Friday, December 31, 2010
I'd always heard enough about Nothington to know that I liked them. Interest sparked again when Cape Town rock band 7th Son mentioned they'd jammed with Nothington in Germany - I knew I'd get there in the end. And last weekend, finally, I found their latest album Roads, Bridges, & Ruins (2009) at Rounder Records in Brighton. And let's just say, it was worth the wait.
Look, no one's reinventing Axl Rose. It's all been done before. Some bands just do it better than others, with the lyrics and soul to back things up. Nothington are one of those bands: raw, energy-retained production, pop-punk hooks, burnt vocal chords and haunting melodies that reek of life on the road. Brilliant.
Fans of bands like Iron Chic, Hot Water Music, Leatherface, Dear Landlord and The Lawrence Arms, get in touch...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
On December 17, in Camden, Watford hardcore heroes Gallows played both their albums, song by song, back to back. First, Orchestra of Wolves at Dingwalls. Then Grey Britain at the Electric Ballroom. Photographer David Bremner's 200 photo gallery of the event's pretty intense.
This isn't what I was expecting at all. From the album title, song names and point of origin (Sweden), I was expecting something a lot heavier. I was expecting something scary and a-melodic. Instead, Ghost throw down a surprisingly easy-on-the-ears gauntlet of wicked, stoner, doom-metal.
Don't get me wrong, Ghost sing about Satan like Cypress Hill rap about weed. And their content's more evil than Rupert Murdoch and Ronald McDonald combined. But the sound's non-threatening. And thanks to their unnamed vocalist's - they're all unnamed - camp, theatrical vocals and the melodic backups, even lines like "Our father, who art in hell, unhallowed be thy name" sound evil in a Phantom of the Opera kind of way.
The music's got a lot of groove. The riffing's infectious. Addictive! At first I was thinking Mastodon, but Ghost reference everyone from Black Sabbath to Misfits on their way down to the fiery pits of hell. Ghoulish!
From their bio on MySpace, "Ghost is the name of a devil worshipping ministry that - in order to spread their unholy gospels and, furthermore, trick mankind into believing that the end is ultimately a good thing - have decided to use the ever so popular rock music medium as a way to achieve their ends." See what I mean, it's all a bit tongue in cheek, isn't it?
Photographer Glen E. Friedman's shot everyone from Tony Alva and Jay Adams, to punk legends like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys, to hip-hop hall-of-famers like Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C and Beastie Boys. "The bottom line is that he was there at the beginning of so much cool stuff in so many different areas it's not funny" - Henry Rollins. Fuck You All is Friedman's new show, currently on at Nine Four One Geary, San Francisco.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
"Little hand-painted people, left in London to fend for themselves." Check out this groovy little blog/art project by London-based miniaturist Slinkachu.
Just finished Keith Richards' bio, Life - what a legend! How nuts is this video of Keef taking care of business when a crazed fan storms the stage? He just whacks him, slings his guitar back around and carries on playing, like it's business as usual.
Took some photos of Mayhem at the Islington Academy last Saturday. Opening bands Anaal Nathrakh and Dragged Into Sunlight got stuck in the snow and couldn't make it. So it was up to Mayhem to scare the shit out everyone. Needless to say, they lived up to their reputation.
Check out the full gallery on the Vice site.
Friday, December 17, 2010
15 December, HMV Forum
Gogol Bordello, Devotchka, Alain Johannes
When we get in, Alain Johannes is on stage wrapping up an acoustic one-man show. I keep trying to place his voice. Who does he remind me of? Damn. Then, some time between my first Red Stripe and my last ever Carlsberg from a plastic bottle, it comes to me: Brandon Boyd. In a weird, folk guitar sort of way.
Born in Chile, Johannes has got a CV you won’t believe. I mean, this old-looking bald dude with a square guitar’s worked with everyone. From Chris Cornell to Kelly Clarkson. Lately, he’s been adopted by Josh Homme and Brodie Dalle, serving time in Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal and Spinnerette. But now he’s touring solo, promoting his new album Spark.
In London, no matter who’s playing, whenever you turn around there’s always some old guy in a Motörhead shirt pushing his way through the crowd with a beer in each hand and one between his teeth. He never spills a drop and it’s never the same guy twice.
