Posts Tagged ‘alt rock’

Better Noise Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This may be a little belated, but then arguably, so are the band: From Ashes To New trade in melodic alt-rock that crashes in with the blustery force of post-metal before petering out into some middle ground that’s rooted in the turn-of-the-millennium tats ‘n’ haircuts trend. It’s hard to feel the fire and fury of such angst-by-numbers.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a genuine sympathy for these guys: the scrolling text at the start of the video reminds me of all of the cancellations I’ve had to witness this year, from gigs and holidays, to conferences to recording sessions to…well, absolutely fucking everything. The office setting for the video hauls me back to the day I was required to return to the office – closed for the foreseeable future, possibly permanently – to collect my personal belongings. It felt like an ending, and a weak one that sputter out to nothing at that. The hangar-like empty space could, under different circumstances, have been quite exciting, even exhilarating, but under the eye of a gloved and masked security guard who watched as I separated out personal and company belongings from my desk, bagging up the items that were my own and separating out stationery, IT kit (although I regret not squirreling away a spare mouse now) and paperwork for recycling before leaving the gloomy open-plan building, the blinds half drawn and the lights off for what was probably the last time. It didn’t occur to me that maybe this would be the setting for recording a rock video: much as I wanted to capture the bleakness of the empty space, I was more preoccupied with making sure I’d loaded up and was off the premises in my allotted twenty minutes, and while the security guard was nothing but friendly, I felt tense and pressured, and yes, maybe the pressure was of my own making but I felt like an intruder and like I needed to get out before I cold relax and breathe properly again.

On departing, it struck me that with more of us being designated permanent home workers as the company looks to finding ways to recoup the immense costs of providing everyone with a laptop, the cost savings of not paying for electricity, cleaners, maintenance, and all of the other things associated with an office housing around 80 staff, I may not see many, if any, of the people I’d spent the last few years working with, in close proximity, ever again. Granted, half of them I could take or leave, some of them were cunts, but they all contributed to the fabric of life. I miss life, and I may even miss some of the people.

But it doesn’t change fact that this is some fairly generic and somewhat dated-sounding Limp Bizkit / Linkin Park lift, and while I feel their pain and panic, it’s all downhill from the intro: the video, likewise, as we move away from the TV screen, the source of the panic, to the empty office, something they seem to revel in but which carries quite different connotations for me and no doubt many.

This isn’t clear-cut, and this is personal, and sometimes, the personal does not lie within the universal. ‘Panic’ will no doubt speak to some, even many, and maybe it’s a matter of demographic, but it certainly doesn’t speak to me.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While the 90s was awash with obscure bands cranking out gnarly, guitar-driven noise, the last decade or so (alright, I mean two decades, because I’m old and still can’t get my head around the fact that 1990 was 30 years ago and that Nevermind is 30 years old next year) has seen such music emerge only in pockets, with the likes of Leeds’ Blacklisters being prime exponents and one of the few to reach a wider audience – and it’s Blacklisters who probably stand as US noisemongers TRVSS’ closest contemporaries.

TRVSS are very much in the early 90s vein: I’m not just talking Am Rep and Touch and Go, but way further beneath the radar. Listening to the grainy, gritty grind of New Distances, I’m transported back, way back, and while I’m hearing The Jesus Lizard, I’m equally hearing Zoopsia, Headcleaner, Oil Seed Rape. Not familiar? To be clear here: I’m not promoting obscurest elitism here, but trying to give a flavour of just how choc-full of rabid guitar bands the underground scene was at a certain point in time – a time when bands like Terminal Cheesecake and Tar would receive coverage in the national music press, back when there was a national music press. They were exciting times, and that’s not the rose-tinting of a 45-year old reflecting on his youth: things were changing, and fast, and there was something in the air, and in your local record shop, in pub gig venues, and even on the radio

New Distances is a nasty mess of guitars driven by low-slung lurching basslines and drums that thud away in the background, half-buried in the welter of noise. Things are still changing at pace, of course, but mostly venues are closing, and there are no solid channels by which to access new and emerging talent. Where are the equivalents of The Tube, Snub:TV, The Word now? The Old Grey Whistle Test wasn’t even entirely the domain of proggy old farts, and now, we don’t even have Jools fucking Holland. There’s no M on MTV, and 4Music is a misnomer as well, but I digress.

