop tunes are catchy, crisp, polished, and delivered with such aplomb that the audience laps them up. After this, I feel a little sorry for Humberside hairspray addicts Mountain Goat Frenzy when they take the stage. I’m also worried that one of the quartet will spontaneously combust under the hot lights, but my fears are unfounded and they’re better than I expect, performing urgent spooky electronic driven rock with echoes of both Wooden Ships and Black Strobe. With my feet beginning to bleed, I’m relieved the Library is only a short walk away to see hard rocking local favourites Chickenhawk, who set up their gear in front of the stage with the drummer sat almost amongst the gathering crowd. The atmosphere is strangely intimate, like a front parlour feel as the band play a short but blistering handful from their current self-titled long player. Terrific.
It is testament to the popularity of this event that, on such a glorious day, so many people are out to spend the entire day in dark, stuffy rooms listening to loud music. No better way to spend the day. To prepare myself spiritually for the day, I start in the cool sanctity of Holy Trinity Church. Hampshire’s Lady and the Lost Boys are taking to the stage gradually, but eventually they turn in a fairly bass heavy, acoustic ignoring performance of pumped up folk pop with a touch of mockney, a bit of percussion breakage and some odd belly dancing. A good start. Exhibiting a penchant for waistcoats, violins and songs that go “Hey! Hey! Hey!”, Tigers That Talked like Arcade Fire a bit. A lot. The mix in Joseph’s Well is not so good though and the middle dips considerably. Starts and finishes well though. The mix in the Elbow Rooms is far superior, giving Silverlode a chance to shine today. Looking like a mid-sixties mash up and sounding skiffley similar, their set is funny, catchy, epic and thanks to the mix, very clear.
Harmonies aren’t lost, guitars don’t swamp and Rob and Scott still enjoy the love/hate banter. Most entertaining. First pop at the Cockpit and, after a substantial queue, it’s time for Fight Like Apes. The fiery Dubliners come across like a guitar-free Be Your Own Pet and boast a considerable pit by the end of their first song. MayKay publicly rebukes a vulgar member of the audience and throws a bottle (inadvertently) at the sound man. Kids love it. Not as much as they love Sky Larkin though, because the place is packed. Kate is getting rock and roll with the guitar but is still cute and bashful and they bang enthusiastically through hits ‘Fossil, I’. ‘Beeline’ and ‘Octo ‘08’. Noisy and nice. There are changes afoot in the TRAiNS camp, and it’s not just the maritime uniforms or the fact that they’re a four-piece. Though favourites ‘Rook House’. ‘Terra Nova’ and ‘Spencer Percival’ are present, they have two new songs that return to a time before they went library rock... and it is good. A typically spirited performance from the history boys as well. Which is sadly eradicated by Wintermute, who explode into ‘Bad Company In a Sauna’ and do not let up ‘til closer ‘Jambon! Jambon!’. Playing fast and tight, they bristle with an energy that Dan can barely contain. I can hardly contain myself. It’s a good thing that ‘Mute are so good as, due to queues and long walks, I don’t get to see any other bands that night. I’m not bitter though, because the quality has definitely been greater than the width. Rob Wright
After an abortive attempt to see Grammatics at LMUSU (alas more queues!) I decide to try my luck at the Cockpit once more and manage to catch all but the first few bars of Welsh agitpop exponents Future of the Left. Despite a thinning of the crowd since Sky Larkin, those that remain are worked into a frenzy by the vibrations 11
Chicken Payback. Like your metal with Brains? Literally? How about blood, gore and guts too? Chickenhawk - “The worst band the Arctic Monkeys ever played with” talk Vibrations through their unlikely upwards trajectory. “We don’t feel that you can give everything you’ve got unless you know it won’t matter if you damage something” they tell Kate Wellham. Photography by Danny North
Many successful bands trot out the tired old lines like ‘we just do our thing and if people like it, that’s a bonus’. Maybe some of those bands are telling the truth, but a shiny fiver says they’d be devastated if, for example, they supported the Arctic Monkeys at a huge homecoming gig due to a double booking, and went down like a balloon full of shit. Not Chickenhawk. “All of Sheffield turned up, and everyone looked like the guy out of Razorlight,” says guitarist Rob, “we started playing and everyone literally took a step back. I remember
overhearing one guy saying to his mate ‘what do you think of these guys?’ and his mate just went ‘loud’.” “Rob used to wear a mask with a little gold paper crown on it,” says bassist Ryan between hysterics, “and there’s a picture of him on his back playing guitar, and you can see the Arctic Monkeys drum skin in the background”. Frontman Paul, then the drummer, recalls playing the Arctic Monkeys’ drumkit “with no top on and a cowboy hat - we really upset quite a few people I think.” Including the Arctic Monkeys, it seems. “There was an interview where
someone asked them what was the worst band you’ve ever played with,” says new drummer Matt, “and they said ‘well we played with this band once in Sheffield’, and they couldn’t remember the name”. “I’m pretty sure there was a reference to us”, says Paul. Matt, formerly of WhoresWhoresWhores, clearly wasn’t put off by the more damning feedback from earlier days: “That should be a t-shirt, it should just be a quote – ‘Chickenhawk – the worst band we’ve ever played with’.”
In fact, the whole band spend a considerable amount of our interview talking about the worst criticisms they’ve had in their five-year existence. They apologise for the tangent, but it’s brilliant stuff. “We played this gig in Nottingham and it was one of those three people and a cat gigs, and after we’d played, this woman turned to her husband and went ‘I feel like I’ve just been told off’.” “There’s another picture on our MySpace from London,” says Ryan, “when we played with WhoreWhoresWhores, of a woman like that [puts his fingers in his ears] and someone’s superimposed a big red arrow pointing at her.” We come to the conclusion that she did like it, but it hurt. The list of sitcom-worthy incidents goes on and on: they were banned from Trash for being too loud; they were invited to play a fan’s 18th birthday party in the middle of a field, until his mum came out and asked them to stop; at a gig in Macclesfield, the landlord’s wife appeared with a decibel meter; a neighbour called round to tell them their practise was disturbing his daughter; a promoter in Folkestone advertised them as Chicken Shack; another promoter in Eastbourne cut short their soundcheck, telling them they were ‘obviously not trained musicians’ and gave them ten minutes to pack up and leave before he called the police. They’re laughing so much recounting it, it’s almost like they were doing it on purpose.
Not the most promising beginning for any serious musician. Luckily for Chickenhawk, they had no such aspirations. “Around the same time our other bands split up, we all ended up living together and literally no one else wanted to be in a band with us,” explains Rob. “So we went ‘shall we be in a band together then?’” Where a lot of bands might take their time getting a palatable set and sound together before presenting it to the world, Chickenhawk chose a more... let’s say ‘character-building’ route. “The second gig we ever did was the first day of our tour, in London” says Paul. “It was an exercise in pissing people off,” sums up Ryan, “we were just three long-haired messes.” “Our attitude when we first started was book a tour without actually having played or practised,” says Paul. “In our first year we did 54 gigs in a year and we all had full time jobs. We were out all the time and did three week-long tours. We didn’t know if it was Christmas or Tuesday, in our first year we were an absolute state.” These days, Chickenhawk are on a sudden upward trajectory, having released their first album in November last year. What changed? Paul explains: “When we started it was almost like noise art. We never set out to upset people. There were riffs in it, but we’d have bits that were three minutes of feedback. But then, doing it for five years, I thought ‘what am I doing this for?’ If I’m going to spend
this much time with my friends then I want to do something that actually makes me feel good, and that’s what we set out to do, to make music that we like and we want to hear, and always move forward.” “When we decided to get Matt involved it was like we are going to stop titting around,” says Ryan, “we’re actually going to start trying to get a bit more serious about this. A chaotic aspect is good but we want it to not be a shambles at the same time.” Although the way they got Matt involved was less than businesslike. “We used to have a little WhoresWhoresWhores, Chickenhawk club on a Friday night at Sponge Studios, we’d all just swap band members. You’d get another band member and you’d get to go off together to your own little room,” says Paul. Rob was apparently always in a room by himself. He’s still bitter. The fact that the minute they decided to try was the very minute they began to succeed goes a long way towards explaining why all that negative feedback doesn’t bother them, and shouldn’t put off any Chickenhawk virgins reading this. The noise they make is more complex than it sounds, and first impressions that it’s a mess of metal are deceptive. It’s more like a collection of the best middle eights you think you’ve ever heard but couldn’t actually place. “That’s the bit that takes the longest time, to make it flow,” says Paul. “We can have great riffs, put them back to back, and we’ll play them for weeks
and weeks and someone will say they don’t sound good together. “It’s difficult that we get pigeonholed as metal sometimes, because we’re loud and we have that guitar tone. But the thing is we can’t play any quieter because Matt is so loud, and we play such techy stuff that if our guitar tone didn’t sound like that, you couldn’t hear what we were playing, so that’s where our sound comes from, but hopefully if you listen to it you realise that it isn’t really heavy metal music, it’s just that it’s delivered in that way because we couldn’t do it any other way.” The band have become known for their performance style, playing on the floors of venues with the kit out front, facing backwards, and the band in a circle. “It gives it a lot more energy,” says Paul, “imagine if Matt was hidden at the back and you couldn’t see what he was doing from the sides or the back.”
Putting it to them that it might be a DIY performance style leads to a debate about what actually constitutes a DIY band anyway. After all, they do get labelled as such, so surely they must know. “I don’t,” says Paul. “It’s a contentious issue because a lot of people will attach some sort of political or philosophical significance to it, and a lot of people would say we’re clearly not a DIY band. Everything is done in house, and if that’s not doing it yourself then what is?” They’re gleaning favourable reviews left, right and centre, and their latest video – just finished – was directed by NME photographer extraordinaire Danny North. “He said ‘I’ve got the album, do you want to do a photoshoot? All you’d have to pay is costs’,” says Rob. “So we told him to fuck off, we weren’t
interested... Or the real story is we said ‘absolutely’, and it spiralled out of control, until somehow 100 zombies turned up at Burley Liberal Club. Getting Danny on board was just ridiculous. I don’t think he’s aware that we’re just a shit basement band yet.” The video saw them – and a LOT of extras – covering themselves in jam and strawberry sauce and trying to eat the band. Their gear suffered severely, and Matt has only just finished cleaning the jam off his kit (Mr Muscle, paper towels, with a hangover), but that’s nothing new. “I don’t feel that you can give everything you’ve got unless you know it won’t matter if you damage something,” says Paul. He means your eardrums too, so get your muffs along to a gig the next chance you get.
