Friday, March 15, 2013 Sunday, February 24, 2013

Live Review: Pure Love

Pure Love - The Joiners - 19/02/13

Frank Carter should open a school for struggling frontmen. Flanked by fellow Pure Lover Jim Carroll and their travelling bandmates, Carter’s time this evening can be neatly divided into thirds. In the crowd, engaging in onstage banter and (not least) singing.

This combination makes for a riveting return for even the least uninitiated into his post Gallows project, and whenever his insect like enthusiasm threatens to overshadow its musical accompaniment, it is wound back to allow full focus to return to where it belongs.
As is often the case at the busier gigs in Southampton’s favourite shoebox venue, the Joiners, any attempts at livelihood by the audience are immediately crushed by brickwork in the tiny surroundings. Despite this polite reception being warmly received by the smiling band, those in attendance are eventually aroused by the fittingly anthemic ‘Anthem’ alongside recent single ‘Beach of Diamonds’ and their respective singalong immediacy and soaring guitar licks.

There is a charismatic feel to tonight’s performance which scarcely makes an appearance in venues of this size, and seems befit to the experience of messrs Carter and Carroll as they retain an energy fitting to that of the most hardcore of fans being crushed to the stage tonight in their constant surfing across heads. ‘Bury My Bones’ provides a rousing camaraderie among the audience topping that even of the classic cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’, which quite rightly returns the song to its rightfully punk direction after the shambolic treatment it has been receiving in the run up to Red Nose Day.

It’s at this point that the showpiece moment rears its head, with crowds being forced back to make room for the band taking centre stage in what was moments before a mosh pit. ‘Burning Love’ and ‘Handsome Devil’s Club’ ripple with an energetic frenzy, as soulful vocals combine with sauntering riffs as band and audience gleefully swap places.

Not yet content with the levels of audience participation they’re receiving, band then order the audience to take part in a circle pit encompassing drummer (who is still amidst the thick of the throng), sound man, and toilet corridor to complete the novel effect to tonight’s proceedings. It’s safe to say that this is a first for all involved, as ‘Scared To Death’ invokes a snotty 1977 show in its punk pomp, with a militant beat inspiring a march around the site.

As ‘ooos’ echo around to ‘Riot Song’s grand finale, the smiles of the band members are plain to see to all who are here to witness them. It’s easy to see why, with shows realising this energetic bombast, Carter and co. can surely be seen taking over the rock scene again. This time though, with a smile, not a scowl – like a ginger George Foreman. Just don’t go all sell out on us and start selling grills please, Frank.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Live Review: The Vaccines Joiners Benefit Show

The Vaccines - The Joiners - 22/01/13

The number of people claiming to have been at this gig will doubtless continue to grow alongside the years since it occurred, in a way reminiscent of the Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in ’76. This time though, it’s not about the band, it’s about the venue. The Joiners is the hub of activity for any band trying to earn its trade on the live circuit on the south coast, whilst providing an outing for people whose average gig budget is £20, including drinks and bus fare home. It’s fair to say there’s not many of the £20 gang here tonight, but those in attendance are united in stepping on each others’ toes in an attempt to pay tribute to this vital venue in its time of financial need, accompanied by the brash pop rock of The Vaccines.

The cramped crowd begin to move like a full box of matches being shaken vigorously to the sound of the shuddering opening volley that is ‘No Hope’ and ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’. For the majority of bands that grace this room, that would be it, encore material. Not The Vaccines. These two tracks act only as an entree for the delightful main course of ‘Wetsuit’ and ‘Teenage Icon’; the former bringing the biggest singalong moment here since, urm, Frank Turner last month, and the latter which loses its radio friendly sheen in the spit and sawdust surroundings drawing a rapturous response from faithful fans at the distorted riffs cascading from Freddie Cowan’s guitar.

‘Post Break Up Sex’ continues the endless barrage of hits, also adopting a meaner appearance than it takes on daytime radio, as a bearded Justin Young does his best crazed rocker look at this audience. It’s laughable, but in these frenzied moments, in a place where the crowd have to settle for swaying over moshing because it is simply too busy, it works. This is a band that has developed into an accomplished live act in recent times, as fans that have since seen them at their countless festival shows will testify.

