Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Swellers- Ups And Downsizing

I think I may be a little late to the game on these guys and man do I feel stupid for not picking up on them sooner. This album is a belter.

From the amthemnic opening riffs of 2009 I was hooked. Very close to Gaslight Anthem, but with a bit more beef, they are a revelation, especially as they are on Fueled By Ramen- I guess their is money in Springsteen-esque, Americana drenched rock these days. Still there's more to The Swellers than this. The band wield a sound that owes as much to post hardcore types such as Hot Water Music, By A Thread and Grade as it does to the Boss.

In opener 2009 and single Fire Away, they have songs worthy of daytime radio play. Sleeper is even better with a chorus that rides on a deliriously brilliant start stop riff.

Undounbtedly set to 'do a Gaslight' in 2010, I guess it's not quite time to throw out those check shirts!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Brand New/Glassjaw/Thrice

I'm gutted to miss Thrice, especially as I hear more and more people rant about their brilliance and how they stole the show from both Brand New and Glassjaw.

Glassjaw are an odd band. They always have been, and I think they always will be. The problem is, they were once a unified band also. These days there is next to no communication between the band members. This once brilliant and frenetic live band are now replaced with three static musicians and an eccentric singer who seems to be in a world of his own throughout their set. Yes, they play classics, and yes as the musicianship is flawless, but Glassjaw used to possess a pure aggression that left you wanting to scream at the person next to you. Sadly this appears to be entirely lacking these days. Credit to them, even without this vital energy they are still a good live band, but at no point is their set even in danger of getting close to the legendary shows scenesters of old whsiper of. A real shame.

Whereas Glassjaw's time seems to be running out, it would appear that Brand New are going from strength to strength. They can, it seems, do no wrong. The fact that they released the brilliant, yet ultimately massively uncompromising Daisy album last year (the closest thing a band has come to "doing an In Utero" since Nirvana themselves did) and yet be playing Wembley is beyond belief. This bold feat doesn't seem to have dampen their constant decision not to play ball. Anyone expecting a grandiose production would be dissapointed, insteading being met with a typically introverted band and a backdrop of jarring, bizarre and often discomforting images flashed up behind them. It's this absolute unwillingness to compromise that makes me love this band so much, and I can't help but love tonight regardless of the fact that the band seem to play with almost mild disinterest throughout. It also helps that they possess an arsenal of songs that most bands would sell their instruments for. They even dip into their debut later in the set for a few choice "upbeat" numbers.

Undoubtedly many will have left tonight duissapointed, and I suspect I would agree with all theor reason for being so let down, but for me, those reasons only compound my love for the band, leaving me loving every second of their show tonight.

Up In The Air

Man, do I want to hare George Clooney. Successful, good looking talented and, most frustratingly of all, it appears he's also a thoroughly nice guy. The man has a charm that is irresistable. This film also has a similar charm, a fact made clear by the fact you warm easily to a character who is, being blunt, a bit of a dick.

Clooney plays the part perfectly. Brilliantly understated, he never attempts to steal limelight or dazzle, just simply acting brilliantly the role of a man who's job it is to fire people when their bosses are too weak to do so themselves. He's also a man who's aim in life is to fly more air miles than anyone before him, a goal he holds before relationships, family and pretty much anything else in life. Needless to say, over the course of the film, he is forced to question this life and the contempt he dishes out on all those around him. It's within this unfurling of his character that the film finds not only it's warmth but also it's bleakness. It dances from sweet and often hilarious scenes to moments of pure loneliness and biting sadness. Despite the constant shifts in moods, it remains brilliantly watchable throughout and is a true understated treat. Were it not for director Jason Reitman's previous films (Juno, Thank You For Smoking), and the brilliant reviews it's received, I suspect this film would have passed me by. I'm so glad it didn't as it is a brilliantly charming movie that entertains throughout. Make sure you don't miss out.

Lostprophets- The Betrayed

This album became a borderline Chinese Democracy case, with the loyal waiting years for it to arrive. Ironically, the plan was to turn around this album quickly after Liberation Transmission. Cue some often mentioned fall outs with producers and the band decided to DIY it and get stuck in themselves. Credit to them for this- Prophets have never been a band afraid to take risks and make bold steps. Motives and cred aside, is it any good?