Ask your average music fan in the street who Leeds’ most promising new export is and you’ll wait a long time before hearing Heads We Dance. But the thinking man’s dance three piece are proving a big hit across the world’s club scenes. “Perhaps some people in Leeds might be a bit stuck in their ways waiting for The Libertines to reform?” they suggest to Rob Paul Chapman. Photography by Tom Martin vibrations 16
It has been noted before, not least by this very magazine, that Heads We Dance’s Pete Wurlitzer knows an upcoming Zeitgeist when he sees one. Many years ago the significantly less glamorous-sounding Pete Bott formed a band called Yellow Stripe Nine. This band stood out a mile amongst the early noughties Strokes-alikes, with their sharp suits and Talking Heads influences. The world remained defiantly rooted to its axis. Then, a few months later a band called Franz Ferdinand pitched up with a remarkably similar sound and… well, you know... Next, Wurlitzer – as he was now calling himself – redefined the band through a theatrical concept album that sat somewhere between A Clockwork Orange and the burlesque cabaret revivalists. A short while later, the burlesque revival was in full swing, and adorning the front pages of the highclass glossies… About this time, it became apparent that he was tiring of the creative restrictions of a traditional group environment. By this time the band had bought in synth player Yoni. It appeared that the latter’s more eclectic tastes were starting to spark new avenues of creativity amongst the pair as Wurlitzer talked enthusiastically about the rise of a new generation of up-and-coming super producers such as Timbaland and hip-hop acts like Oukast and… well you can guess the rest. YSN were wound up shortly after. Which leads us to Heads We Dance. “There’s been a sort of Heads We Dance part 1 and Heads We Dance part 2” explains Wurlitzer. “The first was a sort of synthy indie band.” (effectively the next logical stage of YSN, retaining Pete, Yoni and bassist Tom. Adding former Bam Bam Francs drummer Becky, but otherwise a more synth-driven version of the same thing). “We didn’t really realise, until someone pointed it out, that live we still sounded very much like a band” recalls Yoni. “We didn’t really know how to get the sound that we wanted” “We were immersed in dance music” explains Pete. “And that had really changed our outlook.” “It took someone else to point it out, but we had to pretty much completely overhaul our live sound”
concedes Yoni “And that sort of coincided with Tom wanting to leave.” Which brings us to HWD mark 2. “It was a turning point when we all went to see Daft Punk live” reflects Becky. “And then we started playing with bands who were using a live drummer as well as backing tracks and that gave us the confidence to move into that sort of thing. We realised it was possible to sound as big as we wanted without the live bass” “We’ve gone through so many phases” agrees Yoni “We’ve gone through playing pub gigs in Halifax early on, but it just doesn’t work! We’re the wrong type of band for it.” “I remember a friend of the band saying that in the old days what you had to do was build up a bit of a local following, then gig a lot, release a record, gig, release a record…” remembers Pete “But that’s changed, and you don’t have to do that anymore. That was quite enlightening for us. We’d essentially given up doing the gigs that we hated doing anyway.”
“So we tend to just do club nights now. Where there’s only one band on and we’ll come on around midnight when people have already been dancing and will be dancing afterwards and it just works a lot better” reasons Yoni. “But there aren’t loads of places you can do that in this country.” Despite not being household names in their home county, they have built a hugely impressive cult fanbase across the world and have attracted the remixing attentions of some of the greatest talents in the field. “We had a remix from a guy called Diablo, who’s been really hyped this year” smiles Yoni. “He just did it for free. We just tend to write to people and say ‘look, we haven’t got any money – we get that in early! – but we really like what you do and we’d like you to do a remix of one of our tracks, and we’re really happy to do a remix in return or give you a vocal hook for one of your tracks or something. And that has worked quite well so far.” “It’s a really good way of approaching our songs as well” rationalises Becky.
“I find it really exciting, sending all of the parts off to someone and waiting for the remixes to come back. We’ve managed to land some pretty decent people, and that has got us into good places, so we’ve had a couple of plays on radio one though working with Russ Chimes. And again, that was for free. It’s a great way of promoting ourselves, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun!” “The internet has made the world a much smaller place” concludes Yoni. The internet and technology in general forms a central theme in Love Technology, the band’s debut album, which came out this month. There seems an eternal juxtaposition between the benefits that technology brings verses the human interaction that new developments often negate the need for. “We had this idea of taking almost this 30s or 40s sci-fi vision of the future, where you’d have all these amazing things at your fingertips” explains Pete “You’d be able to fly, make video phone calls, all that. We wanted to look at the future with all that wonderment of the past. But at the same time, there are many aspects of that which do lead to alienation. We become more insular and don’t end up with the proper levels of human contact that you might need. You just sit at a distance.” “I think that’s summed up by what we were talking about earlier” suggests Yoni. “It’s fabulous that we are able to collaborate with all these
fantastic musicians all around the world, but we’ve never actually met any of them!” This international recognition has never quite chimed in their home town though. “I think we’ve got a slightly uneasy relationship with Leeds” considers Pete. “There are a lot of fantastic bands in Leeds, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve not really seemed to take off in terms of turning people on when they come to our gigs, for whatever reason. But we can send a track out there and find there are people in America playing it in the clubs to hundreds of people. So you look at it and go ‘what’s the point in keeping your heads down grinding away, going through the motions in Leeds?’ The internet has made the world smaller.” Is Leeds perhaps too much of an “indie rock” town? “You need to be careful not to be too insular in the way you look at music” he continues “That’s the thing with the Leeds scene, it’s just that it’s so small. I think perhaps some people in Leeds might be a bit traditional and stuck in their ways, waiting for The Libertines to reform or whatever the hell it is that they want to do! But there are so many people writing about music of all different types all the way round the world, I think you’ll find that electronic/ dance music is pretty huge, pretty much all the way around the world.
Perhaps it’s something to do with being a Northern industrial town, or rather former industrial town, that it doesn’t really look to music that doesn’t form part of its values structure.” It’s an opinion that’s likely to ruffle feathers in Leeds, but not an isolated one by any means. Murmurings about the retrospective nature of some of Leeds’ biggest exports have been commonplace in some circles for years. “I think that’s what upsets me so much about indie guitar music” signs Pete. “If you look at all these major influences, people like The Beatles and The Clash, they were all obsessed with other types of music.” “And yet all these Clash copyists now are pretty much just trying to copy the first Clash album!” chuckles Yoni blackly. “That’s why I think that fans of this band are fans of music, not one particular genre” reasons Pete with quiet assurance that never threatens to spill over into pompous arrogance. “Music should be exciting, but there should also be a disposable aspect to it. I think the idea of making “classic” pop music is horrible. It’s got to be exciting. If it turns out that it still sounds great in 20 years, then brilliant, but I would much rather make a record that everyone loves for a couple of weeks.”
Is there any finer way to spend an evening in May than sitting outside the Brudenell Social Club amidst the write-offs with a light breeze blowing, the sun shining and chatting to Rory O’Hara and Owen Brinley about Jimmy Page? Well, I could have a pint in my hand, but I’m in the car. I am even more envious when Rory tells me he is going to abuse the free bar at the Nation Of Shopkeepers shindig later. I cannot begrudge him that though as they have had a busy time of late, touring with Pulled Apart By Horses and Rolo Tomassi. They don’t look too bad for it – they even look… tanned? It’s not what I expected… Words by Rob Wright Photography by George Coppock
Formed in 2006, Grammatics was born from the ashes of post-hardcore band Colour of Fire. “I was in a very very noisy, very very screamo almost band,” lilts Owen, almost surprised by the admission. “I think Colour of Fire had a really emotional thing going on,” says Rory admiringly. In its success and visceral appeal lay the roots of its demise, which was almost the end of Owen’s singing career too: “My voice was just completely burnt out. There was a month where all of a sudden I could hardly speak; it was probably after the recording of our album. I remember going to a doctor and he had a look and said I had the start of nodules and polyps on my vocal chords.” At this point, words were said with management and fellow band members, singing lessons were taken and the door closed on Owen’s screamo days. But, to coin a cliché, one door closes... “Owen played with an acoustic cellist after the demise of Colour of Fire,” says Rory, continuing the story, “started an acoustic night which was what I played, and then that was how I got invited to be in the band.” Towards the end of Colour of Fire, Owen had started writing lots of melody based songs and teamed up with cellist Rebecca Dumican, hoping to go all Elliot Smith. “I really enjoyed doing that for about… a month a half, two months,” says Owen, “and then thought this is really, really dull. I need to form a band again – I need loud things.” Rory was one of those loud things. “I’ve always been into stuff that’s really groovy,” he says, “Tom Waits and stuff. I went to play guitar like with blues and stuff because that’s my dad’s thing…” Long time friend Dominic Ord and synth player Michael Watts completed the line up and the Grammatics were born, albeit under a different name. Rebecca and Michael (now lead singer of Wonderswan) later left the band to pursue a career in teaching in the former case and to prevent bloodshed in the latter. “When we see each other now, we get along great,” reassures Owen, “it wasn’t really a falling out… what I used to describe it as was that there were too many angry young men in the band for its own good.” Despite the anger, Leeds was about to witness the birth of… complicated pop! “It’s not very catchy, it it?” admits Owen when I bring up the genre. “People struggle with the genres nowadays, don’t they? At the start of
the nineties you had rave! Hurray… greebo! Now we just get rehashes … no-one’s coming up with any true words. Maybe we haven’t made an original enough statement to warrant a really original genre…” Rory quickly jumps in, determined to prevent Owen from committing professional suicide: “I think it’s a merit because as soon as you attach a word or often used genre name then suddenly people have preconceptions of it. It’s nice that it’s kinda vague… I think that’s a good thing because people can’t weigh you down with other things.” It certainly is hard to pin them down to any one genre – how can you describe something that possesses the flamboyance of Queen, the fury of Motorhead and the decadent Britishness of Noel Coward? And all that melancholy? “Basically I have this thing where I cannot enjoy much music based in a major key,” says Owen, smiling slightly, “I think it sounds too
happy. Minor chords have a lot more menace to them; I like the sounds and the mood that they provide. There’s probably one song on our album, ‘The Vague Archive’, that isn’t in a minor key and I really don’t like it.” “It’s one of the oldest songs,” says Rory, “We got a lot moodier as we’ve gone on. I like stuff that’s happy and superficial but it’s just not the music we make.” Owen continues, explaining his need for the dark side: “I think song writing’s often a release of negative emotions for us; for that to manifest itself in something jolly sounding would be quite bizarre. I think that’s the people we are; if we were in a really happy state of mind writing a song would be the last thing we’d dream of doing… probably go and sit in the park and smoke a jazz fag.” Rory chuckles in confirmation.
