Posts Tagged ‘And the Hangnails’

Young Thugs Records – 12th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Straight out of the trap, DOG sounds like …And the Hangnails. They have a knack for blasting out of the speakers, full-throttle, from the first bar at the start of every album. There’s no preamble, no atmospheric or suspenseful intros, no slow-build and no pissing about: they’re in there, immediately, all riffing and explosive drumming.

That’s actually all there is: this grungey garage-pop duo have spent their carer to date maximising the impact of a comparatively limited format, namely the fact they’re a guitar and drums combo. But the trick is that they don’t sound like a duo, especially on this, their third album: the production is phat and full and with the treble backed off just a shade in comparison to their previous efforts, Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar sounds thicker, denser meatier and more like both a guitar and bass simultaneously.

Steven Ried’s exceptional powerhouse drumming (this is a man who drums hard, and at a hundred miles an hour, and who makes Dave Grohl sound like some jazz tapper), sounds even more exceptional than ever on DOG. I mean, really. The guy’s a one-man percussion explosion. And again, while it’s commonplace for music critics – myself included, on occasion – to criticise little, grungy, lo-fi bands for ‘selling out’ by cleaning up their sound, aligning higher fidelity with a betrayal of their roots, in this instance at least, it would be a mistake. DOG is the work of a band which has evolved. This means that while there isn’t anything as explosively raw as ‘Fear Only Fear’ or ‘Everybody’s Luck’ from the previous albums, their edge has by no means been dulled. Yes, the songs do feel more crafted, more developed and less primal, bit it’s an incremental thing. It’s still loud, brashy, thrashy and rough around the edged. There’s still fuzz and feedback by the shedload.

But more than anything, on DOG, it’s possible to actually hear the detail and the sonic range. The result is that the full force of their live sound can at last be heard in a recorded format. Besides, it’s not as though they’ve gone super slick and delivered an album of radio-friendly r’n’b. DOG may be an album busting with hooks, but it’s also a serious alt-rock racket, and alongside the breezy surf-pop backing vocals are driving riffs galore.

DOG is without question their most accessible album to date, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overtly commercial or in any way a sell-out. There isn’t a weak track on the album, and there sure as hell isn’t a big ballad at the end of side one. DOG is ferocious, relentless, sharp, to the point and represents the realisation of everything …And the Hangnails have been building up to.

It contains just ten songs, the majority of which sit around the three minute mark. And so, as is their trademark, DOG is a short, sharp blast of post-grunge garagey punk bursting with killer hooks and belting tunes from start to finish. If this doesn’t see them make some kind of breakthrough, the world is even more fucked up and wrong than I’d imagined.

 

DOG artwork

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South Bank Social, York, 28th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

You know it is with the underground. People in the know, know. Networking, word of mouth… and social media. So while …And the Hangnails had intimated a ‘secret’ gig at a venue tbc a few days previous, it wasn’t until the day of the event that The Howl & the Hum announced, via Facebook, a ‘last minute’ gig with a killer lineup in the dingy upstairs room in a WMC in York’s South Bank.

Call me a scenester if you like, although I’d rather say I’ve got my finger on the pulse. Moreover, this was a remarkably un-scenester gig in many ways. The peeling, mildewed walls in the room with a capacity in the region of 35 to 40, the unisex toilets hardly hollered ‘hip’ or chic and reflected a greater alignment with the DIY / basement club aesthetic of early 80s punk.

Events like this are a(nother) sign of the times. As small pub venues go to the wall, sold off by pubcos for conversion to flats or convenience stores, and other venues find themselves subject to noise abatement orders and other untenable licensing restrictions when finances are already tight, it’s increasingly difficult for bands – especially smaller ones – to find opportunities to play live. But as the cliché goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and folks are taking it upon themselves to become increasingly creative in seeking out underused, or even unused spaces. And I’m all for it. This is keeping it real, and in a universe parallel to the glitzy, mass-produced chart fodder churned out by bling-toting major-name acts with the backing of multi-billion dollar corporate labels, this is where the music that matters can be found.

A brief solo acoustic promo for the South Bank Suicide Club prefaced a belting set from Howl & The Hum The intimate venue setting was well-suited to their detailed sound: the textured guitar sound, tom-heavy and restrained drumming, paired with their knack for monumental crescendos draws parallels with early I Like Trains, although their style is very much more geared toward alt-country with a fiery rock twist. Intense and impressive, they have a ‘great things ahead’ aura about them.

