Monday, 28 September 2009

The Used/We Are The Ocean/Hexes - Gig Review

I arrive at the electric ballroom just in time to catch the last few songs of Hexes set and I'm gutted to have missed the rest if it, as they seem to have grown from a band that perhaps sounded a bit to much like their obvious influences to one that has found a sound of their own. Singer Dan Carter, now with caveman esque beard is an engaging and watchable frontman as he barks his way through their final few songs.

Sadly their joyfully rowdy noise falls on flat ears, as the audience stands static and indifferent. I was hoping they would snap into life for We Are The Ocean, but sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case. Regardless, WATO put on their usually incredible show. This band are so good and it's about time more people realise this. Storming through a set of songs lifted from their upcoming debut album along with a few old favourites, they have managed to move beyond the obvious Alexis elements of their sound and now possess a more aggressive, metallic sound, almost verging on Everytime I Die territory. Singer Dan is, as always, a ball of energy with his trademark whipping of his mic lead. Second singer Liam, meanwhile, surely possesses one of the strongest voices around. An aching croon that it is impossible not to love. A shame the majority of the audience here seem to care so little.

The Used just seem tired. Being honest, I leave early on, but purely cause it saddens me to see a band that I once loved and found exciting fall somewhere between bland and plain bad. Early hits bring out a few glimmers of the vitriolic sets of years gone by, but a babbling Bert McCracken and his wavering voice sees me heading for the door. A great shame.

Pearl Jam - Backspacer Album Review

Man, I have been excited about this album. I've always loved Pearl Jam. Vedder's croon is vocal marmite, but I love it.

Being truthful, they are never going to produce anything quite as monumental as Ten or Vs again. No matter what anyone says, this album, or any of theirs for the past ten years just don't come close, but both those early albums were stone cold musical classics, so fall a few marks short of that still means a great album, and Backspacer is definitely such an album. As Yield and their last self titled effort showed, they have got past the awkward rambling phase of albums such as No Code and Binaural. Which is a good thing, and they now create albums of great rock songs, perhaps not quite as instantly engaging as you might hope, but achingly beautiful on repeat listens.

Opener "Gonna See My Friend" almost sounds like a cut from a Rocket From The Crypt album, rolling in on a rock and roll riff and with a punching chorus. Recent single "The Fixer" is even better, and easily the most instantly hummable song on the album. The truly great tracks on this album, however, lie in the quieter moments. Tracks such as "Just Breathe" and "Unthought Known" possess the lo fi sensitivity that made Eddie Vedder's solo effort for the soundtrack to "Into The Wild" so brilliant. Track six "Amongst The Waves" has more a bit more backbone, but is no less brilliant, with it's rousing chorus and driving solos.

One of the really nice things about Backspacer is that it doesn't overstay it's welcome. A comparatively short album, by the time the aptly titled "The End" gently brings the album to a close you will find yourself hitting the repeat button, and you should, as like all the recent Pearl Jam albums, repeat listens open you up to subtle moments that you missed before. It is these moments that set Backspacer out as a great album and solidify Pearl Jam's place as a truly classic band.

Dizzee Rascal - Tongue N' Cheek Album Review

OK, so we predominately cover Rock and punk esque music on this blog, but I've always been a believer that people shouldn't pigeon hole themselves to a genre or scene. Also, there's a strong argument to put forward for the fact that, regardless of sound, Dizzee Rascal is about as punk rock as anyone else these days. Much like the Prodigy before him, he has manage to capture the rebellious sound and confrontational lyricism of punk rock without picking up a guitar. This albums is self released on his own label, it will no doubt be massive and is a defiant two fingers up to all the majors still struggling to make ends meet now kids are able to download the bands they used to be charged too much for.

