Album Review: Hatchie – Keepsake



When does a comeback become the status quo?

In pop and rock music the last decade has been defined by being in thrall to the 1980s. The Decade That Fashion Forgot is perhaps the last great period of originality in music, and its legacy seems to grow ever stronger; Pale Waves could write the whole soundtrack to Stranger Things and no-one would notice, Fontaines D.C. have studied new wave in detail whilst The 1975, one of the UK’s biggest bands, aren’t fussy and channel the synth pop of the entire era. Aligned with the nostalgia for the era in pop culture as a whole, the whole decade is a well of inspiration that is perhaps never going to run dry.

Hatchie seems keenly aware of this: last year’s Sugar & Spice EP was a tantalising glimpse of her summery symphonies, and now we have the full debut Keepsake, its music reflecting the weather a Brisbane native might be accustomed to, if not those of us from certain other parts of the world, so bright and shining is it.

 

Not That Kind is widescreen indie pop with a glorious sheen that could lift the most maudlin of days, lead single Without A Blush a synth driven paean to the rigours of love, as much of the album is; ‘I didn’t want to end tonight, I didn’t want to end the dream’. Love, being the most relatable subject matter, is the over-arching theme of the album, to the point that it can become repetitive, but the surrounding music or vocals cover all manner of sins.

Hatchie’s vocals are generally all multi-tracked, with an ethereal quality that befits the subject matter. The sprinkles of shoegaze that accompany her pained singing on Her Own Heart (‘stay true to your heart but don’t look back) make it a particular standout, while the Smithsian guitars that kick in for the chorus on Secret easily outweigh the frustrating vocal delivery of the verse.

The guitars are also put to good use on the strutting and joyful Unwanted Guest, giving it a propulsion that is lacking elsewhere, while the solid bass on Kiss The Stars evokes the yearning pop of The Cranberries. Similarly, the drum machine on Obsessed adds some pace to the album, the guitar majesty of New Order thrown into the mix. Album closer Keep does the same trick, but this time it’s the frenetic nature of The Cure’s Why Can’t I Be You? that is the key source material. Lastly, When I Get Old is a masterclass in drum fills.

The 1980s introduced the synthesizer and the keyboard into the charts in a big way. Ironically, being the most computerised, those instruments are arguably the most effective at reflecting human emotion, therefore it’s probably unsurprising that it’s made such a comeback. In this day and age we are all indebted to computers, yet paradoxically we crave human emotion. A vicious cycle indeed. Hatchie manages to find the balance between the two and has crafted a more than promising debt.

Ultimately good pop will out, as it has done here.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 21 Jun 2019 at 9:44am 

Photos: Blossoms, The Blinders in Stockport for Edgeley Park gig


The Blinders supporting Blossoms at Edgeley Park in Stockport, June 2019 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

The Blinders supporting Blossoms at Edgeley Park in Stockport, June 2019 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Blossoms were back in Stockport last weekend for another headline gig at Edgeley Park, showering their hometown crowd in the hits which have taken their two studio albums to the top reaches of the UK charts and made gigs such as this possible. With more than able support from the likes of The Blinders, this one might just have been their greatest night so far.

The Blinders were playing one of the highest profile shows so far after the release of debut album Columbia and a visit to South By Southwest in March when they spent some time with Live4ever.

“For those that haven’t had the pleasure of entering their ‘alternate world informed by reality’, it’s a wonderfully immersive place, not only because of the political allegories which are rife throughout but because of the imagery surrounding courtyards, kingdoms and older hierarchical societies managing to find the perfect balance between whimsy and social commentary,” our feature reads. “’That’s exactly what we wanted to put across’, Heywood informs us.”

“’We can’t think of a better way to enjoy our music. We’re not here to say something or change people’s minds on matters. Unfortunately, we’re the type of band to write as a mirror rather than give any answers to anything. We just write what we see and hold a mirror up to society. It’s there if you want to see it but it doesn’t have to be. Just tap your foot if you like.’”

