Sunday, 31 August 2008

Glasvegas & The Displacements @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. August 28th.

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Simon Bamford

The not-often-seen ticket touts outside the ‘mill bore sure testament to the anticipation surrounding tonight’s gig. The increased playing and plugging that Glasvegas have received from the national media has certainly done its job alongside the overt backing of established artists such as Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and music industry mogul Alan McGee.

The Displacements provided the support for the evening and bounded onto the stage with more energy and a more honed performance then their last visit here just 5 weeks ago. Being well received by the audience and clearly with more than a few fans in the crowd, frontman Andy Stone and bassist Nick Eversfield launched into their trademark jangly indie pop songs with enthusiasm. The group delivered a nonstop set of songs including ‘Frontline hearts’ and ‘Bruises’; pausing only to introduce their songs and throwing in a couple of dedications. With the audience numbers increasing steadily throughout their set, there appeared to be a sense of urgency in the band’s performance. Their set finished on a high with ‘Down and Out’, their current single, which saw Andy leave the stage to join the front rows of the audience. The Displacements presented a steady set of simple indie songs, but delivered with the clear belief that they are destined for greater things.

Glasvegas nonchalantly took the to the dry-ice filled stage before hitting the audience with a wall of sound. Beginning with ‘Flowers and Football Tops’, a song about the kidnap and murder of a young football fan, Rab Allan and Paul Donoghue provided frenetic playing to open the show. Singing with his trademark Gaelic brogue, James Allan’s vocals at times have a remarkably violent delivery whilst maintaining a haunting clarity, especially when crooning “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, You make me happy when skies are grey…”

Known for singing about the realities of life growing up in Glasgow, Allan’s lyrics reflect that some of his observations are still seen through the eyes of a child, whilst the magnetic quality of the music adds gravitas to their meaning. The songs are powered forwards by Caroline McKay’s drumming on an incredibly pared down kit which she plays standing up, amidst a barrage of amps gracing the back of the stage.

They soar through songs such as ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ and ‘Polmont on my Mind’ with barely a word to the audience, before the opening refrain of ‘Geraldine’ jolts the crowd; eliciting recognitory cheers. There is an unusual reverence and respect about this evening’s performance; possibly due to the expectation that the audience has; which is shown in the near-silence that returns just before each song kicks in. This is used to great effect before the last highly anticipated song and current single, ‘Daddy’s Gone’ is introduced. Allan steps back from the microphone allowing the audience take over the vocals for choruses, eventually leaving him accompanying them on tambourine, before the full force of the music again kicked in. Ending a short but commanding set, the band left the stage to calls of “we want more”, blowing kisses and with hands on hearts.

With equal measures of praise and associated pressure on their shoulders this will no doubt be a big year for this currently peerless band.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Kasabian @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall. August 21st.

Review and photo by Chloe West

Lights cut to darkness. An echoing synth gains in strength as strobes dart across the stage, catching the band as they take their positions. Finally the distinctive drum fill of ‘Shoot The Runner’ kicks in, Tom Meighan bounding to the front, black shades gleaming as he embraces the crowd with open arms. ‘Sun Rise Light Flies’ floats by before we’re treated to a blast of classic Kasabian. ‘Cutt Off’ and ‘Processed Beats’ are fine examples of exactly why music lovers fell head first for this band, examples of raw passion merging rock and electronics for a beautiful result.

And it seems they aren’t planning on leaving the limelight any time soon. One of the most interesting parts of their set is a new track they showcase. With a bluesy intro, ‘Fire’ soon develops into an energetic piece with its grungy guitar; Serge’s vocals weaving perfectly with Tom’s, which take a much lower, rougher edge than on previous material.