Up next, DeVotchKa’s got to be one of the most unlikely-looking bands I’ve ever seen. Frontman Nick Urata looks the part. Then on either side of him you’ve got Sigmund Freud (Tom Hagerman) on violin, accordion and piano and one of my mum’s old friends (Jeanie Schroder) on double bass and sousaphone.
A lot of the time, DeVotchKa sound like a gypsy version of The Killers. Then they get all esoteric, with Hagerman over-sustaining a note on his violin, Schroder backing him up with her quivering bow and double bass and Urata completing the dark picture on theremin. It’s eclectic stuff. In-between, DeVotchKa even find time for a bit of mariachi and straight up gypsy punk, with Urata on electric bouzouki.
After a long break the stage goes dark. When the lights come on again, violinist Sergey Ryabtsev’s leaning over the crowd, working his way through a makeshift intro to “Tribal Connection.” Eugene Hütz starts singing, “What’s going on in your town? What's going on in your town?” Then it’s on.
Gogol Bordello’s one band meant to be seen live. Before I know what’s happening, they’re running through “Wonderlust King” and I’m off my feet in the front row. I don’t even know how I got there. It’s like I’m under a spell.
Midway through, the pit’s a sweaty mess. Hütz takes his shirt off and to quote Noel Fielding, “he’s so wiry he’s hurting my eyes.” Drunk idiots follow Hütz’ lead and take their shirts off as well. And for the rest of the night I keep brushing up against them, Along Came Polly style…
After an intense encore that seems to go on forever, Hütz introduces the band. And he’s all, “from Ethiopia… from Scotland… Russia… Israel… Ecuador… North England…” Finally, he introduces Ryabtsev as “the Russian professor of rock ‘n roll.”
Gogol Bordello’s the real United Nations - a magnificent conglomerate without a drop of prejudice or pretension. Their members are men, women, black, white, old, young… A mismatched, oddly shaped gang of brothers and sisters. And the thing that binds them is their intense passion for music and sticking together against all odds. Really, they’re a union of overachieving underdogs.
After the show people scour the floor for iPhones and other goodies. I lost my backup Samsung somewhere but I was on such a high, it didn’t seem to matter. When I get to the front to check Lost & Found, there are people queuing up all round the lobby, looking for wallets, Blackberrys and bank cards. All victims of the great Trans-Continental Hustle…
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Xtra Mile Recordings
Described by Turner as a "taster for the new album," Rock & Roll's more of an appetiser than anything else. An offering to appease the fans 'til the new album's out (and the non-stop touring starts all over again).
Track one "I Still Believe" is a perfect single. It's got everything: heart, soul and a massive sing along chorus. But it's the honesty of the message that's most affecting. It's an upbeat, knee-slapping, folk-punk tribute to the "redemptive power" of rock 'n roll.
"Pass It Along" slows things down with an almost minstrel, medieval-sounding guitar run. "Rock & Roll Romance" is a downtrodden, sombre, acoustic-guitar-only ditty. Then "To Absent Friends" hits your right in the chest. It reminds me of The Loved Ones, with a definite piano-laced nod to The Boss. To me, that's when Turner sounds best.
Written after a bender in New Orleans with Jon Snodgrass, "The Next Round" is a depressing, slow-building acoustic ode to drinking. A confession, with Turner singing lines like "I'm not yet quite 30 but I feel like I'm dying," "pills don't kill the pain" and "I tried to live like Hemingway." Still, despite the song's dark nature - which seems part Snodgrass part Turner - somehow, that optimistic Turner twinkle still shines through. It's the strongest slow song on the EP.
In the end, Rock & Roll's just over 17 minutes of music. "I Still Believe" is a feel good stomper and "To Absent friends" is my new favourite Frank Turner song. The rest are a bit more forgettable. Not bad, just fillers...
So it looks like Dave Grohl's all set to appear in the new Muppets movie, due out in 2011. At the moment the film's still untitled, but in the story Grohl stands in for regular Muppets drummer Animal when he's sent off to anger management classes. The new film - written by Jason Segel - also stars Jack Black, Ricky Gervais and Lady Gaga.
