Speakers Push Air

Blurry & Badly Composed – A Bit Like Me
June 11, 2012, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Photos | Tags:

I’ve always sucked at taking photos at gigs – a combination of bad kit, no natural ability and alcohol. Here’s a few that aren’t flat out awful.

June 6, 2012, 4:31 pm
Filed under: MP3, Reading | Tags: , ,

This month’s issue of The Wire is a bass special, so they put together a youtube playlist featuring 68 of the 75 tracks the Wire writers focussed on.

Watch it here

My favourite didn’t make the list, although another Rhythm & Sound track did.

Narc June 2012: Album Reviews & Live Previews
June 2, 2012, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Bands, Narc, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (Xtra Mile)

You’ll get no objectivity from me when it comes to Future Of The Left, so thank god this is their best album yet (and a genuine album of the year contender). It roars out of the gate with the frantic single Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman and doesn’t let up for a second. FOTL are still very much a post-hardcore band – and thank fuck for that! – but there’s an ambition and invention here that most bands will never match. Alongside the brutal guitars and beefed up rhythm section, there’s shonky electronics, strange folky vocal passages, nods to the B52s and The Fall,  and of course, Andy Falkous’ furious wit (Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop for title of the year?). Practically perfect.



Liars – WIXIW (Mute Records)

While it’s almost traditional with each new Liars album to expect the unexpected, WIXIW might surprise even their most flexible fans. Moving swiftly past the daft title (it’s pronounced ‘wish you’, apparently, and comes freighted with all manner of superstition and palindromic nonsense), this is Liars’ electronic album – a phrase that could strike fear into the stoutest of hearts. But bugger me if they haven’t got away with it.

Some of the things you wouldn’t expect from a Liars album: squelchy, almost Mouse On Mars-style glitchy electro; tracks built from found sounds and clattering, sampled rhythms a la The Books; woozy, disorientating synths; narcotic, dreamy nu-gaze textures; and Angus Andrews really experimenting with his vocals – veering between sweet, bucolic folkiness, Sueisfine-style cough syrup haziness and distorted, insistent quasi-rapping. But they’re all here.

The band have talked about how out of their comfort zone they were with the album – largely eschewing electric guitars and live drums – and it’s telling that they brought in Mute boss and electronic guru Daniel Miller to co-produce: this is a man who knows his way round an analogue synth and it pays off. There really is nothing about this album that smacks of dilettantism. Some of the tracks are flat out lovely – His & Mine Sensations is virtually indie pop, a slightly skewed take on something like The Postal Service; lead single No.1 Against The Rush an understated electro treat. And even on the more abstract tracks – Flood To Flood, say, with its ominous rhythms and semi-chanted vocals – are accessible without being compromised or watered down. By Brats it’s all gone twisted indie-disco and you can only wonder at how WIXIW – which had the potential to be a mess – turns out to be an absolute gem.



Anywhere – Anywhere (ATP)

Everything about this project – the press release, the fact they formed at an art gallery, the attempts to marry a kind of post-hardcore sensibility to raga guitars and synth tablas – made me want to smash the CD. That Anywhere are fronted by the pompous bloke with the afro from Mars Volta and At The Drive In didn’t help. The reality is slightly – but only slightly – less irksome. There’s some serious talent here – even Mike Watt on bass (for shame) – but it reeks of some kind of 70s ‘getting it together in the country’ indulgence, of ‘musos’ showing off their ‘chops’ and dipping into the kind of faux-ethnic sounds Sun City Girls did much better and with a smile rather than a smug grin. File under Ethno-Prog-Wank.



Future Of The Left Preview

If you like your hardcore smart, melodic and witheringly sarcastic, you probably like Future Of The Left, the best band out of Wales since McLusky (which just happens to be frontman Andy Falkous’ previous, brilliant band). In which case the fact that they’re playing Newcastle soon will get you jumping up and down on the spot like an overexcited kid. They come to The Academy 2 on June 10th, promoting their new album The Plot Against Common Sense, out the following day. You only need to see the song titles (Failed Olympic Bid, Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop, City of Exploded Children) to know that Falkous is still gleefully laying into mediocrity, sleb culture and the rest with the same venom as ever, something that current, utterly blistering single Sheena Is A Tshirt Salesman, confirms. The fact that FOTL have expanded to a 4-piece (including former Million Dead bassist Julia Ruzicka, probably relieved to not have to share a stage with that blathering folk-dullard Frank Turner any more) means they’re an even more relentless live act than ever, and with reliable rumours that the new album is their best yet, you’d be an arse to miss this one.


Guitar Wolf, The Cluny June 5th

The fact that Japanese garage heroes Guitar Wolf have their own movie, Wild Zero – in which they save the world from a zombie invasion – tells you a lot about their M.O.: cartoon rock’n’roll absurdity and a lot of leather. Louder than a jet plane, more lo-fi than a tin can telephone (you made those too, right?), Guitar Wolf have been laying down insanely loud, insanely basic garage rock for 25 years and show no sign of stopping, or varying the formula – and why would you want them to?

