Tuesday, 23 December 2008

CD Review: New English Social

Review by Danny Hill

New English Social are, for the moment, former Rough Charm members Will Abercombie and Ashley Leese. The pair are currently looking for extra members, a lead guitarist and a bass player, with the possibility of another guitarist to take rhythm from Will, who would like to focus his duties on singing.

‘With The Rough Charm it was more shouty, indie, punky stuff.’ commented Will. ‘This new project will be more alternative and layered so I can actually sing in me own voice. I just hated the thought of being known as “just another Libertines/Arctic Monkey-ish” type band that every one forgets about after a few years. I rate the New English Social as capable of bigger and better things…’

2008 has been a tumultuous year for Will and The Rough Charm - a year that showed such signs of early promise being one of the six bands signed by the SONS record company, famed for having four of their bands simultaneously in the top five of the independent charts earlier this year, an accolade that heralded comparisons with Manchester’s Factory label of the late-eighties/early-nineties. Since then, however, things took a turn for the worse. SONS blamed financial reasons for their inability to sustain their bands’ assault on the charts, leading gasps of expectation into reversible huffs and puffs of frustration. In my opinion, people can say what they like about SONS, as they often do, but for those few weeks music lovers from across the entire country - and beyond - had their eyes on Stoke-on-Trent’s burgeoning scene. No mean feat, that.

So, as you can probably understand, making the decision to break away from SONS and The Rough Charm couldn’t have been easy for Will and Ashley. ‘It was pretty much my decision split the band up and I’m glad I did it,’ said Will. ‘We all still get on and if the other lads start new projects they’ve got my full support.’

These are comments echoed in the first of the tracks from New English Social’s new acoustic EP, “So“, its lyrics a veiled message that Will has no regrets - “Stand alone I need no more - no you won’t silence me. And I’m so not sorry for all I’ve done…” Will’s ability to carve up a decent tune is in no doubt, but reflected here is a songwriter growing up and looking forward. The raucous anthems of The Rough Charm have been supplanted by a more mature approach, a maturity that belies songwriter Will’s twenty years.

The next track, even better than the first, “Take No More” had me reaching for my CDs in confusion, such is the similarity between Will’s voice and playing style and now-retired local songsmith Andy Gower. So much in fact I had to eject the CD to check I was listening to the correct one. The sprightly and infectious choruses and mid-bar refrains could easily slip into Gower’s collection. Purely coincidental, said Will. The pair, in my opinion, will never be remembered as classic singers. But neither will Noel Gallagher or Paul Weller. For what they lack in range they add up for in the energy and passion in their delivery. And, of course, their songwriting ability. The comparisons are obvious.

On the strength of these two songs, it’s certainly worth checking the New English Social out in the not-too-distant future.


New English Social

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Capellas/ Johny Wood/ The Black Apples @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. December 19th.

Review by Danny Hill

Photo by The Shadow

The Capellas are the latest local band to sign to the SONS record label, but given their MySpace profile page offers no band member names, the only one I can offer you is lead-singer’s Oliver Hawthorne. Starting proceedings early on is never an easy task, with so few people around to entertain, but The Capellas did an alright job of it. They have a rich, melodic, meaty sound coming from their five-piece section. The lead-guitarist, equipped with a Fender Telecaster, did well merging some well-timed riffs along with the rhythm player’s classic cherry-top Gibson Les Paul. 'Take A Walk' is a superb example of their indie/rock heritage, drawing obvious comparisons with some of the genres earlier pioneers such as Oasis and Jesus and the Mary Chain. There are some impressive Page-inspired solos and riffery in 'Another Big Star', whereas 'The City Lies' displays the sheer excellence of the bass player. The five lads spent a great deal of energy in their set and it translated well to their audience, some of which were obviously staunch followers. They left the stage in The Sugarmill to great applause.

Johny Wood (that’s right, one N) you could be forgiven for thinking is the name of one band member. Not so. Johny Wood’s name is taken from singer Jan Rodziewicz’s neighbour, a refined English gent. Music-wise, Johny Wood offer something a little different to The Sugarmill, the awesome lead-guitar work of Jay Heath presenting influences from ‘60s bands like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Dave Wood on bass guitar and Ben Cooper on drums complete the line-up. 'Poker Face' had flashes of Lenny Kravitz springing to mind, although Liam Gallagher seeped in too, but only with regards to singer Jan’s menacing, rasping vocal and haughty stage presence. The band took the audience through a collection of fine songs - 'Dancing', 'Keep The Faith' and 'It’s Not Over' earned almighty cheers from the appreciative crowd. And again, like their predecessors The Capellas, the band had more than their fair share of support on the night. With gigs approaching in the new year at The Norfolk Inn and the Old Brown Jug, it may be worth catching them.

I’ve probably seen The Black Apples perform on more occasions that I dare remember. What strikes me is that they’re either sometimes distinctly average, or they’re very good. Last night it was the latter. As soon as lead-guitarist/singer Musso wailed into the opening bars of 'Consider This', you knew it was going to be a good show. The energy and passion that goes into The Apples shows are seemingly relentless. With the second number, 'Leave Before My Time' melding so flawlessly from the last it was a job to hear the link. As the night progresses, with any Apples gig, the audience not only gets the treat of hearing their substantial collection of foot-tappingly good material, but they are also taken along a journey of Musso’s obvious infatuation with the Blues too, throwing in the occasional cover from the likes of Robert Johnson or Muddy Walters. The Apples’ ability to brand this old material with their own distorted, eclectic style is commendable given the multitude of bands and artists that have tried and failed in a similar field before.

Always one to get the crowd on their feet and on to the dance floor, 'Hypnotise' started its familiar riff, earning great cheers. It’s also with this great song that The Apples epitomise what they’re about, bass player Jamie and drummer Joe flowing fiercely and purposely in harmony. 'Buy Me A Ticket' and 'Rollin Tumble' follow shortly after, and The Apples are cheered on for two encores, finishing with their catchy anthem, '1,2,3'.

All in all, another great night in the Sugarmill.

The Capellas
Johny Wood
The Black Apples

Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Decision / The Imperfectionists / Maybe This Friday @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. December 17th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Simon Bamford

A large and expectant crowd greeted The Decision as they took to the stage to begin the evening’s proceedings, and as usual they did not disappoint. Having reviewed them only recently, it is enough to say that they were even more confident than when I last saw them; and their fanbase seems to have grown considerably as well, judging by the screams and yells as they came on. Ben West displayed his impressive flair for soloing and drummer Liam Kaye and bassist Rob Melville more than adequately backed him up. Of all the Stoke bands, The Decision are well up there on the list of those showing the greatest promise.

The Imperfectionists also have a fine guitarist in Jaime (no surnames available on websites) and all in all, the whole band; bassist/singer Ellis, drummer Liam and later addition JJ on bass while Ellis just sung, gave a most creditable performance. Despite the audience appearing to intermittently lose interest, each number was very well received. Although their main influence comes from the classic rock school, the funky piece they played when JJ took the stage for the fifth number sounded very tasty and showed a different side to the band altogether. Finishing the set with some hard driving rock, they went off to great applause. As with the outfit before them, they showed great promise indeed.

Maybe This Friday are something else again.
With a female vocalist and much more in the pop/rock vein, Maybe This Friday put me very much in mind of Blondie; the songwriting style included. Lois Stevenson has a fascinatingly similar voice and just as much power. From some angles, she even looks a tad like her (in her heyday, I might add). Shades of Clare Grogan and Altered Images shone through occasionally as well. All this isn’t to say they don’t sound original though, the songs I heard tonight had a definite character of their own. Looking like they are having the time of their lives, this very mobile outfit waste not an inch of the stage and put on a fine show - obviously, performance is something they pay much attention to. I loved the bass line in the opening number and overall the band has a set chock-full of fine compositions. I also enjoyed the nice acoustic work featured in some of them. I can’t help thinking that Lois and the rest of the band; Tyler Henry and Callum Barlow on guitars, Matt Forrester on bass and drummer Jack Watson may have a very big future in front of them. As with the previous bands, they have great, great, promise.

