While it’s far from unusual for bands from overseas to find their footing in countries other than their own, their sense of national identity can often feel slightly diminished, watered-down somewhat, in an effort to maximise their appeal. Fortunately for Melbourne’s Smith Street Band, they embody an Australia that’s both stereotypical yet fitting of their generation.
Saturday, 22 April 2017
“I don’t want to make you feel nostalgic for something that never happened,” sings Alex Luciano on ‘I Don’t Know Her’, the penultimate track on Diet Cig’s debut LP. It’s an interesting sentiment, especially taking into account the ability of Swear I’m Good At This to make you feel just that.
While Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band effortlessly craft images of a suburban Australia rarely experienced by those of us on the other side of the world, it’s not a sense of pseudo-exoticism that affords the band their resonance. Rather, it’s the familiarity of the scenes that play out against such a backdrop, and the emotional response to said scenes, that offer the appeal.
Having made their name thanks to their trademark angular and heartfelt pop music, that Maxïmo Park’s sixth LP ‘Risk to Exist’ should be predicated on politics comes as something of a surprise. It probably shouldn’t, however. The band’s native North East is a region built on industry, and like many others in the UK, has been hit hard by government cuts and rising unemployment. For a band whose lyrics are often hinged on a nostalgic romanticism to become a mouthpiece for the voiceless, the situation must be pretty grim indeed, and not just up north.
Friday, 24 March 2017
Though the politics and nihilism of punk might well leave a lot to be desired in the scheme of things, the movement possessed a DIY spirit and sense of community that’s difficult not to admire. One band who seem to embody the very idea of those things, it’s Belfast’s Empty Lungs.
This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.
The world’s going to shit. Plain and simple. You’re probably sick of hearing about it now, hell, I’m even sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, thin patience does little to change that, and the fact remains that the world is indeed going to shit. London punks Great Cynics are aware of this fact. Thankfully however, their fourth record POSI lives up to its name. Rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of failing political systems and rise of the Right, its focus feels much more personal while at the same time feeling universally resonant.
With Kvelertak so entrenched in the rock and metal scenes of their native Norway, and indeed further afield, it’s easy to overlook the inherent melody behind their weighty riffs. With that in mind, that two members should conceive and eventually form a side project in which fizzy, pop melodies were intrinsic, isn’t all that surprising.
Having seen Simon Green’s DJ sets before, we were somewhat prepared for the sheer energy with which he performs as Bonobo. Seeing him tonight (2 March) with an eleven-piece live band however, said energy is magnified tenfold; a sold-out Manchester Apollo heaving to every bass note or flute trill.
When Conor Oberst released ‘Ruminations’ last October, it wasn’t quite the record he set out to make. Recorded in just 48 hours with nothing but his voice, piano, guitar and harmonica, what was originally intended as the record’s bare bones became its fully realised form. The result was arguably his most honest work to date, but while the world was singing his praises, he forged ahead with his plans to record with a full band.
Monday, 6 March 2017
With its working class playing such a huge role in the City’s musical history, it’s surprising how few of Manchester’s contemporary bands seem interested in the current social and political climate of the UK. And though there are a handful of bands with left-leaning tendencies, Cabbage for instance, they’re often overtly brash in their sentiment, all bark if you will. TYPES are an exception to this rule.
Sunday, 5 March 2017
“There are very few bands that formed in 2006 that are still releasing records now,” says Gareth David, frontman of Los Campesinos!. He has a point. In a testament to both the throwaway nature of indie-rock, and the lasting appeal of the band themselves, many of the acts they started out sharing stages with are now confined to the annals of history; remembered only in rose-tinted listicles and drunken YouTube sessions. Los Campesinos! on the other hand, have endured. But it’s not always been easy.
Punk in 2017 feels like a diverse, even contentious subject. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, there’s little doubt that what was once a moral panic causing act of youthful rebellion, is now accepted, even celebrated, by the establishment it once sought to rebel against (look to PUNK.London, for example, as proof). While the movement has become ingrained in British culture, often to the point of caricature, the general disenfranchisement felt across the social strata is crying out for another similarly motivated movement.
It’s been ten years since Los Campesinos! exploded on to the UK’s indie scene in a technicolour array of synths and suspicious looking stains they swore were cherryade. A hell of a lot has changed in that time, not least of all Los Campesinos! themselves, whose journey from indie-pop poster kids to genuinely skilled songsmiths is one of the most overlooked careers in contemporary indie.
While ‘English Tapas’ might literally refer to a menu item at “some random pub” visited by Sleaford Mods’ button-presser Andrew Fearn, it’s a fitting title for an album that’s predominantly interested in dissecting and digesting various pockets of society. At their strongest when pointing out the ironies and idiocies of modern day England, they’re a band who divide opinions while being unflinching in their own.
Sunday, 19 February 2017
Already daubed rockstars in waiting, Reading’s Sundara Karma are a band destined to be huge. Forming way in back 2010 – though only becoming their current iteration in 2015 – the Berkshire-based four-piece have been turning heads since their inception, and now, signed to Sony’s RCA label, show little sign in slowing their ascent to the top.