They haven’t played over here for a long time so the news they’re bringing their Alien Action tour to the UK – and more specifically, The Cluny – is a very, very good thing indeed. Known for punishing volume, frankly ridiculous stage sets and cheekbones you could grate cheese on, there’s nothing as truly, stupidly, fantastically in love with the idiot power of rock’n’roll music as a Guitar Wolf show. You know what to do.

Support from two great local bands – Fathoms and the newly-revitalised, utterly mint Maximum Zeros.

Newcastle The Cluny, June 5th

there were also previews in Narc or on kyeo for The Chapman Family with Stella Vine, Vamos 2012, The Old Cinema Launderette, Middlesbrough Literary Festival.. erm.. and some other stuff I forgot.

Narc June 2012: Live Reviews

Dexys / New Order
Whitley Bay Playhouse, May 7th / Newcastle Academy, May 8th

Two consecutive nights, two eighties legends, both with something to prove. New Order have lost a bass player, while Dexys – or at least Kevin Rowland, which is the same thing – have lost almost everything along the way.

© Tracy Hyman

New Order start with a short burst of Elegia –  every gig should, to be honest –  and from thereon in they don’t put a foot wrong (if you ignore Bernard’s typically grumpy manner when it comes to the odd tech problem). I’ve seen New Order a LOT of times, and this may be the first where I didn’t need my memory of just how great the songs are to get through some shonky moments. If I just wrote out the setlist you’d have a fair idea how great a gig this was – Temptation, Bizarre Love Triangle, 586, Love Vigilantes, 1963, and on and on and on. Of course, the elephant (or mammoth, to be honest) in this room is The Lack of Hooky. And do you know what? Let him carry on acting the sulky, petulant child, because Tom Chapman is a more than adequate replacement (even if he did try a little *too* hard to prove it at times) and if it means the band have a future, then that’s all good.  The crowd went batshit and I found myself wondering how many of the 40 somethings had indulged in a cheeky half, before going home to the babysitter. The excellent visuals actually managed to make the Academy look pretty for once, and they went out on a storming, breakbeat-coda version of Blue Monday. No Joy Division encore, but we coped.

If the New Order gig was great, the Dexys gig was life-changing. I’ve waited nearly 30 years to see this band live and I suspect I wasn’t the only one. Which explains why the surge of warmth and goodwill that greeted Rowland’s arrival on stage was so heartfelt, so intense. You really could feel the love, and for a man like Rowland, who has spent his entire career with his heart on his sleeve, that’s fitting.

The band – some ex-Dexys (Pete Williams especially, providing a perfect straight man to Rowland), some new recruits from bands like The Ruts and The Rockingbirds – were pretty much perfect (trombone problems aside), providing a darkly funky, utterly simpatico backing to Rowland’s songs – full of doubt and anger and love and regret. The first part of the gig was the unreleased new album, One Day I Will Soar, in its entirety, which is one way of testing audience patience. As with past tours, it was a performance of genuine theatricality, with dialogue, video screens and some genuinely funny moments, although a fair few people – who’d presumably come for Come On Eileen – looked a little bemused. By the encore – utterly spellbinding takes on Old, Come On Eileen and This Is What She’s Like (perhaps the greatest love song ever written)– everyone was on their feet and the tiny theatre fair hummed with a blend of joy and relief. This is a comeback to cherish.


Bob Log III – Newcastle Cluny, May 20th

A man in a black satin jumpsuit with his name spelled out in sequins on the back, wearing what looks like a jet fighter pilot’s helmet with a phone stuck on the front like a proboscis from a Cronenberg movie is having a band meeting. Since he IS the band, it involves him turning his back on the crowd and muttering, referring himself in the 3rd person, and taking swigs from the numerous whiskies the crowd have bought him. Welcome to a Bob Log III gig. There’s really nothing else like it.

Armed with just a battered guitar, a kick drum and drum machine and a sense of his own innate raw sexuality, Bob Log III has rammed the Cluny. The boys want to be him, the girls want to.. well, let’s not go there. By the end, he’s got three girls on his knee enjoying the way it bumps when he drums. But underneath the warped showmanship, Bob is the real deal – an amazing blues slide guitarist who plays like a demon even when he’s working the crowd like a proper Tucson huckster. You’ll laugh, stamp your feet and wonder if he really does have a monkey paw for a left hand.


Imelda May – Gateshead Sage, April 30th

Much as Imelda May must be glad to have moved up from the rockabilly circuit, playing endless weekenders in rain-lashed, out of season holiday camps, success comes at a price. In this case, the price is playing The Sage to a crowd largely made up of “dinner and a show” couples who nod politely, clap in all the right places and not much else.  The Sage is a fantastic venue for some sorts of gigs, but this isn’t really one of them.