My initial reaction was a disappointment, and even after repeat listens, it still feels like the album starts not with two songs that lack the bombast and instant brilliance that their other albums have had from start to finish. Delve deeper though and there are indeed some little gems tucked away here. Certainly towards the end of the album, things pick up hugely as their band spread their wings and embrace their varied influences. And trust me, those influences are definitely varied. From the dark cold brooding NIN esque closer, to streets of sorrow with it's bouncy Jam sounding verses and right through to the RATM aping Dstryr/dstryr, there is plenty of variety and, given time, there is plenty to love too.

So for a band largely known for their huge choruses and brazen big sing alongs, Lostprophets long waited comeback is easily their least accessible album to date. Admittedly it doesn't quite hit the dizzy highs of their Start Something album, but it does feel like an album that a band have put their heart and souls into and given time it will warm yours too.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sherlock Holmes

This had the definite chance to be terrible. Faux Cockney wideboy and loudmouthed yank Robert Downey Jnr teaming up to create a film around a distinctly traditional London hero. Amazingly, it made Jude Laws presence the most reassuring thing about the project.

There was of course the chance for it to be brilliant- RDJ is fast becoming one of the great actors of our time, and Mr Ritchie certainly knows his way around an action movie, so he's more than capable of giving Sherlock Holmes the bobast needed to make sure kids of the 21st Century give a shit.

So how did it turn out- brilliant in fact! Guy Ritchie has toned down his Laaaandan-isms and Downey is utterly engaging as a wise cracking Holmes, and whilst the movie is by no means a classic, it whips along at a good pace and is never short of entertaining.

Most importantly, it also feels like it's just setting the scene, with the scope for sequels left wide open which, as it turns out, is a very exciting prospect.

Spycatcher, The Social Club, Hope And State @ The Amber Rooms, Watford.

Tonight's venue is brilliantly small. A tiny basement in this little pub in deepest, darkest Watford. It's evokes the atmosphere of the DIY gigs I rarely see occuring these days. 40 capacity and 75 people in, it's also cramped, hot and sweaty, but all the better for it!

Hope And State kick proceedings off with a sound that nods heavily to the likes of The Ataris and Gameface. Whilst this is no bad thing, they don't quite have enough memorable songs to make them stand out from the crowds. Hopefully in 6 months time they will have got a couple nailed.

The Social Club have no problem with memorable tunes. Perhaps it's cause I saw Captain Everything (Lew from the Social Club's old band) countless times, but it feels like welcoming an old friend back even though this is the first time I've seem them. Essentially sounding like Captain Everything crossed with Elvis Costello, each song is brilliantly charming and the banter between is hilarious. Keep an eye on these boys.

It's a tough act for Spycatcher to follow, and it feels at first like they may be overfaced. Their opening song hits hard, but lacks the big riffs and memorable moments of many of their other songs. The balance soon shifts though as they fire through a volley of tracks from that cracking debut ep, not to mention new song "I Don't Like People", which is surely a radio hit waiting to happen. Their set is short and punch, but all the better for it, leaving me reaching for my ipod so I can re-visit that ep for my journey home!

Blackhole/Shotgun Riot @ The Purple Turtle

This is my first gig back after the festive period, and it get's off to a bit of a lukewarm start. Shotgun Riot look and move like a great rock and roll band, but sadly the songs just aren't quite there yet. Greatly improved with their new singer admitedly, but where as tonights headliners drop jaw dropping riffs on a regular basis, SGR's set just blends into one. There's promise there, but nothing is hitting quite yet.

Blackhole on the other hand, have memorable songs aplenty. The double edged sword of their relationship with Gallows is sadly starting to work against them I suspect, with people not giving them time of day. A true shame as the do in fact sound nothing like Gallows and more importantly sound utterly vital right now. Singer, Rick is one of the most endearing frontmen around with a self effacing charm that is brilliantly likeable. He's also a livewire, throwing himself into the crowd several times during their set to get the crowd moving. Hopefully, people will see sense and pick up on this band more as they truly are special, and deserve to step out of the shadow that looms over them.