Posts Tagged ‘Liverpool’

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)

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MINUS THE BEAR / VASCO DA GAMA – Liverpool, Kazimier, 28/04/2013

June 4, 2013

Ah, Vasco Da Gama. You have the prescription for the daily blues. Liverpool’s latest progenitors of cerebrally addictive math-pop have something pretty special on their hands: specifically, great songs. ‘Brigadiers’ sees iridescent guitars shooting beams of rippling light across cavernous, rumbling rhythms, while John Crawford’s plaintive keening keeps the glorious mess on an even keel. Meanwhile, the tension-and-release tactics of ‘Them Teeth’ show what lessons can be learned from Faraquet and Tera Melos whilst creating wholly nifty singalongs. It’s all interspersed with charmingly self-effacing banter about watching Top 100 Nu-Metal Anthems countdowns on telly, and is utterly, wonderfully ace. More of this sort of thing, please.

It’s fitting that Vasco De Gama are playing as support to Minus The Bear – anyone remember the Seattle quintet dazzling their way to a certain level of indie prominence ten years ago? Theirs was a veritable ménage à trois between fret-tapping frenetics, glistening electronics and solemnly earnest college rock; manna from heaven for studious indie rock types everywhere. Not that we hear too much of that stuff tonight – ‘Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse’ and a stirring ‘Spritz!!! Spritz!!!’ are the only cuts from 2002 debut ‘Highly Refined Pirates’. Understandably, the majority of the set is culled from latest opus ‘Infinity Overhead’, with the likes of ‘Steel And Blood’ feeling rather more muscular under the lights of the Kazimier than on record.

Jake Snider is genial enough, if not overtly communicative, and his understated wail (think Finch from ‘American Pie’ attempting to channel Evan Dando) sure feels impassioned. But he’s largely secondary to the roar of the band, particularly on grandiose slow dances like ‘Diamond Lightning’ and the cut-loose coda of ‘Drilling’. They may no longer be the math-rockin’ scene leaders of yore, but Minus The Bear still add up to a darn good night out.

(Originally published by The Fly, 03/05/2013)

PERE UBU / VARIETY LIGHTS – Liverpool, Eric’s, 24/04/2013

June 4, 2013

Those eyes. Tiny black holes. Stare into ‘em too long and you start to feel yourself ebbing away, drifting into zen-like surrender to the magic of the sound. Then David Baker blinks suddenly, as if emerging from a trance, and you realise Variety Lights are performing subtle spells that leave you utterly bound to their dark magic. On record, their warped electronic rattle is disorientating, but transposed to a live set it’s earth-shattering. There’s a borderline gothic edge to their compellingly odd psychedelia, making it both grandiose and eerie; it’s the product of an imagination acceding to its fondest ideals. Songs like ‘Starlit’ and the majestic ‘Feeling All Alone’ reverberate with skronking synth and an unnerving sense of wonder, while guitarist Adam Franklin (yup, he of Swervedriver) drives ‘Establishment’ into a dizzy wall of vertiginous twang – like a Chris Isaak song left on a radiator. Variety Lights are something very special indeed.

It’s a tough act to follow, but then again, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas has never been one to care what other folks might think. Decked out in beret and braces, he explains that we are merely spectres inhabiting his dream world – you can’t really argue with that, so let’s go along with it. The landscape mapped out by his singular psyche is freakishly, irresistibly colourful; the taut funk of ‘Love Love Love’ is punctured by irascible sheets of robotic noise, while the four-note cycle of ‘Mandy’ finds itself repeatedly pounded into glistening new shapes over the course of seven minutes. 35-year-old classic ‘The Modern Dance’ appears almost nonchalantly in the middle of the set, igniting the dancefloor and reminding us that Thomas’ vision has always been uniquely focused. This is art that’s beautifully dense and overpoweringly complex, but still gives your tail-feather a darn good shake. Incredible.

(Originally published by The Fly, 01/05/2013)

ICEAGE – Liverpool, Shipping Forecast, 26/02/2013

June 4, 2013

Moody fuckers, Iceage. You can tell from the way they march sombrely onstage – no strut, no swagger, just unblinking, unsmiling purpose. Guitars are strapped on with no acknowledgement of the crowd, and with a swift ripple of drums, we’re straight into the first song. And what a fabulous din they make: solid sheets of freezing, isolationist noise, skirting the dextrous, probing jabs of their post-punk influences in favour of powerful, pummelling onslaughts. They’ve quite reasonably drawn comparison to Joy Division for the mechanistic nihilism of their recorded output, but tonight’s set calls to mind Moss Icon’s anguished howls, or even the prototypical emocore of Embrace (not that one) – punk that’s progressive with a small ‘p’.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the controversy over the Copenhagen foursome’s dabblings with far-right imagery – undetectable here (well, they don’t unfurl a giant swastika behind the Shipping Forecast’s tiny stage or anything), but still, there’s an element of freakshow in the air, the room full of typically-liberal hipsters. Will they address it? How will they deal with it? What will they do? Well, nothing, as it turns out. ‘Banter’ (ahem) is limited to song titles spat into the air with typical sang-froid, ignoring the fratboys’ relentless, drunken shouting (in mock-Scandanavian accents – nice). Difficult to judge, but when an excitable punk audience seems reluctant to punch the air, lest it be mistaken for sieg heiling, it seems fairest to cautiously accept the band’s official line: that their aesthetic choices are made with an apolitical approach, however misguided or naïve that may seem. Something tells us the debate will rumble on tediously.