Kasabian were obviously not the first band to mix indie elements with dancefloor signatures, but take this sound to another level. First album numbers ‘ID’ and ‘Butcher Blues’ would be, (if we were ever graced with one) perfect summer tunes, the soundtrack to long lazy days. However, this relaxed state of mind would never last with such charismatic characters involved, ‘Empire’ climatically raising the energy levels. Fortunately after ‘The Doberman’ there isn’t 13 minutes spent waiting for the hidden track; instead, most recent release ‘Fast Fuse’ bellows out, starting to round up an electric performance. But not quite yet.

Back for an encore, a Kasabian set would be incomplete without the colossal ‘Club Foot’. Gritty guitar and dirty electro continue into ‘Stuntman’ which is easily a dance anthem in its own right, and as the crowd still have room for one more ‘L.S.F.’ brings the Civic experience to a raucous end. As the last notes ring out, Meighan screams, ‘You have been absolutely EMPIRE!’.

Tom, Kasabian and the troops are certainly still on fire.


Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Shallow Call/The Debonaire/The Fears @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. August 27th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

It was nice to see a fair-sized audience in the Sugarmill for first act The Shallow Call to play to. Down from Northwich, this outstanding pop/rock outfit treated the appreciative early crowd to a lively set of well-arranged and commercial compositions played with style and heartfelt energy. Strong songwriting skills are very apparent here and their numbers had enough interesting happenings and catchy hooks to make me want to hear them again. I can't be the only one. In fact, I’ve had a few listens to the CD singer, guitarist and band lyricist Phil O’Driscoll gave to me last night and the two tracks; ‘Where We All Hang Around’ and ‘Favourite Bit on the Side’ are equally inspired. Played with verve and sung with real passion, they are an excellent example of this band’s works. The rest of the group are Richard Rogerson on guitar and Nick Ward-Dutton and David Pickering on bass and drums respectively. An exciting gig from a very promising bunch of musicians.

Leek-based 5-piece The Debonaire were also well-received, and judging by the whistles and shouts, I would guess they had brought a fair-sized company with them. Their music, whilst drawing its influences from a wide range, although none too modern, tended to be a little pedestrian in places and laddish vocalist Dave Dono, whilst singing with a strong sincerity, seemed to be trying too hard sometimes; his voice sounding a tad more relaxed on their myspace recordings. Having said that though, they are musically accomplished and I did like the inherent Hammond sound; putting me in mind of 60s/70s jazz/pop acts along the lines of the Zombies and similar keyboards-based bands of that era. My only real criticism is that they tend to play safe with their compositions and rarely seem to attempt anything out of the ordinary; going by what heard I heard in this performance anyway. Still, they were received very well and obviously have a loyal following. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Coming on to a rapturous reception The Fears gave an adrenaline-pumping razzle of a show as they powered through one foot-stomping number after another. Beginning with 'Victim', they displayed a fervour and good-time enthusiasm that quickly spread throughout the pulsating venue; and a venue filled with rapturous fans appearing to know every word of the lyric, to boot. Playing a longer set than can be normally fitted in, vocalist Oliver Davies introduced a sixth guest member on guitar for just one number while Craig Parr doubled on synth. Normally a roadie, I believe, their 'little helper' as he was referred to, seemed pleased as punch to be up there with them and played his part well; earning a great response. This is my third review of this band and as far as I’m concerned The Fears are well towards the top end of any list of Stoke-on-Trent's many talented groups and it can only be a matter of time before great songs like the gripping 'Impact' are brought to the attention of the whole nation. They certainly deserve to be.

The Shallow Call:
The Debonaire:
The Fears:

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Interview: Dr Robert of the Blow Monkeys

Interview by Charlotte Lunt

Remembered for their 80s chart success with hits such as ‘Digging your scene’ and ‘It doesn’t have to be that way’, The Blow Monkeys have reformed after an eighteen year hiatus with a darkly powerful single ‘The Bullet Train’ out now, and imminent album ’Devil’s Tavern’ (currently available to pre-order through their web site).

