Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Save Saki Bar!

Cath from MM has done a piece on the great Club Saki, explaining why all us mancunians (adopted or not) should give a shit about its closure. I couldn't write a better piece, so go read it and sign the online petition here:


Monday, 30 August 2010


So possibly my favourite new band of last year, The Old Romantic Killer Band, broke up in January... but their psychotic ginger singer has a new band, and they are fuckin' AWESOME!



or check this video of them fucking up their gear at a gig:


Wingman by fearandrecords

Saturday, 28 August 2010

People in Planes
Beyond the Horizon
Wind-Up Records
Rating: 4.5/5

Rightio, so as promised I'm going to write a few lines about PiP's follow-up to the capriciously brilliant ...As Far As The Eye Can See, a record that I fortuitously picked out of a bargain bin at Amoeba Records in SF, and that, to my knowledge, has still not been released in the UK. 

Listening to this, I can't help but ask where the fuck this band's legions of fans are, for largely eschewed is the idiosyncratic, pseudo-prog of their debut; instead, what's on offer here is left-of-centre prog informed alt-rock. The songs are shorter, the arrangements snappier, the vocal hooks more capable of passing the grey whistle test. In other words, it's shockingly accessible where perhaps AFATECS was not. Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace oversaw the early stages of this album, and it shows to an extent- while PiP have more kick than OLP, some airwaves-stealing moments have been included where they would not have made it onto AFATECS, notably 'Know By Now'. 

The best tracks obviously are the ones which showcase PiP's post-Ok Computer Radiohead musings combined with high register vocals and harmonies as well as Pete's guitar histrionics. In this category falls opener 'Last Man Standing', 'Get On The Flaw', expansive title-track 'Beyond the Horizon', Nu-Clear Sounds Ash-esque 'Tonight the Sun Will Rise' and 'Vampire'. The two singles, 'Pretty Buildings' and 'M'aidez' are your more run-of-the-mill pop rock, only distinguished really by the quality of singing and occasional outbursts of extended guitar technique. That said, I challenge any man to not get 'M'aidez' stuck in their head. It's fucking infectious. 

Apart from the afore-mentioned 'Tonight the Sun Will Rise', the highlight is undoubtedly heavy rocker 'Better Than Life', which closes on riffage so colossal that Wolfmother probably get a collective shiver down their spines every time PiP play it. Basically, it's a great album; not as randomly inspired as their first, perhaps, but it shows a band dealing with the need to expand their fanbase without shitting all over their roots (cough, Muse, cough), something that you can't condemn. 

Mayday [M'aidez] by acelynham

If you want to read my review of their first record, ...As Far As The Eye Can See, check it out here: http://whatismusicuk.blogspot.com/2010/01/people-in-planes-as-far-as-eye-can-see.html

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Time to be a hater...

Good Shoes
With Wild Palms, Lost Knives and Egyptian Hip Hop
Ruby Lounge 4/12/2009
Rating: 1/5

With a considerable crowd already present (although only me actually willing to stand at the front railing), Egyptian Hip Hop kicked off the night. Their set was different to the prevailing indie norm, but still failed to really stand out. A redundant key part in their second song meant that the set began to lose its kick, and by the fourth song in, there was no energy left. The crescendo of the fourth piece was weirdly compelling, but closing on a ‘Silver Rocket’ rip-off was not a wise choice. Everybody knows Sonic Youth (and indeed rips them off), so it was disappointing to see such a cop-out move from a young band.

Next up was Lost Knives. Whilst they put in a good set (if a little devoid of band chemistry), their overreliance on the EHX Holy Grail’s ‘flerb’ setting left their leads quite samey, and in ‘Static’, their best song, they lifted the riff from ‘I Predict A Riot’. For the most part though, their set was mercifully free of genre stereotypes and included some genuinely exciting riffs and passages. Evidently though they decided that a Sonic Youth ‘let’s make feedback’ section (again!) was necessary. It was, in fact, as tuneless as it was unnecessary. Ten out of then for effort, six out of ten for showmanship, three out of ten for originality.

