Friday, 29 October 2010

Rosie Jones and The Mystery Machine - Greatest Hits (Got, Got Need Records)

Rosie Jones possesses a voice which is instantly likeable and I find it hard to believe her Greatest Hits only totals three, but that’s how many are available on the download of that name through Got Got Need Records.

All three tracks offer something beautiful in a different way and move perfectly together as a three track. Opener ‘No one but me’ offers textbook folk fronted by soulful vocals making every lyric instantly relatable. This effortlessly moves into ‘Roll on’ which starts with an almost gospel element before taking on an honest folk sound, once more focusing on soulful vocals. ‘Tennessee’ is a perfect conclusion and honest lyrics are tinged with humor, again the vocals create a relationship with the track.

Rosie deserves to take a place amongst the new folk scene alongside the Laura Marlings and Mumford and Sons. It’s awesome to hear a folk influence taken and molded into something individual. If I were to make comparisons I would recommend this to anyone who likes Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Boat To Row, Midnight Mile or Laura Marling, and anyone who enjoys folk or acoustic music of any kind.

These three tracks are enough to make me want to hear much more from Rosie and her Mystery Machine.

The Breadchasers - Time to stop (Offcut Records)

This debut album from Nottingham based The Breadchasers is only the second to be released on Offcut records which is owned and run by Jimmy The Squirrel front-man and artist in his own right Liam O’Kane. As you would expect from hearing JTS or Liam’s work the record has a strong reggae and ska influences.

From the off it’s apparent that this record is going to be good, the intro has a laid back tropical feel to it and moves into the first full track seamlessly. Vocally it’s always nice to hear a local accent coming through rather than a singer trying to sound like they’re from somewhere else. The vocals are multi layered and at times the passion comes through in a rough sound which would be at home on any punk record. 

As the album progresses the style is consistent without becoming boring, there is a definite combination of old and new styles of ska music. Vocally there is a vintage edge to the style which bears comparison with Terry Hall, Squeeze or Suggs without sounding like an imitation. Musically there is an incredible mixture of first, second and third wave ska with a very British feel mixed together with the obvious reggae elements. There are definitely small influences form the skacore of the early noughties with Capdown and Shooting Goon as obvious examples these are combined with a stylish mix of Skatalites and Slackers. The main comparison I personally found immediately on listening to the album was with many of the acts on Asian Man Records in the USA.

There are definite elements of Let’s Go Bowling, The Chinkees and Skanking Pickle in amongst the vast influences on the Breadchasers’ strylee. For me the three above bands are responsible for taking ska into another level where it wasn’t all about brass lines and upstroke and it’s nice to hear this come through in music with brass and upstroke to continue the progression.

There is a lot of depth to the record and it is musically incredibly complex, the brass-lines help to back up the points made both musically and vocally. At times the brass is used to create further rhythms allowing the musical depth to really shine through. At times the combination of brass, deep bass and organs create a tropical dub feel to tracks which adds balance to the whole album.

This is a record, which will be sure to warm your bones on cold winter nights. Considering it’s the first record from The Bread Chasers it’s pretty obvious there will be big things to come from this band in the not so distant future. 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Random Hand, Detached and Liam O’Kane Photo Special

Random Hand, Detached and Liam O’Kane @ The Flapper Birmingham Monday 18th October 2010

It was Birmingham’s turn to host Random Hand and enjoy their first taste of Thirsty & Miserable’s unique style of promotion. Considering it was a cold Monday night in the middle of October the turn out was very impressive and the room was filled with the right kind of people who watched every act intently and showed appreciation with some deafening cheers.

As Liam O’Kane took the stage to begin the night he began to play to an empty room but before the first song was over he had attracted the audience away from the smoking area and the bar. Liam’s solo performance was balanced equally between songs from both Jimmy The Squirrel (the band he sings for) records and his two solo full lengths. The stylish and individual way acoustic music is approached makes for a perfect warm up act and gently prepared the audience for the next two acts. It is impossible to discuss Liam O’Kane without mentioning how good his voice is live, his level of passion and vocal range are outstanding.

After the gentle warm the audience were ready for something louder and Detached certainly took this feeling and ran with it. The intense brand of skacore delivered by these Welsh youngsters is equal in passion and musical skill with the perfect balance between intense guitars and complex brass lines. Although Detached are a young band, with only one EP release to their name so far, the potential the band have is limitless, snappy song writing and the aforementioned musical skill combine to create a fantastic live performance.

After such great performances from the support acts the audience were more than ready for Random Hand to take the stage. As they tore through their hour long set there was no opportunity to notice time pass as the perplexed audience watched every song grow in intensity. Before long the passion and energy coming from the stage transferred into the audience who danced for at least two thirds of the set and encouraged more and more people to get involved.

As you would expect from a band of Random Hand’s quality and reputation their live set was tight and accomplished. Words cannot do justice to the passion and intensity all four put into a live show, it is a sight that has to be seen to be fully understood. The balanced set included tracks from ‘Seething Is Believing’ which is soon to be released, and with tracks from the two previous releases including the ever popular ‘Anger Management’ and ‘Scum Triumphant’. The connection between band and audience created a perfect atmosphere.