Prior to their return to Stoke on Monday 1st September, some 20 years since their last appearance in the city, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to the band’s self-effacing frontman Dr Robert, about their music and return to the stage after such a long break.

Although he has dipped beneath the mainstream radar since the band split in 1990, Dr Robert has been far from taking things easy…

I’ve released eight solo albums over that time. Although a lot of them haven’t been high profile, it’s been important to me to put things out every couple of years for the hard-core people and occasionally it’s risen above the parapet. As well as doing bits of production for people like Beth Orton and playing bass for Paul Weller, I moved to Spain out of London. I’ve carried on making music all the way through, but not always at a high profile. It helps to keep a high profile but to make the music is the main thing and that’s what I do. You’ve got no control over how many people buy it or how many people get to listen to it, but for me it’s important to keep playing live and keep putting music out.

Obviously there were reasons for splitting up in 1990. Looking back, if you’d been asked if you thought the band would ever reform, what do you think you would have said?

No Chance. There was no nastiness; we all got on really well; there were no court cases or anything. We’d been together for 10 years at that point and we’d done 5 or 6 albums; it felt like the right time to branch out. Everybody was starting families and had their different interests. There was no animosity. We are like a family actually and when we got back together it was amazing. I wouldn’t have predicted it 18 years ago.

One review describes Devil’s Tavern as ‘melodic glam-jazz’. In your words, what can we expect from this new album?

I think it’s just Blow Monkey music; it really sounds like us. I wanted to make something that was just the four of us sitting in a room playing. In the 80s production values were different and I think it’s dated. The whole idea of getting back together was about making a new record; not just go out there and play all the old hits. It had to be some thing new. We all flew over to Spain and recorded in a friends studio. I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done to be honest.

I suppose I had a preconceived idea of what I was going to hear and what I heard wasn’t it. For me, that was very exciting and it shows the many aspects you draw on with regard to your musical style. There’s a striking diversity in the 4 tracks that I’ve heard on the media page. How important do you think it is for artists to embrace different styles in their work?

It’s not that calculated; it just tends to be where I’m at at the moment in terms of writing. I’m always composing really. I guess there’s a lot of influences plus the sort of things I’ve been listening to in my writing, but when we get together as a band it becomes something else; and that’s what I’ve enjoyed; being part of a band again really. When I’m doing solo stuff I get musicians in or friends and other people which is lovely, but being part of a band is a different vibe and you get a different spirit on the record. It’s nice being in a band again for a while, it feels good.

It’s clear that your passion is creating new music. Are you hoping to attract new fans with these releases?

Yes, I’d love to. I know that’s a hard one because you come with a bunch of preconceptions and I expect that we will get some flack because bands are re-forming - everyone’s doing it. But I think that once people have heard the record they’ll change their minds a bit. I’m not trying to blow our own trumpet, but it’s a good record and it’s quite hard to knock. If you make a good record then, if people get to hear it, new people will get into it as well. I’m hoping that that‘ll happen. If they get a chance to hear it then it won’t just be the old fans, hopefully we’ll pick up some new ones. I mean, my kids like it so that’s a good start.

Having not shied away from political comment and observation in your music, is this something you would advocate other musicians to do?

All I would say is that people who say music and politics don’t mix are talking out of their arse. If they want to do it, it’s fine. I always thought it was a great opportunity to sing about things. You can sing about anything. In the 80s especially I think it was more polarised; you were either for or against. It’s a lot more difficult now. If I were a young band looking to say something, I don’t think I would be aligning myself to a political party.

How do you feel about music being censored?

You can’t censor music; that’s ridiculous. They banned a couple of our records, but we weren’t exactly a threat to democracy.

Can you identify the influence that your music may have had on any current bands?

