Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Funeral for a Friend / Rise to Remain / Tiger Please @ The Sugarmill 28th March 2011

Review by Matthew Tilt I’ve had my share of fears about tonight, knowing very little about the opening band, knowing enough to dislike Rise to Remain and the horrible knowledge that the only truly good Funeral for a Friend albums were Casually Dressed... and Hours and yet here we are celebrating their fifth album Welcome Home Armageddon which is possibly the blandest album the Welsh quintet have released, with Memory and Humanity coming a pretty close second.

Tiger Please do nothing to calm these doubts, their mid paced emo rock failing to grab anyone, with supposedly charismatic vocalist Leon pretty much been ignored even as he climbs into the crowd. Speaking of boring and generic Rise to Remain are on next. Forgetting for a moment just who Austin’s dad is, let’s give them the fair review and look at the music. Boring metalcore, with plenty of unnecessary guitar solos taken from some crappy Maiden B-sides and to top off the embarrassment, one lonely guy in the pit being an absolute arse whilst the rest of the crowd quietly look on, with the occasional head bang. It’s kind of nice to see that who your dad is can get you a lot of things, but it won’t get you much support when you bring unoriginal shite like that to the table.

It’s a fair wait for Funeral for a Friend to come on, then that oh-so-recognisable riff for Roses for the Dead kicks in and things really go mad. Despite the fact that two minutes ago it was so packed that I was uncomfortably close to accidently penetrating the man next to me, a pit somehow breaks out and bodies are flying everywhere. Dusting off classic tracks like Juneau and Monsters and mixing in tracks off the new album, which, possibly due to the energy in the room, are revitalised and sound much better than on the record.

The security struggle to cope with the barrage of crowd surfers, and all the while Matt Davies smiles, clearly enjoying the response they’re getting. He cracks jokes, and completely commands the full-to-bursting pit, creating conga lines and circle pits with the minimum of effort. It’s a performance that completely saves the night and an encore of Into Oblivion and Escape Artists Die is the perfect end, leaving the crowd sweaty, exhausted and desperate to pull up the good FFAF albums on Spotify.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Kitten Pyramid /Another Rhythm Jesus / Bullet @ The Star and Garter, Burton 26th March 2011

Review by Pete Callaghan

Somewhere in Burton lurks an innocuous English pub, right in the center of a housing estate. And lurk it did, as if it were hiding behind several houses laughing at me, before I decided to call this game of hide and seek with a venue off and scream “I’m not playing anymore!” like a spoilt ten year old. Once again, it appeared as if I had “rocked up at the local”, yet, these venues are vastly becoming familiar grounds to me and, preferred grounds to be honest. A million miles away from the cavity searches and blinding torchlight of the bigger venues, these smaller, local gigs have a better sense of intimacy between the bands and the spectators. But, I’m not going to spend a second review extolling the virtues of local gigs because sooner or later, you’ll all see where I’m coming from, as those quarter of a billion pound laser shows don’t shine quite as brightly as they once did.

Anyway, after much jostling to find where the bands were actually playing in this venue (upstairs evidently), I headed in to find a small compact room where a handful of people stood waiting and chatting away next to a small stage. I was glad of this, due to thinking that I wasn’t at the gig at all, but instead had travelled to Burton for a head full of confusing directions and a pint of fosters. It wasn’t long before the first band were set-up and ready to go, which for me was happy times, as I am never on time for anything.

But the first band were anything but happy times. I was told just before they got started by one of the crowd that they had no idea what the band were like and this, I thought, did not bode well for the coming performance.

While I’m all up for promoting local bands and passionate musicians doing what they want to do, the way they want to do it, what I’m not down with is bands that shamelessly promote themselves constantly throughout their performance and then leave once they’ve finished their set, not sticking around to hear the other bands they share the line-up with. So as much as I dislike the idea of slating unsigned bands, (if they were signed, I would go to town on them) but Bullet are hereby named and shamed. They need to get their act together and stop thinking they are the only band worth hearing in the Midlands. Oh, if you want to know what their sound was like, if they were a parody of U2, it would have been a funny joke, but unfortunately they weren’t. And it wasn’t.

So after that fiasco, I went to grab another pint, drowning my sorrows in the frothy wetness of the stale ale. In all honesty, and fortunately for me, I had not come all this way just for Bullet, as it were the other two bands I was looking forward to. Another Rhythm Jesus were highly recommended to me on good authority and I had heard a couple of Kitten Pyramid tracks on their Soundcloud before coming, so I was looking forward to progressive psychedelic rock freak-out to pull me out of this despair induced waking coma.

