Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Rock’

19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always pleased to hear from Nathan Argonaut, because it invariably means he’s made some new music. He and Lorna have certainly been keeping busy writing and recording under their Videostore moniker while under lockdown, and sire enough, his most recent missive came with a link to the ‘brand spanking new single from the Videostore, written and recorded in the doldrums this week!’

It does very much seem to have been one of those low weeks for many, myself included, so a new sliver of their choppy lo-fi indie makes for a welcome arrival. Better still, it’s a corker: the drum machine is half-buried in the verses beneath a thumping fat bass and sustained synth note. ‘Over thinking, over drinking solution friendly messy ending’ the intonate in monotone, encapsulating the ennui with wonderful simplicity and precision.

Prefacing the lyrics, the BandCamp release, features the line ‘We must be out of our brilliant minds…’ On noticing, I then spent the next half hour – and more – watching first the video for Furniture’s 1986 single ‘Brilliant Mind’ followed by a slew of contemporaneous content. Such is my mind-blank distractibility. I forgot to finish the review and instead went on an epic mental diversion.

And then the guitar detonates all over everything, an overloading blast of distortion, and I’m reminded of the obliterative wall-of-noise bursts on The Jesus and Mary Chain song ‘Taste The Floor’.

‘Your Mind’ is an explosive release of tension that fizzes and flames all over, landing somewhere between The JAMC and more recent peers Scumbag Philosopher. It’s also quite possibly their best work to date.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret: I fucking love cheese. To the extent that it’s the single foodstuff that prevents me from being vegan, and to the extent that if I had to live on any one type of food, it would be cheese. Forget pudding, gimme the cheeseboard. In fact, scrap starters and mains, just give me all the cheese. My 4-tier wedding cake consisted of a wheel each of Brie, Stilton, Cornish Yarg, and a truckle of mature cheddar. So I kinda feel that Chronic Johnny’s debut single is a song that should appeal, regardless of actual content.

Harrogate may not be an obvious place to spawn a ‘wild noiserock trio’ like Chronic Johnny, but on reflection, it makes sense: it’s a lovely, leafy, middle-class market town close to York. What could possibly spur a bunch of guys to make angular, guitar-driven racket, the sound of anger and frustration in a setting like this? Well, precisely a setting like this. There’s always something to rebel against, always a reason to feel disenfranchised. And always a reason to make noise.

And Chronic Johnny make a cracking noise of a decidedly 90s alternative vintage, all spiky, overdriven guitars that jerk and jolt, and peppered with a substantial dash of rockabilly / surf spice, not least of all in the manic, yelping vocals. It’s such a frenetic, hybridized racket that comparisons are pretty pointless; it’s more that this furiously dirty din, driven by a growling, busy bassline, draws together the essence of a period in time, and drags it, squalling and brawling into the present. It’s gnarly, and it kicks ass.

21st February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s more or less a fact – and not a happy one – that much of the strongest and most meaningful art comes from dark personal places. And so it is that Mollayanna’s new single, ‘Human Error’ is taken from an album of material, which will shortly be released under the title Archaeology, written last year by front-woman Bernadette, and which charts her experience of surviving abuse and undergoing therapy.

Speaking candidly, she says, ‘One thing I realised in therapy was that I’d spent so long trying to micromanage things, clinging to relationships and behaviours and hadn’t really stopped to assess if any of it was still making me happy. Once I let go and those people and situations fell away, I felt nothing, too. Emptiness. But also relief? And that’s what ‘Human Error’ is about. The frustration at putting all your effort into something only to realise it’s not what you wanted.’

And so ‘Human Error’ is a tidy slice of indie-ish alt-rock with sweetly melodic vocals that’s easy on the ear but harder on the heart. The lilting minor chords of the clean rhythm guitar has hints of Dinosaur Jr, while the remaining musical layers sit somewhere between Paramore and Fleetwood Mac (Bernadette manages moments that really do hint at Stevie Nicks, and also has a decidedly folksy twist to her vocal style) but then again, and the emotional range is closer to The Twilight Sad as Bernadette pours every ounce of soul into a narrative of giving all for limited returns while being trapped in a cycle.

Oh, and there’s a whopping great guitar solo that plays out through to the fade. It’s as indulgent a solo as you’ll get, but doesn’t feel indulgent, somehow, and fades are chronically underused these days. It all adds up to a great single, and a strong pitch for the upcoming album, too.