Not really. I think maybe occasionally; in the way we used to look and the humour we had in some of our videos. I see certain little bits and pieces sometimes. I’m sure there are, but it’s not obvious.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

There’s a young guy called Sub-stance who’s done a great remix of ‘Bullet Train’, and my daughter is a real indie kid; so I’m exposed to a lot of music through them. I’ve been on an archaeological dig musically for the last 18 years. I got into a load of old music and blues and went all the way back. I got into that American float music. I love all that stuff. There’s a world of music to discover and it’s not just about what’s out there this week. I think music at the moment is quite exciting. I like bands like MGMT. I quite like what they do and also the Klaxons. It’s quite different. Although they look terrible, they make great music. Some of them are getting a bit too close to New Romantic for me… I’m not having that (laughs).

What do you think of the mainstream media fixation with finding ‘new music’ and the effect this has on more established acts?

I think it’s good. I think it just makes it a more even playing field. The whole music industry is on the run anyway. We raised the money to make this album through the internet. It’s great because it means we didn’t have to go cap in hand to some major record company and that we had complete freedom to do what we wanted to (I mean, we always did anyway). It’s just nice. It’s like a little cottage industry and I like that. I think that music suits that more than the multi-national thing.

With Stoke being the second date of the tour, are there plans for a more extensive one later in the year?

Yes. This is like, let’s just get out there… and we wanted to play clubs again, not big academy gigs and all that stuff. We haven’t played for 18 years and I quite fancied just getting out and playing clubs just like it was when we started and I’m looking forward to that.

With such sincerity about his work, his band and their fans; and his enthusiasm surrounding the reforming of The Blow Monkeys, the date at The Sugarmill promises to be good one, not only for established fans, but also for those who are prepared to have their preconceptions challenged. It’s rare to have the opportunity to see such accomplished musicians in such an intimate venue, and if the few tracks I have heard from the album are anything to go by this is one night not to be missed.

The Blow Monkeys are at the Sugarmill, Hanley, Monday September 1st.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

CD Review: Raine - Dance With Me

Review by Stephen Harvey (a.k.a. DJ Fresh)

Andrew Brereton from the local band God Complex has been producing some alternative work from his usual drum and bass and electronika that he does for me, and has teamed up with Singer and Songwriter Raine Sumner from Canada.

They have created an unusual fusion of dance-pop and electronica that they are selling courtesy of CD

Breo is a member of the duo 'God Complex' that are well known in Stoke-On-Trent underground hip hop and electronica music scene. He has collaborated and played live with all the major artists in the area, and God Complex are ever popular on BBC Radio Stoke Subculture, but this project was always going to be difficult to complete and it is to his credit it was finally finished.

Raine was born in Lytham St. Annes, England, and was raised in Ontario, Canada, and is a versatile and accomplished musician and singer songwriter. She has toured extensively in Canada in various bands honing her skills as a singer and playing bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and keyboards. Renowned U.S. vocal coach Seth Riggs once described Raine’s vocal ability as ‘a wonderful voice’, and her music has received reviews in acclaimed magazines such as Billboard; radio airplay in the United States, Canada and Europe; and broadcast on television shows in Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States including MTV’s ‘Cribs’ and ‘Becoming' series.

Raine wrote and recorded this CD between 2007 and 2008 via the internet with Andy after discovering his talents courtesy of the social networking website myspace, and the two decided to collaborate and create something a little different for both of them.

Breo worked his usual magic on the music, and has also produced the album on his own, thousands of miles apart, and never having met face to face,this is quite an amazing achievement. To create a collection of songs that have emotive lyrics and strong melody lines is hard in the studio, but over the internet it is almost impossible.

The backdrop of addictive beats and captivating electronic synth sounds compliment both artists and this is well worth a listen if you’re inclined towards trance and dance.

Favourite tracks

There's no turning back

The CD is available to buy NOW:

Saturday, 23 August 2008

CD Review: Truth Be Known - The Birds and the Booze EP

Review by Stephen Harvey (a.k.a. DJ Fresh)

The first release on Big Music is the much anticipated debut by Crewe based rapper Michael Esgate, or Truth Be Known as he is known in the underground hip hop scene in Staffordshire.