Another Rhythm Jesus did precisely that with their punctuating vocals and blistering guitar screeches. They mix a wide range of the alternative rock format from all eras creating a very timeless sound, which I could quite happily listen to as a hypothetical monkey taps away on an imaginary typewriter ad infinitum. Throughout this primo performance, which was as tight as dick’s headband and as relaxed as dick’s slacks, members of the band mixed up the format by swapping instruments with each other, creating an evolving performance and experience. The highlight was pretty much the whole performance, with killer tracks “Wooden Box” and “Dark Helmet”. Another Rhythm Jesus brings together all the best elements of grunge, noise rock and prog, and fuses them together with an echoing, percussive vocal blend. Like the best fruit based alcoholic cocktail you’ve ever had, delicious and refreshing, but lets you know it means business, because it’s probably got some gin in it that you weren’t aware of.

Last on and headlining were Kitten Pyramid, who, short of lead singer Scott Marson climbing on stage in what looked like his Nan’s Sunday best, are a band which I had checked out and thought I knew what to expect. Evidently, this assumption made a fool of me and all of a sudden I was catapulted into a world where Saturday morning cartoons roam freely and the suns goofy face laughs down on me. The band combines these musical soundtracks with short stories, photography and art; so seeing them live is just part of everything that is going on with them. Yes, Kitten Pyramid sure are odd though, mixing a range of surreal indie, folk, pop, crazed wailing (more about whales shortly) and incessant sampled drum beats. I have never before seen a room so full of happy people, as every member of the audience was grinning from ear to ear, myself included. It’s a wonderfully strange experience as the band takes you on a journey with their soundtrack; through a sketchily drawn world of colours, clouds and pick ‘n’ mix. The last track they played completely shook the foundations of the innocuous pub, getting everyone bumping and grinding along to the pounding drums of “W.H.A.L.E.”... Yes, “W.H.A.L.E” is one hell of a stomping, rampaging tour de force for this band. I would definitely recommend checking out their demo soundtrack, the whole thing is on Soundcloud, so now you have no excuse. And with that, there is only one thing left to shout from the rooftops in a crazed manner and that would be... “WHALE!”

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Cartellos / Borders / Carnation / O.K. Corral @ The Underground 25th March 2011

Review by Jake Carter

The first band to take to the stage on Friday and play to an unfortunately bare room were The Cartellos, who had a lively, but pretty standard sound. There was really nothing wrong with their performance and they did have some rather nice, catchy riffs, although it did have me thinking about where to draw the line between your usual pub rock band and The Cartellos. That being said, it didn’t help that The Underground was pretty barren at the time, and I’d like to see these lads playing to more people with a healthy rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere, which is what they needed on Friday night.

Borders were the next band up and were for me, musically, the best band of the night. Lead singer Greg Poole is one of the coolest, laid back and most nonchalant front-men I’ve ever seen. Performing with one hand in pocket and the other grasping mic, he had the perfect vocal style to suit the music amazingly and had a certain way with words that is hard to describe. His words seemed to float above the music in a gracious way similar to that of Morrissey/The Smiths and never took the obvious root. The band knew their dynamics well and I really loved the sudden change of direction during songs that kept me constantly engaged with the music. I realise that every other band around here are ‘ones to watch’, but trust me on this one, these boys are definitely, definitely ones to watch.

The third band up were Carnation, who stated their set off with a mighty powerful riff and not before long the place was bouncing with lots of super ecstatic young ‘uns jumping all over the show. The lads from the band were also very enthusiastic, and as far as I could tell were putting as much effort into their performance as possible. This effort paid off and resulted in a great energy which both band and audience were feeding off. Song of the set had to have been ‘Too Cool For The Dancefloor’ and pretty much summed up the band’s overall sound and vibe.

By the time headliners O.K. Corral took to the stage The Underground was truly abuzz and you could just tell that everyone was ready for the lads to tear things apart. I was curious myself to hear what they sounded like live, after hearing them play a nice acoustic session on Six Towns Radio last Monday evening, and also because they describe themselves as ‘Stoke blues’. So after kicking into their set with confidence and swagger it was clear that these boys were certainly up to the task of tearing things apart, and the frenzied audience were there to help.

Musically the lads did a great job, with the guitar and bass playing off of each other creating a sturdy, robust sound. They were certainly the most powerful and controlling band of the night and it’s easy to see why they were the headliners. For a band with just three instruments, they did a grand job of being as loud and in you face as possible. Lead singer Jack Veltom was very confident and unafraid to strut his stuff onstage, and had a powerful voice with just enough dirt and grit behind it to complement their ballsy sound.

