Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Lawrence Arms' Brendan Kelly is stepping out of his comfort zone with new "project" Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds.
"The impetus for this project was brought about in no small part because I felt like after the last two Lawrence Arms records (2006's Oh! Calcutta! and 2009' Buttsweat And Tears) I had done that particular iteration of punk rock about as well as I’d ever be able to do it. I’m not suggesting that those albums are perfect or even mind-blowing, but they’re the best of that style that I could personally do. I felt pretty satisfied with them, and that satisfaction in turn really stymied my creativity".
Read the full story here (Alternative Press).
There's a three track EP called A Man With the Passion of Tennessee Williams due out December 27 on Red Scare. Followed by a full length some time in 2012.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Watch Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape "walk" you through the new remastered, reissued, all-encompassing Lagwagon boxset. "That's some thickness right there..."
Monday, October 31, 2011
Well I'll be damned, Joey Cape's talking Lagwagon again. I wonder who does their video titling? Remind me to never call that guy...
Thursday, October 13, 2011
© Dude Photography
Kentucky rockers Cage the Elephant, currently touring the US with the mighty Foo Fighters, must have been cursing their luck when drummer Jared Champion was hospitalised with a burst appendix on Monday night. That was, until Dave Grohl phoned in to find out if he could jam.
"Dave somehow heard what had happened and called our tour manager. He said, 'Hey, so do you think the guys would go for it?'. Our manager was like 'Um, yeah!!!'', Cage the Elephant guitarist Lincoln Parish told Spin Magazine.
"I had to pinch myself. I turned around and Dave Grohl is playing the drums. It's an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nobody can replace Jared. But it's Dave fucking Grohl. If you're going to be replaced by anybody, it might as well be the best".
Check out the full story on Spin...
Okay, someone told me about this and I thought it was a joke. It had to be, right? But, just like the Spider-Man and Green Day musicals, it's not.
Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong's launching a new musical web series this month called Tim Timebomb's RockNRoll Theater! Described as a "punk rock version of Glee meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (if you will), it's the first scripted original programming to hit VEVO - and what a way to start!
The pilot episode, 'Dante', starring Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen and AFI's Davey Havok (that's him in the pink suit), is due out October 21. And if you don't believe me, just check out the trailer...
Looking forward to the Revival Tour on Saturday. Check out this appetite wetting stop motion video from the Nottingham show...
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Plodding... That's the best way to describe New Yorkers Polar Bear Club's third full length Clash Battle Guilt Pride. Or perhaps thoughtful is a better adjective. At first, I was worried they'd taken that inevitable step towards "greatness". An upcoming November UK stadium tour with Tom Morello and dreary Chicago rockers Rise Against wasn't encouraging...
But slowly, Clash Battle Guilt Pride reaches boiling point, loosening up and shaking off like an old fashioned post-hibernation stretch (do polar bears hibernate?). The power kicks back into the vocals, the tunes settle on your brain and the riffs get bigger and bigger. Eventually, I found something to hang on to.
Closing track "3-4 Tango" is a tattoo waiting to happen. "Religion On the Radio" is an anthem the first time you wrap your ears around it. And "I'll Never Leave New York" is catchy as fuck. Really, it sounds like they've saved the best for last, sneaking all the best tunes in towards the end of the album.
As song writers, Polar Bear Club have come a long way. They've lost a few teeth (and claws) along the way, but they haven't lost the feeling. If anything, they've injected even more emotion and intensity into their songs. And overall, Clash Battle Guilt Pride is their strongest (and most addictive) album to date. Amping...
"Living Saints," from their previous album Chasing Hamburg (bit slack on the music video front there Polar Bears)
To celebrate the release of the first theatrical Muppets film for 12 years, Kermit and Walt Disney have put together a pretty hip, star-studded collection of guaranteed-to-brighten-your-day prozac tunes - for a 56 year old frog.
Contributing artists include; Alkaline Trio, Weezer, Hayley Williams, Brandon Saller (Atreyu), OK Go, My Morning Jacket and Amy Lee.
Weezer sound as cheery as ever but it's pretty weird to hear a kid's version of Alkaline Trio, "Hey, that song, it's starting to sound better Danny..." Puke!
The Muppets, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, is due out November 23. The film features cameos by Dave Grohl, Jack Black, Mila Kunis, Danny Trejo, Ben Stiller, Zach Galifianakis, Katy Perry and Modern Family's Rico Rodriguez, Sarah Hyland and Eric Stonestreet (among others).