The EP begins with the bouncy 'Boozie Britain' track, which is a great attempt to catch the teen market with it's very catchy chorus and laddish lyrics. This said, it does still remain true to the more cultured of listeners with the adult content and theme; for those of us who are a little more harder to please than the media hungry generation of today's youth culture. The old skool riffs combined within it are constantly popping in and out of the rhythm and playing tricks with your knowledge of the genre, urging you to discover the track it reminds you of, even if you don't quite always get there. Cypress Hill springs to mind for me, but with a typically British approach to both the story telling and beat helping to it set it apart from all the other rappers of his age who sadly fall into line with the Tim Westwood and MTV strategy of selling out for the quick fix. I am glad to inform you that Truth Be known is far too intelliigent for this approach, and after speaking to him a couple of nights ago I can happily say he has his head well and truly screwed on in all aspectas of the business.
The EP then continues much in the same vein as the previous track with 'Rough Riding' continuing the theme.

I have seen him perform this track live at Fatcats CafĂ© Bar in the past, and it did go down quite well on that occasion, although it isn't one of my favourites to be honest. Personally I believe that his talent is in the more gentle approach to hip hop, which is evident in the last two tracks of the EP if you don’t count the two additional club mixes thrown in at the at the end for good measures.

The third track 'Aimee' is a melodic crossover track that is much in the same vein of early Eminem albums and tracks like 'Stan' and 'Kim' spring to mind. In my mind however, that would be a far too simplistic comparison to make, although many I am sure will see the similarities as well. The story telling and use of language is closer to Mike Skinner or The Mitchell Brothers, but it is in no way a clone of either of these artists. This is someone from Crewe telling the stories of his life in the only way he knows how, and making a really good job of it.

The last track 'Absent Voices' is in my mind the highlight of the EP and it has been on constant play on my mini disc player since receiving it, after visiting him at Radio Stoke Subculture to see him perform it live (and get a free CD).

This track has the potential to move him up to the next level and onto the mass market, with its catchy chorus and story telling that draws you in and listening just to hear the conclusion. Much like a good novelist would do, he introduces the characters and then takes you through the turmoils of their relationships all the way to the last word of the last line of the last chapter.

The EP is a brilliant first shot at highlighting the skills of this performer and the management at Big music should be applauded for taking a risk with such an unusual project.

The talents of the producer Jason 'Jay Jay ' Estridge, and the vocalists Stacie Estridge, Hayley Esgate and Kelly Wilkinson should also be applauded for adding that final touches to a very professional final product.

The EP can be ordered from:

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Wrongpop 17 presents MS Thomason / Herzoga / Who Owns Death TV / iye @ The Glebe, Stoke. August 8th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Stuart F. Steele

Having seen MS Thomason several times now, including his fine performance at Stoke Sounds launch party last week, it was with interest that I learned his act this evening would include some songs composed for piano. Up until then, I had no idea he even played keyboards, let alone as impressively well as he does. After opening on guitar with a couple of more familiar numbers, he took to his piano stool for a rendition of a tune he said he had written just that afternoon. Leaning lightly to the lugubrious as do most of Matt’s songs, the keyboards add an almost Gothic feel as he plaintively intones his sadness-tinged lyrics. He is a talented player and it appears that the guitar is actually his second instrument, having played piano for far longer a time. After returning to said guitar for a few more numbers, he once again sat down at the ivories to conjure up visions of dark, candlelit chambers in aged and crumbling mansions as his own particular brand of night music poured from his dextrous fingers. Impressively influenced by the classical masters, his final song, after a long and spellbinding introduction, left the audience clamouring loudly for more. Brilliant stuff. Hard-working MS Thomason goes from strength to strength and it can only be a matter of time before he is recognised by a much wider audience.