Third was Wild Palms. More drum machines and synth modules take the stage. I’m beginning to see a pattern. I’ll spoil their ending now by saying there was no Sonic Youth nod, but this definitely endeared me to them. During their best song, ‘Over Time’, there was even a bit of Tom Morello ‘Wake Up’ style extended guitar technique, but this great song was the exception to the rule. In their last song of the night, they become a different band entirely. Gone are the indie-disco trappings; in is a new sense of melody and musical development that for some reason reminds me of the song ‘Rise from the Shadows’ by the last band I saw at the Ruby Lounge, Alberta Cross. Unfortunately, a hi-hat heavy beat does return by the end, but I can still hope that this outstanding number is a new song that represents the future direction of this band. Otherwise, painfully average things are probably to come.

In the Nineteen Sixties, musicians playing electric guitars through amplifiers were beginning to discover that if the volume was high enough, a break up of the signal or ‘distortion’ occurred. This radical shift in tone was hard to emulate at first, because many amplifiers were simply not designed to be pushed so hard, so musicians put magnetic metal like nails into their amps’ speaker cones, or ripped the cones themselves to get the buzzy tone they desired. This revolution was clearly missed by Good Shoes. If they were a colour, with their mellow, unoffensive low-gain sound, they’d be grey. One song in their singer Rhys Jones jumps into the crowd, but the mid tempo dullness of the music makes this act seem strangely comical. The front portion of the crowd don’t care though, and the dedicated fans duly jump around for all the first album songs and are coolly indifferent to the new ones. The band are tight, and the staccato arpeggiated leads set against a constant twang of rhythm guitar is presumably some peoples’ cup of tea, but not mine. If you are already a fan, it is worth saying that they were easily the most energetic band of the night, but that unlike the other bands, I don’t remember a single riff or passage from any of their songs.

Something I'd add to this review that wasn't originally published was that when I got into the venue, a bunch of underage-looking guys in ripped, Topshop-style Nirvana tees were standing around looking at their feet by the door. I wondered how the hell they'd got into the venue, and moreover whether they were serious about those haircuts... don't get me wrong- I've got long, messy hair too, but there is a limit people (unless you are a Slayer fan). Anyway, these kids turned out to be Egyptian Hip Hop. True story.
I love how subversive and dark this song is (for a shameless 80s pop gem)...


If you want to despair at the human race, look at the comments below it. Classic Youtube idiocy. People arguing not over whether the song is about nuclear war or not, but over whether it's about a nuclear war started by the US or by the USSR. If there is one thing that renders that argument completely irrelevant, it's probably mutually assured destruction, to be honest. Chrissakes, that's not just missing the point, that's actively being completely fucking oblivious to it. 

Fuck this shit, I'm going for a bike ride.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Be excited about this, folks...

More details soon!


Thursday, 19 August 2010

This story warmed my heart...

Checkitout: http://songbytoad.com/2010/07/thank-you/#comments

Now that's a lovely story.

Allllllllllso, I will be posting links to a bunch of stuff I've been upto of late- for the non lazy, click the link on the right of the page- including an interview with SVIIB, fuckloads of album reviews, and interviews with Sleepy Sun (whose album Fever is fucking incredible) and the ever-excellent Sad Day for Puppets. I'm hoping to snag an interview with Oceansize about their new album, but that's proving harder to arrange...

Oh, also a copy of People in Planes' second, but-not-very-recent-anymore album Beyond the Horizon dropped through my antiquated letter-box this morning, so I will write things (hopefully good things) about it as soon as I'm free to do so. 

Now to record an EP.

Monday, 16 August 2010

I've been listening to Adore by Smashing Pumpkins quite a lot recently, and it's only occurred to me now how much of it went over my head when I was younger. I guess some music is like that- it's a record about old loves and lost friends as well as death and real serious life shit... no wonder I couldn't get all of that subtext as a sixteen-year-old. 

Moral: Music is fucking awesome. 

Speaking of fucking awesome music, you should check out this Manchester band called Narrows. You can get their Through Constant Decay EP for free from their bandcamp, and you really fucking should, it's as ace as the FTKOSQ records in terms of Manchester underground electronic. 


SSD Podcast #3

...Is now available here. Have a listen.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Hahaha... as a double dip recession looms, I thought I'd post this billboard I saw on t'internet...

My thoughts exactly.

Does anyone remember....... Curve?

