Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Herzoga / The Young Knives @ The Sugarmill 29th Mach 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Simon Bamford

Still somewhat euphoric from a tremendously successful single launch party last night, Herzoga were ready to take on tonight’s audience and win. They appear to have reached their goal by the end of their second song ‘Things to say’ as from my vantage point it appears that all eye’s and ears were on them, with even the bar being neglected.

Those who are acquainted with Herzoga’s performances will know that they are physical affairs, with bass player Steve Clarke’s propensity for wandering off into the audience, vocalist Matt Hick’s erratic catatonic moves, and drummer Mark Powell’s arbitrary grimacing and screaming. Tonight however allowed them literally little room for manoeuvre as the stage was crammed with equipment, but this was the only constraint in a performance that kicked like a shot of Absinthe

Tearing through their set with familiar songs such as ‘Things to say’, ‘Mega Savant’ and ‘It takes an Age’, sounding better than ever, current B side ‘You’ll see’ gave an insight into the more sinister side of
Herzoga that is currently prevailing. Appearing slightly in awe or perhaps in shock at what they were witnessing the audience’s response was initially somewhat on the nervous side but nevertheless positive.

Following brief banter between songs, ‘Blood school’ was delivered with frenetic energy and playing, with all three musicians appearing completely possessed by their own music. The mood was lightened somewhat with a rendition of ‘Nice Car’ with its acerbic lyrics on the irony of youth subculture and common ideals, giving the audience breathing space before they were transported to the dark, enigmatic ‘Swetmores’.

Leaving the stage to a tremendous reception from the audience Herzoga proved that their prickly organic brand of music has a synergy of its own; it lures you in, roughs you up a bit, and then gently puts you back down a little dazed but safe in the knowledge that you have thoroughly enjoyed
what has just happened to you.

With such tangibly electric performances as tonight’s 2009 could well be the graduation year for Herzoga, especially having recorded a second Maida Vale session for the BBC and plans for another tour.

Herzoga's current single ‘Swetmores’ is released on Broken Branch Records and is available from Music Mania and http://www.brokenbranch.co.uk/

When Young Knives took the stage, it was surprisingly an altogether a more sedate affair as they launched straight into ‘Terra Firma’ a quirky jerky song that grazed the edge of the top 40 in 2007. Looking like escapees from a Ronnie Barker look-a-like competition, brothers Henry Dartnell, and ‘House of Lords’ aka Thomas Dartnell playing guitar and bass respectively as well as sharing vocals, were compelling to watch.

After brief introductions they filled the venue with frenetic guitars and pounding drums, introducing the audience to some if the gems from their forthcoming album. Throughout the set Henry was keen to engage the audience, inviting them to throw beer at them offering them a tongue-in-cheek fight, and seemed genuinely pleased with the turn out for the night.

The clashing chords and dry delivery of almost spoken vocals combined with some close yet clashing harmonies suggest they may have bought into the Art Brut Franchise, with a touch of We are Scientists thrown into the mix. However, some of the songs such as ‘Turn Tail’ and ‘Love thy Name’ are simply melodies with more folksy roots, emphasising the role of narrator rather than rock star.

Picking up speed, they introduced ‘Reproduction’ which was laden with unpredictable key changes, and the introduction of a xylophone to the set. There seemed to be the underlying murmur of the audience singing along with this paradoxical song.

‘Up all night’ and ‘Turn Tail’ and ‘Here comes the Rumour mill’ were a real winners with the crowd who bounced along, which gave the band some long over due feedback, and seemed to be a milestone in the set. This seemed to rejuvenate them as they put even more energy into the performance of what seemed to be the songs that people had been waiting for.

Returning to the stage for a brief encore where Henry announced they would play “Classic Knives” and threw themselves into animated versions of ‘Weekends and Bleak days’ and ‘She’s Attracted to’. At this point the crowd threw themselves right back at the stage finally giving in to the music, and with a couple of plucky individuals reminding us that stage diving is indeed an art form, not just a leap of faith.

The unassuming appearance of The Young Knives is one of the characteristic’s that makes them compelling to watch, it’s like you’re trying to work out exactly what you’re watching, a time travel scene from an 80’s movie or a sitcom on BBC 3, however at the same time there is nothing contrived about them. They don’t appear to be aiming to be profound, or making brash anti-establishment statements, but in ultimately writing good idiosyncratic pop, and this they do in bucket full’s.