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 24 Jun 2019 at 5:56am 

Aurora, The Divine Comedy, Dinosaur Pile-Up lead UK Record Store Chart


Aurora performing at the Bristol Trinity in October 2016. (Photo: Jessica Bartolini for Live4ever)

Aurora performing at the Bristol Trinity (Photo: Jessica Bartolini for Live4ever)

Aurora, The Divine Comedy and Dinosaur Pile-Up have the highest new entries on this week’s UK Record Store Chart.

 

Last week’s number one – Further by Richard Hawley – and another new entry from Neil Young complete the Top 5, while Vampire Weekend climb to #12 with Father Of The Bride.

It was in 2012 when the Official Charts Company began acknowledging the comeback of vinyl which first started over a decade ago with Record Store Day by publishing a weekly Record Store Chart compiled from the best selling albums at 100 of Britain’s leading independent music shops.

UK Record Store Chart, Top 20:

1 – (new) Aurora – A Different Kind Of Human Step 2
2 – (new) The Divine Comedy – Office Politics
3 – (new) Dinosaur Pile-Up – Celebrity Mansions
4 – Richard Hawley – Further
5 – (new) Neil Young & Stray Gators – Tuscaloosa
6 – (new) Beatenberg – 12 Views Of Beatenberg
7 – (new) Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue
8 – Pink Floyd – The Division Bell
9 – (new) Vanishing Twin – The Age Of Immunology
10 – (new) Peter Perrett – Humanworld
11 – (new) Wovoka Gentle – Start Clanging Cymbals
12 – Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride
13 – The National – I Am Easy To Find
14 – Amyl & The Sniffers – Amyl & The Sniffers
15 – Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
16 – Pip Blom – Boat
17 – Rory Gallagher – Blues
18 – (new) Santana – Africa Speaks
19 – (new) Jamie Cullum – Taller
20 – Yonaka – Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow

By Live4ever - Posted on 15 Jun 2019 at 6:08am 

 

Album Review: Richard Hawley – Further


Now a relatively successful solo artist, Richard Hawley has had a lengthy career and is the definition of a cult hero.

But rather than peak early with a breakthrough hit or band, he simply and quietly goes about his business whilst going from strength to strength. As a member of the short-lived but never forgotten Longpigs in the 1990s, he briefly touched the top 40 then went to the top via All Saints’ cover of Under The Bridge (he recreated the famous guitar).

The King Of Sheffield has often been praised by Arctic Monkeys and was a semi-regular member of Pulp, but can claim none of the success of either. Further is his eighth studio album and, with all of the previous seven having been named after Sheffield icons or landmarks, offers insight into where his head is at.

 

The naming choices were at risk of becoming a gimmick, but Further adopts the same principle. Lyrically, the album is about ploughing forward and reaching out whilst at the same time looking into the distance, daydreaming.
Opener Off My Mind is a straight forward thrash, clocking in at under three minutes its immediacy sets the precedent for the album, no other songs lasting over four. Some of his previous laments, beautiful though they were, had a tendency to outstay their welcome and so the succinct approach suits him. It’s also a great rock and roll single, complete with squawking solo. Alone follows suit with a simplistic yet sweeping chord sequence. The strings soak the song in a melodrama which befits the title.

The album is roughly divided between guitar heavy blasts and the more sombre, intimate slices of observations that have long been the touchstone of Hawley’s career; My Little Treasures is based on conversations with friends of his father following his death some years ago. For whatever reason, perhaps because of the emotions attached to it, the song has been gestating for 12 years, and the wait has been worthwhile. It manages the rare feat of making the listener nostalgic on first listen.