It’s been a while since I last saw Herzoga and having reviewed their last two singles, including the current one, ‘Satanic Verses’, I was pleased to be here to see them this evening. Herzoga have a sound that is distinctly their own and opening with ‘Blood School’, their previous release, they played a blinding set throughout. The half-sung, half-spoken vocals along with feedback and effects-laden guitar solos are a hallmark of this band; the solid drums and bass ensuring that the pace never lets up for a second. Currently touring with Who Owns Death TV, also on the bill, bassist and Wrongpop organiser Steve Clarke tells me that nightly playing has loosened his fingers most satisfactorily. It has also tightened the band up a notch as well, as touring tends to do, and their final number, the gutsy ‘Swetmores’ saw them leave the stage to much appreciative applause. They will be heading down South for the next stage of the tour. I’m sure they will leave some very good impressions.

The quirkily-named Who Owns Death TV began with a somewhat frantic opening number and more or less kept at that tempo throughout. With virtually no comment made to the audience at all, I’ve no idea of accurate song titles whatsoever but the band is obviously full of good ideas and a few listens to their myspace profile afterwards clarified things a little. They have a terrific rhythm section in Richie Harwood and Julia Ruzicka on drums and bass respectively and are ably matched by a trilby-wearing JS Thornton on vocals and keys and Tom Fowler on guitar. They play their rock with a lively passion and keep the music interesting in a twisting and turning fashion at all times; almost continually on the move as they blast out one consistently good rhythm after another. Although chaotic in places, the band never actually lose their roller coasting way for an instant and hold the whole thing together admirably well.

Raw, but precise, Who Owns Death TV, like Herzoga, have a brand of rock all of their own. A little different to the norm in both cases, it will be interesting to see where their careers take them.

Iye, spelt with a deliberately small ‘i’, are different yet again; creating complex and lengthy soundscapes rather than offer than a selection of songs; taking the use of musical light and shade into new and exciting territory. Joined by MS Thomason for the duration of their two-number set, this seven-piece build on their creations layer-by-layer; section-by-section; adding on and taking away as the atmosphere takes on shapes from the stridently heavy to the ethereally sublime. It was commented to me at the gig that iye’s compositions can be compared to undertaking a musical journey; a comment I wholeheartedly agree with. Some fine vocals add to the general appeal of their works and the standard of musicianship was impressive all round. Great drumming from Cara Beech and I can only assume that MS Thomason must have been standing in on second guitar as their myspace profile suggests a member of their normal line-up was missing. A very impressive set, nonetheless.

Friday, 8 August 2008

CD Review: God Complex

Review by Steve Dean

God Complex is Andy a.k.a. Breo and Steve Harvey a.k.a. DJ Fresh. Given that Steve usually reviews the hip hop scene for Stoke Sounds, it really wouldn’t be entirely appropriate for him to review his own CD, so although I’m no expert on this genre, here is a hip hop review from an interested layman’s point of view.

Some beautifully atmospheric piano forms most of the accompaniment to Steve’s sincerely spoken vocals on first track ‘Grey Clouds’. Sublimely setting the mood, the ambience conjured up flows seamlessly into the next number, an instrumental entitled ‘Can’t be thrown away’. Tinged with shades of melancholia, this composition, to me at least, shows that electronic music can stimulate the emotions just as effectively as any acoustic instrument. As a young(ish) form of music, hip hop faces much prejudice from self-supposed purists who care not to even grant a listen to such works. Nonsensical really, when one considers that hip hop is actually thoughtful prose and poetry set to music. These young and not-so-young performers tell of how life is for them and their triumphs and sometimes bitter angst in dealing with it. Didn’t Blake and Byron write of such love and torment in their time? …and their stuff wasn’t even set to music.

Track three, ‘Razors’ is a little different in that it incorporates hauntingly sung lyrics with spoken ones, telling of personal demons visiting in the dead of night. The relentless beat throughout eventually leads us to a distant thunderstorm before fading to nothing, a neat and very effective idea.