Check out these three spoof trailers...
Thursday, October 6, 2011
It's been a tough few years for Blink 182. Since their bitter 2005 breakup they've dealt with tragedy like a fat man that pissed off an old gypsy woman - or "fucked with some witch". They've seen it all, from the death of friend and longtime collaborator Jerry Finn and Tom DeLonge's skin cancer scare, to Travis Barker's near death experience, even nearer amputation threat and the death of DJ AM. That's why fans hoping for another Dude Ranch can ride off into the sunset, back to 1997. But, eight years in the making, is Neighborhoods any good?
As an album, things seems staggeringly top heavy. The best moments happen early on, with tracks like "Ghost On the Dancefloor", "Natives" and "After Midnight". Towards the end, it starts to sound like a Mark +44 track followed by a Tom Angels & Airwaves track, followed by some more +44 and so on. The last few songs just seem to wash over. Nothing sticks like "Ghost On the Dancefloor" or Tom's Boxcar Racer "Up All Night" riff.
Overall, the new Blink 182 sound best when Mark and Tom are interacting, trading lines and working off each other. And as much as I like the tempo and energy of it, second single "Heart's All Gone" sounds more +44 than Blink 182. It's all Mark Hoppus. Likewise, "Love Is Dangerous" is all Angels & Airwaves (even the song title reeks of AVA). As such, it's the worst song on the album.
Also, for a band that's back together, "friendships reformed... 17 years deep in their legacy", the recording process sounds pretty weird: with Tom recording at his studio in San Diego, Mark and Travis tracking at their Los Angeles studio space and various engineers meeting up to "trade hard drives" in secrecy. Still, the production's powerful and dramatic, from the awesome bass tones and drum sounds to the guitars and the scope of the mix. But like I say, towards the end, Neighborhoods starts to sound less like a band and more like two one minded individuals' visions for the future.
Barker, as usual, sounds awesome - the guy's a drum God! And this time, he's spiced things up to perfection. Mark sounds good as well, when he's not playing the sad, emotional indie character with the Robert Smith hair he's created for Hoppus on Music (like on "Fighting the Gravity"). Tom's the one that's changed the most. From his dress sense to his new approach to singing. And if I could change one thing on the album it would be his vocal delivery. Sometimes it's just too much. Too Angels & Airwaves. And if you can't tell already, I really, really dislike Angels & Airwaves.
To clarify, overall, I like Neighborhoods. I really like the first four tracks - a lot. And the rest of the album has it's moments...
Monday, October 3, 2011
Just getting into Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8. Needless to say, it's pretty, pretty, pretty good. Check out this 2009 Late Show interview, where the social assassin owns a pretty unengaged (stoned?) sounding David Letterman. As well as David's hilarious 2010 Laurel Award acceptance speech...
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I used to feel intimidated coming to the Old Blue Last. Underdressed and over-nourished. Now I couldn't give a fuck. Watching them all, in their Sonic Youth shirts and Rick Moranis frames, feigning an interest in dubstep, mouthing the words to Nirvana. Another thing the Old Blue Last always delivers is good bands (and tinnitus)!
First up, mysterious Dorset powerviolence outfit Witch Cult. The vocalist has a Black Flag tattoo on his ankle, a Minor Threat patch on his cut-off jean shorts and straightedge crosses on both hands. He tears around the venue, rolling into ankles, spilling drinks and inadvertently attacking photographers (I assume).
Witch Cult's stage show is beyond intense. Like a punch in the throat: one minute stabs of orchestrated chaos. Their heavily-tattooed, Rip Offs-looking, ski-mask-wearing guitarist rolls around the floor, screaming into his guitar like a man possessed. Which is weird. Because after the show, unmasked, he sits quietly in the corner of the room. Legs crossed. Placid.
Over an hour later, hyped (and progressively brutal) Californian hip-hop trio Death Grips hit the stage. Vocalist MC Ride de-hoods, revealing a body of cryptic-looking tattoos and sinewy muscles. Drummer Zach Hill, with his odd combination of rusted drums and broken cymbals, is a maniac. And his moments of madness blend perfectly with Death Grips' programmed beats and other catastrophic electronic noise pulses. MC Ride leads the assault though, menacing, in a trance.
By now, Old Blue Last is fuller than your local kebab shop at 1:00am on a Saturday morning. The dude-heavy front half of the dancefloor is pumping. Literally lost in the moment: shirts off, bodies intertwined, sweat exchanged (needless to say, I keep a safe distance to the side).
