Posts Tagged ‘garage’

LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY – Day Two

June 4, 2013

Day two commences with math-pop heroics courtesy of Vasco da Gama. Difficult to dislike a band with such fluid mastery of musicianship, especially when they’re so goddam modest about it. There’s frequent nods to The Dismemberment Plan and Dischord Records, but for all their clever arrangements, there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re a pop band at heart. Winning choruses mesh perfectly with the frenetic fretwork of guitarist Chris Lynn, leaving early evening revellers dazed but excited.

It’s a shame that the equally energetic Hands don’t attract a bigger crowd – their forthcoming Synaesthesia album ranks amongst the most immediately catchy collections to bolt from the Kill Rock Stars stable. They bounce adorably and ecstatically around the stage, with the soaring pop melodies of songs like ‘Trouble’ suggesting there’s even better to come from a band who’ve really got this ‘hooks’ thing nailed. Keep an eye out; they could well be soundtracking your summer.

Suitably cheered, we head to The Kazimier for something a little grittier, and Bad Meds are happy to oblige. Something of a local supergroup, the band includes Vasco da Gama drummer Dave Kelly and Hot Club de Paris’ Paul Rafferty amongst their number, and as such the curious cognoscenti are out in force. Theirs is a fun and frantic take on the skate-kid hardcore of early Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, replete with knowing banter (“Has anyone been signed yet? That’s the ultimate aim of Sound City, isn’t it?”) and a gloriously sludgy cover of ‘It’s Grim Up North’. Instant favourites.

Meanwhile, up the road, the much-hyped TOY decorate the Anglican Cathedral with their mountainous noise and Cousin it haircuts – given the time they’ve probably seen their music described via the shoegaze cliché ‘sonic cathedrals’, you gotta wonder if they ever imagined they’d actually play in one. As it turns out, the venue suits their sound rather well, as woozy riffs pile into each other atop a motorik rhythm section. Some of the more subtle chord changes of ‘Colour’s Running Out’ feel a little lost in the melee, but it’s a small price to pay to have your hearing blown out so magnificently.

The dashing Dan Croll is somewhat easier on the ear, and his take on classic pop songsmithery feels positively heart-warming. An evident knack for a hummable tune is enough to make every song feel instantly familiar, almost masking the dextrous subtleties of the band behind him. More of this winsome loveliness please.

The day’s final trek to the Cathedral feels, ludicrously, like the furthest Gigwise has ever had to walk, but The Walkmen are more than worth it. As dapper as ever, the band’s newfound maturity sees the majority of the set pitching for a rather more windswept approach than the energised stress of old favourites like ‘The Rat’, and it suits ‘em pretty neatly. Difficult to believe that they’re more than a decade into their career when their manifest enthusiasm still feels so fresh.

It’s been a pretty stellar day thus far, and Gigwise begins to worry that something is bound to suck at some point. And so we come to the tipsters’ faves Savages – on hand to prove that if you’re gonna be bummed out, it should owe a debt to their own high levels of menace and intensity – they’ve drawn plenty of comparisons to Souxsie & The Banshees, but the taut funk of their basslines owes just as much to the hypertension of The Bush Tetras, while Gemma Thompson’s strafes of white-hot atonality flash across the stage like electric storms. Every song drips with vitality and purrs venomously: once bitten, you’re lost to ‘em forever. Band of the weekend? Don’t bet against it.

Melody’s Echo Chamber present a much more relaxed affair, as their dizzy psychedelic alt pop proves to be much less acrid. Their delicacy serves as a neat counterpoint to their tendency towards off-kilter shonkiness, making them lovably delirious in the best sense possible.