More upbeat, the last instrumental track ‘Keep the World Away’ put me in mind of 70s/80s disco music in the vein of Donna Summer and Bronski Beat; only lacking the gloss and much more ambient; a common hallmark of this genre.

Although hip hop is often written off as music and singing at its most basic form, it is only truly limited by the writers and performers’ imagination, both musically and lyrically. Just as much can be achieved with this form of music as can be by any other, and it is giving voice, musically and otherwise, to those who would normally have none. It draws the creative heart from deep within even the most unlikely of persons. Pretty great stuff, really.

Check out

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Kayos and D Dot Man @ Stoke Sounds Launch Party, Burslem Park. August 2nd.

Review and photo by Stephen Harvey a.k.a. DJ Fresh

The hip hop genre is the largest and most diverse of all the many hundreds and thousands of different styles that can be found in the record shops, and that’s not counting the internet websites devoted solely to hip hop. This is also the genre, that without doubt signifies the most obvious differences between the U.S and U.K.

The majority of the population barely hear the intro of a tune on MTV base without reaching for the remote control to hear something they are more familiar with, and this is the problem with selling hip hop to the masses in this country. The likes of Dizzee Rascal and The Streets are still basically underground hero material rather than mainstream popstars, even when their albums are selling by the millions. The youth of this country, have for a long time now, been portrayed as yobs and gangster ‘wannabees’ and most of this misinterpretation comes from the misunderstanding of hip hop popular culture and fashion I believe. I seem to remember my own parents saying the same to me back in the eighties when I was walking around with trainers with no laces in them like Run Dmc, and hip hop had only just arrived back then.

Kayos and D Dot Man came across as two intelligent and likeable characters that were using their wit and musical knowledge to tell stories in the only way they know how ‘in musical rhyme’ and ‘bassline’ or ‘grime’ which is the music of choice for many young aspiring artist from this generation. I will be totally honest and admit that it is not the style of hip hop I am used to hearing or performing for that matter, but whatever we think it is making big moves in the clubs and slowly being watered down for our consumption in the mainstream pop charts.

The performance of these young lads, who were after all only 16 years old, was not to everyone’s taste in the crowd, but then again it was never going to be. The younger members of the audience seemed to enjoy what they were all about though, and they had brought a sizeable crowd with them, which was well on par with all the other bands that played on the same bill and at least one of them has had a top ten hit in the national Indie charts.

The first track was a chirpy little two-step number called “its over” which was about a teenage break up scenario. I know it’s not the most original idea, but I doubt it will be the last one on the subject either. My personal favourite however was the more bassline inspired dance number “skank” which was enough to get the members of Love Music Hate Racism group to temporarily put down their banners and start dancing on the concrete in front of the main stage, which in my eyes said a lot for the musical quality of the lads. It’s not everyone that can temporarily take the L.M.H.R away from their political matters in Stoke, and have them bouncing around the park like they were teenagers again.

All in all I would say the lads did their generation some good on the day, and I look forward to seeing them again sometime in the near future.

CD Review: Everything on Red - 'Everything on Red'

Steve Dean

Noted for their slick arrangements and meticulous timing, Everything on Red have produced a 4-track EP that states most satisfyingly where the band are at right now in terms of musical identity and direction.

Opening track ‘Neveroddoreven’ demonstrates their considerable ability most adequately. In some ways, they put me in mind of keyboards-heavy late 60s/early70s bands like The Nice and to a lesser extent Atomic Rooster, although within Everything on Red, musical duties are pretty much divided equally among its four members. A well-disciplined outfit, they are almost watertight however complex the arrangement they put together.

The quirkily-titled ‘Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’ deviates from their regular path in that it has a more definite riff than their usual rapidly morphing compositions. Some thoughtfully penned lyrics to boot. Nicely layered harmonies make this an exceptional song.