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The Howl & The Hum

The last time I saw Tooth, they were so new they didn’t have a name, but they did have some great tunes. Having risen from the ashes of The Littlemores, they’ve ditched the ska leanings of their previous incarnation, and while there are still strong traces of Arctic Monkeys in their acerbically observational indie-rock, they’re flexing new muscles with some big choruses and chunky bass-leg guitar tunes.

Tooth

Tooth

Washing Machine Repair Man offers a brief acoustic interlude – by which I mean a detour into delirious and borderline deranged shouty anti-folk, augmented by double bass and green rubber wellies – before Bull are up. Having found the last couple of performances I’ve seen from Bull to be a shade lacklustre, it was uplifting to see them on such fine firm on this outing. Guitarist Dan Lucas seems to have learned pretty much everything he knows about solos from listening to Dinosaur Jr albums, and for that, he gets my vote. With shirts off and sweat running free in the tiny venue, they really step things up a notch, and carry the enthusiastic crowd with them.

Bull

Bull

…And the Hangnails are one of those bands who never get tired, who are consistently brilliant in their volume and intensity. And not only are they a great band, but they never put in less than 100%, with the same explosive energy being poured into intimate pub gigs as festival shows. Tonight is no exception, and the crowd get down accordingly. They may have turned the amps down a bit on account of the venue and its residential location, but when the room is such that if you’re not in the front two rows you’re in the back two rows, and you’ve got a drummer who hits so hard he can cause earthquakes with a single bash of the snare, it’s still ear-bleedingly loud. And these guys go for it, a hundred miles an hour, hell-for-leather, no let up, blasting out pretty much every last one of the highlights from their two albums. Crunching riffs, piercing vocals and immesne drumming are all pulled together in a molten heat into solid gold garage-influencd alt-rock classics. By the time they’re done, we’re all deaf and halfway transmuted to liquid form, and everyone is very happy indeed.

Trundling out superlatives to apply to the individual acts or even the night as a whole seems somewhat redundant: stepping out into the cool night air, tacky from head to with perspiration and ears whistling, the buzz isn’t coming from the beer, but from the exhilaration of living in the moment.

Christopher Nosnibor

What began life earlier in the year as one man’s seemingly crazy idea to organise a festival showcasing York-based bands, tentatively mooted on Facebook to see if there was any interest gained traction pretty swiftly, and a few short months later here we are: 18 bands across two stages. And not only is it a killer lineup, but it’s free. So while I fully intended taking the day off just to soak it all up, socialise, drink beer and watch bands, I figured that since Dan Gott and some of his mates put in so much work to make it happen, then the least I could do was record the occasion.

With bands alternating between the indoor stage and the second stage in the car park from 1.30 to gone 11 (with a civilised break for dinner), it wasn’t an event to race round and pack ‘em in as much as going with the flow, meaning that while I didn’t watch all of the bands on the bill and took some well-earned time out to kick back on the beach (yes, this summer a portion of the car park has been converted to an urban beach of golden sand) or on the grass in the beer garden, I got to see, and hear, plenty.

Anyone who complains that York doesn’t have much to offer, or that it lacks diversity isn’t getting out enough: with only a smattering of indie bands and even fewer acoustic performers, the quality and range of acts on the bill is impressive by any standards. And while it’s about the ‘local’ scene, many of the bands playing are making – or already have made – an impression in much wider circles, building audiences nationally. York may be a small city, but when it comes to its bands, parochial it ain’t.

It wouldn’t be a York event without Boss Caine, and Dan Lucas’ solo set gets the afternoon session going in glorious sunshine on the outside stage. In fact, it’s the perfect way to start a festival: there’s barely a breath of wind, it’s baking hot, but there’s plenty of cool beer served well (the Milestone Brian Clough was nice and refreshing, but it eventually ran out, forcing a shift to the Sunny Republic Shark Head Friesian Pilsener, which was superbly crisp and hoppy), and the sound is excellent.

