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.


The Last Shadow Puppets @ Manchester Apollo. October 12th.

Review by Charlotte Denis

I wanted to go to a big gig for my first time at the Apollo, so I chose the Last Shadow Puppets.

I’ve been listening to the new band formed by Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane from the Rascals and I have to say I absolutely loved the orchestra and the catchy songs performed. I was expecting a lot from that gig and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

Turner and Kane had about 6 guitars between them and they were switching between each song as some songs are acoustic, while others are more in the ‘electric’ vein.

The Last Shadow Puppets gave us a great performance, played some b-side songs and of course the more famous ones such as ‘The Age of The Understatement’ and ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You’.

The atmosphere at the Apollo was really amazing, everyone knew the words and we felt like in a cocoon, sharing the same shivering feeling from their voices mixed with the orchestra.

Before going to the gig I read some average reviews from when they played this summer at Leeds Festival, but I guess people didn’t go to Leeds to see them in particular so they weren’t really expecting a lot from them and they probably didn’t even really like the band.

This Alex Turner guy is extremely talented and charismatic, I sometimes wonder if everything he does is great.

Great gig, amazing atmosphere.


SONS Records Showcase @ Victoria Hall, Hanley. October 11th.

Review by Charlotte Denis

Photos by Elodie Soulier

First of all, I must say that the Victoria Hall was a lot busier that the last SONS records showcase. The audience seemed to be older and were obviously enjoying watching the bands and their performances.

With some new songs, La Dies, announced by a funny Colin Murray, played some catchy riffs. Leader Pete, charismatic as always, knows how to communicate with the audience. They really feel at home and the band is always up for a good laugh. They enjoy what they do and you can tell.

Alexa Chung, between two DJ sets, announced The Novellos, much the original young band with their classy uniforms. I’m always amazed at the fact that they switch instruments and the energy they have. I enjoy watching them every time as they have so much vivacity you can’t help tapping and clapping along. The fact that they switch instruments (guitar, percussions, keys, trumpet) makes it even more entertaining every time.

I even overheard a proposition made by Alex Turner (from the Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets), who randomly showed up with his partner Miles, involving them doing the first part of some of their shows. That would be an amazing recognition for them.

This is Seb Clarke was also, very very entertaining, I’d say even better than last time. They are so many on stage that it’s hard to focus. I felt like it was a big jazz party and everyone is welcome to join them, and by seeing the audience you could tell they enjoyed it too.

Sons records put on an amazing show tonight, it seems to get better and better every single time. The bands are getting more confident and it is always a pleasure to watch them perform because, as I see it, the best thing ever is to see a band that plays with enthusiasm and is giving themselves to a 100% to the audience, and that’s what I felt tonight.


Friday, 17 October 2008

CD Review: the Clay Faces - and the word was...

Steve Dean

The first thing that struck me on listening to this album was the full-blooded conviction of the vocals plus the sparkling energy and raw enthusiasm of the musicians backing them. Accomplished players of various instruments, including mandolins and banjitars alongside the more usual guitars and harmonicas, the four members of folk band the Clay Faces offer a fine selection of tunes here, ably displaying a fine flair for song writing, to boot. The down-to-earth and at times poignant songs tell of love and life in a world I should imagine to be familiar to most listeners, the lyrics capturing microcosms of existence in all aspects of the pleasures and agonies within it. There are some excellent melodies to be found here too. With twelve compositions on offer, this is an impressive well-produced album that offers a very entertaining forty-five minutes of anybody’s time.

The musical influences are drawn from a vast array of sources within the world of folk music and beyond, although bands of the calibre of the Dubliners come readiest to mind. Although there appears to be not a single dud song on the album, my particular favourites are ‘Football on the TV’ and ‘And the word was love’. Atmospheric, passionate and lively, ‘and the word was…’ is worthy of a place in any folk enthusiasts collection.


Monday, 13 October 2008

The Quarter After/ Asteroid #4 @ Off With The Octopus, Fat Cats Café Bar, Hanley. October 11th.