‘Butterfly’ was the closing song and highlight of the night, and was a great song for O.K. Corral to wrap things up with. It had a great vibe, good energy and lots of presence. I also have to mention their amazing cover of ‘Black Betty’ which was a nice surprise and was the perfect choice for a cover song. All in all, O.K. Corral did a great job of headlining The Underground on Friday, and did so with a vast amount of energy and rock ‘n’ roll style.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Kate Nash @ The Sugarmill 20th March 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Alex Mulliner

Kate Nash. Now here’s a lady who doesn’t really need any introducing; she’s blissful, she’s delicious, she’s the strawberry to anybody’s trifle, and she fell from Heaven to play a night at Stoke Sugarmill, which she called an ‘overdue’ date, having not been here since late 2007 when ‘House of Bricks’ was at its peak.

On a personal note, a regret of mine is that I had a ticket to her ’07 performance, but never went due to my then-boyfriend having waited too long to get himself sorted with a ticket, and so missed out. NEVER, EVER, again will I choose mush over music (it rarely lets you down!), and Nashy is just so delectable, I’m glad I finally had the chance to redeem myself last night.

I was told that the secret of her charm lies in her ‘homemade’ approach- by that I mean, her feminine, delicate and domestic ways that makes her a strong woman icon; cute yet poignant, unique, and her wiles reflect in her songs of heart and truth in her organic fashions.

Following on from the night before (Seth Lakeman), the good vibes continued to fill the air in The ‘Mill, with everybody in their best attire in honour of the lady herself, and the whole thing was a splendid affair. It was so special, only one support act fronted: the wicked ‘Brigitte Aphrodite and The VOBs’. With the funfair intro theme unleashed, everyone rolled up to hear her musical offerings.
The reasons for her as support were clear, it was Nash in her early days, with a little more punk spirit, fire, and on-the-nose attitude. Every word was heightened with a Cockney flourish: a wonderful celebration of dialect and language on stage (as we find with Kate). In fact, she reminded me of a poetically colloquial Cribs, others said a female fronted Sex Pistols, Juliette Lewis singing out an Eastenders episode, or a Del Boy persona clashed with Arctic Monkeys backing. Whichever way, it was a performance art piece. Take ‘Bromley’ for example, talking of your common ‘MacDonald’s’ and getting grotesquely ‘f*ngered’ (similar to Kate Nash’s ‘We Get On’ – doing‘some really nasty stuff down in the park with Michael’), and it may be vulgar, but then, like Nash, she has her endearing moments of humanity, talking of men who smell like ‘digestive biscuits’, i.e. the thoughts and workings of our minds, making these musical marvels accessible to us for putting themselves on our level.

Like ‘Sons and Daughters’ front woman Adele Bethel, Brigitte used her strong sexuality to work the stage, pulling at her dress, her hair, and her mic, and she totally nailed it. She was springy, fun, and full of spirit, feisty and fantastic. Although the distinct image she left me with was the ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ moment – ‘you sound like you’re from Laaannnnndannnn’, she did leave me with a smile on my face, and so Brigitte and her VOB’s certainly fulfilled the task of filling the big shoes before Kate Nash took to the stage.

Then, it was the moment we’d all been waiting for…Kate Nash with her female band in tow, sticking it to the woman, liberation in motion, girl power and all that sh*te, and I don’t think I’d choose anyone else but Nashy to front it. I felt sick in anticipation for all others in the crowd too, let alone myself, just waiting for her to put those rosy red lips to the mic. Instantly a smile comes to everyone’s faces, as she played a cracking rendition of ‘I Just Love You More’. Enigmatic, electric, and downright sexy ‘Waahhhhhs’ bounced off the walls, along with the sultry bass line, seeing Nash use her vocal abilities like an extra instrument as the likes of Robert Plant just might. She’s delicious. She’s delightful. She sounds superb and she’s gorgeous! Can I marry her…?

She conveys in her image and songs a sweetness, a sweetness that shines like distant planets and future hopes, her music prevails that life can be good, and kind, and full of love and cupcakes. We’re taken into her rose-tinted world where all is well, and it’s pleasant to escape today’s damning headlines. We certainly need more Kate Nash these days…

‘Do Wah Doo’ was up next; 60’s rockabilly swing that sounded huge, and paramount in quality, doing her second album ‘My Best Friend is You’ so much justice; look and sound both adorable.