Over at Leaf, The Still Corners seem to be struggling with technical difficulties that delay their set by a full half hour. When their reverb-drenched indiepop finally gets going, there’s a palpable sense of relief, albeit underpinned by a sense of irritation that it’s taken this long to get going. As a result, Gigwise ends up at the back of the queue for Thee Oh Sees, whose sweat-drenched set creates such demand that the rickety old Kazimier struggles to cope. There are angry scenes as waiting punters realise they won’t get to see the show, but what we eventually manage to catch amounts to a furious blast of psyched-out garage rock. Bodies spill over the monitors as the heaving moshpit flings itself back and forth with reckless abandon; sweat-sodden riffs riding hip-swaying basslines that pummel the guts and spill out the messy yards of intestine within. You can’t help but love a good rock show.

Speaking of which, that’s precisely how Future Of The Left opt to close out the day’s events, spraying a rowdy 2am crowd with gallons of molten riffage and barbed witticisms. The somewhat inebriated audience dances, screams and collapses into dazed heaps on the ground, surrendering to the forceful rage of the band… but that’s nothing compared to what happens when FOTL unleash two classics by frontman Falco’s previous outfit Mclusky. ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ sees the first outbreak of pure euphoria, while the bon mots of ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ amount to a twisted singalong with everyone’s shit well and truly lost. They close with a cover of Andy Kaufman’s infamous ‘I Trusted You’ – a helluva song and bona fide contender for greatest piece of performance comedy ever devised. Which is as decent a summation of this Cardiff quartet’s modus operandi as you could possibly desire. Bed time approaches – not with a whimper, but a full-on roar.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 06/05/2013)

LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY – Day One

June 4, 2013

There’s few cities that can match Liverpool in the self-mythologising stakes. Football, art, camaraderie, that (in)famous ‘sensa yuma’… yes indeed, in terms of towns that loved to toot their own horn, the focal point of Merseyside would be up there with the best of ‘em. Maybe it’s down to the rich history as a port town; the former gateway to the United Kingdom. Perhaps it’s an extension of the embattled siege mentality that developed during a certain former government’s attempts to crush the industrial towns of the north. Who knows? But if there’s one area in which this place can truly claim to know its stuff, it’s pop music. Forget what you know about jingly-jangly Scousepop and cheeky chappie stoners; we’re talking about an area that’s experienced a genuine cultural renaissance in the past decade, and it’s pretty darn thrilling to see the place in such fine form.

Ok, we’re nearly done with the rhapsodising, but Sound City is as close to an encapsulation of Liverpool’s pop prominence as you could ask for. For Gigwise, the festival kicks off with a brief look at local lads Coffee And Cake For Funerals, whose silky r’n’b-tinges attract an impressive crowd early on day one. It’s about as far away from Merseybeat as you could imagine: subtle guitar chimes float spectrally atop dubstep-informed basslines and complex rhythms, making for an unexpected treat. Ok, some of their choruses sound as though they’ve been lifted from The James Arthur Guide To The X-Factor, but one suspects their ambitions are somewhat different to those of, say, James Blake. Either way, it’s a solid start.

We amble enthusiastically up the hill to the cavernous Anglican Cathedral, where The Loved Ones take advantage of their surroundings to break a few hearts with their understated folktronica. It’s cheating really – just as you think you’ve had all you can take of beardy fellas playing sad songs on acoustic guitars, along comes a band who nail the whole shebang perfectly. The ethereal cry of ’Wonderful Life’ sends us sniffling into the early evening, just in time for Kepla’s addictively weird set at The Kazimier. Electronic pulses bleed organically into one another, twisting and turning almost unnoticed into completely different rhythms before you’ve even had time to notice, while jarring blasts of sheet metal strafes keep you on your toes. The set ends with a wry grin from Kepla dude Jon Davies, and our toes continue to tap long after the beats have subsided.