This state of mind may have led to Grammatics’ ‘reputation’, but Owen assures me this has all changed (personally I find the pair of them very amenable). “There was a point at the end of last year after we’d finished our tour in November where we kind of… had a bit of a talking to from certain people.” Their manager. “It wasn’t that we’d been setting out to make trouble, but we’re the kind of people that if we turn up at a venue and we’re treated very badly, then we would be bad back to them. But I think there came a time when we realised we weren’t going to let these little things annoy us any more because these people who work at venues are in perpetual bad moods because they work in a place which has no windows, is painted black and, you know, it’s not a nice way to exist.” It’s all very magnanimous and grown up and probably explains why they’re looking so well following the recent tour. “One of PABH, James, was in hospital at the start and the end of the tour Joe from Rolo Tomassi cut his hand open,” says Owen. “I cut Joe’s hand open accidently with a guitar,” confesses Rory, “A pretty serious gash.” Apparently you can see the moment on youtube. I’m surprised that these guys got off scott-free, considering the last time I saw Owen he was kicking seven shades out of an amplifier. “I’ve got plasters on my
wrists courtesy of playing guitar for PABH in Brighton the other night,” says Owen, “James Brown has really sharp guitars.” “In booze terms and that rock and roll kinda thing we were quite well behaved,” admits the suspiciously sensible Rory. He did say ‘quite’. But their principle reason for being on the road besides injuring members of Rolo Tomassi has been to promote their eponymous album, released earlier this year but having taken some time in it’s inception. “It started in June. Sporadic, over three or four months,” says Owen, “it took a long time, with James Kenosha over in Bridlington.” “It wasn’t a solid block of five months,” explains Rory before I can enquire. “It was weeks and weekends.” But has it been satisfying or do you find it… bitty? “There’s nothing I’d change about it,” says Owen, “if I could have heard myself say that in August last year I would have jumped for joy. I think James did a spiffing job. We’re all still very proud of it.” And is it wholly representative of where you are now? “We were burlesque at the start, but I think we’ve changed. Now we’re moving into more sophisticated territory really. A lot more dancier, ethereal sounds cropping up on the album in places.”
And on the subject of sophisticated territory, the Grammatics are headed for even bigger things: supporting Bloc Party this October. “We’d never met the band before,” exclaims Owen, “They like us!” Which proves for me that the good guys still exist, because I’m sure they must have been under a lot of pressure to take someone else on tour, but they chose to take a band that they like.” “It’s really flattering,” says Rory, “it’s gonna be a lot of fun, I think. We’ll be really suited to supporting that tour. We supported the Futureheads and it was a great feeling to be on tour with them but a lot of their audience didn’t really dig it.” Curiously enough, Owen had said a week earlier that Bloc Party was the band he would most like to support. In Owen’s words, “a sheer slice of serendipity”. That only takes us up to October though, and in my usual exasperating way I need more. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do a headline tour where more than twenty people turn up after the Bloc Party tour,” says Rory drily. “I’d really be upset if we hadn’t started recording the next album by the start of next year,” says Owen, smiling. “So you can expect that out some time the year after that…”
The highest score wins the card and gets to nominate the category on the next card. If there is a draw, the leading player chooses another category and… you know the rest.
It’s still frivolous… it’s always contentious… the lawyers remain on standby… It’s…
Rock Trum ps! Last month, following a brainwave, we sent Rob Wright away [NB: that was not the brainwave in itself] to slave away over a hot laptop to devise Rock Trumps – Vibrations’ audacious attempt to settle every local musicbased pub argument since time memoriam with tangible quantifiable evidence. Rob locked himself away with a week’s worth of provisions, and after literally some minutes emerged triumphant with last issue’s instalment. Since then, the inbox at Vibrations Towers has been absolutely inundated by an email requesting a reprise, so this issue Rob Paul Chapman adds to your cut-out-and-keep pack. To remind you, here are the rules: •
The player who most convincingly claims to have seen the potential in Parva shuffles and deals the cards. There should now be 8 cards, so you can either have a very quick game, or if you’re planning on being around for a while, say you’re waiting for a First Bus for example, then you might want to pad the deck with other cards from your collection. We’re big fans of Panini World Cup Mexico ’86 here in the office.
Play starts with the first person to blink during an iLiKETRAiNS instrumental.
Players take it in turns to choose from one of the categories below: • I Predict a Riot! – general rock and roll misbehaviour; the worse and more creative the behaviour, the higher the score. Taping Bruno Brooks’ Top 40 onto C90 will not score highly. (Ask your parents kids). • Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – aesthetically pleasing or stomach-turningly hideous? The higher the score, the better chance of crossfertilisation potential. From a marketing perspective you understand… • Hey Scenesters! – A bunch of cults? Weird costumes, obsessed fans, bizarre stage rituals, blank looks when name-dropped in polite company? Heading for a ten. • Potential Futures – Likely to be playing on the roof of broadcasting house or cleaning it? The higher the score the more we see Guy Hands’ eyes turning to dollar signs. • Lets Have A Dance! – Stage craft. Do they spark electricity, or badly need a jumpstart? High scores for human pyrotechnics. • Commercial Breakdown – Expect to be sailing the seas of rock for evermore? Or running aground, breaking the boat and eating the weakest member for sustenance? High scores for potential car crash entertainment.
Each player gives their score for the named category.
The player who gains all the cards wins.
So you know what you’re dealing with. Each card will feature lovingly written annotations which will be a combination of fact, opinion and complete jibberish for your entertainment. Collect ‘em, swap ‘em, forget where you put ‘em. Please note: the opinions of Vibrations staff are not law and what we say is in jest. We really aren’t that opinionated. Most of the time.
Breaking The Illusion
Rock Trum ps!
Hip-Hop sage muses with insight and amusement on war, peace and nightclub etiquette. When not distracted by girls’ bottoms…
I Predict a Riot – 3 Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – 5 Hey Scenesters – 7 Potential Futures – 5 Let’s Have a Dance – 8 Commercial Breakdown – 3 a lover, not a It is clear that Tom is d, not evil. A I Predict a Riot – 3 goo siderable powers to lady in every hater. He puts his con n. Suggestions of ‘a ma bat op -h hip a mixing our bit like re we’ ce (sin ugh nite tho port’ may be his krypto s…) superhero metaphor 5 Charm goes at Horrible Face? – Where Did You Get Th ile clearly seems sm eky che fortunate. A And as we all along way. Which is . ics to believe the lyr to be working if we are never liable to exaggeration. are know, hip-hop lyrics debt album that Despite a wonderful 5 – Potential Futures ry drop-top car’s e be blaring out of eve ains stoically on by rights should hav rem rld wo the r, last yea the interim to bass-boosted stereo in ed pen hap e ears to hav its axis. Nothing app fortunes. suggest a change in e, members go, n – 3 Members com Commercial Breakdow rships are always harder to topple tato but Tom remains. Dic than cooperatives. vibrations 28
Rock Trum ps!
A white-suited Aryan croons songs about divorce over frenetic Dexys-flavour sass and sax in the world’s greatest wedding band… Except for the divorce references that is…
I Predict a Riot – 4 Never likely to get into a scrape with the potential to spoil the line of a good suit. Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – 6 A mixed bag, but a good tailor can hide a multitude of sins. Hey Scenesters! – 9 Few bands divide opinion quite as much as The Resplendents who seem to attract devotion and revulsion in equal measure. But a mature, full-flavo ured cheese need not be branded a guilty pleasure. It’s very high in calcium you know. Which explains the white suit… Let’s Have a Dance – 8 There’s noth ing quite like an old school showman flailing about on stage while a around in the background. The spiri super-tight band thrash t of James Brown lives on, minus the domestic assault of cour se.
I Predict a Riot – 4 Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – 6 Hey Scenesters – 9 Potential Futures – 4 Let’s Have a Dance – 8 Commercial Breakdown – 6 I Predict a Riot – 9 Everyone has their favourite International Trust story. But frankly, you can do your own research. Hey Scenesters! – 8 Did you, after reading “International Trust” find yourself going “Oi!”? You did? Well there you are then… Potential Futures – 4 Yes, we know that Jarvis Cocker plugged away gamely for 15 years before he got anywhere, but it’s not that common is it? Let’s Have A Dance – 10 A one-man human wrecking ball. A triumphant Leeds Festival 2007 will probably remain their crowing glory, with Hanson leaping like a salmon to nut a full beer can tossed at him back into the crowd. That, ladies and gentlemen, is heckler management.
Rock Trum ps!
Neil Hanson plus Pals du Jour knock out variations on a theme of the same song he wrote 10 years ago to consistently entertaining effect.
I Predict a Riot – 9 Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – 3 Hey Scenesters! – 8 Potential Futures – 4 Let’s Have A Dance – 10 Commercial Breakdown – 6
Rock Trum ps!