‘Mouthwash’ made an appearance to a legion of fans. From ‘This…Is my face…’, everyone was on board. This song truly captivates and catches her at her best, getting right into the psyche, a true female picking at her appearance and then taking it into a positive light (like the Gok Wan effect), which is every girl’s dream. The standard is outstanding, and the cutesy projector with cutesy images glittering, is the cream on the cake. Every detail has been tended to, and by the ‘Oooh Oh-Oh-Oh on a Friday night’ chorus clencher to Mouthwash; the party has arrived with added crowd surfers rocking on up to Kate Nash bay. It’s still obvious today why her debut album ‘House of Bricks ‘ was so huge, with material of this caliber.

The woman on stage with the heart-painted cheeks, I don’t think I’ve ever been this bowled over by a musician, and it’s bettered by her modest approach. She should be tag lined like Mary Poppins, minus the ‘practically’, to become: ‘Perfect in Every Way’, weaving polkadot ribbons of sweet music into the airwaves. To close your eyes and hear her, you envisage strawberries, cream ties and bon bons. How does she pull of the domestic Goddess and Rock Queen thing so well!? I wanna be her, I want that voice, that look, that aura, that sweetness and the whole dollhouse life- it’s brilliant!

Her acoustic number: ‘Don’t You want to Share the Guilt?’ was fit for film, an Audrey Hepburn moment, inspirational, every last bit of it. She’s good for the heart and soul is Kate Nash. Even the fans were making hearts with their hands in the air, sending their unconditional love and gratitude for tonight – very cute – and I totally get it. I love her even more now too. I hold a whole new level of respect for her now too. ‘House of Bricks’ was always a personal album to pie and signified a pivotal point in my life, but it really is cherished and put upon a pedestal now it’s been seen live.

‘Birds’ had to be one of the finest tracks of all night, (again a personal one to myself); it’s very real, moving and heart clenching. Added to the fact that this song could bring a tear to your eye, the softness of her vocals and the gentile melody was mesmerizing: ‘Birds…when you look at them and you see that they’re beautiful – that’s how I feel about you’. It’s not so melancholy, it’s eye opening, she shows us in song that there’s so much more to this world, we take too much for granted and we should hold onto love.

Nash was a bright, twinkling star in her sequined get-up, she was more Karen O than Karen O, and ‘I’ve got a Secret’ was a more successful political, homophobic rant than Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’- which is just plain trying too hard. Nash’s childish allure somehow managed to also empower her statements and make them more monumental. ‘Mansion’ was as cool as John Cooper Clarke’s ‘Evidently Chickentown’, performed in much the same style; creating her whole belief system on stage before our very eyes; as authoritative and iconic as Fanny Craddock, you can see why this pretty lady is a happy lady, because she’s sensational, and Stoke Suagrmill knew it!

‘D*ckhead’ was slick, even Samuel L Jackson couldn’t have made it cooler, and ‘Mariella’, with piano-tastic times, reignited the rebellious brilliance that made the skeleton of the song – soft, but punchy, and downright delightful. The climax ‘Ever, ever, ever, ever… ever, ever, ever, ever, ever…’ heard live, and amongst a sea of fans highlighted the genius before her lyrical songs and the emphasis and effect upon the listener. Needless to say ‘Merry Happy’ was well received as well. It was all wonderful.

‘Foundations’ of course was what everyone was waiting for. Some even left after she played it, just so they could get their fix of the anthemic tune. The instant thought pattern assigned to Kate Nash is ‘Nash – Foundations-Mint!’, so really you could see where these listeners were coming from. Better then Lily Allen in dialect, more tuneful than Jamie T, and unbelievably beautiful, ‘Foundations’ is a classic hit from the 00’s, and is as memorable as seeing The Killers perform ‘Mr. Brightside’ live, it’ll stay with you, and makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.

Post encore, she finished up with the sassy ‘Pumpkin Soup’, and I’m sure every male in the audience would have given her their kiss. She proved that sisters are indeed ‘doin’ it for themselves’. After taking her heels off (a girl after my own heart!), she clambered onto her keyboard and plinky-plonked the finale with her feet. There is nothing this woman can’t do? As Carly Simon would say: ‘Nobody Does it Better’. Furthermore, she went out dishing free tour merch to all her crowd, getting in touch with her adoring fans. Why isn’t she a superhero again…?

It’s true, feminine icons are back to dominating the music world: Kate Nash, Florence and the Machine, and Rihanna – all strong, sexy and successful. What a brilliant time to be female and to love music!