All this aside, Tongue In Cheek is, quite simply, an incredible album. From massive hit, and opening song Bonkers with it's incredible looping bassline to the darker edged closer Bad Behaviour, this album is just great fun to listen to. Early single Dance Wiv Me never quite hit the spot for this reviewer when it was released, but on the album it fits perfectly, breaking up the rowdier, less radio friendly tracks, such as the rattling rush of Road Rage. Dizzee definitely possess a way with words, and his playful use of current youth sayings and commentary on many of the hot topics of youth culture make for an album that on repeat listens is as topically interesting as it is initially engaging. Check it out.

Blackhole - Dead Hearts Album Review

Before you check this album out, two things you should know - 1) ignore the baby Gallows accusations. Yes, Frank and Steph's little brother Rick is the singer. No, it does't mean they are a clone. Like Gallows, they share an angry disposition and some of the best riffs anyone has delivered in years, but they have more in common with the likes of Everytime I Die and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster. They sound like a good time rock and roll band with the mother of all Hangovers.

2) Believe every single bit of good press you have read about them, 'cause it's all true and this album proves it!

Dead Hearts delivers on every level. From the skittering drums that open the adrenaline blast that is opening track Don't Cry, to the monstrous chorus of Scared To Change, these songs are monolithic pissed off beast and they are awesome. In the best possible way they make you want to punch the person nearest you in the face.

Two things really stand out on this album. Firstly, Rick's voice. He is in possesion of the most incredible of gutteral howls that belies his age and the fact he doesn't smoke. His range is also impressive, making every scream seem effortless and in no way force.

The other thing that stands out is the riffs! Fuck me, the riffs, and the solo's! They sound like they are played by giants with skyscrapers for speaker stacks. I can't remember the last time I heard an album with so many riffs that left me grinning from ear to ear.

This album is massive and deserves to be recognised. It would be a crying shame for it to get lost in the mix of sub standard UK metal acts around right now. So pick up a copy, tell your friends and spread the word.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Vans Warped Tour 2009 Hits Vancouver

Ticket, check. Money, check. Water, check. Camera, check. Most importantly, Sharpie, check! And i’m getting a bus in a city i’ve known for half a day. I get to 41st street where I have to change buses, the bus behind throws up a selection of emo kids and tattooed punks. Follow the crowd i say. Upon arrival, bus upon bus empties the growing crowd. The road was decorated with coaches and vans.

Walking up the never ending queue i ran to the end before this loser got there first who is actually a really good friend now. A band called red city burning played for too excited to notice people in the queue. Signs read, no umbrellas, thank god I’m not in England then though the clouds were currently looming over us. No water. My Mcdonalds purchase was downed, well almost. Canadian water. So sweet I’d be glad to get rid of it. Wandered into the venue and just went straight for the mass of people crowding round a guy with a sparkly bum bag (which kind of looked like a Pokemon) was selling the schedule.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Hold Steady At O2 Academy Islington

After last nights You Me At Six show left me feeling like a pensioner, tonights audience are so old I feel like a spring chicken! Sadly, the audience appears to be exceptionally tall as well as old!

Despite this, there is no way tonight is gonna be anything short of amazing. Quite simply, The Hold Steady don't play bad Shows! Tonight's setlist does fall a little short of perfect as the band drop a healthy does of new songs and obscure covers. The shocking omission of Chips Ahoy and Southtown Girls from their set is also nothing short of criminal! Regardless, the band still have the entire audience in the palm of their hands for the hour and a half they are onstage, and despite the already mentioned missing tunes, they still play an obscene amount of classic Hold Steady songs. From Party Pit to Stay Positive, there is a simple sense that this band can do no wrong. And as singer Craig closes their final song with his well versed mantra about what they do bringing so much joy there is palpable sense of celebration in the air.

Every time I see this band, it makes me want to play them to every person I meet who has never heard of them! So if you are such a person, go and buy Boys And Girls Of America and Stay Positive. If you don't love those albums, you have cocks for ears!