Across to the Garage, and Esco Williams has the crowd eating from the palm of his hand. His brand of r’n’b is slick, commercial as hell and phenomenally catchy, but for all his gratitude and nice-guy smiles, it’s easy to see that his mind is set on bigger things. To that end, here’s the Gigwise conclusion: these songs are fun right now, but they won’t quite set the world alight – stick him in a studio with Andre 3000 or Frank Ocean on production duties and let’s see some sparks really fly. By now we’re just about ready to check out one of the acts hailing from beyond the city boundaries, and we trudge back up to the Cathedral for Noah And The Whale. Such an easy band to dislike, what with their university lecturer dress sense, unerringly affable politeness and propensity for inoffensive melodies that your mum probably likes. And it’s difficult to imagine that a band named after Wes Anderson’s head cameraman would do their best to be anything other than self-consciously odd. Luckily the band’s neat line in morose grandiosity proves to be their strength, and whilst they may not be the most mind-bendingly out-there beat combo on the block, their budget Arcade Fire- isms sure get the crowd going.

Timetable disruption means we only catch the final song of PINS’ set, but a stirring rendition of ‘Luvu4lyfe’ demonstrates why so many people are coming round to their feral, Lydia Lunch-indebted howl. Meanwhile Oneohtrix Point Never proves to be one of the day’s highlights, blasting other-worldly collages of fractured noise over glitchy, textured electronica. Like all the best acts who propped up the Warp and Rephlex stables in the 90s, Oneohtrix keeps one ear firmly to the future, but by removing the breakbeat, he allows himself space and scope to let his imagination cut fully loose. In short, he’s fucking ace.

There’s time to check out the slackered-up fuzz of New Zealand’s Popstrangers – all feedback-drenched squalls and nonchalant wails over chunky pop melodies – before Stealing Sheep set to repairing hearts broken by The Loved Ones several hours earlier. Sound problems onstage leave the band frustrated, but out front there’s nothing to worry about – songs are played out as whispers on the wind; ghostly apparitions that charm and soothe in equal measure. Lovely stuff. There’s just time to catch the end of Lunar Module’s analogue rave back at the Kazimier, providing further fuel for the argument that electronica has truly won the day today.

There’s a few murmured enthusiasms about Leeds’ own Blacklisters, which seems wholly inappropriate given the shape, size and indeed volume of their riffs. The Jesus Lizard mastered this sort of horribly brilliant chaos years ago, but it’s an absolute joy to see this lot breathing new life into it. Frontman Billy seethes his way through every last note as the band snarl around him: jagged, visceral, hypnotic. Just the sort of thing you wanna see on a Friday night. The synth-led drama of Bastille is always going to fall a little flat after that, but they still manage to turn a beer-sozzled Garage into a full-on party. The band feed off the good vibes pinging around the room, with the immaculately-coiffeured Dan Smith bouncing majestically around the stage. All in all, not a bad way to kick off Sound City 2013.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 03/05/2013)

THE BREEDERS’ FAMILY TREE

June 4, 2013

Supergroups, eh? Who’d have ’em? 1989 may seem like a long time ago now, but back then it turned out that a collaboration between two established indie rockers needn’t necessarily be filed under ‘tedious vanity project’. The Breeders were a revelation, conjuring fractious noise and sugar-sweet melody at every available opportunity, and writing some of indie rock’s best-loved classics along the way. A band this free-spirited was bound to be home to restless muses, of course, and with the most celebrated line-up reforming to coincide with the Record Store Day re-release of classic album ‘Last Splash’, this seems like a good time to take a look at The Breeders’ family tree…

THROWING MUSES

It begins here. When half-sisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly first began playing together in 1981, they couldn’t have imagined the imminent impact of their fascinatingly fractured post-punk on the nascent indie rock landscape. A blend of unconventional song structures, David Narcizo’s wonky rhythms and hallucinatory lyrics doesn’t look like much on paper, but where their contemporaries sparked fires, Muses songs positively burst into brilliant blue flames. Their early demos eventually caught the attention of 4AD label boss Ivo Watts-Russell, and before long the bemused band found themselves adored by critics and underground obsessives alike. The idiosyncratically talented Hersh wrote the bulk of the band’s material, dazzling and delighting on the bewitchingly batshit albums ‘Hunkpapa’ and ‘The Real Ramona’, but the feline yowl of Donnelly contributions such as ‘Not Too Soon’ suggested there was another significant voice amongst their ranks – one that would soon depart for pastures new.