She wooed us and won us over with her live performance, shooting her cupids arrow into the Sugarmill sky. I’d give her 10/10; she’s right up there in the favoruites. Whit-woo! We love you Kate! x

Seth Lakeman Trio @ The Sugarmill 19th March 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

I’d like to keep this review pretty small; succinct in painting words of tonight’s magical evening, just as Seth Lakeman manages to capture with his two accompniants: Benji Kirkpatrick and Cormac Byrne. To both extremes of the scale, you have Arcade Fire, a band with an army of instrumentalists who achieve the most sublime, original and thought-provoking songs, and then the impeccable simplicity of man and guitar, and sometimes the violin in this case, is phenomenal.

Now, this is the first ‘real’ and ‘adult’ gig I’ve attended in a very, very long time, and what I mean by this, is that it was pleasant not to be surrounded by inconsiderate adolescents who come for social means only. The real music fans were in tonight, and the atmosphere for this particular reason was just momentous. There really should be more enchanting nights like these (for the grown ups) at Stoke Sugarmill.

Support act: Andrew Tranter, and his acoustic guy Steven (formerly ‘The Clay Faces’) charmed and warmed the crowd; his Irish folk and slightly Michael Stipeish vocals mainly for the causes of the modern world going ‘pear’, industrial decline (song: ‘Flatline Town’), and rotting America reminded me highly of The Boss, and especially when the old harmonica made an appearance at the end of the set. Definitely keep a look out for these guys – singular, and once more their refined simplicity and elegance made for a truly enjoyable experience.

I do have to confess that before tonight, I was a Seth Lakeman virgin, but, it was already deeply rooted in my brain that he was a pretty big music deal, and now I know it’s for good reason, and I also know that I’ll now be collecting his material. A frequent visitor to The Sugarmill, (and to stop by again in May), we were privileged to be the city they’d finish up on –on their latest tour, going out on a very high noted indeed.

Onto the stage with big, beaming faces addressing the relaxed crowd highlighted that the whole affair was to be special. The way Lakeman held is violin was if making love to a woman; soft, yet passionate, knowing all the hidden places and how to get the best out of it with vigor, fervency, and adoration. Even from the opener, ‘The Hurlers’, he’d put Vanessa Mae to shame, mastering his instrument and unleashing those angelic vocals, like a dove set free into the bluest and clearest of skies.

‘Hearts and Minds’, was astounding, the way the beautifully bohemian and folksy sounds richly mixed with the words, perfumed an air of imagery of former times – Medieval specifically. If you closed your eyes, you’d be carried away to these times of old, you could see the roaring fires, the battles, royalty and their subjects (‘King and Country’), and loves such as the like of Tristan and Isolde. This isn’t just music, it’s folktales, it’s legend, and you can almost hear the lutes…

Lakeman’s multi-skilled talents of swapping tenor guitar and violin, perfectly matched with Kirkpatrick and Byrne could be fit for film; their music telling these epic stories, on an equally epic scale, full of spirit, purity and nature. The ballads added variety to the jigs that could sketch the streets of Dublin, and newbie ‘The Blacksmith’s Prayer’, was reminiscent of Ashcroft at his raw and natural best. Their ability to really hold a room and keep them gripped is also to be noted as impressive.

‘Blood Red Sky’ was a favourite for its burly beat, and ‘Bold Knight’ was bewitching for its lyrics alone: ‘The bold knight above, If he see that angel with her love”, along with ‘The Watchmaker’s Rhyme’, a story of great love. This is so much more than music, it has so many levels and you just have to open yourself up to it on a spiritual level also, to reap all the benefits.

I have to say I also liked the fact that Seth made the effort to introduce every song, which may not sound life-changing, but how damn annoying is it when you hear a brand new live song that you love, and when you get in you spend ages trying to track it down!? I also liked the fact that they didn’t indicate coming towards the closure of their set. They just played well, took a bow, and went off stage, very modestly, soon to return for the encore which consisted of two songs specifically crafted for the recent St. Paddy’s Day, which heightened the already existing good mood of the crowd. Seeing the Seth Lakeman Trio was really worthwhile, and for those of you, like me, who had not really looked into them before, you should go and embrace it upon their anticipated return over the next few months to coincide with their next release.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Faux Feet / One Room House / Undiscovered Soul @ The Sugarmill 18th March 2011

Review by Jake Carter

Photo by Kevin Percival

As far as local Stoke gigs go, the one I attended on Friday at The Sugermill has to have been one of the greatest I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Simply put, I feel the three bands who performed put the 'Stoke lad rock genre' to shame. It’s also a shame that the place wasn’t full from the beginni
ng of the night, as these are the kind of nights that Stoke needs right now.