The Decision
The Imperfectionists
Maybe This Friday

Friday, 19 December 2008

CD Review: Owd Ear Records - 14 Songs to Derail Your Zen

by Charlotte Lunt

Owd Ear Records are a gathering of musicians who in various guises have produced a fine collection of ’14 Songs to Derail Your Zen’. The album shows the positively eclectic influences of its creators not simply delivering broad strokes within a comfortable genre, but with the differing groups having distinct sounds.

The album is opened by Tribal Brides of the Amazon’s ‘Better days’ which sets a fast pace and demands attention with just that and the urgency of Jim Mycock’s vocals; before the album takes a distinctly different turn with Sunny No Share’s track 'FOALW', an atmospheric track with distorted vocals and lead by keys.

Herrald Harks deliver a mellower dimension to the album with stand out track ‘Sherriff’, which ambles along with layered vocals and sauntering bass. Being one of the main contributors on the album, their tracks meld together the electronic and guitar driven music favoured by the other contributors providing a more accessible way into the world of Owd Ear.

The other main contributor to the album is Low Key, who delivers charged electronica ranging from discordant and angular on ‘Drinking Smoking Freaks’ where he collaborates with Mar Kee, to the darker grittier character of ‘Economic Sanction’.

A number of the artists appear only once in particular guises such as Poverty & the Vultures, and Sunny no Share each bringing another dimension to the album and showcasing the talent of those involved.

For an album that deliberately sets out to “derail your zen”, this diverse collection of tracks certainly pushes boundaries; that is not to say that it is a mismatch of songs that have no place being together, but more of a deliberately composed selection box of songs that reflect the personalities that make up Owd Ear. It is precisely because of this that ’14 Songs to Derail Your Zen’ is well worth a listen or two, and is available through Owd Ear Recordings.

Also listen: Tribal Brides of the Amazon

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Regent Theatre, Hanley - Free tickets over next two years.


The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, is today celebrating the news of a £30,000 boost to get more young theatre goers through its doors.

The news comes from Arts Council England, as part of an announcement of successful applications to the Free Theatre Initiative, which will see 618,000 free theatre tickets given to under 26 year olds across England over the next two years in an attempt to increase young audiences.

The awards were made across three categories – Premium (a £50,000 grant), Standard (£30,000) and Flexible (£10,000) with The Regent Theatre receiving a standard £30,000 award.

Richard Wingate, Chief Executive, Stoke-on-Trent Theatres Ltd said: “Today’s announcement by Arts Council England is fantastic news for the young people of Stoke-on-Trent and we are delighted to have been selected for the Free Theatre Initiative. The Regent Theatre is one of the best touring venues in the UK, and we must applaud the decision to allow youngsters in Stoke-on-Trent the opportunity to experience live theatre, maybe for the very first time. Our inclusion in the initiative also supports the year round hard work of our Creative Learning team, who are already committed to involving members of the local community and beyond.”

The free theatre scheme – which will be named in the New Year – is supported by £2.5 million additional funding to the Arts Council’s core grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Since its announcement in September, Arts Council England has worked with the sector to finalise parameters for the scheme and to assess applications.

Attendance at arts events traditionally drops in the 18-26 age range and so this initiative is specifically targeted at young adults and their families. It is designed to reach new audiences and develop a new generation of arts attendees.

The scheme will run alongside the successful reduced price schemes for young people which many theatres already operate. Results of the pilot will be carefully monitored and, if successful, it is hoped that the initiative could be extended to other art forms.

The free theatre scheme will go live across the country on 16 February 2009, with a week of special activities at all participating venues. A dedicated web site will be launched in the New Year, providing further details and direct links to book free tickets.


For further information please contact David Bradbury, Regent Theatre Press Officer on 07884 067 455 or email davidbradbury@theambassadors.com

The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, is operated by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG). Co-founded by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire in 1992, ATG is currently the largest theatre group in the West End and separately, the second largest in the UK regions, with a total of 23 venues. ATG is also one of the country’s foremost theatre producers and has been behind some of the most successful and innovative productions in Britain and internationally.

Current and recent ATG co-productions in London and internationally include the hugely successful and critically acclaimed musical West Side Story (West End season and UK Tour); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard; Riflemind by Andrew Upton (in association with Sydney Theatre Company); hit comedy Fat Pig by Neil LaBute; Harold Pinter’s The Lover/The Collection; Elling starring John Simm; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess directed by Trevor Nunn and Guys and Dolls starring Ewan McGregor.

Creative Learning at Stoke-on-Trent Theatres Ltd initiates participatory arts projects involving dance, opera and drama. Over 7,000 people have taken part in events initiated by Creative Learning during 07/08 through extensive partnership work with schools, colleges, universities and community agencies, as well as other independently delivered programmes. The hugely successful Dance Artist in Residence project has introduced high quality dance to thousands of local children since 2003, and the groundbreaking work with youth opera will continue to be developed into 2009. ACE free seat initiative will be an invaluable enhancement to the department’s programmes over the next two years.

Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives.

As the national development agency for the arts, ACE support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts.

Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better.

Between 2008 and 2011, ACE will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

There were 99 successful applicants for the free theatre scheme, representing more than 200 venues across the England. 116 applications were received, including groups of venues acting as consortia. The applications were scored against the published criteria for the scheme and scrutinised by an overview panel to ensure a good spread of participating venues across the country.

The 99 awards were made across three categories - Premium (a £50,000 grant), Standard (£30,000) and Flexible (£10,000).


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

New Year's Eve - Hanley / Track Review: The Rebounds - Mr Zed Lister

and track review
Ellen Argile

etween losing yourself in Christmas TV and frittering away your well-earned cash on presents that will be forgotten about, New Year's Eve is the perfect time to let your hair down and concentrate on number one.

For lovers of anything that features a guitar, The Sugarmill will be your haven. With three different rooms offering everything from britpop to ska (with some dance thrown in – just to keep you on your toes). With entry to the Main Room, Room 2 and the Roof Top Terrace Bar costing a mere £6, you’ll be sure to be partying until the wee hours.

If dance music is more your scene, then it’s just a short trip across the road to Hanley’s biggest nightclub – Liquid. For those of you that like to scrub up and splash out then their black and white ball themed evening is just for you. With tickets costing around £15 each you’ll definately be getting value for money, with 3 floors featuring dance, cheese and R’nB you’ll be spoilt for choice. With Envy’s lavish décor, Liquid’s hypnotising light show, and Jumpin’ Jaks' mega talented dancers, it’ll be a feast for your visual as well as your audio senses.


Track Review: The Rebounds – Mr Zed Lister.

From the ballsy bass intro to the ear ringing drop dead ending, The Rebounds latest offering 'Mr Zed Lister' is exactly what we’d come to expect.

The vocals not as polished as it could be, but it doesn’t need it. The whole song reflects that electric, mightier than thou, almost masturbatory air. The instrumental speaks volumes in this track, in fact I’d go as far as to saying you could get rid of the vocal all together and still have a track that would be strong enough to work in its own right.

It’s good to hear that they still master the sound that no other band in their league can even get away with.

Listen: The Rebounds

Saturday, 13 December 2008

CD Review: The Vanguards - Regress / Hey You / If Only


fter giving the three songs on this latest CD from The Vanguards, formerly known as Twem, a good listen, it is obvious to me that without a doubt this band possesses the songwriting skills to take them a long way, not to mention the excellent musicianship.

First track 'Regress' is a bright, uplifting song with beautifully ringing chords, well-structured solo, and some great vocals. It also made me want to listen to it again after the first hearing, as did the other two tracks, 'Hey You' and 'If Only'; the former featuring some gripping incidental drumming from Tom Bishop. The cohesion between he and the rest of the members, main vocalist Thom Twemlow and Richie Hearn on guitars and bassist Joey Jennings is extraordinary. The band sound like they have been playing together for years, when in fact they begun in their current form only earlier this year.

Overall, they put me vaguely in mind of an updated and more upbeat Crosby, Stills and Nash; that summery West Coast sound broken down to it's component parts, reformed, reworked and presented all shiny and new, but still retaining that slight but vital raw edge.

Working with well-respected producers Dave Tolan and Jim Spencer, a duo who have collaborated with such names as Primal Scream, The Charlatans and Tears for Fears, the Vanguards have forged a fresh, vibrant sound that they can truly call their own.