And if that's not weird enough, Grohl also played on Michael Jackson's "new" album, drumming on "(I Can't Make It) Another Day" - also featuring Lenny Kravitz. Meanwhile Kurt Cobain shudders in his grave...
Monday, December 13, 2010
Also featuring: Kerouac, Abolition, Black Mass and Slabdragger
Full Gallery: www.viceland.com/blogs/uk-photos/2010/12/13/hang-the-bastard-album-launch
© Frank Turner's Facebook
“This is the single biggest headline show I’ve ever done!” gasps Frank Turner, smiling from ear to ear. “The first solo show I did, there were four people. There’s 5000 of you… Which makes me think I’ve done something constructive with the last four years.”
“This is the last day of the tour, which is a shame, ‘cos I fucking love being on tour,” he says... Tonight’s a big night and Brixton Academy feels festive. It's an end of year party of sorts, celebrating four years of non-stop touring, recording and partying around the world. Since Million Dead split up in 2005, Turner’s released three studio albums and a never-ending barrage of EPs, split albums and compilations.
The first band tonight Dive Dive’s been going since 2000. Then in 2006, the whole band except frontman Jamie Stuart recorded as Frank Turner’s band on his first EP Campfire Punkrock (recorded at Dive Dive’s studio in Oxford). In 2007, Dive Dive minus Stuart became Turner’s official touring band. Still, Dive Dive kept things going with new album Potential.
Tonight, Dive Dive sound and look every bit the opening act. Their sound’s hard to place. It’s modern rock – something Pete Wentz might sign. But despite the band’s well-articulated instrumentals, the vocal melodies and lyrics aren’t as well put together. Stuart’s voice comes off trebly and Brian Molko-ish, which doesn’t sit well with Dive Dive’s up-tempo, pop-punk riffs (and drummer Nigel Powell’s sweet backups).
Up next, layering live recordings like a voodoo lasagna, bluesy London singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt’s a million miles a way. At one point, he squeezes floor tom, trombone, banjo and shakers through a ‘50s, Good Night, and Good Luck microphone and wails over it with electric guitar and throaty headbutt vocals. And when his fingers dance up and down his keyboard on “Heart of a Wolf,” you know: this guy’s for real, a musical prodigy.
Around 9:20pm, Turner and his band stride on with purpose in matching white shirts. “My name’s Frank Turner, I’m from Winchester.” And off they go. Turner takes a quick break, just long enough to squeeze out, “Fuckin ‘ell! If everyone sings along it convinces my mum I’ve got a real job.” And then he’s off again.
“This is a song about listening to Black Flag and Minor Threat growing up. It’s a song about throwing bricks at police officers when you’re younger and wondering if it was a good idea when you’re older,” says Turner, before “Love Ire & Song.”
Tonight, backed up by his band, the main attraction is Frank Turner and his acoustic guitar. And despite his punk-rock roots, really, the guy just loves a good sing along. “I believe in guitar, bass, drums, piano and poetry. I believe in Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. I believe in The Clash, Billy Bragg and the redemptive quality of rock ‘n roll,” says Turner, introducing new single “I Believe.” And that sums him up perfectly. His songs are stories. Poems. Pages torn from a life well spent.
Showing off how much he lives and breathes this stuff, Turner introduces another new song, “The Next Round.” “The first time I went to New Orleans I went with my friend Jon Snodgrass. We got way too fucked up. I’m not gonna say what happened, but when I woke up the next day I pretty much wrote this song right then and there.”
Near the end, Powell gets the crowd clapping in time from the wings then just sits back in front of the speakers, staring out in awe and disbelief at what he’s created. Kind of like how Frank Turner stares at Brixton Academy all night – like it’s Christmas morning and he’s just got everything he’s ever wanted. Turner ends with an encore that includes Stuart and a now shaved Ed Harcourt. And the bouncers are still watering wilted teenage girls as the Academy empties...
Friday, December 10, 2010
All I knew going in was The xx beat Biffy Clyro, winning the 2010 Barclay Mercury Prize. Their album's in the 'Best of 2010' rack at HMV. And oh yeah, there's massive posters of them all over town, calling xx the 'Album of 2010.' So why not? CDs are dirt cheap here.