Gather round, and let me tell you a tale. In the early 90s, from the ashes of the shoegaze scene there emerged a band so original and inspiring that they still haven't been bettered today. The name of that band was Curve, and in their psychedelic electronica-meets-shoegaze-with-a-little-bit-of-grunge-in-the-mix attitude they created a sound that is still striking even today. I've decided to write about them because I saw a review that said SVIIB's second album wasn't anything new for anyone that remembered Curve. Well, I do remember Curve, and I suppose that's true to some extent, but Curve were always way darker, closer to the 'dark ambient' of Massive Attack's Mezzanine than the dream-pop of Lush. Also, let's not forget that on the Ten Little Girls EP they wrote a track that has what is possibly the only instance of rapping on a shoegazing record (to my knowledge).

So if Curve were so good, then why hasn't anyone heard of them? Good question. They released four albums on a major label- Doppelganger, Cuckoo, Come Clean, and Gift, as well as two download compilations and a number of EPs. More than this, if you listen to their most successful (and best) album, Come Clean, you'll hear a number of tracks that could- and did- become radio favourites, or even club tunes: 'Coming up Roses', 'Something Familiar', or 'Killer Baby', for instance, whilst I've heard singles 'Hell Above Water' from Gift and 'Chinese Burn', the lead single from Come Clean on Top Gear

What happened then? Garbage. Garbage happened. 

Every time I try and introduce Curve to a friend, they usually take one listen, scrunch up their nose and say words to the effect of 'kind of sounds like Garbage...' and that's that. There's a reason for this. Butch Vig, the driving force behind Garbage had worked with Curve and seen a gap in the market for a more stripped-down, post-grunge slash electronic version of their sound. I'm usually pretty generous on imitation leading to creation, but in this case, it's simple: Garbage ripped Curve off, and fucked them over. How? Let me explain. Garbage's more simple arrangements took Curve off the playlists, jumbled up people's sense of which band came first, and when the inevitable backlash came against Garbage's platinum-selling debut, Curve got buried completely, while Garbage were big enough to weather the storm. 

It's just a case of bad luck really; with the right timing, and backing, Curve could have been as big, but they remained the perennial outsiders, despite their musings increasingly becoming more mainstream-acceptable dream pop. With each album they changed tone and approach, and in terms of sheer musical ability, the partnership can have been matched by few since. So, if you want to discover a hidden gem of the mid-90s, check Curve out. Yes, they are quite electronic, and yes, they have a female singer, but that's where the Garbage comparisons should end; they have oh so much more to offer than Garbage ever did.


Curve's first record, essentially just a shoegazing outing, riding the back of the scene that was popular at the time. Highlights include opener 'Already Yours', the sublimely vocal-led 'Horror Head', sinister 'Lillies Dying' and more aggressive 'Split Into Fractions'. The closer, 'Sandpit' is worth a mention, as it bears some resemblance to a melancholy 'Tea in the Sahara' by the Police.... at least to me. 

Cuckoo, Curve's second album, is darker and more industrial in feel- the guitars are more agressive, less washed out in the mix, and the dark electronic influences that were later to tell are beginning to surface. That said, the highlight is undoubtedly the shoegaze mammoth of 'Superblaster'. The album performed poorly, both in sales and in critical reception, and overall it's by far Curve's weakest effort. After this, the band would break up.

 From the word go, this album, by the newly- reformed Curve is unstoppable. From the sheer madness of 'Chinese Burn', which is like Nine Inch Nails covering The Cure, it just gets better and better. There's only one bad track on here- the inexplicable noise-punk of the title cut, which cuts in just as the album is tripping out towards the end. My personal favourite is possibly 'Beyond Reach'. The sheer restrained malice and bitterness in Toni Halliday's delivery of the lines "never pick a fight with someone bigger than you/ that's what I learned when I was at school", and "I'm a tosser for thinking/ it was anything more than it was" are the most plain her lyrics ever get, as well as the cathartic high-water mark of the album. 

By Gift, major rifts had formed between Curve and their record label Universal, and it seems they can have had few illusions about this record being their last; a gentle progression from their previous effort, with the guitars all but gone, the downtempo 'Polaroid' and 'Hung Up' steal the show, while a guest appearance from Kevin Shields adds magic to the best track, 'Perish', and the lyrics, "we're staying together for the sake of our memories" and "I'm scared of the bugs, a millionth of the size of me" could as easily be about the breakdown of the band as the other loss they describe. Other guests (including Flood and members of Filter and Depeche Mode) bring subtle changes of mood to the tracks they feature on, and add a backstory to the album that gives it a fitting weight for a final outing. Curve go down swinging, and as Halliday screams "I should have seen it coming!" at the end of 'Bleeding Heart' you feel her trademark vocal restraint finally crack, as she moves from ethereal to pure, elemental anger amid a wall of fuzz distortion, and the heaviest passage of any song in their career.