You Me At Six At The Underworld

Nights like tonight always make me feel old. Bar the industry bods milling around, there is surely no one over the age of 18 here! This ridiculously young audience is matched by the young age of the bands playing. Headliners You Me At Six have grown from the perrenial support band for every US pop punk bands to headliners in their own right. It's clear they have been paying attention to those bands as their set shows healthy doses of influence from the likes of The Audition and Fall Out Boy.

First up though are Southampton based Not Advised. They've been picking up some attention of late, but don't be fooled as the have been doing the rounds for a while and it shows in their rock solid performance and strong songs. They are only let down by their undeniable apeing of their US peers, right down to the accents. A shame as the strength of their songs holds promise.

The same argument could easily be levelled at tonights headliners, and perhaps a year ago it would have been justified. You Me At Six have grown up a lot in a year though and their songs and sound now sounds distinctly their own. As the band tear through a set mostly culled from their catchy as fuck debut album, the adoring masses lap up every second and scream back the words to every chorus. New songs such as Kiss And Tell suggest a slightly more considered sound whilst no less catchy. There is hysteria as the band drop their cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" which is unsurprising, but truthfully this is a band that no longer needs to rely on covers as they now possess a strength of performance and collection of songs that should see them lay waste to the competition. I have a sneaking suspicion that they may well be the band of 2010 if they can deliver a stonking second album.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Blackout - New Video Shoot

Last Saturday I headed down to Islington Academy at noon to take part in The Blackout's video shoot for their new single, ..this is why we cant have nice things. Essentially a live video, it saw 560 kids pile into the venue to act as a rabid audience for the video. The minute the band took to the stage they were met with deafening screams from the throng of kids, and despite the repeated run throughs of the track their enthusiasm didn't wane for a second.

The video also featured an appearance from You Me At Six frontman Josh, wh features on the track, not to mention a rowdy finale that sees members of Kids In Glass Houses, We Are The Ocean and Young Guns taking to the stage also (Laurent from Gallows arrived just too late to make the shoot!)

The real icing on the cake for the ammassed fans was when the band decided to treat them to a frantic five song set by way of a thankyou. The songs, largely taken from the bands latest album, Best In Town, sounded huge. The crowd also sounded massive, even though they were a fraction of the size the band would usually have at a London show! Just can't wait to see the video now!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Reading: A Review

Reading Day 1:

After arriving back from Prophets at 6am, I end up sleeping in and so do not get to Reading until the late afternoon. A wander around the guest area holds me back even longer, but I finally get into the main area to catch the ever wonderful Alexisonfire on the Lock Up Stage. Playing their second set of the day after an earlier stint on the main stage, the band plough through a rip roaring set that sees them on the best form I have ever seen them. There is something different about them today, a tangible sense of aggression and danger really sets this show off. Singer George seems intent on destroying himself and anything else around him, from stamping around the stage to bending the mic stand around his shoulders. Incredible.

On our way over to Faith No More we catch a bit of Kings Of Leon. They're an incredible band but for me, they never quite hit the spot live. Their songs are great, but there is very little in the way of a visual experience. They are not the kind of band to incorporate a huge live show, and so it is very much a case of watching four beardy men work their way through some really great songs. This kind of makes their set feel a little unimportant. Great songs though.

After a few songs we leave the main stage and take a trip to the NME/Radio 1 stage to catch Faith No More. Within seconds it becomes clear that this is going to be the set of the weekend, and quite possibly of the year. Mike Patton is clearly on good form, playing with the crowd, teasing them and tutoring them to sing harmonies. Twice the band drop into a short rendition of the "Eastenders" theme tune to hilarious effect. There is no other band like them and no one that incorporates a truly exceptional display of musicianship with a very dark, wry sense of humour. Their set at Download was exciting, but it left me a little stilted as they veered away from a crwod pleasing selection of songs. Tonight however, they tear through a set that sees hit after hit rolled out to the great glee of the audience. The sound is perfect and their performance effortlessly brilliant, Patton's voice at times leaving the entire audience in awe.