Review by Danny Hill

Photos by Darren Washington
(click pics to enlarge)

Off With The Octopus, an event that has been sporadically occurring over the course of the last few months, was first brought to my attention on the night of its creation. London- based Tall Stories and local lads The Black Apples and Alpha 9 all played this event and were witnessed and reviewed by Steve Dean (25/4/08). Since then, however, the event has grown steadily in popularity, and last night’s event would be its fifth (I think), with another scheduled for November 28th. The event is the brainchild of Alpha 9’s Leon Jones and Phill Bettany, who also spin the wheels at these events, playing an array of ‘60s psychedelic underground music, with a slice of contemporary music (predominantly indie bands) in there too. I had a few words with Phill before the event.

“Basically, its been something I’ve wanted to do for a long while. I think there is a place for this sort of thing; everyone loves some part of the ‘60s, even if it’s just The Stones or The Beatles. It came about when Jamie Griffin of The Black Apples asked me to DJ at a gig they had at Fat Cats. I saw this as an opportunity to make a start on some ideas I had in mind. So, in April, what should have been a Black Apples gig eventually became the beginning of the Octopus club - the night was heaving and was a huge success! Our aim is to reinvent the atmosphere of legendary clubs from London like the UFO and The Marquee, etc.”

Set in Fat Cat’s basement room with its seedily-lit ambience and relaxed, intimate atmosphere (150-people capacity) the event usually begins at 9 p.m. and finishes at 3 a.m., with a few bands starting at around 10ish. Smart/casual is the club’s moderately relaxed dress code. The age-group last night seemed somewhere between spotty adolescent to middle-aged hipster. The main selling point of the place, for me, however - especially during today’s financially crippling credit crunch - is that the admission price is absolutely nothing. A big fat zero. And when you consider the quality of bands that the Octopus attract, with Leon and Phill’s multitude of contacts across the world, that’s quite something.

Speaking of bands, last night there were two of ‘em. Good ones, too. Both American and both borrowing more than a vested interest in ‘60s-pop psychedelia. First up were Los Angleles’ The Quarter After. Now, I have a confession to make: The Quarter After, similarly to their countrymen The Brian Jonestown Massacre, have more than a few members to their team. About eighteen, I think. I usually check my facts via the band’s MySpace page when writing up. I won’t be doing that again. Last night there were five members: brothers Campanella, Robert and Dominic handling vocals and guitars, with David Koenig on bass and Nelson Bragg on the drums. I think. Speaking of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Robert Campanella is one of their members, off and on, as well as being a producer and engineer. Busy guy. Anton Newcombe, lead-singer of TBJTM, was enlisted in the recording of The Quarter After’s eponymous debut album, not so long ago. Their sound is distinctly ‘60s, with jangly Byrds-inspired guitars and bass loops. 'Know Me When I’m Gone' brings The Stone Roses early recordings flooding back to mind, with its droning harmonies and fuzzy, distorted guitar refrains. 'One Trip Later' follows the same vein, offering little diversity from the last, but what’s impressive listening to The Quarter After is their ability to “jam out” mid-song, and return to its core sometime later. As a result of this, most songs are over seven or eight minutes long. 'She Revolves' is more up-tempo and more Byrds than anything else. 'Too Much To Think About', an epic nine-minuter, brings George Harrison’s 'If I Needed Someone' to mind, with its warped guitar loops, eclectic rhythms and repetitive (yet appealing, pleasing) melody.

The Asteroid #4 are a group of lads from Philadelphia and, more simply for me, have six members to their team, all huddled closely together on The Fat Cat‘s tiny stage: Scott Vitt handles vocals and guitar, Eric is the lead-guitarist, Damien handles bass, Adam bangs the drums and Aislinn plays the keys. If any of you have heard Alfa 9 play and if The Asteroid #4 spoke with Stoke-on-Trent accents it would be incredibly difficult to tell them apart: it’s the dreamy, space-rock anthems they provide, leaving pleasantly indelible stains over the subconscious days after your ears have held witness to them. The echoey, distant vocals of 'Into The Meadow' and superb jangly guitar loops and overlaying feedback-driven patterns are enough to send the listener into a daze, imagining summer days in sunflower-filled fields, perhaps. The song 'Outside' has a more folkier feel about it, but the band’s psychedelic stamp remains all over it. The Asteroid #4, unlike The Quarter After before them (and perhaps a result of the time they’ve spent together) offer more diversity from song to song, even though both bands reside in the same genre of music influences. 'Flowers Of Ours' has a certain oomph to its approach, more Brit-pop than Psychedelia, with heavy doses of reverb and distortion mixing gracefully with Vitt’s soothing vocals. Shades of early REM are evident with 'I Look Around', and the infectious and atmospheric 'Ask Me About Pittsburgh' demands to be heard in order to be believed.