I am informed that the band is currently working on another four tracks, with a debut single planned for March, a follow-up single in May and a debut album scheduled for release in the Summer of 2009. A busy outfit indeed.

The band is currently unsigned and looking for opportunities at live dates, festivals and gigs generally. Further information is available from the band itself, or Louise Minter @ Blurb PR 020 7419 1221.

Listen: The Vanguards

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Primal Scream @ Sheffield Carling Academy. December 1st 2008

Chloe West

une 2005. Primal Scream take to the stage as Glastonbury’s Sunday night penultimate headliners. To be brief, the band have clearly had a bit of a session, and before being forced off stage, frontman Bobby Gillespie appears to make Nazi salutes, manages to throw a tantrum and several mic stands, and offend Kylie Minogue. So, with this my first exposure to the Scream’s live performance, tonight’s gig at the Academy had a lot to live up to. Would it be necessary to avoid flying equipment or had Gillespie and co tamed over the subsequent years?

Bursting straight into ‘Kill All Hippies’, the track proves why XTRMNTR was such a highly acclaimed album. Gillespie whines over chaotic synth and heavy beats, which along with ‘Swastika Eyes and ‘Miss Lucifer’ form the most frenzied elements of the set; simply dirty electronic mayhem. These compliment the spacey ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’ and a dreamy ‘Deep Hit Of Morning Sun’, at which point purple strobes cascade across the venue, mirroring the song’s lyrics. Visually, the Scream experience is overwhelming, the crowd constantly indulged in flickering graphics across the backdrop.

The band also showcase some new material, taken from latest album Beautiful Future. Both its title track and latest release ‘Uptown’ appear to reveal a poppy, lighter direction; another makeover for the genre defying group. Yet despite reinvention being their supposed forte, unfortunately this time it fails to reach previous dizzy heights. ‘Beautiful Future’ sounds more like a charity Christmas single rather than, as previously described by Gillespie, ‘high energy rock and roll’. In spite of this ‘Cant Go Back’ saves the new collection from drowning in its own sickliness, with rowdy guitar enhanced by classic bass from Mani, screeching keyboard and few controversial lines; its all we need to see.

Other highlights of the set include Screamadelica’s gospelesque ‘Movin’ On Up’ along with ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’, both of which draw heavily on the bands Stones influence. All three show yet another sound Primal Scream have dabbled in over the years, and the set generally moves seamlessly across the boundaries of musical definition. After the final encore, the night draws to a close on the colossal ‘Accelerator’ which seems to produce enough noise as the rest of the songs collectively, as though shaking the Academy to its very foundations. Despite this tour being daubed the ‘NME Rock And Roll Riot Tour’, there is no show of any earlier mentioned antics. Instead the Scream are professional to the end, delivering tunes spanning the last two decades but still sounding fresh as ever. Mic hurling or not, Primal Scream are rock and roll in their own right.


Primal Scream

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Soul 69/ The Trent Vale Poet/ The Clay Faces @ The Old Brown Jug, Newcastle-under-Lyme. December 7th. 2008

Review and interview
by Danny Hill

Photos By Darren Washington

Conditions were bleak last Sunday night at The Old Brown Jug and it wasn‘t just down to the cold weather. The experts have been warning us for a while that the pub industry is under serious threat due to the collective strength of a smoking ban, a credit crunch, inflated energy prices and cheap supermarket alcohol. And under the grim, dark cloud of a recession, who can blame punters for shopping cheaply and drinking their beers at home? It’s all a little Catch-22. It’s not just licensees bearing the cost of these economically challenging times either. It’s bands and artists. Fans, too, though sacrificially rather than financially. Many of you will already know that The Glebe in Stoke, a fantastic live music venue, will be shutting its solid-oak double-doors for the final time not so long from now. So, as a live music fan, you have to ask… Which one’s next?

The Clay Faces have recently completed the 08 leg of their current tour and so are perhaps the most suitably placed band to speak about the current crisis. I spoke to multi-instrumentalist Paul Dunn from the quartet: “The '08 leg of the tour was pretty much just a warm-up for the big push in '09, so we haven't been too far afield. We've been to places both familiar and unfamiliar and I have to say, the main impression is that live music at the licensed trade level is on its arse. It's the arty/cultural music club and theatre type venues that are the best to play, meanwhile some of the pubs can be really hard work.”

That isn’t to say The Old Brown Jug wasn’t doing any business at all last Sunday night, but the venue offered free-entry and one of the top local bands to its punters and still it only remained half-full throughout the evening. If precedents are anything to go by, the same gig would’ve been packed to the rafters 12 months ago. In the spirit of professionalism, however, the bands were not to be deterred.

First up on Sunday’s bill was Soul 69, an acoustic trio with two guitarists, Marcus handling rhythm and vocals, Doon on lead and Vinnie on the turntable. Their quirky, choppy Iggy Pop- Passenger-style riffs and Marcus’ falsetto singing style fused well and made for agreeable listening straight from their opening song, Lookin’ setting the scene for some genuinely unique songs. Soul ‘69’s reggae and hip-hop influences then came across with their next number Old England, with some awesome scratching and lead work and lyrics laced in social and political irony. Songs Sometimes and Answers set the trio in poppier, sing-a-long territories. They finished their set with the infectious In This World to great applause.

The Trent Vale Poet has followed The Clay Faces over the last few months of their tour. “Taking the poet with us and watching him perform outside his comfort zone has been great,” enthuses Paul. “He really raises his game and it's a pleasure to see his work being enjoyed outside of Stoke. I've challenged him to write a poem about the tour, to be performed at Oggy’s on the 20th Dec. So that should be interesting.”

It’s always a pleasure of mine to see TVP perform, and I’ve seen him numerous times. I’m accustomed his act these days, so it’s not him I‘m watching as he begins. I‘m watching his audience. I’m looking for the ones that haven’t seen or heard of him before. Their initial reaction - they don‘t know what to expect. Trent Vale Poet, a man characterised by his flowing black trench coat with its pockets stuffed with his poetry on scraps of paper, performs his work with such passion and energy that his audience’s faces can sometimes leave them set to stunned. That’s when they’re not wise to his approach. Seasoned followers of TVP look forward to his appearances rapt with attention from the second he grabs the microphone. I Were Born In Fenton! is a poem that personifies his approach, written about a real character from the pubs of Fenton, a character that after a few pints or more would always shout “I Were Born In Fenton!” TVP echoes this broad statement as the entrance to his poem, startling a few punters in the process. But after that they’re hooked, and TVP goes on to deliver a few more poems from his massive repertoire, all perfectly-timed and flawlessly crafted, including the tongue-in-cheek one-liners of A Love Letter To Steve Davis.

Performance poetry and band collaborations are on the rise. Just recently, poet John Cooper Clark supported The Fall at The Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh. With that in mind, you could call TVP a pioneer.

The Clay Faces’ birth, in 2004, came from the demise of Jugopunch - a band, then, more concentrated on its Celtic influences and songs about whiskey-drenched songs of yore. One of the original band member’s Paul Dunn explained their name: “I can take responsibility for being the first one to utter the words 'The Clay Faces' as a band name suggestion.

It came about at an emergency brainstorming session - the first EP was in the can and we had a production deadline to meet, and no name! In fact, the decision to change the name at all completely overshadowed the name itself. But basically we just wanted to have something that tied us back to our roots, so that the name would kinda be an explanation as to what we were up to in terms of us moving away from being 'an Irish band'. We wanted to show that we represented Stoke and her history, her heritage…”

And although the Celtic influence may still be alive with The Clay Faces’ material, only somewhat to a lesser degree, the band admit that it was the demise of Jugopunch that opened doors in terms of their songwriting. The band are certainly no strangers to addressing the problems of society through the medium of social commentary, particularly with songs like Football On The T.V. - a song, ironically, about the decline of the pub trade, and World’s Away - a song regarding recent problems in America and Iraq. “The social comment is a Clay Faces trait,” said Paul. “Jugopunch was mainly the traditional Celtic thing, and then on the last album you can hear that political aspect beginning to creep in, with songs like Dark Waltz... That’s when we realised it was that kind of emotional response and social comment stuff is what we wanted to do. We're pretty emotional types, so singing for 90 minutes about whiskey and highwaymen and bonnie maidens wasn’t really doing it for us - much better to vent our spleens about the real problems like fascism and racism and all the other problematic 'isms'.”