And that's that. Back out into the fresh air, ears ringing, senses overloaded, kebab craving initiated...
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
To celebrate its 20 year anniversary, Spin Magazine has put together a Nevermind tribute album called Newermind, which you can download for free here. Contributors include: The Vaselines, Meat Puppets, Surfer Blood, Foxy Shazam and Titus Andronicus...
Monday, September 26, 2011
When I read that Brian Fallon was swapping his Springsteen denim jacket for a Tom Waits fedora, I feared the worst. Truth be told, the last two Gaslight Anthem records were both pretty boring. I tended to latch onto one or two hit songs and ignore the rest - not for lack of trying. But when it comes to The Horrible Crowes, Fallon's been scoffing soul food again, writing off-the-cuff, "night time" music with guts and feeling, not let's-play-dress-up, working class rock for the masses.
The leap from Sink or Swim to The '59 Sound was a huge one. Gaslight Anthem's sound seemed to age a decade in one year. But, unlike Gaslight Anthem's sudden-found, smooth-edged bravado, Elsie is dark, moody, and uncertain - a heart-sapping ballad for the brokenhearted. Atmospherically, it reminds me of Gaslight Anthem's 2008 EP Senor and the Queen; painting a picture with feelings, textures and unforced emotion.
At times, backed by co-pilot and guitar tech Ian Perkins, the album skirts the dark, sombre territory inhabited by suited Ohio indie rockers The National. I picture a hand clenched into a fist but never striking, just smothering a rush of blood to the head and waiting to turn back into a hand again.
But overall, it's just a surprisingly solid (and interesting) collection of songs, from the tempered pop sensibility of "Behold the Hurricane" and the Clash-inspired reggae grooves of "I Witnessed a Crime", to the soulful gasps of "Go Tell Everybody" and howling garage jam "Mary Ann".
"Sugar" and "Blood Loss" remind me the most of Senor and the Queen. "Ladykiller" houses the Fallon rasp that seemed all but diluted. And "Behold the Hurricane", a catchy pop song with an open wound, sounds like The Gaslight Anthem, only better. Mostly, I feel sorry for the rest of his day job band. It seems like Fallon held his best songs back. Or maybe it's the influence of Perkins that threw caution to the wind...
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
It's not just mega-talented, multifaceted stars like Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers that think they can do it all. Long before Russell Crowe, Steven Seagal and Jackass clown Steve-O released solo albums, wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and Tatanka (who?) were selling sex rhymes by the pound...
MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE (2003)
First up, Macho Man Randy Savage, who I just found out died of a heart attack in May. So before we get started, rest in peace Bonesaw!
Okay... Unlike a lot of the other wrestlers mentioned in this article, Macho Man Randy Savage was no dabbler. On the back of a critically acclaimed, no type-casting-in-sight Hollywood acting career (also known as a five minute run in Spider-Man 1), Macho released a full length rap album called Be A Man in 2003.
The title track is a straight up whack attack on once bitter rival Hulk Hogan, featuring poetic outbursts like, "They call you Hollywood? Don't make me laff, 'cos your movies and your acting skills are both trash. Your movies straight to video, the box office can't stand, while I got myself a feature role in Spider Man".
Next up, the Hulkster himself...
HULK HOGAN & THE WRESTLING BOOT BAND (1995)
In the late '80s and early '90s, Hulkamania was bigger than Eddie Murphy. So a career in music was only natural, right? Hey, it worked for Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle.
So.. in 1995, as Hulkamania peaked like an orange, bloated, spindly-legged old sun set, Hogan and his travelling band of minstrels (Jimmy Hart, Linda Hogan and John Maguire) released their seminal debut album Hulk Rules. And you thought Brooke's last album was bad?
Hulk, naturally, wrote all his own lyrics; "Whoops there it is, whoops there it is, wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-whoops there it is". Great stuff from the Hulkster...
WRESTLEMANIA: THE ALBUM (1993)
Okay... Now for a share-the-blame group effort of epic proportions! In 1993, to capitalise on the popularity of his burgeoning wrestling empire, Vince McMahon released the so-90s-it-hurts-your-eyes-and-ears rock compilation Wrestlemania: The Album (seriously, how much were they paying those copywriters?).
This track by Bret 'Hitman' Hart (co-written by Peter Waterman and Mike Stock) is a total winner. The only ones doing any singing are the backups...