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Vanguards @ Fat Cats 20th March 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Having never seen The Vanguards perform, an invitation to their single launch was very much appreciated. The evening had the sir of an event rather than a gig, with an exclusive invite only policy and an abundance of stills and video cameras in the audience. Kicking the evening off with the unveiling of their video for the new single ‘Regress’ starring not only the band but several members of the assembled audience, the tone was set for what was to be a high energy set.

From the outset Tom Twemlow on guitar and vocals, Richard Hearn, and Tom Bishop on drums threw themselves into a frenzied performance, whilst Joe Jennings on bass was a little more pedestrian in action, his playing was far from it. Evidently with a lot of talent on the stage the performance glinted with nods to the Clash in the raw racy guitars and with melodic sauntering bass lines reminiscent of early Cure.

The third number ‘If only’ was an audience pleaser melding pace setting guitars and soaring vocals to great effect and proving to be a great spring board for the live airing of their current single ‘Regress’. Obviously enjoying every minute of this the band showed real enthusiasm and alacrity in their candid performance. It was refreshing to see a group of people so comfortable and confident in their own songs that they could be so relaxed on stage.

Progressing through a more angular sound, the following track was more complex both rhythmically and melodically, showing a quirky side to the band before they launched into their final song. ‘Epiphany’ a dynamic song about missed opportunity was effect laden and urgent, and a suitable climax to the set.

Bowing to the heckling from the DJ and the audience, the guys returned to the stage looking surprisingly overwhelmed for another rendition of the single giving them opportunity to showcase their musicianship and to firmly plant the song in the audiences’ collective subconscious.

The Regress EP is available through www.myspace.com/thevanguardsuk

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mistaken for Strangers @ The Sugarmill 20th March 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Daniel Finn

In what was their first outing as a trio, Mistaken for Strangers took to the stage at the Sugarmill on Friday night to support The Fears as part of the Tremelo Rehearsals showcase. From the outset it was clear that they have no intention of following the well trodden steps of Gallagher-esque indie rock that appears to be so popular at the moment. Their first song ‘One step Closer’ was a solid number and was well received by the audience, eliciting the first cheer of the night indicating that they are building a good following.

The slower track ‘It won’t be long’ was where the group appeared to find their feet for the night and allowed Dan Cooper to prove his worth as the group’s frontman with clean and sonorous vocals. With sound performances by Tom Walley on guitar and Neil Goodby on drums they pack an admirable punch and presented a collection of songs full of potential and self belief.

Clearly winning the audience over with their performance the group charged through the half hour set going from strength to strength, and soaring through ‘Any day now’, well within their comfort zone and enjoying the reaction they were receiving.

It looked like their set was going to be prematurely cut short due to earlier technical difficulties, but the audiences significant disapproval about this bought them a reprise; and it was this that confirmed that there is far more to Mistaken for Strangers than meets the eye. ‘Only the World’ was the most accomplished performance of the night, and revealed a glimpse of what may be to come from this trio, both musically and from their performance.

Whilst it is difficult to identify specific tell-tale influences in their music, suffice to say that they are a well on the way to finding a sound that is their own. They are clearly not content with simply belting out good tunes but engaging with people and performing crafted songs. With a great foundation laid in their work to date it will be interesting to see where their journey takes them, and will be well worth catching a performance or two on the way.

I have it on authority from the band that their current line up is a work in progress, as they are currently auditioning for a keys/synth player to complete their sound. Anyone who is interested can contact them directly through their myspace.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Jo-ee-T @ The Underground 20th February 2009

Review by Chloe West

Describing himself as ‘DJ/Producer/Whatever Else’, Jo-ee-t is a welcome anomaly in the night’s proceedings. Rarely does the Underground have the privilege of acts other than those containing some sort of guitar formation and this is a breath of fresh air. Armed solely with laptop and mic, meddling with this genre could potentially result in Stoke’s answer to a bad Super Mario theme, but the youngster instead takes it to a fine level, and within minutes the crowd are drawn to the front of the floor. Impressive.

In few words, Jo-ee-t creates a mash up of nifty techno hooks moulding with xylophonic beats and old school electronica, and even throws in a quirky Kraftwerk cover, (which for the musos out there was also sampled on Coldplay’s Talk). Already boasting a dedicated following, many a Jo 'virgin' were also impressed, with one spectator even comparing him to the early Chemical Brothers. Just a man down. Comparison or no comparison, he copes more than aptly in singular form, and can only gain with already strong material.

More of this please.

Jo-ee-t performed alongside The Rivalry and Model Radio.