These days, it’s only usually hip-hop artists using their music in this way, and in the sappy-pop order of modern times - the music dominating today’s charts - where thousands upon thousands of television viewers will vote for a Christmas number one that has already been decided twelve months earlier (The X Factor) it’s refreshing to see a band using their music in an innovative way to address issues that are important to everyday life.

The Clay Faces kick off with what is also the first track on their album ‘and the word was..’ the punchy Mississippi Burning, quickly followed by my personal favourite Love Lies Bleeding, percussionist Cara Beech trading her drums for a bodhran, and written by mancunian guitarist Dave Walker. Masters of the build-up and break-down as they are, The Clay Faces then soften the mood with the melodic Will You Come Away With Me, singer Andrew Tranter’s trademark deep-throated bark and venom in perfect working order throughout. Their songs are a reminder of some of the most essential sing-along punk(ish) songs ever written, and played by those who wrote them in the way they were supposed to be played. In my opinion The Clay Faces stand exposed as the most rousing trad-fusion band since The Pogues.

Later on in the night came a cover of traditional Irish favourite Barney Hair, along with a collection of favourites from their Jugopunch days, including Cold and A Fiver On The Horses, with Paul seemingly switching instruments between each song. “I get really bored playing the same instrument all the time,” he said. “Definitely a 'jack of all trades, master of none' thing going on.” Impressively, throughout their set, The Clay Faces use a total of nine different instruments in their set, including the mandolin and a penny whistle. “It's a conscious thing on our part to ensure a bit of variation sonically through the set, and I think it works…”

Singer Andy awkwardly attempts to draw conversation from the audience between songs but, alas, it’s a slow night in The Jug and The Clay Faces are more at ease communicating through their music. Up-tempo versions of Marianne and Monyash Road follow, and for the encore fans’ favourite from the new album And The Word Was… earns great applause. For the encore the TVP-penned Black Hearts rounds the evening off.

As for 2009 the tour will continue further afield, with the band considering a few good offers from different parties. Paul also informs me that the band are currently rehearsing-up a fifth member, predominantly playing bass and lap-steel. In the near-future, however, The Clay Faces, along with TVP and Soul ‘69, will be playing Oggy’s on Dec. 20th.


The Clay Faces
The Trent Vale Poet
Soul 69

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Flamboyant Bella /She is Sue /The Elastics @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. December 5th 2008.

Review and photos by Ellen Argile

Double the number of people, double the energy, double the astonishment. Flamboyant Bella, and their supporting acts The Elastics and She is Sue were simply 100% better than expected.

By the time The Elastics made it to the stage, there was already a impressive number of spectators anxiously waiting at The Mill. Vocalist and general stage jester, Jack seeped vibrancy and pushed every button he could to get the crowd going.

One bar break and toilet stop later we returned to find a considerable increase in head count ready for She is Sue. Despite being one member down their performance was still superb. If you didn’t know any better, you could of easily of been forgiven for mistaking these guys as the main act. It was raw and edgy, the kind of noise you expect from the kind of musicians who know their instruments. Their distinctive sound defiantly shone through, with songs that were just right length, and every one of them finishing with a gunshot ending that left your ears ringing for more.

Flamboyant Bella we’re the biggest surprise of the night. In more ways than one. I was expecting it to sound either like a polished, crystal cut mirror image of the studio sound, or a disappointing half baked effort at a live performance. Neither were the case.

Despite being clearly flabbergasted at the size of the crowd, the band played an effortless set. With just the right amount of every element a good gig needs, it’s hard to describe. Confident but not complacent. Sugary but not Twee. Talented but not overly processed.

Flamboyant Bella
The Elastics
She is Sue

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A Child Rasputin/ Joe-EE-T/ DJ Fresh/ Loose Kites/ Tribal Brides Of The Amazon @ BBC Radio Stoke Open Centre. SUBCulture Xmas Party. December 6th.

Review and photos
by Danny Hill

he annual works’ Christmas party; a seasonal institution etched into the hearts and minds of many of us. An opportunity for employers to express their well-intentioned gratitude and thanks to the hard-working employees with small gifts and gallons upon gallons of alcohol. In all honesty though, the annual Christmas party, for most of us, is an opportunity to drown ourselves in a deep, dark sea of overindulgence, manifesting itself in highly uncharacteristic and alcohol-induced acts of roguishness and depravity that will inevitably lead to a shameful conclusion and a dressing-down in the manager’s office the following Monday morning. It goes with the territory. Or is that just me?

The guys at BBC Radio Stoke SUBCulture, however, do thing a little differently. Their line-up on Thursday evening read like a glorious selection box of treats from a wide range of musical genres. Matt Lee and Dave Hamer did an excellent job of presenting the event throughout, under considerable circumstances. Set in the foyer of BBC Radio Stoke’s Open Centre on Cheapside, Hanley, the entire event went out over the waves exclusively live. So no profanities please everybody. Please. It was then I found myself wondering, and not for the last time that night, what fun would be had had accustomed potty-mouths Parradox, or The Title’s Guy Davies been invited along. Just as I’d began to imagine the pair tethered and gagged, secured in a remote location around 100 miles from the studio, Tribal Brides Of The Amazon (who, for the sake of literary economy, I shall now refer to as TBOTA) began the show with a blistering rendition of Smokey Pig.

To me, TBOTA have a sound that seems to have built its foundations in blues. Somewhere. A darker, grittier shade of the Blues perhaps. Yet, saying that, their technique shatters any boundaries of predictability with the sheer eclecticism in their rhythm playing. In addition to that, Jim Mycock’s vocals add a further dimension with its wailing and charging melody. Purely infectious. Bob Dylan once said that; “Musical evolution is a snake with its tail in its mouth, forever circling around and around.” Over the past couple of years we’ve seen something of a Blues revival, led from the front by the now mainstream-savvy Kings Of Leon. One can’t help but think TBOTA may have carved something of a niche out in today’s current music marketplace. All that remains for them is their music to be discovered by the right hands. The lads - Jim (Guitar/Vocals) Jake Morgan (Lead Guitar) Jon Cole (Bass) and Michael Walsh (Drums) refer to their style as “melodic Sonic Youth-esque with a Beefhearty twist” and I’ll vouch for that.

Next up, practically bouncing with youthful enthusiasm and instructing affairs from a laptop, Joe-EE-T had the small audience rocking appreciatively to his track Cold Feet. Looking on admirably was fellow Stoke Sounds contributor and artist DJ Fresh, who is good friends with the lad’s father. Joe-EE-T, throughout the evening, showed great signs of promise and not a hint of nervousness, interacting with the crowd and inviting them into his set. I’m sure that with such raw talent, confidence and guidance in the form of seasoned local institution DJ Fresh the lad will go far.

I had been warned of A Child Rasputin’s brilliance as I arrived by Fresh, so I looked forward to his introduction. To look at (and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this) he’s an odd-looking fellow, in his old-fashioned garb, pork pie hat and neatly-trimmed handlebar moustache. But to see A Child Rasputin perform and to listen to his musical ideology is to understand that it’s all part of his truly astonishing act. Acting alone, he adds a whole new meaning to the term “ambidextrous”, using both feet on loop-pedals, fingers on keyboards, hands on two mic’s simultaneously. Did I mention a beatbox? You can also add guitar playing to his instrumental résumé as well, with what looks like a very nifty-looking Fender Telecaster. Phew! And yet A Child Rasputin manages to fit all these different functions in so deftly and artistically that one would think they were listening to three or four people instead of one man. Added to that, he also has a quirkiness and eccentricity in his mannerisms during his act which translates amusingly to his audience. Put simply, he is impossible not to watch. His tunes aren’t bad either. I Want You To Know has an ethereal quality, climaxing beautifully with exquisite vocal harmonies and effects. More please.