PIXIES

There’s little to be said that hasn’t already been written about the influential screech of this Boston quartet, although it’s worth noting that their big break arrived when Fort Apache’s studio manager saw them supporting Throwing Muses. Before long they too had signed to 4AD, going on to record landmark debut LP ‘Surfer Rosa’ with the legendarily acerbic Steve Albini in 1987. Unimpressed by the Pixies’ screamily masochistic surf, the Big Black frontman famously dismissed them as “blandly entertaining college rock”, but regardless, the album was swiftly acclaimed as a classic. One particular highlight came in the relative anomaly ‘Gigantic’, sung by bassist Mrs John Murphy (aka Kim Deal) and soaring on a chorus so big you could stick a flag in it and legitimately claim to have discovered a new country. Tensions built between Deal and chief songwriter Black Francis, but the band soldiered on through another majestic album (1988’s sublime ‘Doolittle’) before eventually seeing their collective arse and temporarily disbanding.

THE BREEDERS

Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly first discussed the idea of forming a new band when Throwing Muses toured Europe with the Pixies, eventually performing together under the clunky but refreshingly straightforward moniker ‘Boston Girl Super-Group’. One shit-hot demo later, they settled on The Breeders and signed to 4AD, recruiting English bassist Josephine Wiggs to accommodate Deal’s switch to guitar. Slint sticksman Britt Walford agreed to become a recording member under the pseudonym ‘Shannon Doughton’, and with Steve Albini at the helm, the fledgling band decamped to an Edinburgh studio. The resultant collection ‘Pod’ proved breathtaking: songs crawled out from under the horizon uttering otherworldly howls, punctuated by guitar lines that you could quite reasonably call ‘angular’ without having to look too shame-faced about it. The two songwriters meshed perfectly, and the album was simply stunning.

With Deal returning to the Pixies later that year, The Breeders became inactive until 1992 when they recorded the ‘Safari’ EP. Shortly thereafter, Donnelly left the band to pursue her own vision, and Deal asked her twin sister Kelley to fill the void – undaunted by trivial matters such as ‘not actually being able to play the guitar’, Kelley duly accepted. Following the addition of full-time drummer Jim Macpherson, this new line-up set out on the road with Nirvana before commencing work on their biggest commercial success: 1993’s ‘Last Splash’. Chiefly famous for the bouncing buzzsaw pop of lead single ‘Cannonball’ (and its attendant video, co-directed by Spike Jonze and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon), the record added irresistible hooks to the addictive wonders of their debut, and cemented claims that The Breeders were a serious force to be reckoned with.

BELLY

Following the first Breeders album, Tanya Donnelly officially and amicably left Throwing Muses, taking bassist Fred Abong with her to form a new outfit. Fleshing out the lineup with ex-members of hardcore punks Verbal Assault, Donnelly chose the name ‘Belly’, since the word itself was “both pretty and ugly” – the perfect encapsulation of their ethereal, folk-tinged alt-pop. The MTV-slaying single ‘Feed The Tree’, a sumptuous piece of off-kilter jangle, led 1993’s debut ‘Star’ to be nominated for two Grammys – a success which could not be replicated by the more rock-orientated rumble of follow-up ‘King’. In retrospect, the album rules as hard as anything else surfacing from the American underground in the mid-90s, but sterling anthems like ‘Now They’ll Sleep’ somehow failed to capture their audience’s imaginations as intensely as ‘Star’ had managed two years earlier. Donnelly’s first solo effort appeared in 1997, picking up where Belly left off, before her increasingly sporadic output softened steadily, as family life became her main priority.