Taking a break after a windswept ‘If You Wanna’ (someone had opened the fire escape by this point, possibly in search of some air lower than 35˚C), Justin takes a moment to remind us of why we’re all here. The importance of these small venues in the UK music scene resonates throughout the venue as he surmises, ‘without The Joiners, there would be no Vaccines’, before launching into a blistering rendition of ‘Nørgaard’.

As the ninety second anthem’s jackhammer rhythm threatens to bring down the house amongst the mist from the fire escapes, the drama and history that would disappear if we were to lose this venue appears in physical form. At this moment in time however, it seems far from ill – unlike the fans, who will catch their death outside – it seems in very rude health indeed.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Live Review: Twin Atlantic

Twin Atlantic - Southampton Guildhall – 07/11/12

“All my loving, I will send to you.” The final line of the encore opener, a solo cover of The Beatles ‘All My Loving’, has the ever poignant lyrics of Lennon/McCartney reflecting the sentiment between Twin Atlantic and the fans perfectly as their set begins to draw to a close.

It was predisposed to be an emotional evening, what with the band making the step up to Southampton’s major league after two previous Joiners jaunts. It’s an opportunity the Scots seem determined to grasp, striding on stage and releasing the opening strains of ‘Time For You To Stand Up’ without offering as much as a murmur to the audience. The early schizophrenic flash photography lighting provides the opening moshes with a stop motion atmosphere; which is both entertaining and nauseating in equal measure.

The notorious battle between band and the Guildhall’s acoustics also plays a fundamental role in tonight’s performance. Tracks from the band’s latest offering ‘Free’ such as ‘Dreamember’ particularly suffer, with its twinkling guitar lines and soaring vocals (on record) becoming rather lost in the mire of noise. The result is of course, that the band often finds they sound flat on stage, a bit like an air balloon after being attacked by some angry bees.

Those in attendance this evening pay little heed to sound troubles however, with vested men continuing to rampage with a merry abandon regardless. It is worth nothing at this point that what I have referred to as rampaging, Sam McTrusty calls “a break dancing competition” when he reprimands those responsible, his grin visible across the venue.

It is during the more off kilter moments in their arsenal, such as the cascading jackhammer to the eardrums that is ‘What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?’ that band and audience appear to be equally content with thrashing around. A fox-suit wearing man is discovered, and is soon conducting impromptu dance moves from the stage from alongside Barry McKenna in an intense display of a stereotypical ‘British sense of fun’. Less fun is the avant-garde ballad take on previous signature single ‘You’re Turning Into John Wayne’, which has many bemused faces awaiting a never occurring riff. After a number of years of performance, the experimentation is understandable, but the tampering of fan favourites brings widespread (yet only momentary) disappointment.

‘Crash Land’ and ‘Yes, I Was Drunk’ enter during the encore, and appear comfortable alongside the aforementioned ‘All My Loving’. Mass singalongs ensue, alongside an outbreak of air-celloing, bringing serotonin levels to rates rarely seen. Vocals finally arise to the forefront of the mix, and the reverent passion these tracks carry is transmitted successfully to all within shouting distance.

But of course, a band should always be able to rely on their hit singles. ‘Free’ finally brings the stadium to events in an epic strut, as the bouncing fans swell to include the majority present. ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’, featuring large balloons emblazoned with Twin Atlantic logos, douses events with a panache by introducing amateur basketball slaps as a struggle for a touch occurs. McTrusty dives into the crowd to the sound of screams and it is apparent that this is a band which should have no problems making the step up to stadiums, gimmicks ‘n’ all, if sound systems are on their side.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Live Review: Bloc Party

Bloc Party – Southampton Guildhall – 17/10/12

Autumn in Southampton is finally beginning to rear its head, with torrential downpours soaking the bloc partiers as they await their quarry. Damp in body they may be, but not in spirit.

Bloc Party are back, and they mean business. In a hit strewn career spanning set they roar into life in front of an overly intoxicated (for a Wednesday night) audience. Opening with the angular riffs of ‘So He Begins To Lie’ from recent arrival ‘4’, the nods of appreciation are apparent. Despite this and (perhaps) unfairly so, many more recent off cuts from their arsenal fail to register past relative ‘toe-tappers’ in the eyes of the Southampton crowd.