No stranger to the American punk scene, Philly-based troubadour Dave Hause earned his credentials playing in myriad bands throughout the 00s, most notably in both Paint It Black and The Loved Ones. And while said scene is still thriving, those that populate it are a far cry from the grizzled images the word punk connotes.
From my view perched on the Deaf Institute’s miniscule balcony, the one thing that’s immediately obvious before the lights dim and Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band take to the stage, is how equally split tonight’s attendance is. Once the realm of mainly beards and plaid both on and off the stage, line-ups such as tonight’s have always attracted a specific sort of crowd, so to see such diversity is a pleasant surprise.
Renowned for his incendiary live shows, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Frank Carter’s second record with his band The Rattlesnakes feels almost tame in comparison to last year’s ‘Blossom’.
Monday, 6 February 2017
Three and a half years have passed since the California punks released their last album ‘Burial’, and for long-term fans of AFI, new material is long overdue.
This review was originally written for Clash Magazine (Print). Click here to read in full.
Last August, when Japandroids announced a run of shows slated for the tail end of 2016, it broke the silence on a three-year hiatus that followed a mammoth run of dates in support of their second album. A second announcement not long after confirmed what many people had spent two months speculating — a follow-up to 2012’s ‘Celebration Rock’.
Pop-punk has always been a genre with youth at its heart. Forget the grizzled, cider-stained politics of its parent, for many growing up, its lyrics and upbeat melodies were a direct form of catharsis, providing the soundtrack to an adolescence populated by underage drinking and make-ups and break-ups, all while managing to articulate the heightened teenage emotions felt by its fans. But what happens when those fans — and indeed those bands — succumb to the inevitable and start to get older?
Cloud Nothings have always been a band to relish in their DIY credentials. Third album ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ was a clattering, abrasive affair, drenched in lo-fi fuzz, and recorded whenever their heavy touring schedule allowed. It’s for that reason its follow-up comes as somewhat of a surprise.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
Simon Green’s work has never fallen neatly in to a box. While loosely considered electronica, it’s always harboured a more natural, more introspective quality than traditionally contrived dance music. Fittingly, this is something which itself seemed to develop organically across the course of Bonobo’s career; both 2010s Black Sands and its follow-up The North Borders each expanding an already liberal sound palette.
Released digitally at the end of September, Tycho’s Epoch is the culmination of a trilogy of albums that started with 2011’s Dive and continued with Awake in 2014. Taking listeners on an expansive and otherworldly journey, sound-tracked by an eclectic amalgam of analog sounds, electronic synths and live instrumentation, it’s a progression that feels natural, organic even, allowing listeners to see not just the evolution of the records themselves, but of Tycho as a band.
Monday, 2 January 2017
Though dead bodies probably make appearances in the narrative of songs more often than we think, it’s not very often that such subject matter is dealt with both eloquence and a certain degree of finesse. For Leeds’ The Golden Age of TV however, and their subject of “a buried dead body slowly realising what’s going on”, the inherent darkness that such a narrative brings has been offset by mesmeric arpeggios and a woozy falsetto. The result is a track steeped in narcotic and understated grandeur; the band’s chemistry, both evident and effortless, easily belying their short time together.
Having seen various bands progress through Manchester’s venue circuit over the last few years, the announcement that New Jersey’s The Front Bottoms were scheduled to play The Ritz just ten months after their their last UK tour was met, at least personally, with some reservations.
Though iconic in its own right, it’s an unlikely host for what’s arguably one of the strongest pop-punk tours of the year. More suited to indie gigs and various club nights, those few punk gigs that the Ritz does put on are attended by punks somewhat older and far more grizzled than the majority of tonight’s crowd. That said, while leather jackets have been replaced with lumberjack shirts and Doc Martin’s swapped for Vans, the plaid contingent is out on en masse.
Both imposing and hauntingly fragile, the latest EP from Devon’s Matthew and Me feels much like the landscape that shaped it, at times stark, at others staggeringly pretty. While it’s unsurprising that Start Point, the area which gave the EP its name has, at least partly, shaped its sound, what does come as a surprise is just how far that sound seems to have come in the last eighteen months.
At a time when the world seems hell bent on regressing back towards the dark ages one giant step at a time, there’s a lot to be said for music that says something, that harbours political sentiment or a message of positivity. For that very same reason, there’s a lot to be said for music that provides a sense of escapism; that affords listeners the chance to forget their particular troubles, however briefly.
As a city, Leeds has always felt fiercely independent. Often overshadowed by the likes of Manchester, and Liverpool further down the M62, its underdog quality has allowed its varying scenes to develop seemingly impervious to outside influence.
Of course, taken on face value, recent developments in the city centre have seen the Arts Quarter impinged upon by the garish Victoria Gate shopping centre, while the gentrification of Boar Lane happened so rapidly its easy to forget what it was like five years ago. But while some locals may be worried that the “beating heat” of Leeds is at risk, one barely needs to scratch beneath the surface to find that there’s still a myriad of scenes that are managing to retain the city’s independent nature.
When Illinois' American Football reunited for a run of shows in 2014/15, grown men wept. I should know, I was one of them. Standing in the crowd at one of their first ever UK gigs, it was difficult to imagine the band releasing a new album any time soon. After all, how could they possibly add to their paradoxically short-lived, yet long-lasting legacy?