Seeing as how it was released in late 2009 and has already been heralded as one of the albums of the decade (the British media love themselves some hype), it doesn't make sense to get too in-depth. But for an album generating so much hype and attention, by an electronic, indie-rock band formed in 2005, xx is disarmingly subtle and understated.
I was expecting flash and a magnum-sized dose of sideways-parted pretentiousness, but the musical landscapes surveyed are refreshingly uncluttered and innocent. There's a delicacy to the songs and beats that ends with them stuck in your head like a good dream.
The call-and-answer vocals of guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim gives the album a very personal, honest touch, without ever crossing over into photo-album, Facebook-status-relationship territory. It's moody, electronic-backed indie-rock with a great sense of rhythm and atmosphere.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
John Lennon on rhythm guitar and vocals, Eric Clapton on lead, Keith Richards on bass and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums - Jack White, eat your heart out. They called themselves The Dirty Mac and only played once, on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.
Here's a better-sounding, audio-only version of the song.
After weeks of Internet rumouring, hippy metalheads System Of A Down have finally kissed and made up. News from their official site:
We are excited to announce that System will be playing some dates together in 2011. We also want to thank you for your loyalty and support, not only to System Of A Down, but to all of our solo efforts as well. We have no master plan of sorts - we are playing these shows simply because we want to play together again as a band and for you, our amazing fans. We look forward to seeing all of you! For a list of tour dates and on-sale information, go to the NEWS section at systemofadown.com
System Of A Down"
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
December 1, Brixton Academy
Going to so many shows without prejudice you get to see a huge cross-section of music fans. So what if some hipster with pointy shoes and Buddy Holly glasses looks at me funny for wearing a Gallows shirt to a National gig. Fuck ‘em, their ankles are cold…
Tonight’s crowd is an older and more “sophisticated” – in some parts, flat-out pretentious – mix of people. The kind of crowd where it’s not unusual to see someone reading a book between bands, instead of the usual iPhone/Blackberry Twitter addiction.
Phosphorescent are on first. And besides the stupid name, they’re actually pretty darn good, pardner. Their music’s a gentle wash of alternative rock with a distinctly Southern, truck-stop, country-blues kind of swagger. Slow at first, but everything’s building to something.
Drummer Chris Marine is a master of subtlety and restraint, smashing his cymbals to pieces when the time arises. And lead guitarist Jesse Anderson Ainslie is one of the most soulful shredders I’ve ever seen in operation.
Frontman Matt Houck’s voice fills the hall like the smell of a hobo’s raincoat – without even trying. He comes on wearing a cap, which is weird. I mean, besides bowler hats, fedoras and flatcaps, the actual peak cap’s out, right? And when he takes it off, he reveals a gaping bald spot. At one point, he kicks the cap off stage. I wonder if there’s something in it or if the Guinness is just taking over.
During the changeover. When all the sound guys are swapping things around and testing guitars and so on, The National drummer Bryan Devendorf comes out to practice his beats. Which is pretty unusual. Tonight’s the third night of the band’s sold-out three-night run. So maybe there’s a part he’s just trying to nail. Or even a bit he’s obsessed about and convinced himself he’s forgotten – I know how that goes.
The National’s a strange one. They give all old musicians hope. Somehow, their sound appeals to everyone. Well, not everyone. But, you know what I mean? They’re cutting edge. Hip. On the radar. And it’s all because the songs are so damn good. Also, Devendorf’s modern beats give them that edge. His drumming’s just so interesting. Almost Travis Barker-ish in parts (only much less manic).
The actual show’s a complete blur. The whole hall seems to be in a trance. Frontman Matt Berninger’s wearing his signature black suit and shiny shoes, leaning on the mic like a depressed Rat Packer. His voice is hypnotic. Majestic, even. And when he does lose it, his screams are just so fucking moving! During “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” leaning into an amp and hitting his sides with a flutter, it looks like he’s trying to get feedback from his face.