My only regret throughout the show was that every act didn’t play for longer as they were all so good. These are another three bands you need in your life; go and watch them play live for the full experience but if not buy a record or get on Myspace/Spotify/Last Fm.

Max Levine Ensemble, Men Diamler and ONSIND Photo Special

Max Levine Ensemble, Men Diamler and ONSIND @ Slak Cheltenham Saturday 16th October 2010

This was one of the most exciting shows of the year for me so far, partly because it was the Max Levine Ensemble, partly because it was in a tiny little bar and partly because it was just two pounds to get in. With such an incredible line up on a Saturday night in a nice venue it was a show guaranteed to fill up quickly.

As ONSIND, or One Night Stand in North Dakota to give this Durham two-piece their full title, opened they turned mic stands to face each other; I feared the performance would be confrontational and aggressive. However, the face to face style actually made the sound more personal and created an equality to each track and emphasised the role each man has in the band. Musically the harmonies and balance between both voices were beautiful. The passion and emotion of lyrics and vocals created a live show which was compelling to watch. The quality of the set and balance between tracks was absolutely perfect with everything flowing gently into the next part. The intermissions were filled with awkward chatter, which only made the band more likeable.

After a performance full of honesty and emotion the evening progressed onto the wildcard that is Men Diamler, a man whose spontaneous performances mean you never know what to expect. The opening few songs were performed standing with a microphone, lulling the audience into a sense of false security before the show was taken to every inch of the venue. Audience members were serenaded and generally invited to participate in the set by singing, stamping, clapping, or in any way they felt appropriate. It’s hard to focus on the amazing level of the music and lyrics Men Diamler performs with as his live shows are so compelling. His impressive vocal range and clever lyrics balance surrealism and raw emotions in a very relatable style.

Although the previous acoustic acts didn’t lead up to Max Levine Ensemble’s punk pop, the surprise element of a band tearing through a set in such a small venue and at such a fast pace created a great atmosphere. The band fixated me from the first to last song of their set, as despite playing ferociously fast versions of tracks from their five releases, they did not sacrifice any musicianship or skill from the vocals. This was a fine example of what punk bands should aspire to with a positive DIY attitude, and gratitude to the audience for coming to see them play. The band put everything into every moment of the show and enjoyed themselves onstage, which is all a live music lover ever wants to see.

As this Washington based three-piece played I was left wondering how they (and the other two acts) had come to be playing in such a small venue, which made me realise how lucky I was to be seeing such a line up. The exclusivity you feel watching such a great show in a small venue adds to the memorable nature. This show was what DIY promoting is all about, surprising people with amazing line-ups in tiny venues.

Talons – Hollow Realm (Big Scary Monsters Records)

This is a record that you hear, and from the first to last note, you know you are listening to something truly special. Despite being instrumental throughout, this album conveys more emotion and contains more suspense than almost every album I have heard this year, or ever if I’m completely honest.

As each track progresses into the next there is no feeling of one track ending and another beginning; the album seems to be an entire piece of music and should only be listened to in this way. The emotion and suspense are created beautifully through balanced musicianship and a sense that every part has been thought through in length. There are moments of uncomfortable distortion which lead beautifully into almost brutal guitar riffs which in turn lead into contrasts with delicate, beautiful violin lines.

There are elements that remind me of the ambiance of Sigur Ros, these are paired with guitar and drum lines that would be at home on any metal album, and a general sense of drama and emotion. These comparisons are what make this album so fascinating to listen to. Talons seem to be a band who will take instrumental music to a whole new level with their very unique sound. This is the kind of album you can put on whilst walking and it will create a sense of tension and drama to even the most mundane of walks.

I know to the lack of vocals will put some people off, but you seriously will not notice that there are no vocals as the instrumentation creates far more drama and emotion than the majority of lyrics.

This is not so much an album but more of a symphony, it sounds like every single note has been carefully considered before the reaction on every other instrument is then considered. This is an album of complex beauty and wonder, I was blown away from the very first listen and with every subsequent listen I discover something I have previously missed. If this review was not enough to make you want to go and buy the record, or at least go and see Talons live, see the record as an investment, I can assure you that you will play it to death in your quest to find every standout moment on the album.

The Attika State – Measures (Alcho Pop records)

From the opening of this full length I was overjoyed to hear a British melodic rock band singing with real accents, as far too many put on an American style, especially for singing, despite not being Americans. The deep layers within the vocals and music create a record which is both relatable and easy to get in to.

The band are very hard to place into one particular musical style; the main thing which is apparent throughout the record is melody, and there is a definite level of skill within the song writing, without sounding like any compromise has been made this band write great pop songs with elements of alternative rock, metal and indie. It is clear that the list of influences to their music is varied and vast creating an individual, deep sound.

Lyrically there is simplicity to the song writing; this is in no way a criticism, as not every song has to be full of layers and complexity. The simplicity makes it very easy to find points to relate to within every song, also the simple lyrics allow the focus to be taken by melody and the general musicianship. The vocals take centre stage for the majority of the album but the angular guitar parts build up to create a rich sound which is backed by driving bass lines and complex drumming. The vocals convey a large range of emotion throughout the record, and as you listen further into each track you can hear everything else subtly changing to create a greater sense of depth.