If you don’t get the joke, then you’re not in on the joke… or it’s not funny… one or the other anyway…
I Predict a Riot – 6 Where Did You Get That Horrible Face? – 5 Hey Scenesters! – 10 Potential Futures – 3 Let’s Have A Dance – 6 Commercial Breakdown – 10
is of ugh known yet. On the bas I Predict a Riot – 6 Not eno chiefmis ive vers sub a of e mor is track-record, Micky P Kerr of mb -bo time the ticking maker than riot inciter. But unpredictability looms large. le of alter-egos are the very stap Hey Scenesters! – 10 Joke wingly. Everyone else kno wink and nod s Fan cult behaviour. ng like 14-year-old at puerile wonders why you’re sniggeri bat. ight innuendo played with a stra enough lgamated fan-base may be Potential Futures – 3 An ama Leeds. and ding Rea at t spo und to secure them a Futureso all of Berkshire will make of it Christ knows what the kids s unlikely to sustain them look ock e-r indi e iocr med though. The ly the point though is it? at any rate. That’s not real time If they’re still together by the Commercial Breakdown – 10 . well e don e hav ’ll you read this they vibrations 29
REVIEWS ALBUMS Show Case: Independent Sounds Of Yorkshire & The Humber (Timeless Music Project) This is old news now of course, but our region was rather well-represented at SXSW earlier this year. Given the significance of the annual Austin extravaganza in what might very loosely be termed ‘independent’ music, the fact that so many local acts were invited to play is encouraging - it suggests that this neck of the woods continues to produce artists with the potential to go further than the confines of their cosseted local scene. This compilation documents the acts who got the official nod from the festival organisers as well as those who went along as ‘representatives’ of UK Trade and Investment’s Yorkshire Trades Mission. Admittedly, its purpose as a promotional tool for an international government business initiative hardly does wonders for its credibility, but if you’re willing to patiently explore seventeen tracks which vary as much in quality as they do in musical style then it’s certainly worth a look. The selection is noticeably frontloaded with established names - Wild Beasts kick things off with ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ (their instantly classic single from last year), Sky Larkin draw on their considerable arsenal of lithe, muscular pop gems to supply ‘Molten’, Rolo Tomassi continue their brave attempt to popularise such difficult (if not downright unpleasant) musical forms as jazz, progressive hardcore and math-rock with ‘Scabs’ and Paul Marshall departs radically from the sparse instrumentation of his earlier material with a demo version of new song ‘This Is War’ rich in studio embellishment. After this strong start it all gets considerably more patchy, but Awash With Antler (endlessly inventive freak folk storytellers from the Northeast), Darlings Of The Splitscreen (smart Sheffield electro-pop trio in the Hot Chip mould) and Wonderswan (reverential Leeds post-Pavement types) all more than justify their inclusion. Greg Elliott
Widgykeff - A Town of Alcoholic Children I don’t expect many albums to have an Intro in Eb. Not this sweet, either. The thing is, Hebden Bridge’s Widgykeff do a lot more than win obscurity prizes. The bright and cheerful artwork on the CD case announces the tone with broad bands of colour, high contrasts and bright splodges of messy excitement. James Halliday has a strong, demanding voice. He and Sam Hudson play inventive, rasping guitar. Alex Thompson (bass) and Arthur Halliday (drums) propel, support and strengthen with style. It isn’t high art, but it’s way more inventive than your indie boy rock staple. There’s an encouraging blast of adolescent rage and passion and (best of all) no obvious templates. Steve Gligorovic (engineering) and Steve Fenton (production, mix and additional engineering) have made a full, well balanced sound without trickery helped no end (I’m sure) by the fact that Widgykeff are a musically adroit bunch with plenty of ideas. In terms of “production values” it’s way ahead of the competition. Calder Recordings in Mytholmroyd have done a very good job. ‘My Mum Your Dad’ at track 9 captures the whole Widgykeff thing. A slow intro, a bust of pomp, sweetly rolling bass and a stuttering guitar followed by a sudden upward tempo shift and heroic teen angst “I didn’t shag ya sister, I just kissed her twice”. It’s Hollyoaks with a snarl and a lot of pace. There are no filler tracks. And no reason why this band shouldn’t be on the Raw Talent Stage at this year’s Leeds and Reading Festivals. They have tunes too - pay attention to ‘Real Men Drink Old Spice’, a song that goes way beyond its dumb title and its outrageous theft of some early Coldplay fragments (making them more Linkous than Martin). Just buy it. Sam Saunders
Wintermute - Robot Works (Big Scary Monsters) You can’t keep a good band down and, though the ‘Mute have had a poor run of luck with releases recently (‘Fun With Wizard Stencils’ never surfaced despite receiving favourable reviews), rather than throw their hands up they’ve thrown down a debut album that provides a comprehensive story so far as well as some new surprises.
Most fans will be familiar with the ‘Fun With...’ tracks, but for those new to things a brief summary: five silly titles but some very serious complex guitar lines from David Hemmings and Dan Howard backed up by the Kyuss influenced bass of Chris Newbould and the erratic but tight drums of Ben Johnson. Very math, very pop. Now for the rest. As a gift to the dedicated, the lads have redone their early stuff and, though some songs like ‘Gambling or Playing Cards’ and ‘Ask a Stupid Question’ don’t benefit massively, ‘Shark Vs E-boat’ and ‘The Fall of Hans Gruber’ grow wings. The former, a hyperactive collection of very familiar riffs thrown into new and exciting shapes, sparkles and dazzles with knowing confidence as Dan shrieks over a melody that can only be described as ‘bloody clever’, while ‘Hans Gruber’ gains dynamic, momentum and impact... a bit like the eponymous villain himself. It’s not all angular nostalgia though, and if ‘Disco Loadout’ and ‘Irrational Fear’ are anything to go by, the shape of things to come is good. The complexity has become integral to the tune rather than sporadic, the rhythms solid yet varied, the vocals... still pretty extreme and still a mix of businesspeak and action film quotes, but the softness of ‘Irrational Fear’s second unnamed vocal line shows potential. Even if the strings are a bit much. Overall, they’ve done some good things but now... now’s the time to take this city. Rob Wright
Kong - Snake Magnet (Brew Records) Take two members of Oceansize, add one deranged friend, put them in a room with a bunch of instruments and tell them to do all the things they can’t/ don’t do in Oceansize. That’s the Kong formula and it’s a dangerous recipe... but an exciting one. With such a formula, chaos is inevitable, and from the get-go a musical mandelbrot is in the making. ‘Leather Penny’ fires off heart tremor beats and bass from Lulu and Krem against twanging guitars from Magpie that plunge chest deep into slurry and sneering vocals hysterically urging ‘giddyup’. Then, before you know it, you’re listening to a newer, nastier song... and it’s not even the next track. Fortunately, ‘Blood of a Dove’ shows some mercy, stumbling along zombielike and dropping riffs like decayed vibrations 30
limbs over a ketamine-fried Nick Cave vocal. It’s not pleasant but brutally compelling. There’s a lot of that here – ‘Gwant’ throws random intros together until something fits then ploughs on from riff to riff like a juggernaut until Magpie collapses into a touretic fit of obscenity; ‘Nih’ has them tuning up mid-album before making the noises of buildings collapsing together like dominos. Honeys are muddied, pumpkins are smashed and the whole thing is doused in industrial-strength sludge. But it’s compelling, this strange avanthard, and pliable; divisions between songs are arbitrary – you could split a song into thirds and tape them together with other bits of songs and still have them make some musical sense. Some. There is a side effect and this is that such freedom has led in places to extreme indulgence –one song (‘K(L) ong’) does nothing for 8 minutes. There is however a genuine desire to do something different and disturbing, and for this album of dirty suggestions & violent solutions they should be praised. Hail to the Kong. Rob Wright
Blue Roses - Doubtful Comforts (XL Salvia) At the tender age of 21... no, she’s read that intro a million times. Try again. I remember first seeing Shipley’s Laura Groves supporting James Yorkston, armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a beguiling voice. Though I thought she was good then, I certainly wasn’t expecting this now. On hearing ‘Doubtful Comforts’, it is very easy to make an obvious comparison – multi-instrumentalism, a helium rich voice with a hint of regional authenticity and fairy tale songs of love and loss that tip toward the epic; begins with ‘K’, ends with ‘Ate Bush’? It’s not that cut and dried though. True, there’s all that and a wide-eyed naivety to boot, but integral to this is a Tori Amos or Scout Niblet complexity; you get all the sweetness of double-tracked harmonies and angelic chorales in songs like ‘Cover Your Tracks’ and ‘I Wish I...’ but with sombre, gathering melodies that burst like thunder-heads over parched lands. It’s not all about serious juxtapositions though – some of it is remarkably good fun. ‘I Am Leaving’, all alien synths, acoustic guitars and wild hysterical voices, is like Hot Chip goes unplugged
and strangely danceable for it. It gets clever too. The self-deprecating ‘Does Anyone Love Me Now?’ feeds off a nervous guitar to match the words, but ends up massively reinforced by harp and organ. Undersated it is not.
affectionately... destroyed, both by Vessels and their mates so that you don’t feel ripped off. If you like Vessels, it’s relevant, if you think they’re too hippy... this might change your mind. Worth a wider release.
In fact, this is probably my only criticism of this album. It’s so epic, so rich and luscious that you end up yearning for just Laura and her gorgeous voice to take and keep centre stage rather than be a joined by a choir of cloned angels. But then you remember that voice, that melody, that breaking of the heart – to be so lovelorn you need the company. And oh! Such sweet company.
Vessels - Retreat I’ve been burned by remixes before, so even when the aforementioned remix comes from Vessels, I am... suspicious. But the Luke Drozd artwork and promise of re-imaginings from Errors and Bracken... here we go again... The opening un-credited (but probably a band member) remix of ‘Walking Through Walls’ serves as both intro and statement of intent. Bowed guitar and the reassuring voice of Tom Evans abut with static bristled break beats – a cyborg hippy on a love-in spree, but still resembling the original material. The following take on ‘Altered Beast’ from drummer Lee Malcolm is completely unrecognisable and brilliant, an undulating Escher loop of a song that sparks with internal energies. Track 3, ‘Descent’, sounds more like the source, but concentrates on the masked electronic understitching. ‘Peajerk’ concludes what for me is the first half of an album of two halves with Tom Evans taking sinister piano and ghost flute samples through barriers of frantic beats to musical euphoria. The Vessels lads have messed about – now it’s time for their mates to have a go. The quality remains high on part two, as does the variety. Bracken whack up the bass on ‘Walking Through Walls’ and add loads of crunchy, agonising noise that feels almost drug induced. Anderegg on the other hand turns ‘Remain’ into a warm ambient blanket of sound... maybe a bit too dream catchery. ‘Wave Those Arms’ is liberally trimmed by Little Evil into broken music worthy of 4 Tet and ‘Idle Brain’ gets all Kraftwerk in the hands of Errors.