And check out this choice cut by the Undertaker. It's like necromantic spoken word poetry with Rick James doing the music. Super freaky! And again, still no sign of any actual singing...
THE WRESTLING ALBUM (1985)
The Wrestling Album (again, imaginatively titled) is another compilation album released eight years earlier, in 1985. The aim was to launch Vince McMahon's empire into mainstream pop culture. And, to be fair, it worked.
Mostly, it's just goofy commentary by McMahon himself, a bunch of goofy songs sung by goofy wrestlers and the single "Grab Them Cakes" by Junkyard Dog. Now that's '80s. Who knew he could spell?
PILEDRIVER: THE WRESTLING ALBUM 2 (1987)
The sequel, Piledriver - The Wrestling Album 2 (now those copywrite brains are turning) spawned this hit single by boss-man himself Vince McMahon. Warning, includes Hulk Hogan on fake bass solo...
JOHN CENA (2005)
And don't forget John Cena. Because, "in addition to his wrestling and acting career, Cena is a rapper and a hip-hop musician". Wikipedia's obviously playing fast and loose with the words "acting," "career" and "musician"... Anyone seen The Marine? Me neither.
Cena released his debut rap album You Can't See Me in 2005. And the world exhaled...
What I want to know is, why do wrestlers always choose rap (or spoken word '80s cabaret in the case of Hitman)? Is it because they can't sing and think rapping's easy? I can just imagine the process: "Hey, I can rhyme words, turds... Now package that shit and sell it!"
INSANE CLOWN POSSE (2011)
Last and definitely not not least, how could I not include Insane Clown Posse? Check out their new collaboration "Leck Mich Im Arsch", with Jack White and Mozart... "230 years in the making".
Friday, September 16, 2011
Hmm... a music video in a junkyard? Not sure... How funny is the beginning, where Francois has his hands on his hips until the director obviously shouts, "Action"? And the strip show's gotta be some kind of 'inside' joke, right? Still, it's great to hear recorded evidence of shredding newbies Jason Oosthuizen and Jedd Kossew. And the song's pretty cool as well.
So I finally got around to watching Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia's acclaimed 2003 Ramones documentary End of the Century. And, like all great rock 'n roll bands, the Ramones were a gang of dysfunctional, trailblazing cowboys functioning at the highest level. Their story's got a bit of everything: love, betrayal, drugs, booze, tragedy and, finally, redemption (albeit posthumously)...
"Like white heat. You couldn't put a cigarette paper between one tune ending and the next beginning" - Joe Strummer.
Everyone had a role to play in the Ramones. Johnny was the Nazi. The rule-man. The right wing disciplinarian. The "glue" that held them all together. It was Johnny's band and he ruled with an iron fist, from creating and enforcing their iconic "uniforms" to hitting Dee Dee in the head backstage if he'd had a bad show.
Joey was the eternal optimist. The genuine weirdo. The heart of the band. Dee Dee was the band's chief songwriter and talisman. Their rascal. Tommy was the orchestrator (at first). And Marky kept the ship from sinking - even though he sank himself a few times.
And let's not forget Arturo Vega, the New York artist that came up with the band's logo and put a roof over their heads early on.
The saddest part of the story is the rift that developed between Johnny and Joey, who didn't speak to each other for nearly 20 years and never got to make up - not that Johnny ever wanted to. And the idea that, just before he died, Joey refused to let doctors put tubes down his throat because he didn't want them to damage his vocal chords is heartbreaking.
Joey literally worked himself to death for the Ramones, but when they were inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky didn't even mention his name. Dee Dee's speech is a bad joke you can write off to heroin addiction and Johnny says, "God bless America and God bless President Bush", when he should have said, "God bless Joey Ramone!"
Still, it's an interesting and candid look at one of rock 'n rolls greatest, hardest working and most under appreciated bands. Ramones forever...
Friday, September 9, 2011
Nerds and sneakerheads have been waiting almost thirty years for these bad boys, and they're finally here. Well, sort of... The down side? There are only 1500 pairs in the world - apparently there's a pair going for $11,000 on eBay right now - and they don't power lace (not until 2015). The up side? Nike are donating the proceeds to Michael J. Fox's Parkinson research.
Still no news on those hover boards then...
Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape's a songwriting machine - except when it comes to Lagwagon. This time he's teamed up with fellow Scorpios, and bearded, acoustic guitar addicts, Tony Sly (No Use For A Name), Jon Snodgrass (Drag the River, Armchair Martian) & Brian Wahlstrom.