The title-track is jaunty and romantic, while the elegant music hall of Emilina Says is this album’s mandatory kitchen sink tale. Elsewhere, Not Lonely might be the most fragile thing he’s ever done. On the other side of the coin, he’s evoking Britpop and garage on the rockier numbers. Is There A Pill is grandstanding, with a chorus very similar to Lennon’s Just Like Starting Over. Gallay Girl is unchallenging, but speaks to the soul not the heart, and Time Is has the scale and propulsion of Oasis. It’s much more straight-forward than the psychedelic envelope pushing he embraced on 2012’s Standing At The Sky’s Edge, but no less powerful.

Richard Hawley’s oak voice is the perfect accompaniment to those red wine fuelled nights of contemplation, his dexterity on guitar a perfect balance of breaking your heart, then giving you a hug and singing at the sky with you. Now nearly twenty years into his solo career, and still without a ‘hit’ to speak of (Tonight The Streets Are Ours would be his only single to come close), Hawley is rightly lauded amongst those in the know, easily able to sell out large venues and with A-list status on BBC 6Music.

On the basis of this, his well-most rounded album, that status will only be reinforced.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 30 May 2019 at 8:40am 

Live Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Heaton Park, Manchester


Noel Gallagher at the Leeds First Direct Arena during the Stranded On The Earth world tour (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Lest we forget Big Brother.

During the past week it’s been something of a bonanza for those of a Gallagher persuasion. To recap, last week Noel released the main B-side of his forthcoming EP; within a matter of minutes Liam had stolen his thunder by unveiling a snippet of his own forthcoming single. Then the campaign for Liam’s second solo album began in earnest with an intimate gig, interviews aplenty and the required PR for a new documentary entitled As It Was.

Knowing what we know of Liam, it’s unlikely to be coincidental that all this took place in the week of his older brother’s biggest ever solo gig. Yet you wouldn’t know it: Noel continues to rise above with no acknowledgment tonight (June 7th).

There is enough to be going on with, not least of all the weather. The whole of the UK is feeling the effects of this sodden Friday, and it’s far from ideal for a big gig such as this.

 

That said, it is Manchester and the music of main support act Doves works well in this environment. Their music carries with it a bleak and industrial quality which fits the mood, but it’s a bit of a slow start. Snowden and Firesuite open the set and, as elegant as they are, lack the required power to grab attention. Fortunately, the stomping Black And White Town follows and lifts the crowd, the Motown beat getting the bodies dancing.

The hiatus hasn’t done them any harm, and the trio are clearly very comfortable working together again. Their best album, 2002’s The Last Broadcast, is most utilised for the set and from the moment Pounding is delivered midway the bar is raised. Caught By The River could keep rising forever, Last Broadcast is a winding, dramatic symphony and their dance roots are on full display for There Goes The Fear, but the highlight of the set is first album cut The Cedar Room, which is bruising but beautiful. Cockles warmed.

Still theoretically daylight but basically dark because of the weather, the stage is alight for the thunderous Fort Knox. The High Flying Birds currently number seven bodies, and all contribute to the cacophony of the opener. Ysee is a truly impressive singer, and nowhere is she better utilised than on the controversial track from 2017’s Who Built The Moon?, her vocals resonating across the field. The first half of the album makes up the first five songs of the set, and while the album wasn’t to everyone’s taste there’s no denying the tracks work really well live. The glam ride of Holy Mountain is now a favourite, and the band is stretched to the limits by the variation of Keep On Reaching and It’s A Beautiful World for different reasons; the former never stays still while the latter is a lesson of musical restraint. Elsewhere, new single Black Star Dancing slots into the set well, the bassline (‘borrowed’ from Bowie’s Fashion) sounding colossal in the open air.

After a testing opening for the parka monkeys, the band slip into more familiar territory. Talk Tonight, Little By Little and The Masterplan give 30,000 sets of lungs a good warm-up for Stop Crying Your Heart Out, the main set closer. At the time of release it was a perfect representation of where Oasis were in 2002; a number two single but a by-the-numbers flag bearer. Noel’s revaluation of the song reminds us that few of his peers have his knack for creating a chorus, the crowd likely heard from Manchester city centre four miles away. Likewise for the sublime Dead In The Water, surely one of the best things he’s done this century and proof that, even with the best production in the world, it always comes back to Gallagher’s songwriting.