TRVSS would probably never have made TV even back then, but it’s almost certain that John Peel, Melody Maker, and NME would have found a bit of room for some exposure for their raging, demented brand of no-wave / noise mania, and New Distances has no shortage of meat to give it appeal to a niche but substantial audience.

‘Stigma’ encapsulates the album’s rabid grunged-up noise-rock vibe, coming on like both side of the Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split ‘Oh The Guilt’ / ‘Puss’ simultaneously with it jarring guitar riffage and raw-throated vocal roar. ‘The Ventriloquist Always has the Last Laugh’ pitches skewed guitars galore, crash-landing in the space between The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and the criminally underrated and proportionally obscure Milk.

It’s likely that TRVSS will remain forever obscure, although not on account of lack of appeal or lack of ability: sure, their stuff is dark, driving and ultimately extremely niche but all of this is ok: against the backdrop of blanket mass-media and sameness, such deliberately obscure an anti-mainstream music is essential and invigorating: lap it up while you can.

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28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The idea of a single a month isn’t new: The Wedding Present did it back in 1992, and in doing so broke records (pun not intended) for the most chart singles in a year by any artist, erasing Elvis Presley from history in the process. Ok, not quite, but you get the idea.

That was back in the days of record labels and physical releases, meaning the logistics of a similar exercise now are far easier, although the chances of charting are considerably smaller. I’ve seen a number of artist release a single song a day / single or album a month / etc in recent years, and 2020 is the year that Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas decided to put out a single a month.

And so here we are with ‘Black’, the August instalment and eighth offering from an act pitched as being for fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Walker, Arctic Monkeys, The Smiths, and Queens of the Stone Age – which is a pretty eclectic mix to say the least.

‘Black’ is a song about introspection and self-reflection, and it’s pretty punchy: clocking in at well under three minutes, there’s something unashamedly old-school punk about it. Fast, furious, and built around an unpretentious four-chord thrashabout played with passion and urgency, it’s got a sharp hook and all the energy, not to mention a broad appeal.

28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The story of my ambition to form a band called Minotaur feels somewhat misplaced in the face of the new single by noisy Nottingham two-piece Minatore, so I’ll give it a miss at this opportunity.

Pitched as a ‘grunge punk song drenched in hooks and guitar riffs,’ trans front man Tommy Keeling describes ‘Boys Tell Lies’ as an ‘angst fuelled’ song, ‘speaking up about rape culture.’ Sadly, despite all of the traction of the #MeToo movement and what appears to be a widespread outcry over the truly horrific culture that’s society-wide and by no means restricted to the film and music industries, this shit is still prevalent.

It doesn’t help when world leaders casually espouse the culture, with Trump’s widely-reported ‘grab her by the pussy’ comments and Johnson saying money spent on investigating historical child abuse cases was ‘spaffed up the wall.’ A lack of respect and of boundaries may only be part of the problem, but it’s a significant one, and is indicative of just how little consideration there is for the impact on victims.

‘Happens every day…’ Keeling sings in the chorus, which swings more into early Dinosaur Jr territory as the song breaks from the driving Nirvana-esque verse that’s full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal overdrive and rage, a cracked vocal and blistering guitar propelled by a pounding snare. Every bar positively explodes with energy.

Minatore may have minor scope for invoking cultural change, but it’s at the grass roots that change begins – and if you’re going to draw attention to a topic, then doing it with a killer tune is definitely the way to go.

31st October 2019

It’s a thick, lumbering riff that piles in at the start of Neverlanded’s latest effort and the grab is absolutely immediate. You remember, in just a few short seconds, why you got excited about guitar-driven alt-rock in the first place. You remember why grunge was a revelation and a revolution. You remember why roaring noise didn’t necessarily mean unlistenable shit, and when paired with a killer hook, it distilled all of the feelings you couldn’t articulate in as week of talking and letters scribbled late at night in a pre-Internet age.

The thing is, while Kurt Cobain opined, at the ripe old age off 25 or so, that ‘teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old,’ angst never completely settles, and instead simmers away until prodded. And this prods it, hard, reawakening the anguish, but in a good way. A way that doesn’t inflict new pain, but reminds you that the pain was more bearable when it had some kind of outlet, some kind of mirror. Angst never dies, it simply reforms, refocuses.

Less than six months after their F.u.U EP, Neverlanded prove that the driving force and primal angst they whipped up in the spring was no fluke, and signal their career’s forward trajectory. Bring it.