Colin Mounsey Let Love Win It’s five years since I reviewed Colin Mounsey’s debut, Hungry Pig EP. Piano-led, personal songs are still ascendant. Hunslett, tenderness and a certain mournfulness are principal ingredients. The nine songs (plus a reprise of opening tune ‘Let Love Win’) are mature developments of the earlier approach. The piano has more company and there is a decent slice of electronic embellishment and experimentation (including, on ‘Version3 feat. C-Mone’, the unfortunate use of vocoder). The very strong ‘Only Sleep’ that follows, is alt-country if it wants a label, and it leads, happily enough, into the mainstream country of ‘South Yorkshire Cowboy’. After a tentative English opening, the accent settles quickly into something like the midWest: “But where does a cowboy from South Yorkshire belong? / It’s quite clear Nebraska ain’t my home?”. It’s a strong tune with an unsettling lyric that doesn’t answer it’s own question. Colin’s voice is as good as ever, and the piano is beautifully played. It’s like Elton John with all the bullshit removed and a bit more aesthetic exploration added. ‘Traveller’s Song’ continues the westward journey. ‘O My Brother’ (like the impressive ‘Sing Goodbye’) could be a Nick Cave song. The production gives it power and weight, and it holds up like a classic. For me, it’s the highlight of the album and as good a simple song as you’ll hear all year. ‘201765’ is an oddity. A piano theme is played under a spoken intonation of the six digits of the title (The Byrds UK single release of Dylan’s ‘Hey Mr Tambourine Man’ was CBS catalogue number 201765). The closing 74 seconds returns to Yorkshire with some gentle colliery brass playing over a solitary snare drum. Gilt-edged singer songwriter. Sam Saunders
What’s great about this Ummagumma of an album is that each song is so vibrations 31
REVIEWS SINGLES Ellen & The Escapades Without You ‘Without You’ is a perky slice of folk-pop with a definite spring in its step, and fortunately a million miles away from the similarly titled Mariah Carey tune, both stylistically and in attitude: “Now you’ve gone away, there’s better ways to fill my days, without you.” B-side ‘Run’ is a more laid-back affair, the kind of thing that should be soundtracking Gray’s Anatomy. A lot of meticulous attention to detail has gone into crafting the packaging of this debut single too, the 7” coming in a hand-stitched felt cover. It’s limited to 300 copies, so you’d better get in quick… Spencer Bayles
China Shop Bull - Sandblaster There are easy jokes to be made when a band has a name like China Shop Bull. They used to be called Fulibulbus, so it is clear band names are not their strength. It’s obvious they get a lot of influence from bands such as The Prodigy with its frenetic rock/dance cross over. At over 5 minutes long however ‘Sandblaster’ just seems to run out of ideas and following a strong start resorts to simply shouting ‘Sandblaster’ with a few other lines appearing intermittently in a bid for variety. If you’re drunk it will make you want to jump around, otherwise you’ll probably just switch it off. Nick Todd
Little Boots - New in Town
and full-on pop, is Little Boots. The key is a suspension of disbelief. It’s a bit like watching a Terry Gilliam film. It’s sparkly, fantastical, nonsensical and very good indeed. Lord knows that cynicism has its place in the murky insalubrious world of pop music, but every so often it occurs that the people who believe in fairies are probably having a lot more fun. So let go, relax, enjoy yourself. Rob Paul Chapman
Cyanide Pills - Break It Up This magnificent piece of vinyl was released ages ago. But, as a timeless gem on Damaged Goods Records from Leeds’ finest punks, produced by Carl Rosamund, the date matters not. On the A side of the bright yellow seven inch is two minutes eleven seconds of tightly packed charge: ‘Break It Up’. Tune, chorus, band shout, guitar hook, breakdown, climax - a whole episode of Causality. How do they do it? Like this: “In A&E, I said ‘Sadie, I’m sick of being your referee. It’s just not me”. Turn it over and race through the breathless ‘Mail Order Bride’ and be robbed blind by ‘Stick ‘Em Up’: 1:57 and 1:56 respectively. Sam Saunders
Messina - Split Your Heart With An Arrow Being packaged in a DVD case rather than a conventional CD case (crazy!) is a fitting gesture for Wakefield quartet Messina’s new single. It’s a deliberate misdirection. But don’t let that or the intro fool you, once you get past the delicate first verse, ‘Split Your Heart…’ explodes into an eclectic mix of alternative, prog and rock perfectly balancing soaring melodies and unusual rhythms – reminiscent of Biffy Clyro before they journeyed a bit too far into mainstream. Supporting tracks ‘Answers’ and ‘The Lost Swan’ are more indulgent, showcasing the band’s more funk and proggy nature, but nevertheless enjoyable. Refreshingly different.
A few years ago you couldn’t move for scruffy indie oiks waxing lyrical about “pop” becoming a “dirty word”. Well cheers guys. Cathy Dennis and Xenomania thank you. After all, Tom Bailey it’s always nice to be patronised by someone who wouldn’t know a hook if it sailed in on the Jolly Roger pursued by a 15 Stories - The Round Part 1I ticking crocodile. Pop is in its halcyon days. “Manufactured” acts like Girls Aloud and Britney Spears are knocking out the kind of quality not seen since the days of Motown. But peer pressure is a terrible thing. So if you’re struggling, fear not, because bridging the gap between credible indie
t’s a mystery to me why some bands think it’s necessary to sing in accents not their own. 15 Stories may be from Haworth but singer Luke insists on using an American accent. Mind you, I suppose it’s in keeping with the generic AOR metal that goes down a storm in North American stadiums, and young Luke may already see that’s where 15
Stories’ future lies. In short, they could well find themselves on the Reef road to fame and fortune. I won’t be along for the ride, not even when you come back for the triumphant homecoming gig at the yet-to-be-built Leeds arena. Ah, the stuff of dreams….. Steve Walsh
Loqui - Hermes Pan (Sturdy Records) A band usually associated with musical flamboyance, this release seems to signal that Rob Chapman is taking Loqui down a radically different boulevard. Propelled by a drum roll-like rhythm with minimal support from the other instruments (until a wigged out solo explodes across the closing minute), it is an intoxicating celebration of dance. There’s also an acapella version, which superbly builds on the first version. Final track, a near acapella arrangement of Randy Newman’s ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ suggests that Chapman has a talent for vocal arrangements that are strong enough to stand with little musical accompaniment. Prepare to be surprised. Steve Walsh
Just Handshakes (We’re British) - Paper Cranes b/w Talking Picture Just Handshakes (We’re British) appear to have it all: a great name (kudos for those brackets), some fantastic pop songs (think a less angular Sky Larkin) and a lovely approach to packaging their CDs - it pained me to untie the bow it came wrapped in. Lines like “You will marry a nice man who looks like a Blue Peter presenter” hint at a lyrical approach that could perhaps prove too twee for some, but it’s a great chorus hook that may burrow into your brain while, perhaps less joyously, bringing to mind images of Richard Bacon or John Leslie. Spencer Bayles
Samsa - Sweet Disease (Adventure Club) (EP) It’s obvious that Samsa are in the game for all the right reasons. Too many years plugging away in obscurity have passed for anyone to label them careerists and in terms of sheer dedication they thoroughly deserve to have found a home on Leeds/London label Adventure Club, for whom this EP and the trio’s imminent full-length debut are among its first releases. The three songs presented here see Samsa sticking to their preferred format: vibrations 32
meticulously- constructed nuggets of dark, scuzzy art-pop in the vein of Six By Seven or, on a more local tip, I Concur. Sadly, for all their craft they’re rather monochrome compositions which unfold in an effective but ultimately predictable manner. Let’s hope the album contains a little more in the way of light and shade – for now it remains as difficult to get super-excited about Samsa as it is to actively dislike them. Greg Elliott
The March Greens - You Shall Go To The Ball (EP) Disneycore? Ok I’m being a bit silly but there is a clear fairytale theme to this debut effort, or at least opening track ‘Cinders’. Joking aside, this Leeds based pop act have a wonderfully mellow feeling, coming across like an afternoon daydream. As the new project of Last Night’s TV frontman Spencer Bayles and violinist Sarah Jones, it is no surprise The March Greens, completed with Ric Neale and Ivan Mack from the Ric Neale Band, offer up a collection of carefully crafted songs; thoughtfully constructed but crucially not overcomplicated. ‘You Don’t Need It Or Deserve It’ shines with genuine sincerity as it breezes by, followed by the equally strong ‘Manhattan’. There are no flashy gimmicks here, just a promising debut that will charm its way onto your stereo again and again. Tom Bailey
The Sugars - Gossip (EP) Gossip is the follow up to The Sugars debut album that was nominated for Best New Album of the Year by XFM. Title track ‘Gossip’ is a tale of bitter love and uses the male/female vocals of Matt Bolton and Anna Greenaway very effectively to stop the song becoming boring. The song changes tempo to great effect with Greenaway beginning and ending the song accompanied simply by a hushed piano. This almost jazz section sandwiches an energetic rock tune that doesn’t give you a moment to catch a breath. The rest of the EP is rather disappointingly just remixes of ‘Way To My Heart’. The ‘Disco Bloodbath Remix’ doesn’t ever really get going and quickly makes you skip on. ‘Wayyyy To My Heart’ the ‘PowerUP?! Remix’ is a stronger synth heavy effort making your feet develop a mind of their own as they draw you to the nearest dancefloor. The ‘Kato Remix’ is a rather haunting affair which sounds better than you may expect. All in all, a varied range of tracks wouldn’t have gone a miss guys. Nick Todd