Undiscovered Soul were the first band to take to the stage and they were very much a solid act - not really what you’d usually expect from the first band of the night, and like I said before, it was a real shame that there wasn’t more people present from the start, as this band certainly have the sound to justify a bigger crowd. They had an upbeat rocky sound with some tight sounding guitar solos and this, topped with singer Sarah Cole’s vocals which really had presence, equalled a fantastic sound and a good start to the evening.

Next up were One Room House who I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of until a couple of days ago. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to have heard of pretty much every terrible Stoke band there is to know, yet there are gems around like this that don’t get anywhere near as much attention as they should. Something, somewhere is wrong. Anyway, the first thing I noticed was how amazing the keyboarder/lead singer was. This guy is a seriously talented musician, and backed up by the other three musicians One Room House produce a distinct blast of sound. The highlight for me had to have been ‘Small Toy’ with it’s jagged guitar and fast witty lyrics. Two more things to add: a little audience participation with banana shakers went down a treat, as did the free EPs to grab at the end. How can you not love a band with fruit shaped shakers?

Now onto headliners Faux Feet, who for such a young band showed great maturity and professionalism throughout their set. Lead singer Sian Matthews was clearly, clearly built for the limelight and showed great confidence and control of the stage. Of course, we can’t forget the other boys who provided a sturdy backbone for the music, and between them create a beautiful harmonic type of sound with lots of dynamics. It’s a sound I really enjoyed and has quite obviously been worked on to get the tone just right. ‘Frame Of Mind’ had to have been the standout track of the night and left me feeling quite exhausted - a nice kind of exhaustion that is.

The thing that impressed me the most about Faux Feet was just how much they seemed to understand music. I was standing there baffled, wondering how such a young band could ever create these well crafted songs and perform them so well. It’s something you just don’t ever expect with younger bands, and it has you wondering where this band will be in a few years time. Hopefully they’ll stick together, work on creating more great songs and hey, maybe even introduce some fruit shaped shakers to their music.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Does it offend you? Yeah @ The Sugarmill 15th March 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Rebecca Leese

DIOYY? Well, they asked the question and here is how it went down… There were tight sets between bands coming on and off which is always a win, and main support act: ‘Hounds’ certainly made a bold impression by going to the extremes, but in an enjoyable way. Take Wolfmother in one hand, and Pendulum in the other, give it a hefty shake, and out comes a hardcore rock/dance project that I wouldn’t be half surprised to find compiled on one of The Matrix trilogy’s OSTs. With a wannabe frontman sporting a striking similarity to Keith Flint, it’s clear who inspires them, but they also add their own spin on things. And, of course it sounds modern; those jagged, aggressive electronics with a (Johnny) Rotten attitude, creating a frenzy on stage. They were more than passable, and more than ‘decent’, not to sound nonchalant, and their pulsing bass tone was credulosuly distinct. Flickers of drop-beat drumming and four-string twanging highlighted their interpretation of RATM. Interesting isn’t quite the word but curious is how I felt after seeing their performance which was simply a bristling, firey, punk tirade. Their closing track – ‘Wicked Witch’ – which yes, sampled ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at both the start and finish, was quite a wonderful exploration of their bizarre musical hybrid style. The dancing drone of: ‘There was a witch, now she’s dead and she’s under our house’, was the hypnotic chant that stayed with me for a while, matched with Rob Zombie ‘Dragula’ sounds, to sound truly ‘out there’. It did cross my mind that maybe if I’d taken certain substances it may have had more profanity, or at least offer something logical when under the influence, but don’t get me wrong, they didn’t lack allurement.

In the gap between Hounds and the headliners coming on, I was expecting Th>e Mill to fill up drastically, bit this was to no avail, this was DIOYY for Christ’s sake! Back in 2006, you couldn’t move for being smothered with NME’s rave (see what I did there!?) reviews about them, which helped them to achieve God-like statuses. Have they, as a fashion, died down? Were we just left tonight with the real fans, the ‘hangers on’ from years ‘ere gone by? Where were the neon kids waving their glow sticks about like moths to a flame? These were worrying moments, but worry I needn’t have; they soon came to life after the 80’s sci-fi intro opener, to welcome the band on stage, sounding like a deviant remix of Irene Cara’s ‘What a feeling’.