The Scorpios' debut album is already up on their site as a "pay-what-you-want" download.
I wonder what '90s, SoCal, punk-rock-jamming Joey Cape would make of all these old dudes in flannel shirts - gnarly?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Dead Island: out September 9
Gears of War 3: out September 20
Batman Arkham City: out October 21
Gears of War 3: out September 20
Batman Arkham City: out October 21
Get ready, those lovable, cousin-fucking, Australian retards Frenzal Rhomb are back. And, I'm happy to report, they've rediscovered their golden touch! Frenzal's 2003 album Sans Souci was an instant winner, packed with wall-to-wall punk rock anthems and a wicked sense of humour. After that, a messy b-sides album, Jackie O-gate, an uninspiring full length and a five year hiatus left the band's future in doubt. Until now!
Smoko and the Pet Food Factory opens with ridiculous first single "Bird Attack", a one minute and fifteen second joke that went too far. And it's an awesome re-introduction. After that, things get a bit more serious. "Mummy Doesn't Know You're A Nazi", "5000 Cigarettes" and "Cockroach Light Switch" are all under two minutes long. And all instant classics. Track five, "Knuckleheads", is when you realise it's time to sit back and just enjoy the (twenty six minute) ride.
"You fucks have been my enemy my whole fucking life", sings frontman Jay Whalley, combining his jaded sense of humour with real emotion and feeling. Who else could harmonise "knuckleheads" on a chorus? Who else even uses the word knuckleheads?
Recorded at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, and overseen by Descendents drummer and punk rock producer extraordinaire Bill Stevenson, Smoko at the Pet Food Factory sounds amazing. Drummer Gordy Forman's a modern day legend. And here, he sounds better than ever.
That said, Frenzal Rhomb's technical prowess (and wit) is often overshadowed by their abrasive outspokenness and seemingly uncouth approach. But Tom Crease is an excellent bassist and Lindsay McDougall's a shredding lead guitarist and talented backup vocalist. In short, buy this record now!
Monday, September 5, 2011
"When I'm dead, who cares? I don't..." - Freddie Mercury.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
In a move that doesn't seem to jar as much as Sex Pistols: The Perfume, stylish Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas is the new face of Decibel, a new men's fragrance by French Line Azzaro. As if he'd be caught dead crowd surfing...
© Rene Ehrhardt Photography
Walking the now routine trail from the main entrance to the arena, I can’t help wondering why the entrance is so damn far away. Surely they could have put a gate nearer the stage? Still, I always arrive thirsty... On a side note, the £10 programmes I walk by every morning are a cheek! Weekend tickets cost £200, you’d think they could slip in a few free programmes…
“They try and squeeze you for every last Pound”, I hear a girl complain into her phone. And sure enough, I spot an opportunistic mobile phone re-charging van: £5 for an hour, £8 for two.
I hear Frank Turner on the Main Stage from the bar then head towards the Lockup Stage for Pennsylvanian punk rockers The Menzingers.
It’s early and the crowd's pretty empty, but everyone knows the words. It’s an intimate performance and super easy to get right to the front. The Menzingers sound awesome; folk-rock inspired punk rock with soul, screams and quivering indie appeal. At one point, guitarist and co-vocalist Tom May rocks out so hard he falls right on his ass in the middle of the stage.
By now the stage is lined with punk rockers, including the token beard, flannel shirt and cap guy. At one point, ex-Pennywise frontman and current Black Pacific guitarist and singer Jim Lindberg pops his head out for an inspection.
At the NME/Radio 1 Stage, Kentucky rock band Cage the Elephant have pulled a massive crowd. And so has Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham over at the NME Signing Stand.
Another strange recent development is the hipster embracement of hardcore punk bands like Cerebral Ballzy, Off! and Fucked Up. And back at the Lockup Stage, Los Angeles punk rock “supergroup” Off!, featuring Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris, have packed the tent.
Meanwhile, on the Main Stage, hard-rocking UK genre hoppers Enter Shikari are about ready to explode. The band hits the stage in a flurry, looking like they’re sponsored by JD Sports. Vocalist Rou Reynolds looks like Wayne Rooney and drummer Rob Rolfe looks like Frank Lampard. But their live show is intense!
Reynolds hops around like a madman, climbing amplifiers, throwing himself on the floor, bashing amps over and, at one point, inserting one of Rolfe’s cymbals into the crowd. People are crowd surfing, building human pyramids and standing on shoulders everywhere. A guy in a Dalmatian suit crowd surfs in a rubber dinghy. A girl flashes a boob on the giant screen... It’s all pretty breathtaking.