The Asteroid #4 have been together for 10 years now and have recently released their fifth studio album, 'These Flowers of Ours: A Treasury of Witchcraft & Devilry.'

If these guys are around again, make sure you don’t miss ‘em. But, on the strength of their songs, I have the feeling the next time they visit the country we certainly won’t be so fortunate to see them for free. Just my opinion.

The Quarter After
Asteroid #4

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Holy Fuck / One Horse Race @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. October 9th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Beginning the evening’s proceedings, impressive young 5-piece One Horse Race demonstrated a musical maturity beyond their years right from their very first pounding opening number. Vocalist Rhys Jones, although shaky on the odd note, is not afraid to belt ‘em out and it is obvious that the power and feel of the music behind him drives him on. They have some great songs and a listen to their myspace profile confirms just how commercial some of them are. I particularly like ‘Get Behind Me’ with Joe Rushton’s nifty drumming interlude and also the summery ‘Megalomania’; although all of their material is of a recommendable standard. Also popular with contemporaries like the Foals, the clean, clear guitar sound utilised makes for a refreshing crispness of overall sound and there was some nice guitarwork all round from Sam Biggs and Jo Birdsey. Bassist Joe Stainsby demonstrated a cool technique; picking, plucking, pulling and even strumming at one point during the set and his contribution at all times was never less than rock solid. I can see no reason at all why One Horse Race shouldn’t go from strength to strength. They certainly have the talent.

All the way from Toronto and not a guitar in sight, quartet Holy Fuck played an absolute blinder. A corking rhythm section and a vast double desktop arsenal of keyboards, effects pedals, all sorts of electronic and blown gadgetry are what Holy Fuck are all about - not to mention a Moviola film-editing machine; although it’s contribution to the overall output wasn’t obvious. Nice quirky addition though; as was the vaguely ambiguous framed portrait of an attractive young lady placed at the front of the stage.

On top of extremely well-coordinated and sometimes thunderous drums and bass, the two creators of the vast electronic grandeur that is Holy Fuck, Graham Walsh and Brian Borcherdt, open the set with plenty of ethereally winding twists and turns; pulling the listener deep into the music as soaring, gliding soundscapes seem to give the venue cathedral-like dimensions. Heading up a different route altogether on their second number, the snarework itself was enough to keep me riveted. All sorts of influences and styles are there in this overflowing cornucopia of sound and not just ones to be expected either. ‘Royal Gregory’ put me strongly in mind of Santana’s ‘Soul Sacrifice’, but taking the structure to another level altogether. It is an undoubtedly excellent piece of work in its own right no matter what comparisons are made. In fact, everything of their works I’ve heard to date sounds pretty much masterly. My favourite as I stand though, has to be the single ‘Lovely Allen’; it is simply sublime. I counted 13 compositions in all and each one had just as many interesting properties in its own way as the last. This is one formidable outfit. ‘Holy Fuck’ is about right.

One Horse Race
Holy Fuck

Monday, 6 October 2008

Wrongpop 19 featuring Ox Scapula / Wooderson / Normal Wisdom @ The Glebe, Stoke. October 4th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Stuart F. Steele (click on pics to enlarge)

Truly satisfying to see plenty of folk in the Glebe for the final Wrongpop gig of the year, the venue being filled with good spirits and an air of high anticipation of the night’s music ahead.

Ox Scapula began proceedings and I have to say their performance this evening was the best I’ve ever seen them play. Their particular brand of gutsy, semi-discordant, avant-garde rock always goes down a bomb with the Glebe audience and the numbers from their new CD were received just as enthusiastically as the older ones. To me, their music has a kind of raucous desolation to it; conjuring up bleak landscapes and darkened city skylines. Guitarists Carl Fedarb and Mark Deavilles' almost shouted vocals only add to the effect, whilst Sarah Dobson on bass and drummer Richard Dooley nail the syncopated and at times purposely disjointed rhythms down most effectively. Having heard them a few times now, ‘Cuts’ is the track that stands out furthest for me and anyone new to Ox Scapula would get a good idea of their overall sound from checking it out. It is available to listen to on their Myspace profile.