‘Take the Plunge’, leaning almost towards the classical in places, sounds like Bach himself has made a few suggestions. Some nice leadwork from Alex James as well. He and the other members; skilful drummer James Rathmal, Sam Brown on bass and Tom Brown on keys play to a very high standard throughout and this EP gives a very definite taste of what heights this very able band is capable of reaching.

The last track, ‘This is How it Will End’, with its neat opening guitar line and heartfelt vocals begins in a slightly more mellow vein before heading into the more complex territory where one senses this band feels most at home.

Not an immediately commercial EP, but I’m not sure if that is the band’s intention anyway. Fine songwriting and arrangement skills along with inspired musicianship make this an impressive first release.

‘Everything on Red’ is available at gigs and from Roadkill Records in Manchester and Music Mania in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

Hear 'Neveroddoreven' and 'Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder' on

Monday, 4 August 2008

Feedback from Stoke Sounds launch party

Please send any reports & photos to - our regular photographers and writers were too busy manning the event :)

• Review on Radical Press
• Review on Upstart
• Review in The Sentinel and news story

"Well done! it looked to me to be a resounding success the festival in the park and the weather was kind as well."

Friday, 1 August 2008

Sir John Mandeville/Operation Error/Sons of Albion @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. July 31st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Sir John Mandeville, a three-piece power trio, are an unusual rock outfit in that they appear to have what is in effect a lead drummer as well as a lead guitarist. Sticksman and sometimes vocalist John Harrison is a formidable driving force in this band and I must admit it is a very long time since I saw a group include a drum solo at a gig - one of such a length anyway. Practically an essential part of most rock bands’ acts in the late 60s/early 70s, the long drum solo seemed to fall out of favour with the development of progressive rock - a genre which tended to incorporate the fancy beats and rhythms into the music rather than allow the drummer an escape from his general 4/4 beat discipline for a while in the form of extended soloing. Harrison, along with Peet Walsh on Guitar and vocals and Alex Morley on bass, have rooted their sound and appearance solidly into the 70s and recapture the era well. Their music includes some jazzy influences in places and their overall sound is one of a band who enjoys a good jam. The busy percussion also reminded me of The Who’s erratic, but effective style here and there and it is a pity there weren’t more people in the place to see them. Different; in this day and age at least.

I was expecting crowd numbers to increase significantly before Operation Error came on, but still the Sugarmill remained starkly empty save for a few bodies here and there. Having reviewed Operation Error only very recently, it is enough to say that they put on their usual fine show and I was glad to catch them again so soon.

With barely fifteen people in attendance, I thought it a little ironic that the son of a vocalist who could fill the gigantic Earl’s Court many times over should be fronting a band that could attract so little attention - well, on this night in Stoke-on-Trent anyway. Logan Plant, son of Robert, is one quarter of a band of considerable ability and power and appears very at home within it. As far as I can ascertain, they are unsigned as yet, although I’ve heard that they have been broadcast on American radio, and it is clear that the vocalist is determined that he and his colleagues make it off their own back. Playing to empty halls is a dispiriting event for any band, but the Sons of Albion took it in their stride and played a belter of a set. The rest of the group, guitarist Nuno Miguel, bassist Richard Fugoni and drummer Francisco De Sousa are top notch instrumentalists and play with immense fire and power. De Sousa’s fantastically solid drumming had me riveted throughout and the band is as tight as two coats of paint, as Ronnie Wood once said of Rod Stewart’s thriftiness, but a favourite analogy of mine nonetheless. The Sons of Albion are very heavy without being heavy metal and the influences of all the best rock bands of the late 60s onwards are there in the mix, along with some neat ideas regarding arrangement and composition that give them a sound pretty much all of their own. By the same token, Logan’s vocals have the expected influences, especially in the powerful ‘Seven Seals’, but generally he has a rawness and grit that is distinctly all his. They should go far.