Reynolds asks everyone to pick up a paper cup and throw it into the air as the next song kicks in. And suddenly, the sky's littered with (empty) paper cups. It actually looks pretty awesome.
On the Lockup Stage, Bedouin Soundclash wrap things up with a guest appearance by Hot Water Music guitarist and co-vocalist Chuck Ragan. Then it’s time for the mighty Gainesville legends themselves. And they sound awesome!
Chain-smoking ‘til the bitter end, with a bent peak and a worn flannel shirt, Chris Wollard looks like a character from My Name Is Earl.
“Trusty Chords”, “A Flight and a Crash” and “Rooftops” knock my socks off. And their last song, a cover of Bouncing Souls’ “True Believers”, inspires a mass sing-along by all the hangers-on watching from the side of stage. Ragan and Wollard look moved by the crowd’s response.
Later I catch a bit of Panic at the Disco from the bar. Then a bit of Death From Above 1979’s two man, black-and-white-suited, garage rock, scream, fuck rock. Before heading over to the Festival Republic stage for a glimpse at Bloc Party bassist Gordon Moakes and The Automatic guitarist Paul Mullen’s band Young Legionnaire. Who end with Mullen smashing one of drummer Dean Pearson’s cymbals with his guitar.
Back at the Lockup stage, the hardest working man in showbiz, Frank Turner, is on stage playing his second show of the day when the second hardest working man in showbiz, Chuck Ragan - making his third appearance of the day - comes out for a cover of Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down”.
After that I get to the NME/Radio 1 Stage just in time to see The Streets main man Mike Skinner mount a monitor. “I came here to die”, he keeps saying. “We are gonna die here together”. Turns out it's the band's last show ever - talk about melodramatic...
Like the records, the new songs lack the punch of classics like “Blinded By the Light” and “Don’t Mug Yourself”. And for some reason, Skinner keeps screaming “Reading, you look like you’ve been rocking for days!” and “Can you see my hand? Can you see my hand?” over his backup singers’ sweet melodies.
“Are there any gangsters in the house”, he asks. “Where’s all the real g’s. I need some drugs!” The live show’s awesome with a full band but Skinner’s a pretty annoying character on stage.
Unlike Flogging Molly frontman Dave King, who points to a kid in the front row, “Look at this guy in the Descendents shirt!” he says. The crowd cheers. “No, wait…” King continues. “He’s wearing sunglasses and it’s dark. So he’s either blind or he’s an arsehole”. You’ve gotta love anyone that quotes Larry David.
On the other side of the arena the Main Stage is draped in a giant curtain - just like the Wizard of Oz - as the entire festival makes a mass exodus towards it. The amount of people on the move is pretty overwhelming and festival closers (on the Main Stage) Muse look set to host the largest crowd of the weekend.
The draw about tonight’s Muse show is they’re playing their 1991 album Origin of Symmetry, song by song, from start to finish. And when the curtain drops, the display is unbelievable. Sculptures of the giant, contorted tuning fork aerials/rugby posts from the album cover dwarf the three band members, a giant video screen beams UFOs across the stage and lights and lasers illuminate the sky like it's the Apocalypse.
Muse sound incredible, showing up on time - like true professionals - and tearing their way through the album with minimal chatter. On stage, guitarist, vocalist and piano playing virtuoso Matt Bellamy is phenomenal, and ten years ago, Origin of Symmetry captured him, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wilstenholme at their hungry best.
During album closer “Megalomania”, fire shoots from the front of the stage. Great balls of fire, bellowing up into the sky. And I have to wonder, “who pays for all this shit?” If Muse fork the bill, they wouldn’t make anything. So logically, they must design their set, lighting effects and pyro and send Reading the bill (on top of their performance fee). Incredible!
Muse come back out for a multi album-spanning encore. Bellamy even has time to play the intro to Deftones' "My Own Summer" before "Stockholm Syndrome".
The last band I have time for before it’s time to say goodbye is Californian punk rock legends Descendents. Drummer Bill Stevenson is an animal with style. What a drummer! And frontman Milo Aukerman sounds like he got his voice back…
Then, suddenly, it’s time to leave. And I must admit, I’ve had a wicked weekend away...
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
© Rene Ehrhardt Photography
I arrive on day two to sun, dry mud and the end of Yuck’s set on the NME/Radio 1 Stage. Over on the Lockup Stage, Wyoming punk rockers Teenage Bottlerocket are just about ready to go.