The High Flying Birds were always meant to be an evolving collective (evidenced by Scissor Queen Charlotte Marionneau having to temporarily step away from the tour in the days leading up to the gig), but Gallagher will do well to better the current line-up. Mike Rowe, Chris Sharrock and Gem Archer all bring their Oasis experience to the table, but should never be taken for granted. In particular, Archer’s solos on both Little By Little and The Masterplan transcend the rest of the song. Equally, Jess Greenfield on keys and backing vocals adds a lightness of touch and a specific groove, and Zuton Russ Pritchard does everything that is asked of him on bass and is the tent pole around which everything else revolves.

The encore is a hat-trick of Oasis classics, Whatever, Half The World Away and Don’t Look Back In Anger, and by this point the band are accompanying the audience rather than vice versa. In a rare moment of interaction, Noel encourages a round of applause, not for the players but for the crowd. All You Need Is Love closes out the set and everyone heads off into the night, singing.

The excitement of the Oasis gigs was in part down to not knowing which band would turn up, whereas the High Flying Birds are much more consistent and are soaring at present.

That reunion just gets further and further away.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 10 Jun 2019 at 8:13am 

Album Review: The National – I Am Easy To Find



When, last autumn, the perennially glum slowcore outfit Low announced the release of their twelfth long player Double Negative it didn’t feel like much of an event; simmering for more than 25 years, Alan Sparhawk’s canon had mostly been one to respect but not necessarily admire.

Its arrival heralded something quite different though; phased into despair by fake news and profoundly cathartic emotions, the Minnesotans built for themselves a revelatory new perspective, beckoning in swathes of distortion and processing which against the odds created a neo-classic. The National don’t have the sort of cult-only appeal required to just shred the past like that; their history is one in which, through being a shoulder to lean on over the last two decades, their warm but austere indie rock has become – in what counts for such in 2019 – mainstream.

But the times they are a changing. Their eighth album, I Am Easy to Find, keys into some of the prevailing winds of music making, collaborations and co-singing glued together with bursts of electronic noise, an approach which refocuses attention away from singer Matt Beringer’s often mournful tones.

 

It’s also accompanied by a short film directed by Mike Mills, a symbiosis which he describes as ‘hostile siblings that love to steal from each other’. Of course, such diversions are the prerogative of a band who’ve outlasted most of their Brooklynite kin to seek a different outcome, and on the opening track You Had Your Soul With You and later via Hairpin Turns it’s left to unfamiliar textures to fill the void their normally understated poise expands into.

Berninger appears on occasion to be deliberately avoiding the spotlight; former Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey leads confidently during her frequent appearances while Sharon Van Etten and Lisa Hannigan shoulder the responsibility on The Pull of You’s theatrics, one of the rare moments during which a pristinely running guitar seeks to pull matters back into more recognisable shapes.

At over an hour and with sixteen songs – brief instrumentals Her Father in The Pool and Underwater included – the overriding impression is of an installation in the process of being brought to life, the impressive sweep alone making it by far The National’s most ambitious project to date. To even attempt this requires courage enough to disenfranchise and sometimes fail – the funereally paced Not In Kansas lands right on the cusp of garbled self-indulgence – and the confidence to reinterpret fiercely, with the likes of Hey Rosey and Dust Swirls In Strange Light coming from a distant and alien sonic universe.

I Am Easy to Find is a title that begs analysis, a task The National’s serious and mindful fans will doubtless take on with particular relish. Literally, it’s the reassuring cry of a gentle friend when in need but scratch the surface and the listener is left with questions: how much of this relationship is real, and how much is imagined? What cherished notions of the past can still be relied upon? Maybe, as it turns out, we never knew them at all and this radicalism is a glimpse behind the curtain as the last threads of 20th century rock are consigned to memory.