Reading Day 2:

Enter Shikari are the first band we catch today. Playing the main stage to an already busy crowd, it's a stunner of a set. I've always felt that Shikari have the ability to either play jaw droppingly brilliant sets or ones that can often fall short of the mark. There is no middle ground, and I guess I find this genuinely exciting. Today is a incredible though, from the minute they hit the stage they tear through a set split equally from both of their brilliant albums. The crowd react suitably crazily, throwing up huge dust clouds as they circle pit and mosh throughout the entire set!

Set Your Goals are on the Lock Up Stage next. Despite a mix that pretty much consists of vocals and drums, the band still manage to play a blinder of a set. Weighed heavily towards their recent second album, their songs are so instantly singable and their delivery so excitably likeable that it is impossible not to love them. Just a shame the sound didn't possess that bit more of a crunch in the guitar department.

You Me At Six are my next stop as they play to a huge crowd on the Radio 1 stage. They have grown as a band immensely over the last 12 months and it certainly shows as they appear entirely confident and comfortable as they woo this huge crowd. It always worry's me though when the biggest response a band gets is for a cover (in this case, Lady Gaga's Poker Face). Their new songs are a huge step up from anything from the Take Off Your Colours debut, and it bodes well for album number two. It's a shame the band feel the need to drop in mini break downs and "metal" moments into their songs. It comes across a little forced. They would just be better playing to their strengths - writing incredibly catchy pop songs- rather than worrying about gaining cred from the rock world.

After a bite to eat, I catch the last half of The Bronx's set. If ever there was a band that you can rely on to impress live, it's The Bronx. They always put on a no frills, white knuckled rock and roll ride of a show, and today is no exception. Singer Matt leading the crowd through their set like a deranged pastor leading his congregation. It is a shame the crowd is so small- a sad indication that not enough people have caught onto the sheer genius of this band.

Bring Me The Horizon's set is sheer carnage. Even before the band take to the stage, there is the pushing and barging of kids trying to get closer to the scenesters biggest hero. When the band take to the stage, it is with an explosion of energy unlike anything else we have seen this day. It is very clear that BMTH are out to impress today, and they do just that. Circle pits are opened up, a wall of death is called upon and there is a sense of excitement and buzz around the set that is not seen anywhere else this weekend.

The Blackout close the night for us, and after such a fervent set on this stage from BMTH before them, they certainly have a challenge on their hands. Their crowd is slightly smaller, but no less excited, and The Blackout are certainly not about to be upstaged. The perfect blend of their anthemic songs and witty onstage banter sees them deliver a set of near perfection. Each song played sounds huge and every chorus is sung back to them with glee from the audience. It's a great end to a great day.

Reading Day 3:

We're up early this morning to catch our friends in Kids In Glass Houses open up the main stage. After their disappointing set with NFG the other day, it is great to see them back on form today. The sound is not amazing as the midday winds blow it from left to right meaning Aled's vocals are almost entirely lost in this mix. This doesn't stop them from playing their hearts out to a surprisingly busy and vocal crowd for this time of the day. New song Sunshine, once again proves to be a the highlight of the set with its massive chorus reminiscent of Feeder back when they knew how to write a rock song!

Lethal Bizzle astounds us today. Always entertaining, he pulls the biggest crowd we have seen all weekend to the Radio 1 stage and gives a performace that shows he is worthy of all the press and hype he gets. The crowd are clearly in the palm of his hand as he rips through his set which includes a couple of new songs that suggest that album number 3 should be a bit of a belter!

Brand New are a band known for being awkward. Their main stage set and the recently announced Wembley show suggests they are ready to play ball a little more and ready to embark on a slightly more commercial period in their career. Today however, suggests it's not all going to be plain sailing and big choruses. The band's set weighs heavily on their awkward (but utterly brilliant) "Devil And God..." album. Despite a great performance it leaves the crowd slightly glum, who were undoubtedly hoping for a few more tracks from their far more accessible Deja Entendu album.