They are also shortly to begin a tour with Wooderson, the next band on the bill. Down from Sheffield, trio Wooderson are in a similar vein, only a bit more up-tempo and feedback driven. A confident outfit, they knock out their raw and crunching tunes with plenty of attack and give every impression of enjoying themselves immensely; chatting amicably with the crowd between songs with natural aplomb. Shared between bassist and guitarist, the mainly half sung/half shouted vocals are put across with easy, but solid conviction. Powerful and dextrous drumming is at the root of their strength and considering how loose everything sounds, they are extremely tight. Playing a set of but four lengthy compositions, their dynamic arrangements leap from well-timed silent rests to sudden jaunty riffs in an instant, as is most evident in ‘Heard About it’, a track to be found, as recommended with Ox Scapula, on their Myspace profile. I wish both of these accomplished bands good luck with their prospectively nationwide tour ahead.

I understand that Normal Wisdom, before the addition of guitarist Al Munger, were originally known as Dragon, one of those bands I’d always intended to see, but always missed for one reason or another. Seeing Normal Wisdom this night, I can only say that I didn’t know what I’d been missing. This is without a doubt one of the best groups of musicians I’ve seen since I started reviewing and that’s saying something. All four members are of an exemplary standard and their three number set was an experience in itself; seemingly over in no time. Musicians of the calibre of Miles Davis and Billy Cobham came readily to mind as trumpeter James Davies and drummer David Hayward, a.k.a. Doog, demonstrated their chosen craft. Munger and bassist Rob Hunt were equal to their performances and it all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable instrumental set; fundamentally jazz/rock liberally coloured in with ballsy riffs and spectacular incidental parts. Aside from first class musicianship, the quirky time signatures and meandering musical paths kept the audience in appreciative and respectful awe until the very last note. Wonderful stuff.

Being the last Wrongpop this year, due to the Glebe sadly being forced to close, promoter and organiser Steve Clarke took to the stage to thank the large and loud audience for their support over the past 19 gigs and he was given a well-deserved ovation. Hopefully, the Wrongpop gigs will be back in the new year at a different venue, yet to be confirmed. Let’s hope so. The Stoke-on-Trent music scene will not be quite the same without them.


Saturday, 4 October 2008

Boogie Nights @ the Oxford Arms, Newcastle-under-Lyme. October 2nd.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Leo Mazzocchio

Although it wouldn’t normally occur to Stoke Sounds to review a covers band such as the well-established Boogie Nights, finding myself at one of their gigs, I was much impressed with their practically spot-on versions of favourites from the 1970s disco scene. As I was only very occasionally found in a discotheque in what was essentially the years of my heavy rock youth, the appeal of these tunes is essentially timeless and I found I appreciated them more now than I did when they were first released. Mellowing with age, I suppose.

One of two excellent vocalists, Melodie Forrester showed herself to be an extremely accomplished singer, having the range to handle songs like ‘Wishing on a Star’ with ease. At the other end of the scale, her bluesy wailing during ‘Lady Marmalade’ put me in mind of celebrated old time band singers of the quality of Anne Shelton. The standard of musicianship was very high all round, in fact. The keyboards and guitar more than adequately handling the often complex arrangements of these numbers while the bass and drums rhythm section couldn’t be faulted.

Adding further to the spirit of the 70s by wearing garb synonymous with the day; namely aerofoil collars and absurdly high waistbands, they set the scene for a thoroughly entertaining and nostalgic evening (although I can’t recall anybody in those times, with the possible exception of Slade, wearing platform-soled boots quite as high as vocalist Ian Pemberton’s 12”-heeled pair. His wig has to be seen to be believed too).

Beginning with KC & the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way I like it’, the band went from classic to classic, with tracks from the likes of Chic, Donna Summer and James Brown, and finally giving two encores in the form of the Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long Train Running’ and B-52s ‘Love Shack’.

Loudly appreciated by the audience, they left the stage to joyful applause. A different evening from the norm for me, and an enjoyable one at that.

Visit: Boogie Nights