Christopher Nosnibor

Wading through gallons of sick on my way through the city centre, I’m reminded why I generally avoid town on a Friday night, especially when the races are on. But sometimes, it’ necessary to take risks and brake rules – right?

And so I arrive at a spookily quiet Spread Eagle. there isn’t even a band in sight ten minutes before the first act’s due on. But as is often the case, three minutes before time, people emerge as if from out of the woodwork.

Dullboy mine a deep seem of 90s alt rock / metal with grunge leanings, especially in the quiet/loud dynamics. A bit Alice in Chains with the harmonies, but also hints of Soundgarden… They’re accessible without being Nickelback, and anything but dull, but I notice the singer’s wearing a Fightstar T and realise I’m probably the oldest person here, including the mum of one of the adult band members.

My Wonderful Daze battle through some early technical difficulties which found them guitarless to power through a strong set. The guitarist – seven strings filling out the sound when the amp finally works – bassist and drummer are the lankiest buggers you’re likely to meet, but singer Flowers is the driving force and dominates the space. In their more melodic moments, they’re a bit Paramore, but when they really blast it, they’re more Pretty On the Inside era Hole: Flowers has a massive raw roar, and the unconventional song structures mark a distinction from other female-fronted alt-rock bands.

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My Wonderful Daze

I’ve managed to miss PAK40 the last half dozen or so times they’ve played in my vicinity, and I suppose an element of atonement and making up is behind my presence tonight. But mostly, I just wanted to see them again, and I’m very quickly reminded why. The first song is a soft, cyclical Earth-like trudge that erupts at the mid-point into doomy riffage. The monastic vocal passages in the second track call to mind Sunn O))) and Bong before they lumber into psych / prog territory in a ow seep of sludge. And they’ve got range: it’s not all noise, and occasionally they do groove too, and do it nicely.

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PAK40

The room’s almost cleared before Churis even start. Shame: the threesome make a massive jolting racket and are seriously fucking good. Swerving wildly between melodic harmonies and screeching angst, they meld math rock, grunge, hardcore, and (thankfully minimal amounts of) emo into a strong cocktail of guitar-driven goodness. Five-string bass action and sheer force fill out the sound, and they make for a worthy headline act. The few who witnessed it scored lucky, and those that didn’t, it’s their loss.

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Churis

Once again, it’s the little bands playing backroom gigs that provide the real excitement and prove that the lifeblood of live music is way below the radar. This isn’t about hipster snobbery, about obscuritanism, about superiority. It’s a matter of experience, and there is no substitute for standing mere feet from a band pouring their all into a set in a space the size of your living room as if it’s everything. Because it’s real, it’s sincere. It’s urgent. Chances are none of these bands will break out of anything, and they likely know it. They’re not in it for that. They’re not in it for the money. They’re in it because they need to be, because they love what they do. And that’s art.

Play Loud! Productions – 13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

My first thought on hearing the opening bars of the album’s first track, ‘Light & Grace’ is ‘wow, this sounds just like Dinosaur Jr!’ My second thought, on the vocals starting is ‘No way, this really sounds like Dinosaur Jr!’ Sure enough, J. Mascis is listed among the long list of collaborators on this, the first Locus Fudge album in 20 years. Mascis has nothing if not a unique signature sound, often aped but never replicated. The track in question rumbles along for over eleven minutes, the singing soon giving up for the guitar solo to do the talking. Less characteristic of Dinosaur Jr is the way in which the solo comes to battle against a rising tide of extraneous noise, and the song itself finally collapses to a churn of dark ambience and feedback. As it happens, large chunks of Oscillations sound very Dinosaur Jr, and the overall vibe is very much late 80s / early 90s US alternative rock.

This is also very much the sphere to which Locust Fudge belong: their two previous albums, Flush and Royal Flush, released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, were released on Glitterhouse and saw the German duo aligned to the grunge movement. The EP, Business Express (1996), saw them push into more electro/industrial/krautrock territories, and even include overt elements of drum’n’bass in the mix. Those records are almost impossible to find now and the YouTube uploads of the tracks aren’t available in the UK. There’s something strange about the idea of being unable to access something on-line now. Whatever happened to the global village? Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore pitched the global village as the territory of electronic media; with territorial divisions over music rights, it feels much more like a map of war than a plan for peace.