As a record it takes a few listens to realise quite how good it is, on the first listen I was unsure and felt it to be a bit too close to pop punk in it’s simplicity, however after a few tries there are so many aspects which add depth to the album and have made it a great record. I thoroughly recommend getting hold of a copy of this album as it gets better with every listen.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Random Hand, JB Conspiracy and Stillbust Photo special

Random Hand, JB Conspiracy and Stillbust @ The Frog and Fiddle Cheltenham. Wednesday 13th October 2010

As far as first shows go Thirsty & Miserable’s first show in Cheltenham showed a level of ambition which is rare in new promoters. To put a line up on with essentially two headline quality acts is a huge statement of intent and shows that there are big things to come from this company. With tickets at a bargain seven pounds on the door the show unsurprisingly started to fill out as soon as doors opened giving openers Stillbust an adequate audience.

Within seconds of the opening song local hardcore four-piece Stillbust had enthralled the growing audience with their unique musical styling. The combination of hardcore, punk and occasional ska styled upstroke certainly make this band memorable. This is a band who put everything into every live performance and I could never imagine them playing at half effort. Within what didn’t seem like long enough the band finished after compelling the entire crowd for the full length of the set.

After the audience had been warmed up with the energetic performance from Stillbust the JB Conspiracy took the stage and proceeded to fly through a balanced set of old and new songs with brief pauses for witty intermissions. The technical skill level of the band was highlighted with a combination of saxophone and organ playing at the same time. This is a band whose reputation is widely based on their live performances and it is clear that every part of this reputation has been earned and is deserved. JB Conspiracy have a unique take on the ska punk genre and are deservedly at the fore front of the scene in this country alongside tonight’s headliners Random Hand.

Random Hand linked the line up together by taking similar hardcore elements to Stillbust and combining them with the more traditional ska and skacore styles taken by JB Conspiracy. The varied styles that have been mixed together to form the developed sound of Random Hand are diverse and numerous but one thing is clear every aspect has been beautifully combined into something fresh and original.

Again the live performances have been a large part in creating the reputation the band has and if tonight was anything to go by they deserve to increase in reputation ten fold. Every song was perfectly balanced within the set as tracks from the new album ‘Seething is Believing’ were mixed with offerings from the previous two records. As the set continued the audience became more and more enthralled and it was clear this was a special show.

Those who missed this show missed three bands at the top of their game playing their hearts out. The intensity, which each act played with, created a fantastic spectacle and credit must be given to the promoters for putting together such a show. If I were to give you one piece of advice it would be to go and see all three bands at the earliest opportunity you have, also don’t forget to support your local DIY promoters as without them there would be no music scene in your town.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hardcore Matinee @ The Coach and Horses Digbeth Coke Bust, Harbour and Bonestorm

Everything about this show was memorable from the strange venue which seemed to be an old man pub to the weather which was better than most of the summer to the times(your not meant to be watching hardcore at lunchtime are you?). But with the oddities creating an unforgettable show before I had even seen a band play there can be no complaints about this ambitious line up. Arriving in the packed function room it felt like an underground show was about to take place which is exactly what you want when watching bands who's reputation is nowhere near as big as it should be. 

First up to blow the cobwebs of a Saturday night were Bonestorm a Welsh hardcore band who include The Simpsons in their list of inspirations. This band perfectly embodies the King Blues line ‘I don’t mind my hardcore sounding like a execution’ as they tore through an aggressive half hour set. These boys certainly went all out despite it being lunch time and delivered a sound closer to the aggressive hardcore delivered by American jock bands. I wouldn’t slate Bonestorm as the live sound and stage presence of the entire band created a compelling show however I wouldn’t listen to their recorded work as I’m pretty sure it could live up to the live sound.

Harbour were next to temp me from the afternoon sunshine with a more technical breed of hardcore. There were definite elements of the DC scene in what they were doing particularly within the guitar sound and it’s always good to hear a hardcore band that sound like originators (Black Flag, Bad Brains or Minor Threat) rather than being the modern breed of hardcore (Refused, Cancer Bats ect). This band could be transported back to the eighties and the glory days of hardcore and still cut it, which added to my enjoyment. Again the set was tackled at an astounding rate as tracks from their current split were mixed with old and new to balance their style perfectly.

Finally as three drew near Coke Bust took the stage with a blink and you’ll miss it style to the first few tracks that made the other two bands tracks look like slow dances. During the twenty-five minute set they must have torn through twenty songs and still managed to talk in between. The raw aggression delivered in both lyrics and music completely summed up the political unrest this band feel and created a cerebral breed of hardcore, which is a rare treat. As Coke Bust left the stage the audience stood still for a few seconds to take stock on what had just happened before walking back out into the bright sunshine and realising what they had just seen was not just special because of the oddities of the afternoon but they had been blown away by an incredible band.

This is a show I will remember for the rest of my life partially down to the when and where’s but mostly down to the outstanding line up and most of all Coke Bust.