If you haven’t yet heard of The Loose Kites, then you really should include them in your “Gigs to attend” priorities in 2009. Already with five residencies across the country, The Loose Kites are a band in high demand. The hirsute acoustic Chester quartet began with Radiation Vibe, the sing-a-long rockabilly-esque engaging immediately with the audience. Singer Si’s gravelley tones set me in the mind of Joe Cocker, and the overall musicianship of the band, with two backing singers, personified significantly by the acapella opening of Roo Bah Bah Now. There’s nothing ground-breakingly original or imaginative about The Loose Kites, and it’s not too difficult to envision which direction any critics would head from. But, to me, that’s just being pedantic. Because for what Loose Kites seemingly lack in innovation they certainly make up for in the likeability factor, ranging somewhere between a basket full of fluffy kittens and extra helpings of mum’s homemade meat and potato pie. They certainly have some very good tunes to their credit, too. The Loose Kites, later on the show, would go on to perform new song Lothario and Devil’s In The Detail. I’d wish them luck for the future, but on the strength of their upcoming tour schedule, in terms of their popularity, I don’t think they need any.

Next up was maestro DJ Fresh, the most relaxed-looking guy in the place, and protégé Joe-EE-T, performing a solid rendition of I Am The Law, the pair melding flawlessly together in their act. This was followed by a nostalgic trip back to the ‘80s with a remix of Synth Train, its lyrics depicting a golden age of dance music and club culture - Old Skool at its gritty, hard-edged very best. The pair will soon be appearing together again with Parradox and Dirty Mundays at The Underground on December 20th. You wouldn’t wanna miss it.

TBOTA returned with their concentrated energy and a few more tracks from their vastly-expanding tune inventory, including fans’ favourite Trippin’ Balls, which ended the show as suitably as they began it. A Child Rasputin also returned with a couple more tracks, including the sensational When Yer 30, transcending from a lush, hymn-like tune to screeching cacophonic proportions, a song that tips your senses to the very brink. In conversation, A Child Rasputin is genial, calmly-spoken and unequivocally modest. He announced a European tour in the not-too-near-future.

Dave and Matt did a great job between acts presenting the show, with only a few minor technical hiccups. There were also a few familiar faces from Stoke’s burgeoning scene in the audience on Thursday night - including The Control, who were included in one of the “Best of 2008” recordings also broadcast, alongside Sgt Wolfbanger’s Elevator Music. For those who didn’t already know, Dave and Matt’s show is broadcast every Thursday night on BBC Radio Stoke, 7-9 p.m. Long may their outstanding contribution to the area’s unsigned artists continue. Xmas party hats off to them.


A Child Rasputin
DJ Fresh
The Loose Kites
Tribal Brides of the Amazon

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Video: Truth Be Known - Boozie Britain

New video release by Big Music.

Truth Be Known - Boozie Britain

Hear it live!

Truth Be Known will be performing at JJ's in Hanley (bottom floor of Liquid) next Monday 1st December 2008. Not to be missed

More: Truth Be Known


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Rough Kutz @ The Raven, Cobridge. November 23rd 2008

Review and photo by Stephen Harvey

The Raven seemed like an unusual choice of venue for Stoke on Trent's seminal rude boys, The Rough Kutz. The pub is situated on the outskirts of Cobridge, and it is not one that I have come across before to be perfectly honest, but I had seen them play before many years ago, and I knew there would be some faces I would recognise in the crowd. I made the right decision going along, and it turned out to be one of the best gigs I have seen so far this year. That's quite a compliment with it being both late in the year, and the sheer volume of bands I have encountered on the Stoke music scene this year.

The room was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic punters waiting to dance to some original ska. The eager following from Chell Heath was in full residence as usual, although I did speak to some skinhead girls at the end of the show who had travelled from as far away as Chorley on the back of a scooter. The band somehow managed to fit themselves on the small stage provided, which was in itself a good trick given the numbers involved and that full sound was achieved beautifully, and the crowd was dancing throughout the show, me included.

The Rough Kutz have been delivering this full sound and show for over ten years now I was informed by some members of the audience who were keen to pass on their knowledge. There have been some changes in the line up over the years, but they have always stuck to their principles of playing their own original music and songs was the general opinion, and they were obviously life long fans. They have never slipped into that trap of becoming 'just another cover band' playing Madness and The Specials, which is sadly what happens to a lot of good musicians in this business, and I applaud them for sticking to their principles of being original. The Rough Kutz are anything but a cover band, and they obviously have no respect for other such bands given their comments on their own myspace page.

The influences of their sound are the same ones that have influenced the above mentioned bands and include the sound of Prince Buster, Kingstonians and Stiff Little Fingers. They have even recruited the talents of Roddy Radiation from The Specials on the video to their now classic anthem 'Chell Heath'

This highlights the respect that they have gained not only on the local circuit but nationally, and their army of fans continues to grow on the strength of their commitment to creating good original songs from scratch. Tracks like 'Teenage' and 'Popstars' show they know how to craft good bouncing dance tracks. my personal favourite was 'what did you take me for?' which had me digging out my own collection of vinyl. Memories of Tunstall Town Hall disco came flooding back listening to this track that reminded so much of early Madness, and my own roots in music.

I would recommend any music fan to get along and see the Rough Kutz live and experience their sound first hand. This is dance music at its very best. This is SKA.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Hips Like Cinderella @ the Old Brown Jug, Newcastle-under-Lyme. November 19th.

Review by Daniel Finn

With influences from The Smiths, The Editors and Joy Division to name a few, ‘Hips Like Cinderella’ offer subtle yet intense songs that leave you wanting more and more.

Consisting of vocalist Ad Price, guitarists Paul Walker and Graeme Salt, bassist Larry Moore and Drummer Andy Todd, ‘Hips’ create something refreshing to hear in an age of guitar-driven indie. Tunes coated in reverb and orchestrated delay along with dark yet somehow funky riffs and dance like drumming give Hips quite a unique sound something that is not often heard in local unsigned music.

Playing only to a half-full Brown Jug, their set captured the audience from the off and didn’t let them listen to any songs that were not brilliantly tight or annoyingly addictive. Some however more so than others with ‘This Room’ and ‘Love will appear’ in particular sounding brilliant.

What impressed me the most about Hips Like Cinderella was Ad Price’s Vocal talent. With signs of Morrissey and Editors’ Tom Smith at his melodic best Ad’s singing was constantly on the mark with no sign of wavering. With his distinct sound and emotional melodies along with the toe tapping backing track hips create I’m surprised they are not better known and supported.

Their set came to a close with fan favourite ‘Andula’. This song for me can only be described as an anthem which sums up ‘Hips Like Cinderella’, a must see for any lover of great music.


Hips Like Cinderella

Gordon Hendricks with Red Alert @ The Victoria Hall, Hanley. November 23rd.

Review by Clare-Marie White

Burslem old-timers would have you believe Elvis appeared at the Queens Theatre in its heyday, along with *everybody* else. It’s one of those local myths, like Askey’s Giant Wartime Fish or the Revised Town Centre Masterplan. The truth doesn't really matter, no-one would be a true Boslemite if they didn’t find it perfectly credible that if Elvis had made a secret call to England during his GI days, he would have included the Mother Town in his visit.

It’s also not hard to believe that if anywhere should produce a voice to come close to matching the King’s, it should be Stoke-on-Trent. In common with certain other cities across the globe, we have a deep understanding of soul; of dispossession, anger and hope.

Having only heard of Gordon Hendricks a few days ago in the Focal Radio studios, I was nevertheless excited to be in the retro environment of the Victoria Hall, squashed into my metal seat with a proper Stoke crowd, people from across the six towns who find Hanley the best meeting ground to revive old friendships, romances and fights.

And when Gordon took to the stage, this was proper rock n roll, exploding sound systems and all. Like Elvis himself, nobody was taking this too seriously, despite the obvious talent on the stage. Gordon himself was delighted to be “back where it all started” with the people who had given him confidence to unleash what has become one of the most renowned Elvis tribute acts in the world, not least by Presley’s band and writers. Indeed, it was his familiarity with the crowd that hopefully lessened any hurt he might have felt over the unseemly stampede to the bar well before the end of the first half.