The great thing about Curve though, over say, Vex Red, is that they had time to develop and actually put out a body of work before they finally went under. There's still the inevitable 'what if?', but with three truly great albums under their belts there's equally enough to get your teeth stuck into. By the time that 'Bleeding Heart' is fading out in your speakers, you'll have been with the band on a real journey, and an increasingly personal one at that, as the lyrics become progressively more transparent album to album. They are an obsessive music fan's dream- and more than that, they genuinely were an excellent band.

(For the interested) Live Rig for Dean Garcia:
The bottom image is (c) Guitargeek.com 2004.

Monday, 9 August 2010

New 'Size Album...

Ok, so everybody knows that the new Oceansize record will be released on the 6th of September through Superball music. What you may not know is that you can get a free track from it here: http://bit.ly/c948o0, accompanied by the charming note I've posted below. Enjoy! 

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A folk digression...

Ok, so I'm not a massively folky kinda guy, but you should check out 'Son, Come Tell it Unto Me' on Sam Walter's Myspace if you know what is good for you....


Eerily brilliant. Eugh, it's been a while since I got shivers down my spine from listening to music like this. 

Friday, 6 August 2010

Sad Day for Puppets are back...!

Alright, so anybody that's seen me wondering around in a Sad Day tee knows I'm a big fan of this band, so understandably I'm pretty excited about the fact that their second album, Pale Silver & Shiny Gold, will be released on the 6th of September. For the interested, you can hear (and download) a preview track from the album here, called 'Monster & the Beast':


Over and out. 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

I know this is in no way music related, but that's how I got on the front cover of Student Direct after election night. Oh captain, my captain...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

2000 Trees Day Two

The first thing we did on Day Two was take a walk through the corn fields and up into the woods (vaguely following the path of a nature walk marked out by the organisers), which proved an excellent hangover cure. On our return, we were greeted by the bizarre sight of sheep dog trials in the field adjoining the campsite. Introducing her many sheep dogs, the farmer went on to show how each and in various groupings dealt with the task of herding sheep through gates. It was fascinating, and also worth it for a comment I heard in the crowd- “wow, look at that dog. How great would it be to be him? Running around, herding sheep…”

Anyway, it’s been alleged that we were at a music festival, so we trudged back into the arena, where Left Side Brain were playing. To be honest, I grew up in a town where all the bands sounded like these guys, and I couldn’t really care less- big dumb modern metal is so dull. We did however run into Charlie Barnes, who played last year, and gave us some exciting rumours about the line-up for next year (please be true…). The sun was just about out, so we stuck around until LSB were done before heading to the acoustic tent, which to the terror of my housemate was full (and I really do mean full) of wasps. For those that ran the gauntlet though, the reward was Ruth Bewsey, who managed to draw a crowd that filled the tent, the walkway outside and went as close to the Portaloos that fenced the area in as can be considered reasonable.

Recently, I saw Ellen Reed from hotly-tipped Ellen and the Escapades playing a solo set (at Charlie Barnes’ album launch party actually, of all places), and I would say this was the nearest proxy for Ruth’s sound, except that Ruth was better. The melodies were crisper and simpler, which allowed for her voice to really take up the lines and carry them. Too often with a reedy voice, what you get is a mumble, but luckily not here. Her set over, we shot off, for inexplicably the sound engineers at the acoustic tent were putting on loud Drum n’ Bass in between the acts, and it wasn’t helping my hangover.

Acting on a tip we tried to catch OST (Old School Tie), but found the Leaf Lounge was now working on a one-in, one-out basis. Even from our poor vantage point though it was clear that these guys had talent. Somewhere between first-album Oceansize and Sonic Youth around Dirty, they put in a cracking set of post-rock tinged prog. After that, it was time for lunch, and back on the hill at camp it became evident from the sound coming from the main stage that Flashguns have got better in the nine months since I last saw them (thank God).

Returning in time for Sonic Boom Six, the crowd was already skanking away by the end of the first bar; of equal note were the two giraffes at the front (who later won the fancy dress competition) or the ten people attempting to enter the mosh pit in a giant concertina contraption that presumably was supposed to be a caterpillar.

After SBS, there was Twin Atlantic. The description in the programme as “like Biffy, but better” seemed pretty fair, for it’s not exactly in sound where the similarity lies, but rather in the fact that festivals breed a demand for good, no-nonsense rock. Biffy have become huge by playing on this need and being at every festival for the last seven years; if Twin Atlantic do the same, success is assured.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex wit were a little bit of a disappointment. For all of the good things I’ve heard, they failed to live up to expectations, and I was left with the impression of a tight, but not stellar folk band.

This complaint could not be lodged about 65daysofstatic; it seems that every time I see this band, I’ve forgotten why they were so good the last time that I’ve elected to see them again. They are just so talented it makes me feel a little ill, and their fusion of dance and post-rock is just so infectious that they rightly claim the coveted prize of Band of the Weekend. Congratulations!

Expecting a whimper rather than a bang to follow 65 in Bombay Bicycle Club, I was pleasantly surprised by the set they put in. I’ve seen them once before around the time I Had the Blues but I Shook Them Loose came out, and following the post-rock giants they plumped for a set of their sharper, heavier cuts, with ‘Magnet’, ‘Lamplight’ and of course ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ all featuring.

By now, it’s fair to say that the majority of the crowd were probably far beyond drunk, as I was, and the festival offered a remedy- The Subways. To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan, and though I saw them on their first tour years ago, their songs haven’t aged well. Not that this mattered to the amassed crowd of revellers, for like them I was swept away by a set that relied heavily on their first album, with highlights being ‘Oh Yeah’ and encore (obviously) ‘Rock n’ Roll Queen’.

The music finished, the silent disco commenced; one of the funniest moments of the festival was seeing a guy riding on another guy’s shoulders at the front, both without headphones, fall over and take out the people around them. From what I can piece together, I returned to the bar and then crawled into my sleeping bag head-first when I returned to my tent to get a deposit for the silent disco. Oh well.

In the morning, as we drove out of the festival gates, we got high-fived by the stewards out of the window (this appeared part of the standard procedure), and then were on our way. Suffice it to say, that summed up the atmosphere of a fantastic festival. With my first Glastonbury just behind me (I know, shame on me), I couldn’t help thinking that this is what that festival used to be like back when it started, and with any luck 2000 Trees will continue to grow and prosper.

The pictures used here are (c) Jon Stone 2010

2000 Trees Day One

Sometimes I really feel like I’ve had my head in a paper bag for the last few years. Drinking Badger’s Bottom in front of the main stage in the sun at 2000 Trees was definitely one of those times. Of course, the weather wasn’t perfect, and little did I comprehend the impending blitzkrieg in store for me at the hands of the aforementioned cider; nevertheless, any festival which has sheep dog trials as an attraction has to be worth checking out.

First we had to get there though. This is easier said than done when one of your travel buddies gets pickpocketed outside your home railway station. By the time we were on our way, the hour was late enough to occasion a mad dash for Cheltenham, lest we miss And So I Watch You From Afar (we missed And So I Watch You From Afar). When we eventually got our tents up, we’d missed the Xcerts, but I can report that their singer-guitarist apparently did a decent job of crowdsurfing while still playing. After that, Pulled Apart by Horses tore the place up with their incendiary stage show, which segued nicely into an excellent performance by Future of the Left (featuring Mark Hodson of Oceansize on bass), who drew the biggest and most enthusiastic pre-headline crowd of the day.

After that onslaught of post-hardcore aggression, the double bill of Errors and Metronomy felt rather out of place; personally, I didn’t find anything memorable about either, and my indifference was certainly shared by at least a fair minority, who were camped out waiting for Frank Turner to take the stage.

Love him or hate him, Frank is certainly a growing force on the UK live scene; a detractor complained about him being treated “like God” at 2k Trees, and there’s a little truth in that. Everywhere you go, it seems, he’s mentioned in reverential tones- more of a patron saint than God- but the question to me was whether or not he could fill the headliner’s shoes.

…Well, of course he could. To a crowd composed of the hardcore fans, who knew every song of his, Frank’s set was difficult to top. Obvious mentions go out to ‘Poetry of the Deed’, the set highlight, as well as the mass sing-a-long that accompanied ‘The Road’, his encore. Done with music for the day, everybody went their separate ways to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The pictures here are (c) Jon Stone 2010