After “Fake Empire” – which sounds insane – the band goes off stage for a “theatrical pee break.” And after a few encores, including “Terrible Love” – nuts – they end with a no-mic, acoustic guitar version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” And even now, just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Frank Carter - Gallows
Tunbridge Wells Forum
From the stories I’d heard, I was expecting a real nasty piece of work. “An ‘orrible cunt,” to quote Bricktop… I expected hate, bile and mayhem. I imagined Frank Carter leaping from the stage, smashing my camera and punching my teeth in. Truth is, he’s a funny fucker!
In-between songs, never running out of things to say, Carter came across as likable, witty and 100% dedicated to the cause, thanking everyone from the support bands to the sound guys – “because they’re the real rock stars.” And burning everyone from Bullet For My Valentine to Korn.
The opening bands showed off just how well-travelled and rehearsed Gallows are as a touring machine. “Massive tune, massive tune,” said the guy next to me, after every song. It doesn’t matter what music you’re into, Gallows are compelling. Explosive. Larger than life. And Frank Carter’s a showman. Intense. A natural performer.
Man Hands went on first, featuring November Coming Fire vocalist Gareth Evans on Man Vocals. “I don’t have a lot to say,” he said, followed by a lengthy rant about not “sitting home and smoking weed.” “That’s not cool, man. Go out there and support local shows. Otherwise we have to drive into that shit-hole London.”
Man Hands’ sound is a jarring blend of psychotic spazz rock and hardcore punk. Their songs are all about 15 seconds long and end before you know they’ve even started. Banter between songs was non-existent. Instead, it just seemed like four dudes (no bass guitar) shouting at a room full of strangers for about fifteen minutes. But the drummer’s a Jedi master.
Adam Woodford - Polar
Up next, Polar got people going. Frontman Adam Woodford jumped around the Forum like a Jack Russell with his toes on fire. Compared to Man Hands, Polar’s sound was a lot more digestible. More “traditional” sounding hardcore, delivered with enthusiasm. At one point, guitarist Max O’Neill rocked out so hard he fell backwards into his amp, the smile never leaving his face.
Feed the Rhino was on next. And straight away, they looked the part. Wearing a “go hard or go home” t-shirt, frontman Lee Tobin tried his best to get the crowd riled up. And mostly, he succeeded. But something about his stage presence rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t find myself on his side at all. It just seemed like he was shouting at people, the whole time spraying them with water like he was in Metallica or something – a very unlikable frontman.
Feed the Rhino's sound is pretty straightforward as well. Everything's in the right place, but nothing grabs you. And at this stage, all I wanted was Gallows! I went to the back and bought one of their shirts, served by bassist Stuart Gili-Ross and guitarist Laurent Barnard – who was taking Movember to all new levels of wax-manipulated extremity.
Suddenly, there they were. Just like all the videos and magazines. Frank Carter was on stage, a black hood over his head, his tattooed hand wrapped around his microphone with venom. It was pretty surreal. The Tunbridge Wells Forum is tiny. And here’s Gallows, tearing it apart.
Gili-Ross launched himself into the crowd after the first song. He disappeared to the ground, before being miraculously resurrected by an appreciative front row. Albeit, with a new dent in his forehead. “We nearly lost a bassist there,” said Frank Carter.
During (and after) the show, Carter went out of his way to thank everyone. The crowd, security, the sound guys, the organisers and the other bands, “Buy their t-shirts, go to their shows, ‘cos fuck knows you’re not going to buy their records. And stop listening to Bullet For My Valentine and all that bollocks!”
Towards the end, Gili-Ross challenged the crowd’s lack of stage dives. “This kid can’t even spell stage dive,” joked Carter. Adding, “Don’t be that dickhead that moves out the way. Catch ‘em. This ain’t a Korn show.” And that’s all the motivation the crowd needed. Suddenly, the stage was under siege. Bodies were flying everywhere. Not to be outdone, Carter waltzed over to the back of the room, climbed the balcony and leapt off, crowd surfing his way back to the stage and exploding all over again. What a band! What a frontman!
Gallows are playing Grey Britain in its entirety at the Electric Ballroom on December 17. And if that’s not enough, they’re playing Orchestra of Wolves at Dingwalls earlier in the day.