It seems even the most familiar snakes can shed their skin.

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 27 May 2019 at 7:30am 

Podcasting, pop, politics and punk: Live4ever chats with Don Letts


Don Letts is a busy man. Filmmaker, DJ and host of a BBC 6Music Show, the spectacularly dreadlocked veteran began curating his Turtle Bay podcasts in 2017, each one a uniquely themed look at Reggae, the Jamaican music exported to the world which has been the soundtrack to a life spent as a first-generation black British citizen during a time of huge social change.

The 63-year-old first introduced punk to reggae and vice versa as a DJ at the infamous Soho venue The Roxy in 1976, and went on to be a member of the ahead-of-their-time outfit Big Audio Dynamite with former Clash man and long-standing friend Mick Jones, but today he’s in the midst of having his boiler repaired. It’s a slice of the mundane which, for the next half-an-hour or so, is pushed to the back of a conversation that spans podcasting, pop, politics and punk as well as his role as an innovator and role model which growing up he admits he never had.

“It’s a hustle,” explains the effusive Londoner, “but it’s a creative hustle!”

You’ve just released your latest Turtle Bay podcast. For those people who haven’t heard one of them, what’s the idea?

When I was first invited to do them I said I wanted to have a different approach to a ‘normal’ podcast. I didn’t want to have a situation where people were just talking for an hour, so they’re not dialogue-based, they’re more like music documentaries, or mixtapes, which is something I used to do back in the late-seventies for people like The Clash, the Pistols and even Patti Smith.

There’s something totally refreshing about them being so music-led.

For me, any excuse to turn people onto new sounds. I give a bit more context and information obviously – this isn’t just a playlist – but as they’re just an hour long, there’s only so much background you can talk about. They’re built to last though, not to be disposable and, unlike some other podcasts, they’re meant to be something people can go back to time and time again.

Do you have a specific audience in mind when you’re putting them together?

Yeah…me! I don’t want that to sound selfish because it’s not, but I’ve found that doing it like that is the only way I can operate. It’s just like my radio show, I hand pick the songs and don’t play a tune I don’t like. If that resonates with 75% of the listeners, winner. Ultimately, it’s about taste – luckily, I got some!

What do you want people to take away from them?

I’d like to encourage them to dig further. It may be that there’s lots of the material they’ll be familiar with, but if they’re new to the genre I’ve tried to explore lots of different aspects, and then from that point it’s up to them to pick up the ball and run with it.

The last episode for instance focused on covers, with versioning of acts like The Beatles, Joy Division and even Nirvana.

I think what I was trying to show with those selections is that Jamaicans don’t live in a bubble; they’ve been listening to things from around the world since the early sixties – there’s even Bob Marley on there doing What’s New Pussycat.

And this wasn’t just a one-way thing.

No. The sonic experiments being created in Jamaica then are now part of the fabric of popular music. That’s testament to the cultural exchange that took place between Jamaica and the world.

How about now? What’s the state of British reggae in 2019?

For me, there are a lot of artists taking it into the future, people The Skints, Hollie Cook or Gentleman’s Dub Club, but as I said before, the influence of Jamaican music extends far beyond specifics – just consider Massive Attack for instance, who’re heavily influenced by the whole sound system culture. The same is true of the UK Grime scene now: a lot of MC’s will have parents or older siblings who were into the vibes created by bass culture and sound systems.

More broadly than that, most of the content played on commercial radio can have its roots traced back to aspects of Afro-Caribbean music in some way.

It’s all a testament to Jamaica’s gift to the world: bass! I don’t have a scientific answer why, but bass seems to connect people to each other and internally connects us to the planet. I always thought that if the earth was going to make a sound, it would be bass.

We also had a look at one of your DJ sets recently and the audience seems to be very young and cosmopolitan. Is reggae’s cross generational appeal to you a surprise?