THE AMPS

Kelley Deal’s heroin addiction was far from secret, and she entered rehab following an arrest for possession in 1994, thereby forcing The Breeders into a period of hiatus. Kim reacted with a solo project entitled Tammy Ampersand & The Amps, before shortening the name in time to record their sole LP, ‘Pacer’. Originally intending to play every instrument on the album herself, she moved to retain Jim Macpherson’s drumming talents before enlisting future Guided By Voices guitarist Nate Farley and Luis Lerma to complete the lineup. ‘Pacer’ built on the pop hooks of ‘Last Splash’ to create deliciously garagey bubblegum pop – ‘Empty Glasses’, in particular, sounds like its spent hours siphoning petrol from parked cars to spit on bonfires – but positive critical reaction didn’t translate into sales. In mid-96, the hard-touring band folded when Kim decided to gather a new lineup of The Breeders – which, inevitably, was short-lived.

THE KELLEY DEAL 6000

Upon leaving rehab in 1995, Kelley Deal elected to form a new band, pulling in favours from friends such as Jimmy Flemion from notoriously controversial slopsters The Frogs. First opus ‘Go To The Sugar Altar’ proved to be an unexpected treat, rich in gleefully shambolic experimentation and soaked in the sort of effortless melodicism that made ‘Last Splash’ such a universally instant favourite. Two years later, the band attempted to repeat the trick with ragged follow-up ‘Boom! Boom! Boom!’, but their moment appeared to have passed. Commerical and critical indifference consigned the album to the bargain bins, and The Kelley Deal 6000 slowly evaporated.

THE JOSEPHINE WIGGS EXPERIENCE

Hertfordshire-born Josephine Wiggs didn’t exactly rest on her laurels following the dissolution of The Breeders. She embarked on a series of projects over the next few years, attempting to make her own mark with the ‘Bon Bon Lifestyle’ LP, released through the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal stable in 1996. Featuring former Spacemen 3/Spiritualized percussionist Jon Mattock – who also counted amongst Breeders alumni thanks to his contribution to the ‘Safari’ EP – the album drew from similar dreampop sources to Donnelly and the Deal sisters’ various outlets, and attracted reasonable reviews. But if ever a musical endeavour seems doomed from the get-go, it’s a bass player’s solo effort (notice how the heart sinks upon reading that phrase), and this was sadly no exception. Wiggs’ name simply wasn’t as recognisable as Kim or Kelley’s, and album sales reflected that anonymity. Shame.

AND THE REST…

At the turn of the millennium, the Deals formed a new line-up of The Breeders with Face To Face drummer Jose Mendeles and bassist Mando Lopez, resulting in the strange, sparse magic of ‘Title TK’ in 2002 and the poppier ‘Mountain Battles’ six years later. Factor in the reunion of the ‘Last Splash’ lineup and we’re just about up to speed, but there’s a handful of other acts worth mentioning since they form smaller branches of The Breeders’ family tree…

THE PERFECT DISASTER

Mining a similar source of Lou Reed-inspired pop to 80s acts like The Go-Betweens, The Perfect Disaster had been kicking around London in various forms before Josephine Wiggs joined in 1987. She stuck around long enough to play on the ‘Asylum Road’ LP and support the Pixies, which led to Kim Deal inviting her to join The Breeders in 1989.

GUIDED BY VOICES

Longtime friends with the Deal sisters as fellow natives of Dayton, Ohio, the terrifyingly prolific Guided By Voices appeared in the video to The Breeders’ cover of their own ‘Shocker In Gloomtown’. After the split of the (recently-reformed) ‘classic’ lineup, singer Robert Pollard made one album with the backing of Cleveland rockers Cobra Verde, before snatching up former Amps Jim Macpherson and Nate Farley for a lesser-regarded but still shit-kickin’ GBV in the late 90s.

DUSTY TRAILS

Another of Josephine Wiggs’ various outfits, Dusty Trails was a collaboration with Luscious Jackson keyboard player Vivian Trimble. Self-described as ‘mood music’, the band’s self-titled debut drew comparisons to French and Brazilian pop of the 1960s, and featured the vocal talents of country titan Emmylou Harris. Not quite ‘Cannonball’, then, but rather lovely nonetheless.