The Gaslight Anthem should be playing the show of their lives today. If any band have had a dream-like year in 2009, it is they. This time last year, they were early on at the Lock Up Stage. Only those in the know were down to see them as the rest of the Festival carried on about their day. This year they are in the cavernous Radio 1 stage which is bustling with punters eager to catch sight of New Jersey's biggest export in recent years. Their set is tight and the songs are there, but something is lacking. Perhaps the fact that I've heard their underdog story before or simply that as great as their songs are, their sound is so unique it does limit variation over a 50 minute set.

Our last set of the weekend comes courtesy of the never boring Gallows. Despite this being a 6/10 set from a band that usually tear anywhere they play a new arsehole, the funny thing is that the usually volatile Frank Carter seems in a surprisingly chipper mood! He's obviously excited to be back in the UK and very happy to be at Reading Festival as he cracks jokes between songs instead of getting into the crowd. The fact that their set today leaves me wanting more is not the sign of a bad show just the fact that this band are so good that a set where they incite a circle pit around a huge sound desk and end the show with 6 people drumming the same military beat as Frank sets fire to his Grey Britain flag is simply average compared to their usual insanity fueled sets.

The Lostprophets Tour 2009

For three days this week I have been out on the road with Lostprophets. Jumping in the Young Guns van on Tuesday morning, we make our way up to Manchester, with Jurassic Park playing on the tv's in the van. When we arrive at the Manchester academy, the site of the venue blows our minds. A giant cavernous room, the guys in Young Guns are visibly in awe of the prospect of todays show. Lostprophets however, roll through the motions of soundchecks like the consumate professionals they are.

Young Guns take to the stage a mere 15 minute after the doors have opened, but it appears they have risen to the challenge. Tearing into opener Dean On Arrival, it's clear they are on form. A short set sees them warm the crowd up perfectly.

Next up are The Dead Formats, who are a brilliant band, but sadly stick out a bit on this bill. Playing music far closer to what Lostprophets probably listen to than the music they play. As a result, they are met with a less than supportive crowd who display there displeasure vocally. This is sad as, despite some technical issues, they really are a great band.

Lostprophets take to the stage to a deafening cheer from the crowd. The venue is hotter than a sauna. Opening with a new song that is sadly lost in a wall of noise, they proceed to plough through an hour and a half set of classics along with four new songs. Of the new songs, a slower number, with a epic chorus stands out the most. They close with a pounding one two of "Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja" and "Burn Burn". Whilst clearly showing a bit of rust having not played for a year, they make it plainly obvious they are back.

Day two sees us at the Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall, a huge a beautiful venue. Dead Formats open tonight and it's a billing that works a lot better as they go down far better than the night before. Tonight sees Young Guns play the best set I have ever seen them play. The crowd are in the palm of Singer Gus' hand as he gets the clapping, bouncing and singing along en masse!

Lostprophets play an absolute stormer tonight, clearly haven shaken off any of the rust they showed yesterday. Their set is similar to the one they played the night before, though giving a little more room to their earlier material. Opening with "everyday Combat" definitely sees them playing a much more exciting set than the night before. The arrival of members of Kids In Glass Houses and The Blackout to the stage for a rowdy run through of Burn Burn sees them close the set on a perfect high.

Thursday sees us in Newport for something of a hometown show for Prophets. The venue is an odd one- the hall of a leisure centre where most of the audience are seated.

Tonight once again Dead Formats open the show and again the response is great. They really are an awesome band, and probably the sharpest dressed band around. Check them out.

Young Guns are once again on form tonight. Their sound is perfect, and again the crowd lap it up.

Tonight is all about Prophets though. From the opening song to their staple closer Burn Burn, they have their hometown crowd lapping up every note they play. filming for a video, they pull out all the stops, and it pays off. It's an incredible end to a great three shows. Roll on Reading!