Northern Beats - Twisted Animation (EP) A lot of EPs you hear from local bands are normally either poor or ok in general, so when something crosses your path which is actually pretty good, it’s something to shout about. This four-piece, hailing from Huddersfield, manage the quite tricky job of blurring the boundaries between leftfield Indie and Hip-Hop, kind of like Yorkshire’s answer to Gym Class Heroes. Title track ‘Twisted Animation’ show lead singer and guitarist Ben Jones to be highly talented in the lyrical department, whilst ‘Tooley’s Tune’ shows how well his voice can compliment the softer backing music. The eclectic, Incubus inspired ‘Smoke Rings’ and the distant sounding ‘Broken Bones’ show that Northern Beats definitely have the right idea as to the style and direction of their music, making ‘Twisted Animation E.P.’ more of a release then simply a batch of recorded songs thrown together. Justin Myers
The Truth About Frank - 14 Versions of the Same (EP) Volume 11 This inventive but mysterious Leeds electronica/noise duo are shaping up to be significant players on the local scene, and potentially even further a field. Their collages of found electronic and environmental sounds and recorded speech are by turns playful and broodingly sinister but always full of purpose and drive. Here they have jumped on board with a blog based collaborative project (see http:// www.ldwr.net/) which is facilitating the production and release of EP’s by 14 different artists all using the same base electronic sounds supplied by the bloggers. The four tracks here move between ambient washes through spiky fuzz to juddering rhythms. Excellent. Steve Walsh
Silverlode - A Glimpse of Lightning (EP) The latest offering from one of the most original groups in Leeds really shows the different sides of a band that, by their own admission, don’t fit in to the mainstream city scene. From the beautifully melodic and delicate ‘The Golden Pathway’, through the Zeppelin-esque story telling folk meander of ‘I Am Cain’, to the pounding anthem of title track ‘A Glimpse Of
Lightning’, each has its own magic. The poetry in the vocals coupled with a fine arrangement of instruments shows real attention to detail and a depth of knowledge that most local bands couldn’t dream of. The seemingly Kinks-inspired ‘Mr Martin Pincher’ is a stand out track of rolling sixties bouncy folk pop, whilst the punchy bassline and up-tempo chorus of ‘Hunting Eyes’ proves that Silverlode can handle a rockier number as well. Silverlode will never be trendy in the pure NME sense of the word. But when there are so many strings to their bow, that’s easy to ignore. Adam Sewell
The Tempus - Follow You (EP) In terms of popular influences on Yorkshire bands, I doubt that Nickelback rank too highly. They have, however, found one group of devotees in The Tempus. These Bradford lads have taken American mid-rock influence and run with it throughout this EP, including the obligatory mid-west twang on the voice of frontman Jonny Miller. Title track ‘Follow You’ is first and actually starts the CD off rather well. Plenty of power and drive, if slightly limited by unimaginative vocals. This was followed by ‘Mercy’ which, following a bright acoustic opening, soon fell back into type. ‘Dying Breed’ then rumbled along with competency but no originality and therein lies the problem. My hopes rose as a bounce-along chorus on ‘Making New’ hints at something different. But final track ‘Thieves and Lovers’ soon drags the listener firmly back in The Tempus’ comfort zone. There is nothing inherently wrong with the tracks. Some clever lead lines and rolling drums show that these boys can play, but there is no feeling of fresh excitement to encourage people to listen again. Adam Sewell
The Wind-Up Birds - We Fixed the Raffle: The Post War Years (EP) Evidently this is the band’s seventh EP which, given their lack of profile in Leeds, means that at least the band are convinced of their own worth. Which is fortunate for us all really, because The Wind-Up Birds are gradually developing into one of the city’s essential bands. Always fantastic live, their recordings provide the opportunity to appreciate the vibrations 33
REVIEWS subtleties at the heart of their sound. The music may appear Fallishly direct at times but guitarist Mat Forrest, bassist Ben Dawson and drummer Oli Jefferson are inventive and considered, even at the wildest points. But it’s Paul Ackroyd’s strikingly original lyrics that show how far the band have developed. Like all good lyricists, Ackroyd is a storyteller at heart and his songs are becoming more like prose than conventional songs. Generally, his subject matter is the dull detail of everyday life but Ackroyd invests them with a surreal wit and an underlying sense of dread and foreboding. Steve Walsh
The Travelling Band - If This Is A Gag, I’m In / The Redemption Of Mr Tom (double EP) You have to wonder why, after crafting eight songs as utterly lovely as those on this release, The Travelling Band are billing it as a double EP rather than an (albeit short) album. Whatever, this is the kind of country-infused pop that’ll keep Bob Harris whispering happy thoughts for months to come. These are great tunes: ‘Biding My Time’ conjures up the Broken Family Band, while the feel good pop of ‘Desolate Icicle’ comes across like The Feeling gone country. Extra points for the brilliantly surreal line “I’m all alone like a desolate icicle, sticking out in the evening crowd” too. Spencer Bayles
Ric Neale - Someone Else’s Home (EP) This six song collection is a superb set of finely written, sweetly played tunes. Ric Neale is a teak-lined cabinet of craftsmanship and impeccable balance. His own precise playing (guitar, mandolin, ukulele, accordion, percussion) is supplemented with additions from Spencer Bayles on bass (and glockenspiel) and Ivan Mack on cajon and drums, with Missy Claughan cello and Stuart Hudson guitar. The mood is gently pleading. These are romantic songs with adult complexity. They dance between light and shade: “I just want to make you smile, that’s all”, he sings - but the woman he’s singing for is no airhead and smiles will need more than party tricks.
A favourite? Each one is as strong as the other. As I type this, ‘Stop Holding On’ is playing and so it’s my favourite, with its free-tumbling, word-packed final line. But each one has similar delights. Title track ‘Someone Else’s Home’ has all those extra instruments, and feeling it all fit together so neatly is very satisfying. I note a contribution to artwork from Danny Cope - another of Leeds’ songwriters. The quality of the City’s singer-songwriters is a constant marvel, and Ric Neale is in the leading bunch. This EP is flawless. Sam Saunders
Pushbike Army Take It Away (EP) Here are four direct, intense, proper songs. John Rennie has a bellyful of things to sing and shout, and the band (John Roberts on bass and Chris Hide on drums) have a great natural feel. ‘Take It Away’ races through a triumphant guitar riff and urgent verse to a killer hook. ‘So Young, So Angry’ is blessed with a change of pace and really fine yellalong chorus - other bands will be madly jealous. The middle tracks, ‘I Don’t Care If You’re Falling In Love’ and ‘Street Performer’, are very respectable tunes too. Top value and top guitar highlights from a band bursting with personality. Sam Saunders
The Finnlys - The Money Tree (EP) If you’re an avid viewer of the X Factor who votes weekly then rushes out to purchase the winner’s album, this is definitely not for you. However if you have the likes of the Coral and the Arctic Monkeys in your music collection, this may be the link between the two. Just like the Coral, they have multiple singers and they all pitch in as the harmonies kick in. This makes the unfamiliar tracks feel warm and comforting, and wouldn’t clear the dance floor when played.
PREVIEWS Kong + Chickenhawk + Shield Your Eyes + These Monsters - 24th July Facemasks, boiler suits, zombies, hoe downs, space ships head bands and really, really loud guitars. If that doesn’t whet your appetite then obviously I seriously misjudged you. For the discerning among you who like your music hard, heavy and disturbed wipe the flecks of drool from your chops and get your arse down to the Brudenell to see the immense Kong face off against the technometalwiddlemeisters (I love making up composite words) Chickenhawk – they’re celebrating an album launch or single launch or both or none. No matter – must be seen and heard to be believed. Oh, and Shield Your Eyes and These Monsters are pretty nasty too… Rob Wright
M83 @ The Cockpit, 8th July If the phrase ambient electronica fills you will cynicism, fear not. M83, or if you prefer, the work of Anthony Gonzalez, is far from just self-indulgent noise. Whilst his earlier albums were as much about capturing a mood as they were communicating more traditional narratives, 2008’s Saturdays = Youth marked the perfect marriage of his unique style with more conventional indie pop structures, spawning such gems as singles ‘Graveyard Girl’ and ‘Kim and Jessie’. Fresh off support duties with Kings of Leon and Depeche Mode, Gonzalez has both the edgy sound and hip friends to boot. You never know, you just might like it. Tom Bailey
Voodoo Glow Skulls + China Shop Bull + Acid Drops @ Carpe Diem, 10th August
The only problem I have with this EP, is that it leaves you wanting more, and in the words of Oliver Twist, “please sir, could I have more?”
Though not to everyone’s taste (see previous review), I’ve been following Fulibulbus’s career with interest… though I’ve never actually seen them. Now they have become China Shop Bull and are playing for I suspect free, I should get down and see them. It’s a bit of a nostalgia trip for me as I used to love stuff like Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dog Eat Dog and Collapsed Lung and CSB…. Well, they take me back to a simpler time with simpler pleasures (no one had ever even heard of Sudoku then). I’ve never even heard of the other two. Should be fun.
And for fans of the Monkeys, you get those beautiful riffs, slow then fast, appealing to everyone from the people nodding their heads holding a pint on the sidelines, to the all out mosher in the pit; this caters for all.