Oscillation reminds of simpler times – but more than that, seems to belong there. It’s not merely a nostalgia work, but a heartfelt return. You can’t exactly criticise a work for being ‘derivative’ when the bulk of the artists it’s derivative of feature.

‘Hormones’ slips into the easy but wonky country vibes of Pavement, while the motoric groove of ‘No Defense’ has some gloriously skewed guitar work. And then…. then there’s a wild frenzy of discordant jazz all over the middle eight. The big sax break on ‘Something’s Wrong’ comes on like The Psychedelic Furs, over a big, crackling valve guitar buzz, a melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Turnip Farm’, and lyrics that appear to present a process of self-dismemberment.

It’s a great album – not of its time, but of its spawning era. And now I’m off to revisit You’re Living All Over Me. Just because.

https://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/locustfudge/trailercode.html

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Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.

Now this, we dig. Berries have announced the release of their new single ‘Wild Vow’ – the first track taken from their second EP, which sees the band further explore their unique take on riff-driven rock with even more grit and confidence. ‘Wild Vow’ boasts big riffs and choruses and further highlights the clever musicianship, weaving guitar and basslines and well-considered dum patterns that this exciting three-piece are becoming known for.

Get your lugs round ‘Wild Vow’ here:

Berries have some live dates coming up, too:

5th July – Headline Single Launch Show with Scruff of The Neck Records at The Old Blue Last, London with The Opera Comic + Rylands Heath, Free Entry.

22nd July – Tramlines Fringe Festival for Northern Crossroads Promotionsat The Church House Inn, Sheffield.

19th August – The Soup kitchen with Scruff of The Neck Records supporting Proletariat + King Kartel, Manchester.

8th September – The Finsbury, Gigslutz Promotions, London

 

Berries Wild

Schoolkids Records – 22nd April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As I kid – and especially as a teenager – I thought I knew everything, and that anyone over 30 was ancient, a has-been and that it was impossible to be cool past a certain age. But even then, I envied some of the older people I knew – largely through music and record shops – who had seen punk and new wave bands I’d got into in their heyday (or at all).

Hindsight is indeed wonderful, especially when viewed from a vantage of being older and wiser – and while the early 90s felt exciting for someone who was properly old enough to go to gigs on their own on turning 18 in 1993, it’s only really now that it’s possible to really reflect on the fact that there are people in their teens and 20s who will forever curse having been born too late to experience the grunge explosion first hand.

Bettie Seveert aren’t a grunge band, but it was on going to see Dinosaur Jr – who, despite having been around a lot longer, really got to ride the crest of the grunge wave – at Nottingham’s Rock City touring ‘Where You Been’ in February 1993, that I first encountered Come, and (then) Melody Maker darlings Bettie Serveert.

24 years on from that gig and a full quarter century from their debut album Palomine, and the Amsterdam-based act deliver their tenth album: it’s a respectable and steady work-rate by any standards, and what matters is that ‘Damaged Good’ is a great alternative rock album, which displays a neat pop sensibility without in any way being cheesy, corny or lightweight. Released in Benelux last September, it’s now getting a full global release, and this is definitely a good thing. While they may not have received the press backing, or replicated the success of Palomine commercially, creatively, Bettie Serveert have still got it.

Opener ‘B-Cuz’ brings the bounce, not to mention a blend of 60s pop and punk energy and makes for a neat entry to the album. ‘Brother (in Loins)’ brings a darker, post-punk atmosphere and twists in element of 90s alt-rock to a song that has the disco pop groove stylings of Blondie. Elsewhere, there’s a purity and innocence about the vintage indie stylings of ‘Whatever Happens’, and the shuffling beat and darker undercurrents which bubble beneath the buoyant bass of ‘Unsane’ calls to mind ‘Gran Turismo’ era Cardigans. Again, this is a good thing.

In fact, there are no bad things about Damaged Good. The eight-minute ‘Digital Sin Nr 7’ finds the band indulging their more experimental and considerably noisier side, but holding it all together with a tense bass groove. ‘Love Sick’ with Peter de Bos is a driving grunge pop belter: not a song that sounds like it belongs in the 90s so much as a timeless hook-filled cracker of a tune. And herein lies the key to what makes Damaged Good not just good, but great: it’s an album of songs, and while varied in style, the quality is both high and consistent. Songs matter, and there isn’t a dud to be found here.

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