And in this unusual theatre environment, part Memphis, part Cheshire Cheese, a truly amazing show emerged. Gordon and the band’s style avoided too much basic imitation and were great performers in themselves. Gordon’s voice needs to be heard to be believed, absolutely authentic and without a hint that the most epic of Elvis’s classics were a strain to imitate. And while we can recreate moments from Vegas for generations, it was the single ‘Where Would I Be’ which really makes one dare to dream. Written by Geoff Morrows, this is unmistakably Elvis, but its freshness sparks the possibility that we could stretch even further than what we were lucky enough to get before Elvis died in 1977. Incredible, of course, in his own right, Elvis was also part of a package. A product of tumultuous times, Elvis was the individual bold enough to stand at the front of a stage and change the world. What else might be sitting in a writer’s cupboard, waiting to be recorded? How might That Voice interpret more of the greatest songs of the last three decades?

In Gordon Hendricks, Stoke has produced another great talent of whom we can be proud. We might have got more of a glimpse of his innate creativity in his home town - it is hard to keep up an American accent when you’ve got people shouting “‘iya Gordon, ‘ow’s yer dad?” - I hope he allows that spark to really flourish.

- website
- Youtube clips

Monday, 17 November 2008

City Voices - Writer’s Day @ Hanley Library. November 15th.

Review and
photo by Steve Dean

Having enjoyed City Voices’ contribution to the Stoke Sounds launch back in August, it was a great pleasure to attend their open day in Hanley at the weekend, an event intended to showcase local writing talent. I have to say that I didn’t realise there were so many of them, and what a vast range of local talent they display. Their ‘leader’ Paul Williamson (pictured), a most genial chap, made me very welcome and all the members I spoke to offered great warmth and friendliness as I wandered from stand to stand.

There are really too many to name in entirety here, but those I spoke to included prolific children’s poet Daniel Tatton, who has written many poems since his first in March 2006 and his quirky style makes for some amusing and thought-provoking reading.

Jan Ryan has three published works, including ‘Baksheeshed’; a book dedicated to cleverly explaining some of Egypt’s mysteries in the form of a novel. A copy of which has actually been purchased by an Egyptian tourist guide.

Poet and treasurer Geoff Dulson explained that he is of the third generation of poets in his family, whilst Christine Rowley has written a novel, composed poetry and has released CDs of herself performing her own self-penned songs. Alan Myatt has written an autobiography called ‘Memories of a Blurton Boy’, which he has lavishly illustrated with his own watercolour images and has also published a book called ‘Neck End’, about the town of Longton, which he has written in collaboration with long-time Longton inhabitant and shopkeeper Ellis Bevan.

‘You Couldn’t Make it Up’ is the title of Dave Lee’s book of anecdotes concerning Stoke City football team, a title that speaks volumes in itself; and talking of volumes, ‘Time to be Heard!’ is the title of an anthology containing various works by most of the members and is fine introduction to what they are all about.

Meeting fortnightly in room 1 in Hanley library, City Voices cordially invites anybody with an interest in writing in any form to attend. They will be very pleased to see you. Just turn up at one of their meets or in the first instance message them through their website on www.cityvoices.co.uk


Due to a change in circumstances, I’ll be taking roughly a month long sabbatical and will return with reviews, etc, in the New Year. Stoke Sounds will continue until then with the regular contributors.


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Visual Tourettes

Visual Tourettes

Article by Stephen Harvey

A unique live painting performance on the 8th November at 70-72 Piccadilly, Stoke on Trent City Centre - Hanley.

This event is a first for the area and it will incorporate the cream of the UK urban / street art talent.

Featuring DBO, KEV MUNDAY, TWO PENCE, SAZZELLI, ROCKET01, SU1, and FAMOUS WHEN DEAD and will also feature the music of ASUBU & other Guests.

Street and urban inspired art could not be further from the mindless writings of those whose intention is solely to deface. It is about performance, it is about inspiring and involving people in art in a way that has never been seen before.

The importance of this artform cannot be overstated, with record sales and attention at auctions, exploding levels of participation and the emergence of a new breed of artistic superstars.

This live painting event will bring together nine artists at the top of their game to collaborate on producing a unique 12m x 2.5m piece right in the heart of Stoke on Trent around the theme Fantastic, Found and Fake (the cojunction08 theme).

Helping to kick off the city's Conjunction08 arts festival on the 8th November, the performance will feature live painting as well as music, and is probably the first time this type of event has been held outside London.

As a further point of note, this event is probably the first live painting performance to feature in a contemporary arts festival, walking the line between the outsider and the insider, providing a bridge to what is widely regarded as the fastest growing means of artistic expression that exists today.

"We're so excited about this performance, its great for Stoke on Trent and the City Council to be involved and support us. It represents our opportunity to become the primary centre for street and urban inspired art outside London and Bristol" said Paul Bishop who is the founder of LET THEM CREATE.

"our aim is to provide a clear and distinctive focal point to the start of the Conjunction08 festival by bringing an exciting and unique artistic performance to Stoke on Trent.

We want to break down barriers and encourage greater appreciation and participation in contemporary art, at the same time, our aim is also to promote this area as a fantastic place to see, create and be involved with art. "

Sounds like it's something not to be missed.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Decision / Silent Film Project / Model Radio / New Education @ the Underground, Hanley. November 1st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

With an average age of 16, The Decision pack a pretty mature musical punch for so young a band. A power trio leaning towards the old school, they have a raw, loose sound that takes me right back to the late 60s and the early days of the Groundhogs and Rory Gallagher’s Taste. I’m not saying they are quite at that standard yet, but it is certainly only a matter of time. With plenty of youthful verve, guitarist and vocalist Ben West, bassist Rob Melville and drummer Liam Kaye begun with a spirited instrumental before taking us through a selection of songs that demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the importance of variation in songwriting. With some bands, on first hearing, most of the songs can all sound much of a muchness - not something that can be said of the Decision. Ben has a strongly melodic singing voice and their small, but appreciative fan club bellowed their approval right up until the very last note; the band closing with ‘The B I B’, featuring some nice wah-pedal work from Ben. A fine opening band to what proved to be a great night’s entertainment.

Down from Sheffield, Silent Film Project are a well-rehearsed, very professional sounding outfit with some excellent and generally up-tempo tunes. Beginning with their single ‘Two Days’ and thence on through a set packed with joyful, summery pop/rock numbers delivered with fire, passion and impressive musical ability, Silent Film Project demonstrated immense validity in a scene awash with countless bands. Their Myspace profile tells of Lisa O’Hara, a fifth band member who didn’t appear to be in attendance for some reason, but they played a scintillating set nonetheless. Guitarist Paul Musgrave supplied some faultless, classy vocals whilst the robust rhythm section of Jim Keown on bass and drummer Phill Vernon laid down a solid structure for he and lead guitarist Tom Dakin to work over. The influences are many, but there was something in the arrangements of some of the compositions that put me in mind of Elvis Costello’s early albums, particularly ‘Reality TV’. Having said that though, this band has cultivated a sound pretty much of their own. My own favourite track of the evening being ‘Singer Songwriter’, this outfit’s songwriting skills are one of its major strengths.

Model Radio are simply one hell of a good dance band. Maintaining a relentless and thumping beat more-or-less from start to finish, it says a lot for their ability and understanding of musical light and shade that at no point do their numbers pall or become monotonous. Bristling with confidence, their workmanlike, almost gung ho attitude to the job in hand generated a terrific buzz throughout the venue as they pounded and stomped from one vibrant song to the next. Sporting an excellent vocalist and frontman in Bob Jones, they have a huge sound drawn from myriad influences; from the major electronic bands to guitar rockers like U2, but as with the last band, they have managed to capture a vibe all of their own. Most instantly commercial number to my mind was ‘21st Century Digital Lovers’, which can be heard on their Myspace profile. As a footnote, it was interesting to see an uncommon Gretsch guitar onstage, although there appeared to be problems with it, and also a very rare RSB series Aria bass; in my opinion one of the best general production basses ever made. Nice one.