That Leeds Festival @ Bramham Park, 28th - 30th August Bit obvious, fair point, and you will have to put up with some drunken lairy dickheads who pass themselves off as ‘music fans’, but it’s outdoors, it’s noisy, it’s big and it’s still here. I’m still holding out for FNM to play, but it will probably be the smaller stages who put on the most interesting stuff – the unsigned stage for the last three years, for instance, has seen the likes of Grammatics, Pulled Apart By Horses and Dinosaur Pile-up, all of which are now creating quite a national furore without being ‘the next Kaiser Chiefs’… nothing wrong with the Chiefs, I assure you, but this stage only goes to show that there is more to this county, nay country, than meets the ear. Rob Wright
LIVE The Necks @ Dean Clough, Halifax In producing their art, it’s sometimes said that sculptors are simply releasing the form of their subject, rather than fashioning something by the mere imposition of will. This idea has the artist acting almost as a passive agent of the will of the object being created. Watching The Necks improvise is a little like seeing this idea applied to music. At the start of each set, all three of them sit waiting for silence, and then listen for a way to start from that silence. What follows next depends on the musical telepathy that pianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buck have developed over the past twenty years. The first set moves from Abrahams’ opening Glass-like arpeggios, through Bucks’ chiming Chinese bells to Swanton’s two note motif to set up an opening sequence that is driven by a deep ambient pulse. As the pulse turns into a drone the music takes on the shape of a series of huge, rolling waves crashing around the room. After 45 minutes, the trio wind the noise down to the clacking of an automata from Buck’s percussive toolbox. The second set again takes an unexpected swerve from Abrahams’ Monk-like opening phrases and becomes a bass heavy wall of noise as the pianist augments Swanton’s depth charging bass and Buck’s pummelled
cymbals and drums. Buck locks the music in a seemingly endless drum roll that takes in an implied Kraut rock beat before the drummer drops in a series of loud tom tom fanfares. The Necks play music that defies easy categorisation, play as an indivisible unit utterly devoid of pretence and demand that you extend your attention span almost to breaking point. They’re certainly not making it easy for themselves in a culture dominated by shallow thrills. The Necks are unique. Steve Walsh
Cursive, The Twilight Sad, Dananananaykroyd, King Creosote, Pictish Trail, Player Piano @ Leeds Brudenell Social Club Of all the manifest talent assembled for the Leeds leg of the Stag and Dagger touring festival this year, the majority of it seems to be Scottish and playing at the Brudenell tonight. Indeed, old fashioned song-smiths Player Piano – who draw their membership from both London and Indiana – have chosen to get into the spirit of the occasion by recruiting Fence Collective stalwarts Pictish Trail and King Creosote into their ranks; as it turns out they’ll be responding in kind later on. These may sound like the ingredients for a somewhat excessive helping of musical fare, but there are enough subtle variances between the different configurations of this ‘super-group’ to keep it all from becoming too monochrome - and enough good humour and craft to win over an audience gearing up for the more bombastic acts due on next. The final collaboration proves the most successful, a delightful and unexpectedly pounding rendition of his ‘Saffy Nool’ which shows the extent to which Kenny Anderson continues to be the one to beat in this particular field. Dananananaykroyd abruptly kick us into a much higher gear with their instantly likeable, high-octane pop. It’s a time-honoured formula: take an established style, significantly up the melody quotient and market the results to impressionable youngsters as genuine innovation – in this case we’re talking the frenzied, thrashing dance-punk of The Blood Brothers complete with two sparring, caterwauling singers and a welcome excision of the machismo commonly associated with heavier musical forms. To give them their due though, this seven-piece Glasgow troupe know
exactly what they’re doing – they boast an exuberant, absurdly enjoyable live show and, in Calum Gunn, a frontman who is genuinely charming. Shared geographical roots aside, it’s hard to think of a more effective counterpoint to their set than The Twilight Sad. In as much as the stockin-trade of this Glaswegian five-piece is the judicious interplay of light and shade within monolithic slabs of noise, their live performance is perfectly attuned to its musical foundations. Just as cherubic frontman James Graham’s gorgeous, lilting vocals transfigures the vaguely familiar sonic squall generated by his band mates into something beautiful, his magnetic stage presence also makes a virtue of their static playing style. In a different setting their stubborn refusal to throw anything even vaguely resembling a shape would be a disaster, but as a means of presenting these grandiose compositions it works perfectly. What impresses most about them is the sense that everything that happens on stage is in service of the song Graham seems lost in the music and largely oblivious to his audience for the bulk of the set; the simmering tension between the performers feels strangely apposite given the brooding intensity of the show as a whole. Cursive bring matters to a head and restore the party atmosphere with a massively well-received headlining performance, seemingly summoning devout fans out of the woodwork as only truly cult bands are capable of doing. It’s reassuring that these five old Nebraskan hands continue to steer a steady course, ensuring that even if the original post-hardcore project now largely lies in ruins, its legacy remains safe from the bastardised version of the genre which continues to sell millions. Greg Elliott
Worriedaboutsatan, Fuzzy Lights, Lupercal @ The Packhorse Richard of Gizeh Records is looking pleased with himself, and rightly so. The place is heaving, the worriedaboutsatan CD is out on time and he has a surprise for the assembled mass. Plus he has a beer in his hand. Yep, things are good. First, the surprise: Lupercal are in fact Tom Morris and Sophie Green from Her Name is Calla, currently in hiatus but still putting it about. Seated on two
REVIEWS stools and barely visible in the crowd, they proceed to spellbind the room with an improvised set of Calla songs. “We were going to write a load of new stuff,” says the modestly confident Tom, “but... I bought a house.” From their banter it’s obvious that they’ve missed the stage and their last number, a mix of ‘Nylon’, ‘New England’ and ‘Motherfucker! It’s Alive and Breathing’, is devastating. A hard act to follow. Unfortunately, Fuzzy Lights are not up to the task. The low waltzing drone they produce has that Spiritualised flavour (now with added violin!) but Xavier’s voice is so low and mumbling that it might as well not be there. Old school shoegaze, but it feels a bit lacklustre tonight. Playing against the backdrop of 13 Tzameti, worriedaboutsatan’s unsettling ambience makes a perfect soundtrack, but there’s a fidgety anxiousness to Tom Ragsdale that gives the impression that he wants to do more. Recruiting Lupercallians Tom and Sophie to provide wails and strings helps towards that extra something, but it is when Tom picks up his guitar and joins Gavin that they really hit the heights. No matter, the album material is sound and very ‘last of the superstar DJs’, especially with Tom’s keyboard jiggling - very danceable. It is ‘Butterfly Effect’ with its raunchy guitars and eardrum threatening bass that steals the show though. More noise, boys. Rob Wright
Penny Broadhurst & The Maffikers, Trapdoor Minotaur, This Many Boyfriends @ The Packhorse, Leeds This gig was a kind of tribute to bright kids’ devotion to sugary snacks, cultured humour and simple music made slightly strange. This Many Boyfriends opened up. They’re a crowd of 20 something’s on their second only gig, and shaping up to be something significant. Nice hair and cheerful smiles are always welcome. So too is their enthusiasm for The Pastilles, whose records inspired their best tune and their best intro “this is a song about being childish about records”. Their first gig (I am told by an attentive Mark Sturdy) consisted entirely of Ballboy covers.
Following them, Trapdoor Minotaur played a strong set of quirky rocksurfing indie. Sarah holds stage centre with garage-strength banter. Rachel (AKA Mildred of legendary band Chevron) drums like a titan and Amy’s shy confidence makes a big noise on keyboard. Satisfyingly riff heavy, and good songs too. Penny Broadhurst’s five piece band (The Maffickers) and a full set of subtly subversive pop jingles sweep across the even-numbered decades of 60s, 80s and 00s sheen. Penny’s commanding voice and shining accessories dominate the room. Her classically-shaped songs are collector-strength exotica. ‘Tempting’ has a vampire’s glint, there are dancing songs and gossip songs, and, in the end, not as many songs as the audience really wanted. Changes of pace, variety and a light touch keep things focussed and hold the attention to the last chord. Sam Saunders
Last Harbour, The Amber Sleep, Peasman @ Royal Park Tom Evans, vocalist and axeman of Vessels, has taken to his stool to give an understated and brief performance tonight before buggering off to Lee Malcolm’s birthday bash - as are most of the audience. His deeply soulful voice is certainly the sound of the summer and each song is a soothing slice of niceness, a far cry from the pitch and yawl of Vessels. It is so nice in fact that it begins to lull me to sleep, but fortunately his last number, a cover of Regina Spektor’s ‘Chemo Limo’ with its pitch black subject and sharp pointy chorus jolts me right out of my reverie in a good way. I could make another masturbation analogy, this time involving cups of tea, but I won’t. The Amber Sleep seem to be growing exponentially in the long run, but they are down a percussionist tonight. There’ still nine of them. The absence of percussion is no bad thing, though, as they sound like a unique crossover of The Smiths and Elgar’s Cello Concerto – melancholy indie draped in strings and woodwind. Also, Graham Jones deep mournful voice has received reinforcing vocals from cellist Lauren Smith giving it a further rich, delicious aspect. Nicely odd and oddly nice.
Kevin Craig has a Bonnie Prince Billy voice and look reminiscent of bedside vigils, high plain drifting and desert bleached bones but is surprisingly amiable and modest. Though the audience is also modest, the music is as dark, indulgent and appreciated as a chocolate body wrap; the violin and viola of Sarah Kemp and James Youngjohns wail and cry over David Armes mandolin-played acoustic and Gina Murphy’s sombre keys. The only disruption is the chirrup of a mobile phone line. “It’s okay,” murmurs Kevin, “we haven’t gone break beat.” I should hope not. Rob Wright
Shakinouts @ Cockpit It has been two years since the formation of Shakinouts and the fun-filled juggernaut shows no sign of stopping. A lively Cockpit crowd chanted the boys on to the stage, awaiting the next chapter in the gospel of how bouncy pop-rock should be played. Following recent steps towards the holy grail of musical success, it seemed the band were keen to show that their hearts still lay in the Leeds scene. Most notable tracks ‘I Am Not Dead’ and ’Time You Were Told’ led the line up well during an infectiously upbeat set. But each song seemed equally consistent and there were little or no weak links. What stood out was just how tight each song was, from the layered guitar to the cleverly worked vocal harmonies. The fact that Matt and Jamie swapped vocal responsibilities so often kept the set fresh and provided subtle differences in the songs that may set them above other similar bands. Final track ‘Are You Happy?’ proved to be nothing short of a true anthem. There was a lot of power in the song that many would rate as their best. The sing-along outro had everybody in the room going, supported by banner waving fans. There are many aspects to the Shakinouts that many other bands should take on board. To leave the venue buzzing with the crowd still chanting shows how a band can so easily get into your head and your heart. Adam Sewell
Your CD-Rs deserve a second listen. So, we’ll listen twice (and twice only) and then type. 20 words per track Keep ‘em coming... Luke Hirst – Rock ‘n’ Roll Begins At Home Wonderboy Song: Echoes of Busted, if Busted had been even slightly good. Here we have someone who can evidently craft a tune. World Outside Your Door: Wearing his Beach Boys influences on his sleeve a bit too blatantly, but another one for milkmen to whistle to. Lost Without You: Crikey, this is utterly, utterly lovely. Light, classic, jaunty pop in the vein of Ben Folds or BC Camplight. Sweet. Evaline: Another fine tune and some great vocal harmonies, embodying the best bits of Jellyfish and Roger Manning Jr’s solo work. Doo Wop Sonata #2: Ignore the rubbish title, and this is a sprightly slice of Jason Falkner-style pop that rounds off the EP nicely.