It takes the cut ‘n’ paste bombast of ‘Mercury’ to inject some life into proceedings, with widespread ‘dad dancing’ (a fair number of this crowd appear to be fans prior to ‘Banquet’ being a twinkle in the bands’ collective eye) and the first of the night’s mosh-pits springing into life. Kele begins his friendly goading of the crowd which continues long past ‘Hunting For Witches’, in which widespread mania finally erupts. The burlier members in attendance continue to make their presence known, amongst the collective sing-along in the semi-darkness of strobe lighting flashes.

They don’t just shut up and play the hits though, with choice cuts from ‘4’ also being debuted in the south tonight. ‘Kettling’ sounds beefy with its thrashing guitars, like punk re-imagined for the 21st century. It’s fitting, being that its chief subject matter tackles the taboo of last year’s London riots, finally bringing them into the mainstream. Kele describes it best, “this one’s for the boys who want to push each other around”. Whether a political comment or a sleight reference to the drunken antics below, the beer boys need no encouragement as the mosh-pit swells to encompass the width of the venue (somewhat ironically) between the two bars. ‘Coliseum’ throws a curve ball in an Americana style folk bash, before stomping into a pulsating rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking the fights of gladiators. Far from growing soft with age, Bloc Party has returned harder than ever – it’s a sentiment relished by their fans if the flailing limbs are a good indicator.

Despite this, there is a glaring disappointment at the lack of old favourites on display tonight. This isn’t surprising, after four albums it isn’t likely that every ‘good’ song gets an airing every night. It would have been nice to see the rapidity of ‘One Month Off’ sparking intensity in the crowd to match that of the band, which was on several occasions (during newer songs) alone in its enthusiasm. By the second encore and the stuttering funk of ‘Octopus’, it is painfully apparent that in the comfort the band find in each other onstage they are unfazed by reciprocal movement (even if they do get a bit of a sing song in the ‘woo’ departments). It is such that the calling card of ‘4’ falls a bit flat, and the gig threatens to end on a dud note.

‘Helicopter’ removes any such doubts. What has become Bloc Party’s signature song electrifies the sweat sodden crowd with its amphetamine frenzy of guitar licks and obnoxious vocals, giving the drunken parade of fists and elbows another chance to prove their worth in the mosh-pit. The band exit stage, over an hour and a half after originally taking to it, to an ovation from a crowd who know the only likely chance of seeing them in Southampton again soon is if you happen to be the owner of the shoe Kele gave to a stage hand for safe keeping after it was tossed on stage.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Album Review: Sharks - No Gods

Sharks – No Gods

What image is conjured when thinking of a Shark; a vicious monolith tearing apart its’ prey or the graceful giant gliding through the oceans? The Leamington-spa breed liberally combines the both in their epic pop-punk debut.

Album opener ‘Til The Wonders Rise welcomes the listener in with a marching beat, a stereotypical punk combination of guitars and drums, and squeaky clean vocals from James Mattock which evoke a rather strong resemblance for Greenday. The punk and classic rock sounds are juxtaposed rather than combined, with soaring solos roaring across subdued riffs to create a compact and slightly less self-deprecating take on the tired pop-punk formula.

But thus the formula continues to be bled dry by this group of predators. Marching drums and overtly optimistic guitar licks confirm that this band’s claim to being the new sound of punk is largely muted in the past and the pop. However, Arcane Effigies’ attempts to revive some optimism with its’ sing-along vocals, and likely succeeds in a passionate pomp which looks set to grace countless fields across the UK this summer.

Despite this relative respite, the punkier aspects of this record fall consistently flat. The passion seems absent in the spikier sections of the album, such as on Dawn Soft Light on which the band is consistently absent-minded in their rhythm section and only instead focussed on frenzied guitar soloing ala Bruce Springsteen.

Patient Spider introduces a break from the three minute model, involving trumpets – its’ punk orchestral. The struggles with over emotive vocals finally become overblown, resulting in a disparate ode to a spider alongside family struggles before being unleashed in a way fitting of a band who honed their skills as understudies to The Gaslight Anthem.  Unfortunately, the faux-American dream seeking of the vocals sees Sharks looking to be set as the perennial bridesmaid to the Gaslight’s bride.