Anyway, back to the music. It’s powerful. It’s punchy. It’s positively seething. It’s the familiar sound of youthful disaffection, crushed into jagged shards of thrilling brutalist sound. Hear that, Iceage? You’re something, alright.

(Originally published by The Fly, 07/03/2013)

MAZES – Liverpool, Camp & Furnace, 22/02/2013

June 4, 2013

Jack Cooper looks tired. A day wasted by the side of the road will do that, of course, and a broken-down van looks to have drained the joy from his bandmates’ faces. The quietly-spoken Mazes frontman looks particularly affected, his sombre expression capturing the meagre space between disappointment and exhaustion. Of course, by the time the spiralling, Television-esque ‘Bodies’ reaches its juddering climax, he’s jumping and stomping around the stage, lugubrious chords ringing ominously and punctuating his flammable fretwork. And why not, huh?

Most of the cuts tonight come from new album ‘Ores And Minerals’, with the tartrazine-fuelled Eric’s Trip-isms of their debut reduced to a few brief cameos. And that’s a-OK – nothing against their former life as lo-fi Yankophiles, but the out-rock tinges of their new material fit them like a particularly well-tailored glove. So, as welcome as old favourites like ‘Bowie Knives’ may be, they’re attacked and received with less relish than the discombobulated lurch of ‘Daniel Higgs Particle’. The band acknowledge the latter as their tribute to Baltimore legends Lungfish, fuelled by cyclical, awkward pulses and a hook that yearns without imagining there’s a resolution on the horizon. Zen psych-pop that permanently blemishes the skin rather than pointlessly blistering – it’s great stuff.

‘Skulking’ is the other set highlight: a locked, motorik groove underpins a meandering melody, sung plainly and mirrored on the guitar before the whole thing launches into a fuzzed-out solo that channels the band’s frustrations into engaging fury. It’s all anchored by the restraint of the rhythm section, reminding us that rage is expressed even as the rest of the world continues to spin, and it’s even more intensely thrilling for that. Marry that mastery of form and execution to a knack for pop tunes and you’ve got a real force to be reckoned with. Luckily, that’s exactly what Mazes are.

(Originally published by The Fly, 08/03/13

Love and trust and friends and hammers

July 20, 2010

Although a thick, Septemberish grey is currently hanging over us in Liverpool, it’s still summertime. Admittedly, without the dazzling sunshine of previous weeks, there ain’t nuthin’ goin’ on but the rent, motherfucker, so we’re gonna have to make this summer pretty special. WHTB is currently getting excited about the forthcoming weekend’s trip to Butterley in Nottinghamshire for the Indietracks festival – a weekend of booze, fun and indiepop in the midst of the East Midlands’ foremost railway museum. It’s been a full two years since the tent last saw daylight, and ‘excited’ doesn’t quite do justice to the anticipatory feelgood factor at WHTB HQ.

With The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart amongst the headliners, you can betcha sweet ass there’s some party heads being warmed up. There’s also a plethora of other bands (notably SHRAG) and friends that I’m pretty stoked to be seeing. It’s gonna be AWESOME. I won’t say ‘expect a full report’, because I’ve made and subsequently broken promises like that before. But hopefully there’ll be some words scribbled down to communicate my gibbering glee.

AWESOME!

recent listening:


Projekt A-Ko – Yoyodyne

Buffalo Tom – Birdbrain

Red House Painters – Retrospective

Leatherface/Hot Water Music – BYO Split Series Volume 1

Beach House – Devotion

William’s Wish Wellingtons (birthday compilation made by MD)

Guided By Voices – Alien Lanes

Guided By Voices – Box

Kristin Hersh – Hips And Makers

peace out

w x

Absence

March 13, 2010

Over a month since the last post… i’m slipping already.

Anyway, fans of cute pop records with boy-girl vocals should be ecstatic to learn that thoroughly ace Liverpool trio Meow Meow have finally released something. I Wonder What Went Wrong is a free download available through top indiepop label WIAIWYA as part of their monthly singles club, and it’s backed by a nifty cover of Go Sailor’s Ray Of Sunshine. Lovely stuff all round, and well worth your perusal. Get it while it’s hot!

Personally, WHTB deeply loves this band. They’re cute as a bug’s ear, instantly loveable and catchy as hell. The sound of pop music falling out of a tree to tell you it loves you, before running back into the woods to hide again.

(As ace as Meow Meow are, it should be noted that Mark also spends a lot of time on the road with Earache thrash-punks SSS and Down And Outs, both of whom are a bit louder but no less awesome).

What the fuck do we care?

February 5, 2010

Last time i posted a small piece about Everton ahead of a big game, we went on to lose the FA Cup final against Chelsea. I’m not saying it was my fault, but toggerball fans are a superstitious breed. As such i’m going to lean away from that before big games in future. I’ll stick to the occasional personal observation instead.

So I’m not going to compose a huge rambling speech about my deep-felt love for the club, nor am i going to follow suit with the ‘proper’ Everton fansites and rant venomously about our loveable opposition. Instead, i’ll just acknowledge that it’s derby weekend and save my Blue-themed cheering for the match itself.

I fucking love you, Everton Football Club.