THE LAST HARD MEN

With the 6000 finished, Kelley Deal once again hooked up with Jimmy Flemion to form this hard rock supergroup, alongside Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin. An album was recorded for Atlantic in 1996, but the label rejected the finished article, leaving Deal to release a limited pressing on her own Nice Records in 1998.

R. RING

Kelley’s latest project, a collaboration with Ampline’s Mike Montgomery. Debut 7” ‘Fallout And Fire’ was a scratchily lo-fi lullaby composed of sparse acoustic guitars and tinny electronic hums; as gorgeous and moreish as The Breeders’ more subtle moments and utterly charming with it. More please.

(Originally published by The Fly, 19/04/2013. At the time of writing, I was mistakenly under the impression that the reissue was related to Record Store Day 2013 – seemed pointless to correct the mistake here though, given that it had already been published)

“Don’t Call It A Comeback…”

September 27, 2010

Boy, it’s been a while since I last posted. But now all those barriers between me and the keyboard have been knocked down. Once again, I’m ready to pour boiling hot liquid inanity onto the calloused dead skin of the blogosphere. Let us continue.

It may come as a surprise to some of you to learn that WHTB is no mere receiver of signals from the great pop satellite (Laboured Metaphor Watch: 2 contenders thus far). No, your humble correspondent also likes to crank out the ol’ six-string and attempt to shred the eardrums of disinterested gig-goers up and down the length of this island. I’ll not sully the band’s reputation (cough) by having their carefully-crafted rock behemoths associated with the wibblings of some gobshite on the internet – they don’t deserve that. So we’ll avoid mentioning the sounds of my beat combo, unless I change my mind or someone asks. In the meantime, I’m going to witter on about my favourite bands that we played with on our recent UK tour. So in other words, that’s ‘some new (to me) bands that I like, linked by a theme that’ll mean nowt to you’. Ah well.

1. Brothers

…or ‘Brothers of Exeter’, if you like. And I certainly do. On the surface, this boy-girl-boy trio deal in good ol’-fashioned seething garage rock, but they sabotage your feeble ideas of straightforwardism by throwing in bubblegum pop harmonies and complex rhythmic breakdowns. After watching them once, I was pleasantly surprised. After a week of seeing them every night, I was a convert. It’s dirty and brutal, even when they’re cooing sweet nothings over the top of it. As our American friends would have it, they kick ‘ass’. And they kick it HARD.

2. Porches

Right now, there are hundreds of bands across the UK trying to rip off the gruff stylings of Gainsville, Florida’s punk scene. Some of them are even really good at it, but the sound becomes tiresome after a while. Cheers, then, to Dorking’s Porches, who manage to do this shit without boring the fuck out of all present… and indeed are actually pretty darn good. Sure, you can hear the omnipresent influence of the No Idea Records sound, but they cover it in pop slop and take it to the bar for vile-coloured shots, before going outside for some sick and then coming back in to party on. Garage gruff, or something, and thoroughly good fun to boot.

3. Bedford Falls

OK. They’re not particularly new. Not if you’re going for an authentic definition of the word, like you’d find in a dictionary. But I’ve just discovered them, and great mother of crap, they’re ace. Early 90s indie/college rock seems to be rather in vogue at present, which is a little disarming for the enthusiasts amongst us who’d grown accustomed to it being ‘the sort of thing that no-one likes any more’. In any case, Newport’s Bedford Falls have been doing this shit for a while, and they’re bloody brilliant at it. Would it be unnecessary to label them ‘the Welsh Buffalo Tom’? Possibly, and it would also sell them short. Just click on the link above and listen to Paperbacks. Then order their split 7″ with Failures’ Union and realise that Wilmington is possibly one of the best songs ever written by anyone ever. FACT. Hyperbole schmyperbole.

Anyway. That’ll do for now. More mumblings about indie rock to follow, probably. And mix tapes. And I’d like to have a ramble about Alan Moore’s sterling Dodgem Logic mag at some point too. Don’t let me forget, y’all.

Peace.

WHTB x