DIOYY were clearly in the mood to party, and with good cause, having released their second album: ‘Don’t Say we Didn’t Warn You’, only the day before, as well as kicking off their tour to celebrate in Newcastle. Though it did come as an awkward moment right at the beginning when James Rushent attempted to decipher between the real fans and the sellouts who had merely downloaded their latest efforts. And I should also address their very flowery language that kept cascading on the audience for the entire duration, up to the point of it becoming uncomfortable. With all this hype, I was thinking they’d perhaps be better attuned to the likes of The Underground rather than The Sugarmill – an act absolutely perfect if you want to get ‘on it’. Their indie industrial vibes of mashed up dance, may also have been better suited to a Friday/Saturday night gig to get truly into the spirit of things. If you’re into Annie Mac’s experimental/dance/drum and bass radio show, then these guys are just the ticket, offering ‘balls-out angry stuff and serene melancholic, quite depressing stuff as well. We'd rather show all our hands like that rather than write a whole album that sounds the same." (See MySpace)

With their whole cussing and arrogant air (they thought) they had working for them, it was obvious they’ve been on big tours accompanying Linkin Park and NIN, but you can’t just pull that off, especially when you’ve been off the scene for years and it’s taking so damn long to get going on your set! They became irritable, and I understand they’re hot stuff for today’s kids, and they were big in my college days, but then and even now I struggle to see what the fuss is about, and I was desperately trying to find the light.

I can only liken it to the ‘Enter Shikari’ phenomenon – they crashed onto the scene, all the cool kids fell in love with them, and now they’re nowhere to be seen, but I imagine upon their re-emergence they’d be of the same pompous swagger as DIOYY.

They just seem to miss a certain – je nais se quoi - you know, the thing that catches on, the feel-good stuff, that synapse connection where you’re totally in synch with their message and you get where they’re going, and with this failing this led to the disengagement. There’s not enough emotion, or variety, it’s just very harsh and angsty – where’s the love and the finesse? Later on they even performed a song, made specificially for Radio One (‘Moulds’? – couldn’t tell over all the swearing)- which goes to prove my point – maybe they don’t want to be commercially huge, but they’re also not accessible to everybody. They’re too concentrated.

However, when they shy away from their ferentic efforts, and go for the harmonies and guitar melodies, it’s like a whole different band on stage; a poetic metamorphisis, to which they’re actually pretty good. Up and down, up and down, I can’t say that tonight wasn’t an experience, or an education… But then they have to go and spoil it with more cussing (and hey you’re not frickin’ Ozzy!)- trying, like Pendulum to become masters of electronica, but if you think about it, Pendulum filled the gap of DIOYY’s absence.

The night became about waiting for those symphonic guitars to kick in, and I wanted to plead with them to keep going like this as it was that good; it needn’t be corroded by computer generated blah, which gets really monotonous by the third track. I have to hand it to them that yes they’re loud, they’re brazen, and if I was younger and an alleged academic, more well known as a party animal, I’d be inclined to rave on to the serious Daft Punkish anthems. I think it’d take a lot of beer or getting smacked off my proverbials to understand their means. Skinny boys is suits in the magical Tardis could produce better electronic themes, and I think DIOYY should stick to the basics and keep it simple, ‘cause their mellow stuff is brilliant, and leave it up to Hot Chip to produce alternative/electro rock, as they do the job cosmically.

‘Lets Make Out’ was one of two winners of the night, once the hysteric opener dies down and the soothing ‘I’m in love with you my baby girl’ hits the speakers, the whole thing isn’t so terrifying after all. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ really emphasized their ‘quality’ edge. A tranquil Buckley-esque ‘Hallelujiah’ temprament - but – no, wait… here comes another Godzilla moment of acid electro machines stomping over all that is good.

Their brash fashion made me feel like they were generating the graphics from The Gossip’s ‘Standing in the way of Control’ video straight from the speakers. Their experimentation was attention-grabbing, but no flowing fluidity or semi-structure, resulted in me not being sold. Reflecting back to 2006, I’m glad I chose the Klaxons path, and I desperately wanted DIOYY to prove me wrong tonight, and they didn’t.