Not at all. I’ve seen it grow from Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop into something truly global. This sound system culture can be found almost everywhere and I get to travel the world meeting dub heads and bass warriors from Poland and Russia to South America – we’re talking about a phenomenon, unfortunately it’s just not on MTV.

There are a lot of genres not served very well by MTV…

If you didn’t know and based on lack of presence in that medium, you’d assume that bass culture was a niche thing. It’s anything other than that.

Given its exposure and its history, particularly in the late 20th century, do you feel that reggae and music more fundamentally still has a role to play politically?

I grew up on music that helped you be all that you can be and wasn’t just there to sell you stuff. Music can entertain you, but it can also be a genuine tool for social change, inspiring people. There are still some people out there who understand its power to change lives, but they’re not the ones you’re gonna see on TV right now. It’s all a bit emperor’s new clothes; if you’re mediocre and you’re not saying anything, then you’re gonna get pushed to the front of the queue. A lot of music in this century’s just become a soundtrack for passive consumerism.

What about those who are making music that challenges the status quo but are being prevented from recording or performing by the authorities? Is that censorship?

You can’t silence the artist, but for me the artist has to acknowledge their responsibility. Equally though, you can’t just blame them for issues which are part of wider societal problems. Part of art is to inform, respond and react and in that context. Movements like drill for instance are as relevant as anything that’s out there.

Finally, we were really interested in a comment you made saying that ‘reggae got nothing from punk but exposure’. As someone who was right on the frontline of that twin revolution, what was the dynamic?

People like The Clash, Public Image and The Slits took reggae on board and it informed what they did. For me, it was testament to the power of culture that they and others chose to push things forward and brought people closer together, which was important then, but it’s more important now more than ever.

Culture is a continuum…

I think that there are people out there who are appreciating it and taking things forward, and some that are exploiting it, trying to monetise it. As Joe Strummer once said: ‘You always need to have your bulls**t detector finely tuned’.

Our time is up. Don’s boiler has been fixed. His thoughts are turning to a schedule that includes trips to Paris and Tokyo visiting exhibitions where the assemblage pays testimony to the positive embracing of new ideas which so obviously is his philosophy and way of approaching life. These excursions allow him to carry on soaking up new experiences and, by extension, maintain a wide perspective on his art and society.

It’s a hustle alright, but isn’t everything?

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 12 Mar 2019 at 10:00am 

Album Review: Clinic – Wheeltappers And Shunters


All hail the unheralded heroes.

Ever since The Velvet Underground, who have now taken their rightful place as one of the most influential bands of all time, there has always been those acts that operate in the shadows or the underground but have no end of plaudits from those in the know.

Love, Neu and the Buzzcocks can all lay claim to shaping British music in the sixties and seventies. The recent rebirth of Gang Of Four has led to a re-evaluation of their back catalogue. Devo are not a well-recognised name but can claim huge influence.

On this side of the year 2000, one of the early movements was to be found on Merseyside, with The Coral, The Zutons and The Dead 60s spearheading the charge for off-kilter, guitar driven, spiky scally rock. It’s a distinctive sound that is identifiable as being unique and self-contained enough to come from that corner of the North West, and to ignore Clinic as pioneers, or at least flame-bearers of that movement is to do them a huge dis-service. That they’ve been operating for 21 years from behind the curtains is a crying shame.

On this new album, their first after a sustained period of productivity (one album every two years without fail since 2000), we are once again welcomed into their weird and wonderful world. Few tracks exceed three minutes in length and manage to be both individual bursts of life that hang together to form a structured and coherent piece of work. It could easily be both concept album or Best Of collection.

 

The broad theme is of old-fashioned, family participating entertainment, references to circuses and fairs abound. Band conductor Ade Blackburn states that in serious times it’s nice to have some inoffensive fare to feast on as refuge. But like those once-halcyon days, there is a dark heart lurking beneath the surface. An air of looming menace pervades, as it always has done.