Headliners New Education, whose single launch this event was actually in aid of, are a relatively new band who appear to be going places fast. One of a series of fairly high profile gigs, tonight’s do celebrates the release of their first single ‘Today’ on November 3rd. Coming across as a sort of Paul Weller meets a jangling U2 , the main thing that struck me on hearing them is the strength and sheer conviction in frontman Ryan Dooley’s voice. He sings as if he really means it; ably stirring the spirit as he vents his musical spleen. The new single, with its excellent phrasing and arrangement, being a fine example of this. Incidently, Ryan was the first artiste Stoke Sounds ever reviewed, playing his acoustic solo at the Old Brown Jug in Newcastle. His talent was very obvious then and it’s good to see him now with a full band. His compositions contain a certain Englishness of the type consistent in the works of the great Ray Davies and the afore-mentioned Paul Weller. Such writers are rare and I would guess this band has a great future ahead. The rest of the group; guitarist David Cartwright, bass player Jack Dooley and John Bradbury on drums are well up to scratch and played a blinding set, supplying a fitting final act to round off a fine evening. Absolutely spiffing.


The Decision
New Education
Model Radio
Silent Film Project

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Elastics / Ryan Whitmore Band / The Research @ the Sugarmill, Hanley. October 29th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Arriving halfway through their first number, I picked up an enthusiastic vibe emanating from band and audience alike the moment I entered the venue. The Elastics, comprising of Jack Bloor on vocals; Sam Parker on lead; Will Sutherland on trumpet and keyboards and Joe Cool and Jake Briand on bass and drums respectively are a young outfit with a distinctly different sound from what is the current norm. Their music is drawn from many influences, but mainly put me in mind of various ska bands over the past decades; purveyors of a type of music that never really goes away. That isn’t to say that they don’t rock though - far from it. Although all members are competent on their instruments and contribute more or less equally; it is Will’s trumpet that supplies the definitive ingredient to their overall sound. Also playing occasional keyboards, his brass gives them that kind of tight but loose sound favoured by originals as timeless as Prince Buster and the All-Stars. A kind of Madness even, but perhaps a little more berserk. Their energetic set was packed with interesting ideas and they have some excellent dance tunes. I particularly liked ‘Countdown’ with its nifty opening riff and ‘Abbreviation’ put me in mind of the early Kinks. With time and experience, this band could have much success ahead.

Only very recently formed, the Ryan Whitmore Band does not yet even have a myspace profile, although Ryan himself has one; but from what I heard this evening, they sound very promising indeed. Singer/songwriter Ryan has been on the scene for a few years now, playing bass with numerous bands including the Mayhem Effect and Scott Ashley band as well as doing the odd acoustic solo performance. He is playing lead with this eponymous four-piece; backed by a second acoustic/electric guitar, bass and drums. He has a fine mature singing voice and puts his melodic songs across very well. Slowly building to a climax, his opening number ‘Again’ set the pace for a selection of Ryan’s generally soft-rock numbers, although he does crank it up from time to time. Of the set, ‘Foolish Boy’ and ‘Sightseeing Woman’ seemed to stick firmest in my mind and my only real criticism is that his nifty lead guitarwork was sometimes drowned by the backing, only really cutting through at the end as he rocked out with some choice soloing. An impressive half-hour from a band that has really only just taken shape.

Casually setting their gear up as if they were at home in their front room, the three members of The Research; guitarist and vocalist Russell L Disastro (spelt in various forms on their profile), bassist Georgia Lashbrook and drummer Sarah Williams appeared to feel as comfortable is if that is where they actually were. Although there was a vague air of resignedness about them at the start, but this could be very feasibly put down to mid-tour weariness.

Chatty Mr Disastro comes across as a very friendly, likeable bloke and this amicability seems to permeate their entire show. How can a person help but like them? All that aside though, they write some very good pop music. The sort of fine compositions David Bowie wrote in his Hunky Dory period; and I mean that good. I didn’t catch the titles of some of the songs, but their new single, ‘I Think She’s the One I love’ must have the one of the most commercial hook-lines I’ve ever heard. Russell sings most of the numbers while Georgia and Sarah provide Corrs-like backing vocals. However, there was one number, its title I alas know not, which Georgia sung which had the most fascinatingly paced melody I’ve heard in a fair while. Other highlights included ‘Anytime Babe’, a song about Russell’s house, ‘True Love Weighs a Ton’ (great title) with its neat rhythm change in the middle and a bouncy rocker about Wakefield prison; its title being another I didn’t catch. Pop/rock of a high quality indeed. They deserve a wider audience and with music of this calibre, I don’t think it’ll be long before they get it.


The Elastics
Ryan Whitmore
The Research

Comment from 'William': The song Georgia sings is called Lonely Hearts Still Beat The Same. It was a single a couple of years ago and the video is on Youtube.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Hip Hop Review: Chronicle & Jun Tzu

Article by DJ Fresh

Chronicle is a Manchester based rapper who recently released a mixtape entitled "EXPOSURE THE DOCUMENTARY MIXTAPE" with his friend and fellow rapper Jun Tzu. The album became quickly known as "Manchester's most controversial, realistic and revealing CD ever" and is rumoured to have sold over 5000 copies on the streets of Manchester. The album documented the Manchester hip hop scene and the characters within it. By using real life phone calls to 'expose' certain personalities in between the ingenious lyrical content of his tracks, the album was always on to a winner. His music is both conscious and lyrical, but above all else it provokes thought and argument, which is sadly missing from the majority of so called rappers trying to make a break in UK hip hop.

The underground scene has always been his foundation, and he stands by the fundamentals and roots of the culture. The most important thing being in conveying positive concepts, whilst remaining creative. The sharing of knowledge is foremost in his art, and this comes across in the sheer honesty of his interpretaion of his own ideas.

Chronicle has quickly become hot property on the scene, and this has become evident with his inclusion on a tour with MTV BASE's "I LUV LIVE" event with his friend and fellow artist Jun Tzu. The event involved some other major big names such as Malik B (MD7), Blind Alphabets, Kelly Le Roc and Baby J to anme but a few.

He is currently working on a debut solo project entitled "THE DANGEROUS DEMO" which is set to be released in February 09.

Jun Tzu Is a rap artist that originates from Belfast in Northern Ireland, but is currently living in Manchester.he is also a very controversial and fearless lyricist, who is not afraid to tackle any subject. This includes politics and religion, and he is well known for his uncompromising delivery during freestyle sessions. His music is inspired from his own roots of growing up in Belfast and the troubles that the Irish people have faced throughout their history.

Jun Tzu began writing poetry as a child, and has always had a passion to express his views and beliefs to other people. He likes to experiment with his music, and even delves into other genres such as Irish folk and soft rock.

The Demo cd is free to download via their myspace pages and is only available for a limited time, so be quick and don't miss out!!



Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Demon & Hollywood Tease @ The Queens, Basford. October 18th.

by Steve Dean

by Simon Bamford

This being our first visit to the Queens for a while, we found the sound system still as ear-shatteringly deafening as before, but the place itself apparently under new management. According to the blurb on the walls, tribute bands such as Fred Zepplin and QE II are to be the main new order here, the two bands this evening being an exception to this new policy. It is a shame to lose yet another regular venue for the local original bands, but I wish the Queens all the best with this new venture.

I saw Hollywood Tease at Biddulph back in July and my observations and comments then pretty much stand now. Fundamentally, they are accomplished rock musicians with some good and commercially robust material. They sound very American, bringing to mind Motley Crue as the strongest influence by a long way. In fact, they come across as a sort of Motley Crue tribute band playing their own Motley Crue-like material plus the odd cover number. With costumes, tattoos and haircuts to suit, posing is very much at the forefront here. Not that there’s anything wrong with anything as rock ‘n’ roll as posing and looking the part, but I thought the fan (of the electric type) carefully positioned to blow one guitarist’s elaborate hairstyle around as he played pushing it a bit, but what the hell... They know how they want to be perceived and what they want to sound like. Playing their gutsy music with easy panache, they put on a stomping show very well received by the mainly middle-aged audience; which, come to think of it, is the age pretty much most of Motley Crue’s fans would be.