So I wasn’t a convert, so it wasn’t my cup of tea, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t check out their array of musical offerings on the DIOYY imagination train, and, in answer to their question, I wasn’t offended, but nor was I bewitched.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Mona @ The Sugarmill 7th March 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Martin Kaluza

Well, Monday 7th March will go down in music as quite a special day indeed. Not only had Elbow released their fifth studio album ‘Build a Rocket Boys’, which as if wasn’t enough excitement for one day to just sit in awe and wonderment at whilst playing, but the magnificent Mona was in town. And hey, with the amount of guys in line outside in checkered shirts, it was only too obvious that someone was playing. And, not on every occasion am I fortunate to say that even the support act: ‘Tape the Radio’ were superb. Full of sensual bass tones, they’re every inch tactile; you can very easily communicate with their sound; grab it, throw it around yourself and immerse yourself in it.
Imagine a sound similar to Bloc Party, but with a more complex orchestration, live, they hold they hold the energy of the early TCTC days, they had the drive of 1990’s Manics by pushing the boundaries in experimental sound, and had a hold over the crowd like the aura of the recently deceased Oceansize. The live experience of this band was incredible, they make me want to submerge my head in a water bath of Tape the Radioness, and would probably make for good listening at that hybrid of time at 1am on a Sunday morning, when partly wasted or suffering from afflictions of the heart. Recommended is their most recent single release: ‘Our Love is a Broken Heart’, and the beautifully dark ‘Heartache and Fear’ – available for free download on and is also the title track to their debut album, to be unleashed on April 2nd 2011.

Mona! Mona! Mona! I fear I underestimated their capabilities. I was expecting big things – another band tipped to be big for the year; and coming with the Kings of Leon attached stereotype, also hailing from that part of the world, they’re actually more thrilling and fresher, and I never, ever expected to fall in love with their sound!

Jumping straight into it with ‘Trouble on the Way’ – this is what we’ve been waiting for on the alternative scene. It’s unique and invigorating, and hits you in a personal way. More bolshie than BRMC, and as gigantic in sound as ‘Bartender and the Thief’, it’s the second band in one night that just blew me away. It’s got a country rolling chorus with a slight twang of ‘King of the Rodeo’, these guys still make it their own with added ‘oooomph!’, whilst being very proud of their roots which helps to produce their distinctive sound.

‘Teenager’ is full of big, big guitars for those who are six-string fans, permeating all the angst and energy of Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Pain’, and I’m telling you, it only takes once for you to hear every song and know it instinctively. Not many accomplished bands achieve this, but here are these young and talented gentlemen who are doing just that. Marvellous. This is what you find with ‘Listen to Your Love’ – you ears prick up instantly (again I hate to use the comparison as they’re better in their own right, but think of the intro to ‘Sex on Fire’) – it burns in you and compels you to move. This IS the summer anthem of 2011, guaranteed. They’re new and stimulating, and it’s full of bass and addictive lyrics and reeling guitars more inspirational than that of Editors, to create landscapes of sound and Nick Brown’s vocals are impeccable and husky. Even the video to the track says it’s ‘to be played loud’ – (and yes you are legally obliged to check it out!), and it couldn’t be more fitting. It’s the only way to satisfy the craving for more Mona. Forget ‘The Vaccines’ and other hot newbies ‘The Naked and Famous’, this is Mona’s year. I’m fully backing these guys: you can see yourself cruising in the summer, friends in the passenger seats on the way to any of the fantastic festivals with this on full blast, and absolutely loving it. These trashy love songs will be classic and not throwaway efforts, and that’s quite a skill to have.

And, just when the crowd thought Mona couldn’t possibly pull anything else out of the bag, ‘Shoot the Moon’ came roaring out of the speakers. This song WILL change your life. ‘A bold statement?’ you cry, well listen for yourselves; look up their performance of this little stunner at Liverpool Academy (8/3/11) on YouTube. How the duck did Ryan Adams miss an opportunity to create something like this? It’s sonorous, it’s audacious, and it’s sultry, provocative, and positively infectious. Vocals and solicitude all caught up in a whirlwind of phenomenal sound, was like watching a young Lindsey Buckingham let loose on stage. This song would definitely have Caleb Followill quaking in his little cowboy boots.

And, if that wasn’t even enough, there was an encore, which at the time seemed pretty non-sensical as they just threw a top performance and how could they possibly better that with a few more tunes? Well, they sure did. Out they came with stories of Nashville, Tennessee, and spending time at the Cash family farm (yes, THE Johnny Cash), and tore it up with rocky rhythms ten times better than KOL’s ‘Four Kicks’, transforming The Sugarmill into an American Rock Bar – the likes of ‘Roadhouse’…almost!

Mona are my favourite band for the year (even creeping into my personal music favourites), and I’m sure they’ll find a way into your hearts upon listen. They’re going to be huge, which was evident from as little as three songs in, and their journey is bound to be brilliant, I’m just sorry to everyone who missed this tonight!