Bottlerocket tear through their set of catchy, Ramones-inspired pop punk, with ex-Lillingtons frontman Kody Templeman wearing his regular contrasting black/death metal t-shirt (this time Goatwhore).
Meanwhile, Seasick Steve and his band of merry hobos are bluesing it up on the Main Stage. Drummer Dan Magnusson looks like he just climbed down from his mountain jam room and it's great to see Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones in action.
“I went to Nashville and met Jack White, that White Stripes kid… and me and him recorded this tune”, says Steve. Later, he whips out a guitar made out of a hubcap and a broomstick. After every song he goes, “Thank y’all for that… It sure is nice to come here and play for y’all”.
On the Festival Republic stage, Camden hipsters Tribes’ infectious brand of floaty Pixie jams sounds awesome. During “Dumb It Down” I can't help thinking about Rise Against’s progression from relatively obscure punk rock champions to world conquering average band. "Coming of Age" is a crowd pleaser. And set closer “We Were Children”, with most people in the packed tent singing along, sounds incredible.
After that I catch Los Angeles rockers The Bronx’s mariachi alter-ego Mariachi El Bronx, Madness, Boysetsfire (whose occult symbol melodic hardcore sounds great but draws the smallest crowd so far), The Kills and Comeback Kid. Going from Boysetsfire at the Lockup Stage to The Kills’ ghoulish, love letter mantra jams over at the NME/Radio 1 Stage is like leaving the ‘90s and arriving smack bang in the middle of 2011.
Leftover Crack is up next on the Lockup Stage. And while they sound great, I’m not sure I agree with their cop-killer anthems and close-minded, juvenile anarchy. “So you guys had some riots. The police killed an innocent, unarmed man and you responded. I can appreciate that”, says frontman Scott Sturgeon. “This song is called ‘One Dead Cop’”.
My problem with Sturgeon’s take on the riots is: a) he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. And b) he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about! But like I say, they sound great. And you can’t argue with the message behind “Gay Rude Boys Unite”.
Looking around, someone must be making a killing selling stupid animal outfits and hats. A drunk guy waltzes by wearing a g-string, a cape and a stupid grin. And I can’t help thinking, “Who the fuck comes to Reading to be that guy?” What’s the attraction in being the obnoxious retard that doesn’t remember anything, looks like an idiot and physically repels his fellow festival goers?
Also, I can’t help but notice the cowardly way English music fans love to throw things. Mostly, it’s half empty beers. I catch a few nerdy looking drunk kids throwing their beers into the crowd, then hiding behind their friends and cheering their own lameness. I even catch a 50-something-year-old woman getting into the spirit(s). But hey, at least no one’s throwing piss (I hope).
Over on the main stage it’s time for brooding Ohio indie minstrels The National. At first, the band sounds subdued and tame. But soon the blood’s pumping. “Squalor Victoria” sounds particularly epic. Frontman Matt Berninger seems drunk and desperate, like a man at his wit’s end, as he screams “Squalor Victoria!” and smashes his microphone into the stage repeatedly. “This isn’t working, fuckers”, he yells! John Lennon-looking drummer Bryan Devendorf is an inspiration.
After that, The Bronx, sans mariachi getups, are intense on the Lockup Stage. Crystal Castles command a massive tent of gawkers on the NME/Radio 1 Stage, as Alice Glass wades into a sea of eager-to-grope hands and fans and comes out on top. And back at the main stage, Pulp’s disco light backdrop explains where the money from ticket sales went.
Saturday night headliners The Strokes go on half an hour late to a ridiculously over the top entrance theme and open with “Is This It” and “New York City Cops”. What a bunch of rock stars! But they sound amazing, serving up hit after hit after hit... Meanwhile, over at the NME/Radio 1 stage, Jane’s Addiction are forced to pull out due to singer Perry Farrell’s apparent illness. Nobody seems to care…
And so ends day two…
© Rene Ehrhardt Photography
The mud squelches under my boots as I march the long route to the arena. Human mudflaps run by, caked from head to toe, splashing brown gunk with the kind of flippancy a breakfast of hard liquour provides. I'm checking my watch… no time to daydream… Rise Against are on the main stage.
No need to rush though, Rise Against bore me to tears (sunblock in the eye). Their dumbed down, middle of the road rock has propelled them from the Lockup Stage to the Main Stage, and all around fans with tribal tattoos sing their lyrics, but deep down, surely, they must know they've lost their edge. Drummer Brandon Barnes looks like he's playing in slow motion.
Also, covering The Clash’s “White Riot” in tribute to the London riots seems a strange choice when the majority (not all) of the rioters weren’t white.
Up next, hard-rocking Californian legends Deftones sound amazing. Stalking the massive stage, larger than life - even from the nosebleed section - they make Rise Against look (and sound) like tempered Main Stage newbies. And Deftones haven't dumbed down or compromised their sound for anyone!
The rugs Deftones have scattered around really tie the stage together - The Dude would be proud. Frontman Chino Moreno, shirt open, crowd surfing while he sings, looks in the mood. And the hits keep on coming, as Offspring take the stage next, opening with "All I Want"…
I cringe every time they play anything off Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. And their new song's not encouraging either. "Find A Way" sings Dexter Holland - I just wish he could find a way to age with dignity. Still, songs like "Self Esteem" and "Bad Habit" pack a punch, some 17 years (way) down the line.
When Offspring are done, 30 Seconds to Mars minions storm the stage, building the band's giant triangle logo (the same logo Jared Leto has tattooed on both arms) and queuing the band's pretentious short film on the jumbo screens. After a lengthy changeover, a few indecent exposures over by the Hog Roast stand and a lot of thrown beer cups, Leto appears on stage, coming up through the floor, wearing sunglasses, a skirt and a cape…
Watching Leto prance around, shining a torch on his own face when the lights go out and ripping his shirt off, I can't help laugh at how ridiculous this band is. It's just not normal behaviour, even for a rock star. He looks like he raided Carrie-Anne Moss' leftover Matrix getups and acts like a spoilt rich kid, living out some bizarre rock fantasy. He doesn't even sing huge chunks of the songs!
Afterwards, I watch My Chemical Romance for a bit then head over to the Festival Republic Stage, where UK ghouls The Horrors are serving up a much more low-key, dark and spidery set of doom and gloom, art rock indie.
"Thank you for choosing us over My Chemical Romance and Beady Eye", says frontman Faris Badwan, before his band kicks into moody Primary Colours classic "Sea Within A Sea". And, unlike White Lies and other contenders, I can actually picture Ian Curtis digging The Horrors’ vibe. Three albums in and they sound better than ever...
I stumble back over to the Main Stage in time to catch Queen guitarist Brian May on stage with My Chemical Romance, playing a make shift version of "We Will Rock You". May sticks around for set closer "Welcome to the Black Parade", until a massive fireworks display and spray of confetti calls an end to day one...
Heart & Skull/Epitaph
Pleasantly surprised. That's how I'd describe my reaction to Alkaline Trio's reworked collection of fan favourites. Mostly, it's an acoustic, sweeter-than-usual take on the band's dark-stained pop punk sound. But don't expect a couple of acoustic guitars, a cowboy hat and a tambourine. Skiba, Andriano and Grant have gone all out.
As well as the hits, Damnesia also includes new songs "Old English 800" (Skiba) and "I Remember a Rooftop" (Andriano), as well as strangely-chosen Violent Femmes cover "I Held Her In My Arms". Personally, my favourite is the piano and synth ballad version of "The American Scream". Now that's a "re-imagining"!
"Every Thug Needs A Lady" and "Blue In the Face" lose nothing in translation. "Radio" sounds great as well. "Mercy Me" sounds unchanged, except for the acoustic guitars. "We've Had Enough" churns, thanks to a distorted double bass. And like I say, the Femmes cover is a strange choice - it just sounds way too jolly, bluegrass and out of place.
Really, Damnesia's an indulgent fan favour to celebrate 15 years of Alkaline Trio. Nothing more, nothing less. Can't wait to see them in November...
Watford punks Gallows are giving away an early taste of life post-Frank Carter. In exchange for your email address and location (scary), you can download all thirty seven seconds of new song "True Colours" - the first to feature new frontman Wade MacNeil - from the official Gallows website.
Click here to download...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I knew it was Foo Fighters as soon as I saw them sitting at the bar. Nobody makes videos quite like 'em... Crazy!
Censored (for those without an over 18 YouTube account):
Censored (for those without an over 18 YouTube account):
As a fan of the series that hasn't played Chains of Olympus or Ghost of Sparta, I'm pretty excited about this release - due out next Tuesday (September 13)! Basically, it's both PSP installments of the series remastered for PS3 (on one Blu-ray disc, with full 3D support)...