Comparisons with other epic rock fanciers are inevitable, with overwrought emotion and soaring guitars abounding. No Gods provides a soundtrack to a great American road trip in its’ ever anthemic questioning of suburban life, recalling with ease life on the highways. Yet it leaves us with the feeling that for all its excitability, you’d rather just listen to something which provides the same thrills but without the genre-confusion.


Top Tracks: Patient Spider, Matthew’s Baby, Arcane Effigies

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Album Review: The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

After the announcement that At The Drive-In would be breaking their silence after 11 years away, The Mars Volta’s Noctourniquet may have seemed rather lost in the ensuing furore. Nevertheless, after three years away, spats, rifts and membership changes, the sixth album from the ever experimental rock troupe is not to be taken lightly.

The Whip Hand ushers the album into life strongly, the nightmarish synths which rumble throughout the majority of the album offering a visceral opening via a pyramid of noise, building to a climax in a warped and uneasy collaboration between falsetto vocals and farting guitars. Eccentricity abounds with lazy waves of quietness and stabbing bursts of noise becoming unnatural bedfellows. It’s an attractive psychotic episode to say the least.

The nightmare continues on the marvellously named Dyslexicon, which provides an intergalactic feel as synths bloop apathetically. As the punk standards of drums and guitar are brutalised it becomes apparent that this is music for moshing Storm Troopers (an idea which, amongst this midst of musical schizophrenia, seems almost natural).

Unfortunately for the Mars Volta novice (which I am), the repetitive sensory overstimulation offered by this band begins to grate towards the latter stages of the album, which offerings such as Vedamalady and Imago failing to enthral in their extremist grunge vein (taking the loud/quiet dynamic and stretching it to sparse and earth shuddering). Typically, and I’m sure it is the case… those more experienced listeners will have no trouble with this frustration, but variety is seemingly lacking in an album from a band who seem on an eternal quest for individual expression.

That said, the abrasive thrashing of songs such as album centrepiece In Absentia (which, clocking in at around 8 minutes provides this album with its most bombastic moment), couple atmospheric chanting with violent drum episodes, provide a more intriguing and wholesome listen than the more restrained efforts circa Lapochka, which only manages one distinct time scale in its’ entirety. After the talk of winding back the egotistical experimentation on this album, it is apparent that as progress the change is good. Let’s not wind it back too much though; it’d be a disappointment if this fiercely whacky outfit changed their stripes.


Top Tracks: Dyslexicon, The Malkin Jewel, The Whip Hand

Monday, October 17, 2011

Live Review: The Harlequin

The Harlequin – Guava - 11/10/11


Judging by the number of band members bursting into impromptu dance moves tonight, it seems there’s something in the water at Guava in the latest Road to the Point heat.

Semi-opening tonight, The Happy Hour burst into a moody and surprisingly tight (considering they haven’t played together for over a month, allegedly) set of straightforward indie pomposity, with their vocalist looking like a triumphant entry in a Theo Hutchcraft lookalike competition as he enthusiastically spasms to the beat. Unfortunately, as was often the case throughout the evening, his vocals throughout the performance are largely inaudible and leave the sparse audience with nothing but a wall of guitar sound to cling onto.

The Harlequin take to the stage to the largest response of the night, and successfully pass though into the next round of the competition, proving that it really does pay to bully your friends and family into attendance. The newly rejuvenated line-up is injected with a renewed enthusiasm on stage, particularly present in the Bez inspired funky dancing of bassist Rowan Curtis who bounds around the tight surroundings like a puppy eagerly anticipating ‘walkies’.

Sounding ever tighter and stronger as a unit recently the band power through a combination of older songs alongside those getting a first airing tonight, with Sesame Sandra’s romantic rhythm coinciding with an as yet untitled and self confessed funk driven song in a typically eccentric tour throughout all sounds guitar based. From the madcap nature of the funky number to the all the more straight-laced, the set culminates with the mouth powered guitar solo courtesy of vocalist Joel Doherty during the anthemic Circulate as his effects pedal (which has been troublesome all night) finally fails on him.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I promise I will get around to belatedly reviewing The Horrors’ Skying soon.

I just started college, been busy etc.