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Human Error Artwork

Live dates:

28/2 – Rotherham – Magna

4/4 – Whitchurch – Percy’s

11/4 – Leeds – Verve

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that noisy-post-punk London duo Modern Technology should have recorded a live session at the Shacklewell Arms under the banner of Exploding Head: everything about the band to date has been explosive, from the sonic blitzkrieg of the eponymous debut EP to their growing fanbase, due to a committed live schedule which has seen them deliver some killer performances. The fact they’re thoroughly decent guys whose sociopolitical message extends beyond the lyrics and into the active donations of proceeds and profits to charitable causes hopefully counts for something, too: they’re not Bono about it: they just fucking get on and do it. and so the proceeds from this release are going to Crisis at Christmas ‘to help support the homeless during this critical time of year and to help fund and support Crisis’ vital year-round work with homelessness’.

Hearing the nihilistic fury of the music, it’s clear that this philanthropy is born almost entirely of frustration and despair at social injustice and inequality, and this six-tracker captures the live experience very well indeed, with four tracks culled from the aforementioned EP along with a brace of new cuts in the shape of ‘All is Forgiven’ and ‘Bitter End’.

It packs full-throttle viscerality from beginning to end, and two things stand out on this release: 1) the colossal noise they churn out with just bass and drums 2) how faithful to the studio renditions the EP songs are.

2) is a testament to how tight and well-rehearsed they are, with metronomic grooves holding everything together 1) is about ore than just pedals. Modern Technology do volume and appreciate that effects and all that stuff only fill so much space. Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard volume. There is a 3), as well. What’s unique about Modern Technology’s sound is that for all the thunderous density, they create a vast amount of space, and the way the air hangs between the notes, between the punishing snare hits, creates a stark, yet simultaneously oppressive atmosphere.

‘I ain’t quick, I ain’t cheap’ Chris Clarke barks on ‘Queue Jumper’, against a backdrop of tumultuous drums and a grating bass chord that sustains into infinity. It’s a simple but effective refrain that’s instantly memorable. It’s all in the delivery, of course.

The new material is monumentally dense and abrasive, with the downtuned, sinewy riffage of ‘All is Forgiven’ reminiscent of Melvins, while ‘Bitter End’ is sparse, slow and bleak and throws in a vaguely psychedelic twist in the verses, crashing into a grinding low-tempo riff for the chorus, such as it is.

One of my bands of 2019, and with dates booked for 2019 already (I may have something (ruined) of a vested interest in the February dates), Modern Technology are a band on the up because they’re a band for our times.

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Grimoire / Buzzhowl Records – 27th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The second album from Baltimore trio Gloop is noisy, messy, manic. The liner notes describe it as ‘a splattering Jackson Pollock painting of a full-length record’, and refers to their sound as ‘a kind of skewed rock music that recalls Shudder to Think, and the Pixies at their harshest and weirdest’.

It is harsh, but that harshness doesn’t come from heaviness, but from a chaotic squall of treble and wildly unpredictable song structures. It’s got the punk spirit and some aggression in its execution, but not exactly post hardcore, either, but a jarring, jolting racket that has many of the hallmarks of math-rock played in such a way as to sound perpetually out of time and out of tune with itself. It’s skewiff, not in a slacker Pavementy way, but in a demented, all-over-the-shop demented Trumans Water way. If I say it’s enough to give anyone a headache, it’s by no means a criticism: we’re attenuated to tune into regular rhythms, accordant tonality, tunes. Smiling Lines has none of these, breaking every last rule of musicality by pulling apart the very fabric of rock music and stretching it, twisting it, tearing it, stomping on it, before examining the stained tatters and deciding ‘yes, this is what we were after.’

Dom Gianninoto’s vocals are kinda shouty, but he’s given to shriek, whoop, and holler and pitch up to falsetto at any instant, adding to the crazed unpredictability of it all. Smiling Lines is the sound of wide-eyed, frenzied derangement, a relentless rollercoaster, a furious flurry of frets. It’s a short, sharp shock, and it’s fucked-up, but it’s ace.