Eichmann Trial: Frantic undercurrent, and starts with percussion that sounds like a pen hitting a desk. Ends in something of a cacophony. A New Low: A new high actually, and a decent pop song. A bit early 90s Wedding Present in the vocals and tune. Nova Scotia: Spoken word piece over a synthesised backdrop. The voice is lost in the mix alas, which may be the point.
THE REST The Dead Orchestra – EP: Beautifully arranged and orchestrated, well-executed pop music. That may even be a real harp on the excellent opener Fragile Soul.
Richard Hill – demo
Killing Fields of Ontario – Demo: A blend of toetapping Americana, banjos, Chili Peppers guitars and country-inflected Jack White vocals: more than your average Leeds wannabes.
In This Horror Story: The kind of catchy pop the Coral and the Zutons once favoured. Alas, terrible production makes it a tough listen.
Ben Forster – Fall Apart: Dull boyband-reject pop pap. Man, I wish Ben would record a vapid cover of Bleeding Love. Oh, he has. Thanks.
Jen And James: Late-era Beatles vocals with some big guitars and another great melody, but again, the distorted production does it no favours.
The Bear Driver – Paws & Claws: Samsa sideproject which alas doesn’t have Samsa’s urgency or big guitars, instead being a bit Polyphonic Spree (minus the robes).
King Pest – EP
Super Sonic Hero – demo: Blissfully uncool 80s heavy rock riffs and Thunder vocals, but some good tunes nevertheless, mostly written about their fans apparently.
Contact: Following the synth-pop revival, maybe the next resurgence will be 80s rock, in which case this’ll be a sure-fire hit. Holiday: The riff is a bit like Tom Petty’s Learning To Fly, which is always going to be a good thing. On The Town: Weakest moment here, but the great bassline and nagging chorus are still hard to shift after a couple of listens.
One Day, After School - demo Softly Softly: There’s some real emotion here, but the vocal is quite out of tune. Always nice to hear some melodica, mind.
Sergeant – Swiftly Does It: Nice if inoffensive jangly pop from Scouse-sounding Scots. Apparently toured with the Fratellis, for which they undoubtedly deserve your pity. Unfinished Drawings – EP: A mix of acoustic guitars and electronics that’s not quite as unique as their press pack suggests. Nice songs anyway. Muarena Helena – Fierce Pale Hen: Atmospheric, melodic, mostly instrumental not-quite-post rock. ‘Pre-rock’ perhaps? No, that can’t be right either. Tasteful landscape shot on the cover.
One for the road
Dave Simpson Interview by Steve Walsh Illustration by Simon Lewis
If you read the music content of The Guardian, chances are you’ve come across the writings of Leeds born and bred Dave Simpson. Most of his live reviews are of Leeds gigs and he regularly puts the spotlight on the Leeds music scene in feature-length articles. On his journey from failed drummer, to music weekly staffer, to globe trotting national daily journalist, he tells Steve Walsh what he’s learned along the way… 1. All music journalists are failed musicians When I was young I was obsessed by New Order. I wanted to be in New Order. In fact, I specifically wanted to be the drummer in New Order, and I bought a drum kit and learned all the drum parts for their songs. The idea was that if Stephen Morris was ever kicked out I’d be there ready and waiting to join the band. And of course they’d have me in the band straight away because I knew all the songs. I was convinced. I never wanted to be a music journalist. I wanted to be in a band. I’ve met lots of rock journalists who grew up wanting to be Nick Kent or Paul Morley. When I started reading music papers I never even noticed the names of the hacks. It was always the records that got me.
2. If you’re going to have a seminal music experience, have it when you’re very young The first gig I ever went to was the 1979 Futurama festival at the Queen’s Hall in Leeds. I was 15 and I didn’t know any of the bands but it was a complete revelation. I went in there, into the UK Subs and Sham 69, and came out a changed person aware of the possibilities of music beyond entertainment. Joy Division played and they were beyond amazing. I remember Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark with their Revox reel to reel and Cabaret Voltaire’s synthesisers. It was like going to Mars.
3. Believe in fate I am very fatalistic. I believe in ghosts, karma, I never walk under ladders. All that stuff. I’m not as bad as Don Revie
[legendarily superstitious Leeds United manager], but I do sometimes think things happen for a reason. Before I was a journalist I was unemployable. Then one day a mate said ‘All you’re interested in is music. Why don’t you write about it?” So I did. I sent loads of reviews to NME and never got anywhere. Then I saw an amazing gig by a Leeds band called Drug Free America and wrote what I felt was the best thing I’d done. I sent it to Sounds, NME and Melody Maker thinking that this was my last shot. Melody Maker rang me up. I almost fell off my chair. They published it and I was away.
4. Be humble I spent nine years at MM and saw the world. I had some right scrapes - I’ve been beaten up, had a gun in my face and interviewed Mad Frankie Fraser [notorious London underworld figure]. I had brushes with glamour - a week in a hotel suite on Sunset Strip, seeing Stevie Wonder in Los Angeles and spending a night with Michael Hutchence. I was never an INXS fan but had been given the job of interviewing him on the tour bus so I could have a lift back to Leeds. I didn’t get the interview on the bus - he was asleep - so ended up at the Holiday Inn, after the gig. They’d hired a whole foyer and champagne flowed, but I’d taken my market trader mate along. At the time Michael was dating Helena Christensen and to my amazement he refused calls from one of the world’s supermodels because he was fascinated to be talking to a hack and a market trader! He probably didn’t meet many normal people. I’ve often found that if you’re humble and unimpressed with all the bullshit - but not stupid - stars respond to that and will bare their soul. I got a terrific interview and I still think about that night and miss Michael.
5. Trust your instincts I realised I wanted out at Melody Maker in ‘98 when I was sent along to interview James - one of my favourite bands at the time - at an aquarium and ask them about fish. Then my dog got hit by a car and Melody Maker told me to never mind that, get my Garbage feature in now! I did the work while my dog cried and two days later realised I’d got Shirley Manson’s age wrong. I called up and they hadn’t even looked at it. That was the last straw. I filed my last piece and ten minutes later emailed my resignation and went on holiday to Rome. When I got back I realised what I’d done - I had no job, nothing. Then the Guardian, who I’d done about three reviews for in four years, rang up and said ‘Why aren’t you doing more for us?’ They’ve been my employer ever since.
6. The ‘Rock n Roll Lifestyle’ is bullshit This really annoys me. I’ve seen so many bands and musicians completely waste their talent thinking that they have to live the rock n roll lifestyle, just because they’re in a successful band. I’ve interviewed loads of bands at the start of their career and they’re so full of energy and ambition. Interview them two years later and they’re like “Nunghnahurragh” [makes drooling, monged out face] and making crap music, or they’re back in Coventry doing a crap job wondering where all the money went. It’s just such a waste. There are so few people who can live that kind of life and still make good music, and even they end up telling people it’s a waste of time, don’t do it.
7. Honour your parents My Dad died when I was six and my Mum died when I was 21. She brought me up on a widow’s pension and even though I never really knew my Dad he gave me something I’m always grateful for. Every day before he went to work he used to leave me a word on a blackboard... so I could spell before I went to school. I was always great with words but it was years before I put it into practice. My book The Fallen - Life In And Out Of Britain’s Most Insane Group is dedicated to my parents, with a note to my Dad. I have always wanted to do well to please them and often think they’re watching down on me, which is obviously a worry when you’ve farted.
8. Never be afraid to look an idiot I always go on gut feelings on music.... This has got me into all sorts of trouble. I once said that a band called Mint 400 were the future of rock ‘n’ roll. I was one of the first if not the first journalist to write about Coldplay and I literally discovered David McAlmont from a tape sent to Melody Maker. But people don’t remember that, they remember rave reviews for embarrassing bands like Back To The Planet. It’s like being haunted by millions of photos of yourself wearing short trousers.
9. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who Will Smith is I was once out with friends and someone mentioned Will Smith and I said “Who?”. They looked at me amazed. How can a bloke who makes his living writing about culture not know who Will Smith is?! This was when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was huge. But I could name the bass player in Cud. And, I’ve never watched X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. I realise this is a damning admission from someone who’s paid to write about popular culture but I’ve found a way of blocking out stuff that doesn’t interest me and I run a mile when people say ‘Oh they’re so hot, everyone’s talking about them’.
10. It’s not where you’re from, its where you’re at When I started writing from a Leeds base I used to get all this ‘We don’t know you. You’re not part of the scene’ stuff. Which I thought was great! That meant I could watch bands like a ghost, or a silent assassin! No one knew who I was or could influence me with offers of luxury holidays in Scarborough, or free alcohol! It hasn’t changed. I’ve never sought to be mates with bands because it only ends in tears. And I don’t think I have a duty to champion local stuff. I’d rather champion a great band from Mexico then a mediocre one from Leeds. But living in Yorkshire means that when a great band does come along in this area, I’m in a position to get behind them. I’ve written about Dinosaur Pile-Up recently because they’re fab. But they’d be fab whether they were from Kirkby Lonsdale or Siberia. Only colder.
(Dave Simpson’s ace book, The Fallen - Life In And Out Of Britain’s Most Insane Group, about tracking down 50 ex-members of the Fall, is published in paperback by Canongate on 6 August.)
Published on Jun 30, 2009
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Chickenhawk, Heads We Dance, Grammatics