Incidentally, it’s been a good week for Wheeltappers and Shunters. For those fortunate enough not to remember it, the album is named after a long forgotten Granada TV production from the 1970s, where light entertainment favourites would perform in a fictional club environment. Think of a slightly less fictionalised version of Phoenix Nights. In a strange coincidence, the video for Noel Gallagher’s latest single centres around the show. Classic Gallagher cribbing? We’ll probably never know.

Once again, they are brimming with ideas. Laughing Cavalier is hurdy-gurdy lightweight psychedelia with Blackburn’s unique blend of earnest and grappling vocals leading us into ‘the fun of the fair’, grabbing the listener by the hand like the madcap ringmaster he was always meant to be. Complex echoes early Gorillaz, harmonica and drum machine working in spooky synchronicity, with background voices, either whispers or shouts, persisting in the lower levels of the mix. Flying Fish is more like the intense Clinic of old, the whimsy temporarily stripped  away, while Congratulations is a Hammond organ kaleidoscope of a song. Rejoice! is glam at its most insistent. The whole album has a deftness that Clinic have undoubtedly always had but rarely utilised, perhaps due to the long sabbatical.

This album is unlikely to win over any new fans, but then that’s extremely unlikely to be Clinic’s priority, having never been so. We must treasure bands of their ilk; those whose charms only appeal to a select few but which are harnessed and shaped to appeal to many more.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 09 May 2019 at 4:04pm 

Album Review: SOAK – Grim Town


It’s hard to escape the feeling that anyone who calls their album Grim Town in an age when you have to almost put a gun to someone’s head to make them listen to one is either incredibly brave or incredibly blasé.

This is even more jaw-dropping when you take into consideration that it’s a place that only exists in the mind of Bridie Monds-Watson, an imaginarium which eventually unfolds to be both a haven and a prison.

Being treated to the inside of anyone’s head is rarely less than awkward, but Monds-Watson has used the premise to deliberately sharpen some of the edges around her writing first heard on the critically acclaimed debut Before We Forgot How To Dream. This new starkness is rarely more potent than on Fall Asleep, Back Seat, about overhearing the conversation between her parents agreeing to divorce as a child, the words a sombre nursery rhyme for heartbroken grownups.

 

If coming to terms with that trauma is now long in the past, the singer spends much of Grim Town accepting many other things, firstly her changing relationship with a fiercely independent Londonderry home on Knock Me Off My Feet, but also with the inner workings of depression and how to escape its ugly event horizon on Get So Go Kid, its drift-laden piano and marching drums an amusement park theme staked against a delicate, piping hymn to making it out.

Even when striving so desperately to be true to yourself, a person’s life can still be defined by the actions of others and the relationships we pursue that we would do better to leave alone. Grim Town’s vacuum doesn’t exclude those people; the sombre Everybody Loves You deals with the isolation of being fossilised in your own feelings, while the doused strings and poise of Valentine Schmalentine are a token of when the final beads of loving warmth were still connecting, like hands wrapped tight around the thorns of a rose.

For somewhere so blighted, there’s a lot going on here. A teenage Monds-Watson used SOAK as an identity, a source of boldness she didn’t always feel, but this license to be someone else again reconnects to a pop self sometimes lost; Maybe’s scramble up-tempo then squared by Scrapyard, an indie dreamscape which strips away much of the rest of the album’s wistful enervation and replaces it with a rowdier sense of fulfillment.

Having felt like being stuck forever inside the walls of Grim Town with a hundred other unwilling souls, closer Nothing Looks The Same takes us away, a farewell perhaps not a goodbye but a departure all the same, one which sees our guide leaving her introspection and doubt to another day. The trip like this record is a complicated one, an assemblage of parts which at times manages to cut through its own contrivances and make you care deeply about every character wrapped up in it, but too often hope is weighed down by melancholy.