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Gloop - Smiling Lines

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, it’s a fairly complimentary lineup, showcasing three similar but varied strains of angsty alternative rock. On closer analysis and observation, the three bands appear to have quite different fanbases, with only limited crossover. Surveying the demographic, I’ve no explanation, and it’s really quite odd, to the extent that it almost feels like three separate gigs. Not so much a partisan audience, as three, with limited crossover. Admittedly, I’m here for Weekend Recovery, having championed them from way back, but it strikes as strange that someone would pay £7 for a 3-band lineup and spent all but half an hour at the bar or outside. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned and have a thing about getting value for money. And given the bar – £4.50 for a pint of Stella Cidre is as good as it gets – the punters should be keen to get something to justify their outlay.

Weekend Recovery are up first, and after a few cable issues, they start their set, kicking in with ‘Turn it Up’ – and I find myself wishing the sound guy would do just that with the guitars. Nevertheless, they power through a set primarily culled from the debut album that they’re relentlessly touring this year with energy and panache. They’ve come a long way in 18 months.

Owen’s guitar lunges have developed to full-on rock posing: he’s a tall, burly fella and he dominates his space, and when she ditches the guitar for ‘Monster’, Lauren’s liberated and mobile. It’s a well-structured set, with ‘New Tattoo’ bringing a change of pace and mood at the mid-point, and culminating in a fiery rendition of ‘Get What You Came For’ followed by a breakneck blast though ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

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Weekend Recovery

There’s a degree of irony there: it’s a song about on-line dating and insecurity. Because everyone wants to be loved, to be subject of adulation… don’t they? Spending just a few minutes with Lauren before and after their show is quite eye-opening, and sustaining a conversation uninterrupted for more than two minutes is impossible. There’s certainly a lot of love for the band, and her – to the point at which requests for photos and autographs on tickets and body parts has become pretty much standard form. As I say, they’ve come a long way in 18 months, but it also brings home just how fucking weird people are, what life in a band – even at relatively low-level – is like, and how women in rock and in the music industry in general are subject to some shocking treatment.

Avenoir have a hard act to follow. They’re either really popular or have a lot of mates. Did they sell all of the T-shirts occupying the first two packed-out rows? Judging by how quickly they thin out over the course of the set, one suspect possibly not.

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Avenoir

The singer’s wearing a Misfits T and a torn black denim jacket with a Ramones back patch, and he implores the crowd to ‘go fucking crazy’. Three or four people bob their heads in response. They do manage to get half a dozen or so moshing at one point, but there’s just somethings lacking about their energetic but ultimately forgettable brand of alt rock. Songs, mostly.

Our Divinity have both songs and fans. Zara Saunders has immense presence, making for an engaging performance from beginning to end, and for a band who’ve only played a handful of shows, they’re outstandingly tight. Musically… well, there’s a risk of courting accusations of lazy journalism given that every third female-fronted rock band with a bit of grunt sound like Paramore, but the influence on Our Divinity is undeniable: they even throw in a Paramore cover near the end.

What sets Our Divinity apart from their peers is the density of the sound – benefiting as they do from duelling guitars that weave tripwire lead lines over chunky, overdriven rhythm – and the quality of the material. They may have only one single to their credit, but they’ve got an album’s worth on the strength of tonight.

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Our Divinity

The audience show their appreciation by climbing on one another’s shoulders and constructing human pyramids in front of the stage like it’s a 1980s Sisters of Mercy of Mission gig. For such early days, such adulation is remarkable, and if tonight is in any way representative, they’re building momentum for a rapid ascendance.

3rd March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

No Scary Bears Facebook page sees the band lay out their aim as ‘simple, alternative guitar music inspired by the bands they love and you used to find on MTV before the arse fell out of commercial music’. With a handful of demos streaming on-line and receiving airplay on BBC Introducing, they’ve been building momentum ahead of this, their debut single release.

Born out of a new permutation of hard rock act We Could be Astronauts, No Scary Bears present a more grunge orientated sound: the guitars are chunky and nicely up in the mix. But while every other band drawing on the class of ’92 for inspiration seems to want to be Nirvana but poppier, with strong melodies and more nuanced approach to dynamics, No Scary Bears more call to mind Soundgarden and Bivouac with ‘Mail’ and accompanying track ‘Dial In / Dial Out’.

For people of a certain age (mine of thereabouts), it’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia for music of a certain vintage, and No Scary Bears capture that feel extremely well. The fact the release contains three tracks harks back to the old 12” and CD single formats – and the fact there is a limited CD release (rather than a voguish cassette editions) is another detail of note, and in all, it’s a very promising start.

 

No Scary Bears