I have to admit that I had never heard of Demon before this evening, and being a heavy rock fan of many years standing I was puzzled how this six-piece band of nearly thirty years experience had passed me by. To date, they have released twelve albums including a live one and judging by the amount of people singing along, they have a pretty solid fan base, including an enthusiastic Norwegian called Frank who must be their number one follower; singing, chanting and waving his arms about to every single number with great familiarity. With such a large backlog to choose from, those in the know in the audience were spoilt for choice. Beginning with ‘Night of the Demon’, a song that brings classic rock bands such as Deep Purple very much to mind, Demon powered through its heavy rock/metal catalogue with much good natured relish. Singer Dave Hill is a likeable front man and the band boasts some excellent musicians in general. A pounding, powerful rhythm section from Andy dale and Neil Ogden on bass and drums respectively supplied solid foundation for Fazza Farrington’s keyboards and guitarists David Cotterill and Ray Walmsleys’ well-rehearsed refrains and melodies. Demon may not be quite as well-known as other long-standing bands of their ilk, but they have certainly found a permanent niche for themselves. My only real gripe was the mind-numbing volume, which seemed to increase steadily throughout the band’s set. Even so, this would be down to the sound man, rather than the band. Hill complained about the lack of working monitors onstage; a fact which may have caused them to turn up in compensation. I’ve heard many times that old chestnut about a person being too old if the music’s too loud. Considering that the wearing of earplugs seems to be pretty much the norm amongst fans and bands alike these days, something in that old adage would appear to have had its day. I came out of the venue to find myself almost completely deafened; still having traces of ringing in my ears up until teatime the next day. At long, long last, I think it’s maybe time for me to purchase some earplugs myself. Hardly rock ‘n’ roll, but sometimes commonsense really does have to prevail.

A good night though, nonetheless.


Hollywood Tease

Review Comment from Hollywood Tease...

Hey dude, just read the review fom the queens gig. just a few things I wanted 2 point out. you make us out like a Motley Crue tribute band but if you knew anythin about our style of music you would know that basically every glam metal band from the 80's era, for example, Ratt, Skid Row, La Guns had that style of playing. just because we dress in leather jackets n cowboy boots n have hav big hair does not mean we are tryin to b Motley Crue or any other band 4 that matter, we just want to b a band that stands out from the rest. one last thing, posing is not at the forefront, the music is, and always will b.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giro Junkie/ The Nanateas/ Nemo/ The New Subterraneans @ The Glebe, Stoke. October 17th.

Review by Danny Hill

Photos by Darren Washington

It’s hard to imagine that in a few short months from now The Glebe, a brilliant pub and live music venue, will soon be under the city council’s control. Gone will be the pub’s pool table, its huge, impressive PA system and stage, and replacing it will sit office workers, bored-looking, clock-watching, form-filling and sipping water from plastic cups, the soft hum of an air-conditioning generator, clacking keyboards and stretching limbs the only sounds to permeate the almost oppressive silence. All in all, a dazzling contrast from what The Glebe will be remembered by: evenings of raucous laughter, of celebration, drunken hysteria, fun and frolics and, most importantly, the music it provides.

Nights like last night, for example.

Introduced jovially by compère The Trent Vale Poet, the first act on last night’s bill was acoustic act and singer-songwriter Giro Junkie, otherwise known as Rich Bloor, with his (as yet) short collection of songs, taken from his recently released EP “If you feel like working… sit down, it’ll pass.” Bloor excitedly hopped onto the stage, and the first noticeable thing is the lad’s summery temperament and instinctive rapport with his audience. Cheerfully joking and bobbing up and down on his stool, he didn’t waste any time getting down to business. His songs included ‘One Ballache After Another’ and ’Slavery Was Never Abolished.’ ‘Confiscate The Hippies’ has shades of Weller’s choppy rhythms and ‘Novemtree‘ is perhaps a little more Lennon-esque in its heartfelt sincerity. He also included a new song ‘Prescription Smile’ with its lyrics concerning drug abuse. Lyrically, Giro Junkie’s songs are socially conscious and with a fair amount of congenital working-class wit to boot. Giro Junkie is clearly on the side of the common man. Musically his right handed fingers sought a number of complex chord progressions as his left beat out some engaging, foot-tapping rhythm patterns.

Bloor himself refers to his style as ’second-hand junk songs,’ but the thought-provoking and sometimes poignant lyrics he provides are irrefutably folk. Last night, Bloor improved throughout each song, so much that it was a shame to see him leave the stage. By the end of a comparatively short set he had held people’s attentions for a good space of time. On his MySpace profile Giro Junkie sets out plans to move further afield and get a band together, as well as producing an album. With such raw creativity and ideas, and of being such a young age, he’s certainly an artist to look out for in the future.

The Nanateas are one of those bands that, when you eventually come to hear their songs, you kick yourself for not having listened to them before. Quite simply, one of my newest favourite Stoke bands. The beauty of The Nanateas is all in their simplicity: a trio, one vocalist/ acoustic guitarist in Andy, one bass player/ backing vocalist Dan and drummer Ang. No clever effects or quirky gimmicks here, just a collection of quite brilliant songs. They opened their set with ‘Street-lamp Life,’ raw, infectious and anthemic, reminiscent of early Travis in their ‘Happy’ days, before commercial mediocrity loomed. To their merit, The Nanateas have very quickly discovered that simplicity combined with melody memorable songs do make. As testimony to this, the tra-la-la-la-la choruses of ‘Three Cheers For The Lonely’ and the catchy ‘She’s Got A Light On’ soon have the crowd to their feet, nodding heads appreciatively. Andy’s vocals bring Elvis Costello to mind, but bouncier, with added exuberance. New song ‘Deidre’ soon follows, as well as an impressive rendition of Radiohead’s ‘There There.’

Nemo are a band that really need no introduction. As bassist Lee Goodfellow, drummer Kramer Caldwell, guitarist Paul Hancock took to the stage, to great applause, lead singer Andy Harrison cried: ‘We are Nemo and this is what we do!’ before bursting into the sheer frenzied electric-riffery of User.

If live gigs were family weddings, Nemo represent everyone’s favourite mischievous uncle, pint of ale in one hand, his tie loose and shirt unbuttoned, drunkenly leering at anything in a short skirt under the age of twenty-five and flashing his bare arse at anybody who dare take offence. ‘In the next referendum vote rock ‘n’ roll!’ screamed Andy. ‘Because what’s anyone else gonna do for yer?’

Nemo are in their element when performing Desmond Says, a swirling guitar loop and screaming vocal performance that epitomises everything that Nemo are about, and, of course, with customary assistance from the pith-helmet wearing mascot, Uncle Drew. There were a few birthday cheers for a number of people in The Glebe last night, including Nemo’s own lead-guitarist Paul and the tireless band promoter, Jotty, and Nemo were the band to deliver their three cheers.

The New Subterraneans announced this was to be their first gig in eighteen months, and given their sound and tuning difficulties at the beginning of their set it was a wonder if they were ever going to get started at all. But just as the crowd were beginning to grow restless, the band begin, bursting into almost deafening noise with 'Whippin’ Boy'.

I was speaking with bassist Graeme outside the venue and was witness to one of the most surreal and craziest characters I have ever met since reviewing for Stoke Sounds. At one point I’m sure I saw him swallow a whole cigar! But this is the mindset of The New Subterraneans, the punk ideology, still as alive today as it was all those years ago during the ‘70s. Stalwart ambassadors of the punk movement as they are, it’s would be obvious to draw comparisons from their style to bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks or The Sex Pistols, but that would be too easy.

After a shaky warm-up The New Subterraneans, wearing suits and ties, were soon into their stride, playing old favourite, ‘Lost’, an anthemic crowd-pleaser, with bassist/ backing vocalist Graeme and drummer Andy in particularly animated form, while lead-singer/guitarist Gary played and sang with a youthful vigour.

If there’s one thing that needs reinforcing here, The New Subterraneans are loud (so much so that I hastily retreated to the back of the room), and in true punk fashion they don’t care who their thunderous music or sometimes brusque comments towards their audience offends. They continued their set with ‘Vicious Noise’, a song aptly titled for what it was. Out Of My Head soon followed, as well as crowd favourite ‘Better Move’. Witnessing such intensity left me feeling both elation and well worth exhaustion; which, in retrospect, is entirely what The New Subs always set out exclusively to do. So fair play to ‘em.

The night wouldn’t be over, however, for a mass-sing-along, as all of the artists and bands that featured tonight (including The Trent Vale Poet) united on stage for one last song. Everyone is having a good time, in good company, and there’s not one swivel chair or piece of electrical office equipment in sight.