That said, May – heavily pregnant but still in a tight leopardskin frock and killer heels like the rockabilly trooper she is – knows better than most how to work a crowd and things did pick up. The secret of May’s success – aside from her truly amazing voice, from a low growl to a piercing high note – is that she mixes it up: aside from the rockabilly twang you’d expect, you get smoky torch songs a la Julie London, a hint of country, the odd dash of tiki-hour voodoo and a charming version of Baby I Love you – May perched on a double bass next to a bassist on ukulele, a truly lovely moment. And it takes cojones to tackle Howling Wolf’s Spoonful but she pulled it off. I’d still rather see her tearing it up in a small club, but this will do for now.


I had quite a few live reviews this month that didn’t make it into Narc, but I’m hoping will appear on sister site http://www.kyeo.tv at some point:

Th’Legendary Shack Shakers / Burning Condors
The Cluny, April 27th

Burning Condors come out swinging and have all the right garage / ‘billy credentials (including a manic frontman channelling equal parts Nick Cave and Bill Nighy) but fell short on actual songs so that even their brief set felt overlong.

No such problems with Th’Legendary Shack Shakers, who remind me every time I see them that they may well be the finest rock’n’roll band in the world. With a real live Colonel for a frontman (it’s a Kentucky thing) and a frantic blend of hillbilly, punk, country, blues and polka they’ve branded ‘agridustrial’, LSS knock the breath out of you the moment they take the stage and before long, the Colonel (JD Wilkes to his mum) is a back-flipping, crowd-taunting, harmonica-abusing, eye-swivelling maniac. And this was him on relatively sedate form. The band were as relentless as always (including the new boy guitarist who seems to have slotted in easily) and it didn’t take long for a bare-chested psychobilly wrecking pit to form.  There really is nothing like a Shack Shakers gig – if you’ve never seen them you really should (and since they seem to have a real affinity for Newcastle, I’m sure they’ll be back soon).


The Tea Pad Presents Black Twig Pickers / Bob Stork & The Heaton Playboys
Morden Tower, April 24th

Bob Stork & The Heaton Playboys

Rob Heron of the Tea Pad doesn’t do things by halves, as his various ventures across the city have proved. Faced with providing a support for Virginia’s Black Twig Pickers, he decided to form a Cajun band, and I’m damned if he didn’t pull it off. For all the false starts and giggling, a band with this many great local musicians in it isn’t ever going to really fuck it up, and so it proved: they threw themselves into it with style, slightly iffy French vocals and a fine washboard solo from Mr Neil Hopper.

Bluegrass has become something of a novelty lately – I blame Hayseed Dixie – but there’s nothing quirky about Black Twig Pickers. This music is in their blood, and it’s the beautiful but often quite austere real deal – mountain music full of God and loss and fear and whiskey. Polite, understated, keen to explain what they were playing, and why, the Pickers huddled together and used their simple blend of fiddles, guitars, washboards and ‘high lonesome sound’ voices to totally transfix the tiny audience. It’s pretty rare to see ‘fiddlesticks’ (where someone beats out a rhythm on a fiddle’s neck with sticks while it’s being played) but it’s a wonderful thing. You got the feeling they could have played all night – probably do back home – and nobody would have got remotely bored.


The Distraction Records 10th Birthday All Dayer – The Star & Shadow, April 21st

By the time we got to the Star & Shadow for the Distraction Records 10th birthday party, the place was packed (with so many beards on display my girlfriend felt she was letting the side down).  Richard Dawson was keeping it fantastically weird on the decks and the expectations for the last 3 acts were high. Sad to say, then, that Mushi Mushi were a massive disappointment. A promising start – filthy sounding beats and analogue squiggles – was abandoned in favour of the kind of messy eclecticism you find in the last beer tent at Glastonbury on a Monday morning, a kind of anaemically funky mess.

Necro Deathmort

Praise be then for Necro Deathmort. Two men, one guitar, a pile of gadgets and an almighty noise. Legendary Tyneside soundman Ian had stuffed two extra bassbins at the back of the venue and the building nearly took off. The duo’s blend of doom metal riffs and dark dubsteppy beats inevitably leads to comparisons with Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh, Jesu, Pale Rider etc) but it’s a comparison to be proud of. A whole room of bearded guys (and unbearded girls) doing the dubstep headnod while Necro’s guitarist threw none-more-metal shapes on stage was a helluva sight.

I’ve raved about Warm Digits before but not without justification. Tonight they were better than ever, the newer material perhaps even funkier than before, the pair of them seeming to love every minute of it despite having to keep so many musical plates spinning at once. If you like your beats motorik, your synth sounds warm and fuzzy and plenty of cowbell, you need some Warm Digits in your life. With 6Music all over them lately and some pretty impressive support slots, I think their time is coming.

Fuck Your Jubilee
June 1, 2012, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Photos, Politricks | Tags: