Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Goodtime Boys - What’s Left To Let Go

It is self-evident that Goodtime Boys have changed a lot since their formation. I mean, just listening to their first formative demo (and split with Solutions) from a few years and listening to ‘What’s Left to Let Go’, the amount of noticeable change is quite remarkable. There is a definite progression; Their first is lot darker, a lot heavier and has a firm example as to where the band were emotionally at the time of writing it. Hell, that can be said for every release, because even for their second release, ‘Are We Now, or Have We Ever Been’, there is definitely a shift in mood. I even remember members remarking, soon after putting out such that they didn’t even play any songs from the original demo anymore, which goes to show how they want to be as artists - constantly moving forward, onto the next thing, no stake in the glory days of yesterday but the ones of tomorrow, which is important. As for ‘What’s Left To Let Go’, the aforementioned change is evident as soon as the EP begins. ‘Bloom’ is definitely a well named track; it’s almost beautiful in its majesty. The rage of the band’s music has been put to one side it seems (even if it still fundamentally drives the music). A sign of things to come, Bloom is very uplifting and optimistic, even if it does still have an echo and haze of angst. Following in a more immediate, but similar vein, Callous (the single of which I reviewed quite recently so I shan't dwell on it, but, I am more of a fan of it now than I stated in said review) follows. 

The favourite of mine on this would be the song Reunion, of which I do remember from seeing it performed live. It returns to the heavier style of previous work, which is no means a bad thing as it shakes the EP up and gives it an edge that the other songs weren't intending. As the track goes on, it doesn't quite return to the staple style of the rest of the EP, but it does nod towards that, making the track more of an alternative and stylistic flourish that adds to the overall feel of the EP, rather than an ‘odd one out’, crowbarred in dumbly. 

Overall I was very pleased with this EP and it’s a fine testament to where Goodtime Boys are currently, as a unit. They are set to release this (and their previous EP ‘Are We Now or Have We Ever Been’) as a coloured (pink, purple and green, to be exact. Yum) double LP through Bridge 9 Records on the 23rd of this month (October, dummy) and, around that time are touring around the country with Rolo Tomassi and Oathbreaker. If you get the chance, make it happen. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Titus Andronicus - Local Business

Here’s what’s wrong with Local Business: it isn't scared. The Monitor was a towering victory of angst and conquest, tied together with furious instrumentation and a heroically unrestrained attitude towards channelling its vision in the rawest way that it possibly could. Titus Andronicus often get labelled as being grounded and relatable, which has never really rung true given the scope of their body of work (civil war allusions, bagpipe solos, really long songs). Following up something like that’s an impossible task, so obviously they follow it with a record that’s far more accessible and better-sounding than anything else that they've released.

Not being scared means that it can take some fairly substantial risks, like Patrick Stickles cutting down on the hyper-literate lyrics and gasping delivery and opting instead for repeated phrases (instead of the gang-chants of yore) or the decision to make the whole thing sound really, really like The Clash. Local Business is the sound of a band testing their limits and finding that actually there’s not a ton of places left for them to go. By streamlining their sound and doing away with additional musicians (by the time the last track rolls in those bagpipes seem a very long time ago) it stops them from being able to execute the furious ascents that they perfected in the space of two albums and endless touring. The tour that pre-empted the album’s release was in retrospect a warning of what to expect, namely that shorn of their initial fury and ambition they lapsed comfortable friendliness and docile familiarity.

This is where it starts to get frustrating, because in that familiarity Stickles has allowed himself to write two incredible tracks that would sound totally out of place in the context of The Monitor or The Airing of Grievances, what with their steady drive and overwhelming restraint. The first is Ecce Homo, which opens the album and pushes power pop guitars to the front of the mix and builds gradually upward, assisted by key changes and melodies that buffer the vocals as opposed to reflecting and appropriating their emotions. The second is In a Big City, which is easily one of the best things that they’ve recorded and gives Stickles an opportunity to uses his ordeal to typify the struggle for something in a world where the easy option is to disengage and let it pass you by. In the space of three and a half minutes the same highs and lows present in their longest tracks are hit with a perfect mix of misanthropy and joy.

It’s hard to reach a judgement on Local Business; it doesn’t carry the heft of its forbearers and it feels more scatter-shot  with the expected moments all being delivered with precision: the short, largely instrumental interludes and the over-confessional epic (My Eating Disorder, which veers between sarcastic commentary on Stickles battle with selective eating disorder and parts that sound uncomfortably like Meat Loaf, which manages to make it an experience that straddles catharsis and cringeyness with uncomfortable gusto). But the addition of sluggish bluesy knees-ups (I Am The) Electric man and a finale that spends most of its ten minutes crawling towards some great moment before changing its mind and settling with an (admittedly inspired) guitar solo and some bog-standard wailing harmonica. At its worst, you can see that this an album that its creators needed to make, exposing their flaws and highlighting their skills while striving to showcase their unwavering vision, even if that means taking risks that were never going to work in the first place.


Ned Powley

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Kyla La Grange live @ Scala, London

Scala, the home of every band on the cusp of something bigger. You succeed at Scala and the world of KOKO, Shepherds Bush and so much more is available to you. It’s London’s proving grounds and rightly so, it’s in the heart of King’s Cross, the entry point of the city to so many. Tonight, it’s Kyla La Grange’s turn to attempt to shine and after hauntingly wonderful shows at the likes of Village Underground, supported by full band and an array of foliage on stage; you can’t help but feel momentum is on her side.

Sadly the show never sold out and the album, as enjoyable as it was, didn’t make a huge dent on the music world, but that doesn’t stop the almost thousand strong assembled bustling with excitement; they liked the record and once Bombay Bicycle Club meets General Fiasco group Story Books have warmed the crowd up with a series of endearingly fun tracks, the stage is set.  Originally from Watford, not too far from KX London, and having played her first show with her band as a support artist at this very venue, Kyla La Grange almost feels at home here and its that confidence that takes over her usually shy demeanor.

Of course, the nerves are still there as she’s a naturally quite shy performer, but with a microphone or trademark Gretsch guitar in hands she almost becomes an alter ego of herself.

Tracks like Been Better sound huge in rooms like this and album opener Walk Through Walls’ powerful refrain of “get up, get up, get up” incidentally gets people up and moving.  Anyone who doubted Ashes’ properties as an album that translated live has their fears put to rest and La Grange looks more and more comfortable as ringleader of the still foliage and light heavy stage as time goes on.

Giving air to new track Lyssa in the encore alongside usual set closer Catalyst which almost has a Mumford style sing-along feel alongside La Grange’s personal yet mysterious lyrics, the night feels like its come to its natural and enjoyable conclusion. It may not have been perfect as Kyla La Grange needs more material to really shine but after years of progress you finally feel that she’s proved the point that she’s here to stay.

Braden Fletcher


Any up and coming act signed to Sub-pop is subject to a whole variety of comparisons; and rightly so given the label’s history in championing the alternative and rock scene. They’re responsible for the rises of Nirvana and Sonic Youth as well as giving fresh life to the public profile of Beach House, releasing the hugely acclaimed Teen Dream back in 2010. Of course, not everything they touch turns to gold, but the majority of their back catalogue has its own cult following (even The Go! Team have somehow achieved popularity with their god awful dross). So when they signed Toronto rock outfit METZ, the hype built and now we've got a debut record. People will want to compare it to old Nirvana, but they shouldn't because in a time in which everything is a condensed and refined version of the past, METZ have managed to find a sound that takes what’s out there and makes it feel fresh and invigorating in a very rock styled way.

It’s got a DIY sound because it was produced in a barn, but at the same time, everything sounds exactly the way it should; the work of Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh and Alexander Bonenfant. It’s got the kind of sound that you will almost never hear on the radio but at the same time, tracks like Wet Blanket that come in at just under 4 minutes long that don’t seem a far cry from the kind of rock that’s slowly creeping its way back onto the airwaves. Add the bombastic opening track Headache and the likes of Wasted into that mix and you've got a record not just rooted in rock and influences from old punk, but with the structure and stylings of pop.

Its no coincidence that they’re branded as noise-pop at all because at the speed this album hits you and the reputation they’re building as they tear up venues across both sides of the Atlantic, they could very easily be one of the most popular noisy bands around in no time whatsoever. They've already had queues of two hundred plus outside the Old Blue Last in London and with more shows scheduled to be added in Europe soon, they’ll only continue to live up to the hype. The only danger they’re in is that with one record built primarily of tracks under the 3:30 mark, there’s simply not enough to satisfy the ravenous demand.


Braden Fletcher

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Keaton Henson and Wall live @ The Cinema Museum

Buried deep in-between Elephant and Castle and Kennington, the Cinema Museum is hardly surrounded by a plethora of noteworthy venues, but once you find it, your reward awaits. On the walls, hundreds of posters from movies gone by, figures and reels from the most iconic of cinema eras and a vast array of old cameras. It’s a visual feast from the off and in the large upstairs room where the show is to be held, there’s cake, pastries and a bar, making it a consumable feast also.

Opening the night’s audible enjoyment is Wall. With a string of recent material emerging of late, Wall’s delicate pop brew is bubbling with potential. Mid level lighting illuminates the relatively unknown artist’s makeshift stage as the likes of debut single “Magazine” pulse through the relics and members of the audience alike. As far as support acts go, you could hardly find a more fitting one. Autumn night, borderline rustic venue and the elusive Keaton Henson headlining; Wall more than aptly fit the soothing bill.

After Wall’s politely beautiful set comes to a close and the crowd have had a little time to traverse catering and fixtures, it’s time for Keaton Henson. Cellist Ren Ford takes to the stage to begin and plays two Bach melodies as an elongated introduction to Henson’s melancholy  tracks. A man who lives out of the spotlight, and doesn’t give interviews; the last time I saw Henson, he was so stage shy he played through a projection into a birdhouse, but tonight he looks more comfortable (he’s in the room for a start) in his own skin.
His interaction with the crowd kept to a minimum in between tracks mostly taken from last year’s debut record, what he does say is engaging in his endearingly shy way. Usually if an artist were to tell you they wanted to go home, you’d be offended, but from Henson, visibly unsettled by his own popularity (both of these nights of around 150 seats sold out in minutes), it seems like yet another part of his charm. This charm is, of course mostly built out of his painfully relatable heartbreak music and the seeming abyss of emotion that seeps out as such from his acoustic guitar but when joined by folk trio The Staves, everything seems lighter for just a few minutes.

The music isn’t so much weighty as the kind of sound that has the danger of putting you into a numb coma as all of your feelings blend into one of content and as Henson plays a few new songs, equally as personal but slightly more aware of his standing and the regard that many now hold him in, all present are lifted out of it and further into his hopefully less tormented soul. As the night comes to an end you realise that if music is Henson’s therapy, audiences are the therapist he doesn’t really want to see but desperately needs to and as he bares his soul, an hour at a time, he’s getting better at it. Here’s hoping that he does so more often.

Braden Fletcher

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Killers - Battle Born

The Killers have never produced understated music. In fact, quite the opposite has been the standard for the alternative “indie” rock giants, whose output reflects every aspect of the bright lights and gaudy hedonism of their hometown hailing, Las Vegas.

Careering onto the scene with 2004’s highly-praised post-punk revival Hot Fuss, Brandon Flowers’ crew as never relented with their progression and growth as a larger-than-life modern rock band. The more personal and conceptualized sophomore effort, Sam’s Town, saw the band swerving to ditch the alternative rock club night hits for a coherent and polished story-driven album that gained as many followers as it did neglect its existing fanbase. From here on out, a B-Side record and another LP have hit shelves worldwide, which have whetted anticipation for the Killers next gargantuan, stadium-filling beast, Battle Born.
Proclaimed as a foray into the genre of heartland rock, the band taps into its Americana and hard rock influences drawing on clear influences from legendary artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Dylan from his controversial ‘electric’ transformation. With a revival of this style, only a truly confident and arguably established act could hope to pull out all the stops to truly deliver on a grandiose and high-flying scale. When it comes to these traits, there are few contemporary artists that match these criteria, but The Killers more than certainly fit the bill.

In certain respects, Battle Born seems like a continuation of the themes and musical ideas expressed on Sam’s Town, drawing on lyrical concepts and epic-scaled orchestration and shimmering production that would sound out of place if it was to come from any other band than this. For some reason, the Killers totally suit this style and actually make the less-than-appealing brand of ‘Stadium Rock’, actually seem somewhat delectable. That being said, of course no amount of arena-fillers will always taste somewhat sickly after a while.

Storming, pummelling rock tracks such as Runaways and the title track show that Flowers & co. still have the drive and talent to cater to the thousands of screaming fans this record will no doubt continue to please. Despite all of the controversy surrounding their status as an “indie” band, and whether or not the alternative music channels will be playing this record for as long as they have done with the band’s output in the past, The Killers are going to continue making the music that they want to, regardless of any criticism they may take, and you have to respect them for that.


Matthew White

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Death Grips - NO LOVE DEEP WEB

Dropping an album with genitalia themed artwork completely out of the blue, in seeming defiance of the powers that be at their label would be quite the statement from most bands other than Death Grips. But with two albums of bludgeoning noise and psycho trauma-tinged lyrics under their belts, it's fair to say the shock value of Death Grips had perhaps run it's course when NO LOVE DEEP WEB (All caps, of course) surfaced. That may have been on the consensus on the face of it anyway, but in fact this album provides more dark and twisted turns than either of their previous releases. 

The focus here is less on the impact of sound and unadulterated noise, but instead shifts towards the group's paranoid talismanic frontman character MC Ride aka Stephen Burnett. On both Death Grips' previous efforts: Exmilitary and The Money Store; MC Ride screamed and barked obscene boasts that put every cliché from modern hip hop in a blender, and then blasted the bloody remains at people's eardrums over mesmerising drum patterns (courtesy of Zach Hill) and some of the boldest and loudest synth and sample based production possibly ever. In contrast on NLDW, much of that production has been stripped back with minimalism being embraced to allow a more personal and often terrifying platform for MC Ride to vent and conspire against anyone who dares cross him.

His vitriol is apparent from the off on 'Come Up And Get Me', a lurching track centred around ideas of suicide in isolation as Ride spits "Fuck the world fuck this body" in defiance of living and the human condition while experiences "epiphanic amnesia" in "Jimmy Page's Castle." (Interpret that how you will). The track 'No Love' meanwhile, is possibly the most affecting and unrelenting song on the record, as MC Ride this time details the impossibility of controlling his psychotic impulses. He jests about killing a man while checking his phone, after asserting beyond doubt that he is not to be messed with in the most blood-curdling way " You're fit to learn the proper meaning of a beat down, madness chaos in the brain. Let my blood flow, make my blood flow through you mane."

The forays through death (Artificial Death In The West), murder (Whammy) and running from the police on drugs (Stockton) are totally enrapturing in a sick yet compelling way, just as on Money Store tracks like 'Lost Boys' and 'I've Seen Footage'. However, a criticism that is fair to level at this album is the lack of hooks to subdue the sheer nastiness of the lyrics. There were certainly moments on The Money Store where you forget you're even listening to a song about murdering someone or overdosing on drugs because the choruses were so damn catchy, usually with really memorable perhaps even danceable beats behind it. On NLDW though, you don't forget the song's subject matter and for the more weak stomached, listening to these songs more than once could be rather unsettling and bizarre without any real melody to soften the blow except on the odd vaguely catchy tracks like 'Lil Boy', 'No Love' and 'Stockton' (Ride's almost comical delivery of the lines "I'm bouncing, whoop whoop" are not easy to get out of your head).

Right off the bat, NLDW attaches and demands the attention of the listener like a virus. It's lyrically perverse right the way through, but is delivered from the point of view of the character MC Ride, an essential thing to remember that this is largely if not completely an album telling a mainly fictional story. The album replicated what Death Grips have always done so well, in that they appeal to the deep dark sub-conscious of humans and make them want to listen and delve further into the taboo and unknown. For this reason, NLDW is their most intense album yet, plunging the depths of human extremity and promoting an image of dread and fear not just of others, but of the human condition and that loathing or regret people feel in themselves. It's not always a pleasant listen, but it's certainly a heart-stopping and eye-opening one.


Toby McCarron

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Muse - The 2nd Law

A Muse album that’s progressive and challenges its listeners... Who’d have thought it? 
The opener, Supremacy, is a fresh and encouraging track, which opens the album well, and doesn’t contain as many oddities as the songs released prior to the album. A dramatic orchestral theme punctuates the track, before some classic Bellamy vocals pierce through. 

Sadly, this song is followed by the below-par single ‘Madness’, which is certainly a song that grows on you, but not enough to be comparable to the big Muse singles from past albums. A fairly plodding electronic progression that sounds a little hollow and empty, much like a sub-par sketch show without a laugh track, is all you get for the first couple of minutes. From there it does pick up; a nicely punctuated guitar riff is followed by a sudden explosion of emotion and intensity which the rest of the track missed. 
Panic Station might well be the best track on the album, with a bit of funk in the bassline and memorable lyrics. It’s a fine example of Muse getting it right when they delve into new styles. 
The fairly pointless ‘Prelude’ follows, and leads into ‘Survival’; probably the best known of the songs due to its connection to the Olympics. A solid track with slightly grating backing vocals, it still isn’t Muse at their best. 

‘Follow Me’ is a song that’s caused a lot of contention in the fan base, along with ‘Unsustainable’, for the use of dubstep, a move which is considered to be a ‘sell-out’ by some fans. However it turns out to be one of the best tracks on the album, and is bound to be a great hit at the live shows. ‘Big Freeze’ (This one does contain elements of Queen, as many people are keen to point out) and ‘Unsustainable’ are two of the more interesting tracks from then on, the others are fairly average. Liquid State is also a fine track, but certainly doesn’t sound typical of Muse styles (as it’s written and sung by the bassist). 

If it was a release by a new band it would be a highly commendable stand alone record; but compared to past Muse albums it’s certainly not the best (although probably better than Resistance). 
I’d still recommend giving it a listen, because it is without doubt still a good album, and Muse are still great music writers and players; but don’t expect it to have such a big impact on you as ‘Origin’ or any of their older albums. If you’re a diehard fan of the older Muse albums there is a chance you might want to sit this one out, especially if you didn’t like ‘Resistance’. But otherwise it’s a pretty good addition to any CD collection. 


Ewen Trafford

Monday, 8 October 2012

Tall Ships - Everything Touching


If you ignore One Direction breaking every record around, Chris Brown winning awards, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tulisa, PSY, David Guetta etcetc, its not been a bad year for music. There’s more bands breaking through now than ever before, giving you a plethora of new music to listen to on a weekly basis from Lana Del Rey to Alt-J via Grimes and Peace. Some push music out thick and fast to create a Hype Machine fire that burns for a few weeks and then sits on your iPod, occasionally noticed by onlookers who’ll ask if you’ve heard the *insert artist here* remix before scrolling past as if last weeks’ band no longer matter.

Luckily, not all music is born the same premature way. Some acts grow through EPs and a notorious live show over time and develop in such a way that when their debut album finally arrives, they deserve to engulf the underground with the hunger that they’ve built. This week sees Tall Ships finally release their debut record “Everything Touching”. Does it justify their years of work?

In short, yes. Whilst there’s tracks on this record that have been around for a while, possibly disappointing the more dedicated Tall Ships listener, the likes of “Ode To Ancestors” has been reworked in a way that takes it in a more delicate and borderline enchanting direction. Whilst there are occasionally tracks that are difficult listening (does “Oscar” really need to be five and a half minutes long?), you’re rewarded for your patience almost instantaneously by the album centerpiece “Gallop”. It’s brash, its powerful and it sweeps you along into the world of Tall Ships’ fixation with time even more. Not that the band are worried about time, it only took them 2 years since their first EP to put the record together.

What you have with Everything Touching is a record that, given the chance, grows and encapsulates both the stunning intimacy of music and its overwhelming power. With Tall Ships you have the ability to completely lose your shit and then regain it in the space of two tracks and enjoy the whole thing right up to the incredible closers of “Books” and “Murmurations”. Its 65Daysofstatic mixed with the most grandiose rock bands and a bit of mathy intelligence.

“Time is precious, time will forget us” sings lead vocalist Ric. Time spent with this record is indeed precious, but definitely not forgettable.   


Braden Fletcher

Live: An evening in Camden

Thanks to MaybeMaq for this photo
It’s surprisingly cold in Camden. What I’m led to believe is the opening to the first “cold snap” of the year is settling in and its caught most people unawares. Of course on a night time in Camden, the scantily clad and generally most eye-popping of all of London’s outfits can be found on the strip that links Mornington Crescent up to Chalk Farm.
Along that road, you have some of the finest venues London has to offer in the form of Jazz bars, boxes on the lock and at either end, the mighty KOKO and Roundhouse venues. Tonight, its’ as bustling as ever as the iTunes festival is in full swing as Andrea Bocelli brings the Roundhouse crowd to classical elation but its three small shows that have caught SI’s attention.

The first venue ventured is the Lock Tavern as Spring Offensive take to the darkened stage. The venue is filled to the brim as it takes about five minutes just to get to the bar and as the Oxford band (recently featured here) get into the swing of things with their new single “Not Drowning But Waving” which builds an otherwise passive and moody crowd into a moderate bob; not bad for a quiet London venue. Spring Offensive play a solid set, but it’s the sound that lets them down as the venue’s not so much tinny as lost in a mix of minor feedback and speakers that can’t quite cope.  Nonetheless, the five piece are in good spirits and their every-day office worker look and lyrics seem to go down well a treat, especially considering most people are only present at the Tavern for hype centric act Hey Sholay.

Instead of sticking around however, I race up the road.  Her Parents are about to rock out with the volume at 11 upstairs at the Barfly, but it’s a bit further afield to the Enterprise, a venue much less visited than the Barfly that has the set for SI. For two nights only in London and for the first time in a while, Rams’ Pocket Radio are hitting the stage. Complete with a full band and supported by live member Shauna Tohill, also known as Northern Ireland’s up and coming Silhouette.
Ram’s are on form, playing from a selection of both new and older material. It’s fresh and powerful music from the piano-led band. The bigger songs such as 1+2 should sound epic and last time we caught Rams’, they were supporting Snow Patrol at the Forum where sound comes as big as the venue, but sadly the Enterprise suffers the same problems as the Lock Tavern did earlier and the sound gets lost in a mix of overheated volumes. It’s another shame as a second good band gets lost in unnecessary noise but Ram’s power through and pull off a strong set that signals big things on the way.

Camden, cold and noisey and full to the lock with music, if only it could all sound great.

Braden Fletcher

Tweak Bird - Undercover Crops EP

Ahead of a September/October tour with legendary sludge-punks The Melvins, Illinois brothers Caleb and Ashton Bird have released a new EP of synapse-frazzling psych-metal.

The songs are short and sharp, often coming in at less than three minutes; a welcome surprise amidst a genre which tends to favour widescreen wigouts over pop sensibilities. Not that there’s very much pop about the circling, repetitive ‘Moans’, a strung-out piece of weed humour matched to swirling psychedelia. ‘People’ hits like Perry Farrell fronting Crack the Skye-era Mastodon as Caleb rants ‘So many people in the world, I don’t wanna be one’. The tongue-in-cheek ‘Bunch O’ Brains’ opens on a repetitive two chord riff, lulls you into a false sense of security with a few seconds of silence then explodes into life once more.

A great strength of Tweak Bird is that even in short bursts they still sound massive. Ashton’s drums sound like someone ramming a bulldozer through a forest whilst his brother conjures up gigantic Sabbath-like riffs up-front. Reviews of their 2010 debut tended to focus on the jazz influences, possibly in a bid to make it appear palatable to a more indie audience whose interest in anything metallic doesn’t really extend beyond pre-distressed Iron Maiden t-shirts from Topman, but even with those influences mostly absent here there is no denying that Tweak Bird offer a thrilling ride.


Max Sefton