Tourist or resident? You’ll have to decide.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 04 May 2019 at 5:23am 

Live Review: ‘The more it changed, the more it stayed the same’ – Live At Leeds 2019

Live At Leeds 2016 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

For some reason this year’s Live at Leeds felt a little different. Maybe it was a bill lighter than previous ones on big names; possibly it was something to do with the weather, which was more typically northern Bank Holiday than 12 months ago. Whether this sensation was real or not, the same idea as usual still applied: get walking, get ducking into venues and get in front of some new music wherever possible.

On that note, the day opened at Hyde Park Book Club with In Your Prime, a youthful five-piece on home territory who play anthemic, hangover curing rock that brings back memories of Evanescence. In singer Ruby Cooke they have a front woman with lungs like bellows and in Handle With Care they have a song which could break them beyond they city’s confines.

There are fewer worries about profile for Paramore drummer Zac Farro, looking chic in a beret and striped t-shirt and enthusiastically fronting side project Halfnoise. A world away from the angsty heft of the mothership, his alter ego is psychedelic, soulful and, as you might expect, percussion heavy, as demonstrated ably on the likes of Scooby’s In The Back, Funny Feeling and disco stomper French Class.

 

Less minted but just as special are Cardiff’s Buzzard, Buzzard, Buzzard. Lead singer Tom’s dad used to drum for the Bay City Rollers and their retro-kitsch borrows much from T-Rex, with the swagger of Double Denim Bop leaving a bumper crowd riding their white swans in appreciation. Derbyshire-based Pattawa certainly can’t be accused of lacking a sense of humour after naming their last release London, Paris, New York, Matlock, and another thing they’ve got is the funk, especially on floor movers All The Time and Never Been Better. Also with tongues firmly planted in cheek are Dream Wife, whose self-titled debut album released last year won many friends for its punk sass and gender-conscious smartness. They announce mid-show that they’ve been writing the follow up in a Somerset barn and, as if they feel the story requires further evidence, then produce the tree stump on which bassist Bella Popadec conceptualised most of the material. Anyway, after inviting all the bad bitches down to the front they smash through a crisply energetic set which underlines their undoubted promise.

Another outfit with reasons to be optimistic are local lads Marsicans, due next month to appear on the undercard to Leeds royalty the Kaiser Chiefs at Elland Road; with a finely tuned ear for pop that gives songs like Your Eyes and Suburbs a poised gloss with substance underneath, they may yet emulate their hosts. A jog of sorts then makes catching the ever-wonderful Gengahr possible, with lead singer Felix Bushe simultaneously announcing the good news of their third album and the bad news that it won’t be out until next year.

Christopher Duncan’s miserly 30-minute turn is also as enjoyable as it is truncated, the Glaswegian still celebrating the release of his third album Health and its more expansive approach with new songs from it such as Talk Talk Talk and Holiday Home, still having time though to include the operatically beautiful Say. It was also a briefer than scheduled thing from She Drew The Gun, who right up until the point that singer Louise Roach suddenly left the stage for good had been delivering their melodic agit-prop with typical fiery aplomb. We learned later that the rapid curtailment was due to a Quorn allergy brought on by a vegan sausage roll.

Whether Dublin’s The Murder Capital are carnivores or not is unknown but despite their relative lack of profile, by the time besuited, bouncer-looking singer James McGovern takes to the Brudenell Stage word of mouth alone has the main room almost full. Redolent of Joy Division, their starkly landscaped post-punk is a tar-black revelation; McGovern spends part of the night letting the band’s twin guitar attack rend atoms from each other, seemingly lost in thought.

It got late and there were a number of worthy headliners we could’ve seen to close proceedings, but instead it was back to the former subterranean petrol tank that is Hyde Park Book Club to see Bilk, gobby Chelmsford grime punks with a yard of attitude and biting two minute sonic darts like CM2 and Slob. Coming over as sort of early Green Day meets The Streets, they were all the more loveable for it.

And so, another Live at Leeds had been and gone. The more it changed, the more it stayed the same, with sore feet and ringing ears the best reminders that safe and predictable should always be someone else’s problem.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 08 May 2019 at 8:53am 

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