With each act having a 20-minute slot, no-one outstays their welcome and everything runs smoothly, even giving ten minutes between acts to get to the bar and all the rest. It’s fair to say there wasn’t a duff act on the bill, but noise-rock duo Push provided an early highlight. Fusing choppy guitars with the dynamics of Nirvana and kicking out songs with titles like ‘Kitty Basher’ and ‘Moggy Wrecker’ with maximum scuzz, they’re anything but wet indie and make for an exhilarating experience. Putting on the full-throttle raging racket of Deathmace at four in the afternoon was a bold move, and ultimately a stroke of genius. The purveyors of ‘repulsive thrashing death’ are fully committed as they growl and grind their way through a set that’s a relentless onslaught of rage and monumentally heavy. Just the way it should be.

Deathmace

Deathmace

How I’ve managed to avoid Fat Spatula this long will forever remain a mystery, but hearing the hard-gigging alt-rock foursome leaves me confident I’ll be back for more, and soon. Having a genuine American-born frontman gives their Pavementy post-hardcore / noise pop / surf rock an air of authenticity. The scratchy guitar sound may be lo-fi but it’s eminently listenable and there are some strong melodies that provide earworms galore.

Soma Crew, meanwhile, I’ve seen a heap of times and it’s no secret that I dig their scene. On a good night, their psychedelic drone hits a perfect groove to hypnotic effect, and on this outing they really hit their stride.

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Soma Crew

After the break, Naked Six provided another of the day’s highlights. Again, a band who’ve bypassed me on the live circuit up to now, it’s not hard to grasp why there’s a buzz about them right now. They’re a classic power trio with a sound that’s rooted in that classic vintage, steeped in blues rock and with a big Zeppelin vibe and delivered with incredible panache. Making inroads into London and with backing from BBC Introducing, they’re a band on the up.

Naked Six

Naked Six

The last three acts on the bill have all been building reputations further afield and as a killer bam-bam-bam three-way finale, it works well: the power-punk of The Franceens gets things moving down at the front. As is standard for them, they’re on fire and their blistering energy turns the already hot room into a sauna.

The Franceens

The Franceens

It may be their second set of the day having pegged it back to York after playing at Hull’s Street Sesh festival earlier in the evening, but if they’re in any way weary, it doesn’t show. Martyn Fillingham plays the first half of the set, which boasts a cluch of new songs, with a guitar that could reasonably be described as ‘stripped back’: the body’s sawn down to minimal size, with just enough wood to house the essentials, namely the pickups, wiring and controls. It still yields a barrage of noise, it’s treblesome clang pinned down by Steven Reid’s superhuman drumming.

And the Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

And then there’s ((RSJ)). They may not be your everyday family-friendly festival crowd-pleasers, but the this isn’t your everyday festival, even though it’s been very family friendly all day: there’s no doubt they’re the biggest band on the bill, and have the biggest sound o match. That they’ve toured and played with Raging Speedhorn, Orange Goblin, Funeral For A Friend and American Headcharge, and opened for Slayer gives a fair indication of their stature, and to see them in a place this size is something else. Current single ‘Hit the Road Jack’ features John Loughlin of Raging Speedhorn (making it a kind of RSJ / RSH collaboration), and it’s suitably punishing. When it comes to delivering thunderous, sludgy riffs that hit like a juggernaut, ((RSJ)) are absolute masters. They’re also consummate showmen, and the in-yer-face delivery really amplifies the intensity of the material. There’s been much beer drunk and the floor is awash with at least half a gallon, and the moshpit erupts, but remained good-natured. It’s only fitting that toward the end of the set, Dan Cooke should be borne aloft and traverse mere inches below the venue’s low ceiling: because while everyone is melting, they’re also loving every moment, and it’s an uplifting experience indeed.

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((RSJ))

In all, a great day / night, not just as of and in itself, but also in terms of what it represents: a casting aside of all genre differences and a coming together of bands and fans. There is strength in unity, and in diversity, and Fully York is a triumphant celebration, which reminds us that ultimately there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And at Fully York, it’s all good.

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, so despite there having been a fair few shows – and shows I was interested in – having been booked in what is, for York, a new gig space, this is my first time in The Crescent. And less than ten minutes’ walk from the train station, it’s a good space, in terms of size and capacity, with a well-proportioned stage, and a well-stocked bar. These things are important, and with a decent selection of bottled beers on offer, I went for a Jennings Snecklifter at £3.30 – a great beer for a cold night. It’s still early doors, but by the time I arrived, the place was packed with sixth formers and students. Or maybe I’m getting really fucking old.

Still, any band that can combine the garage firepower of The Strokes with the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr and wrap it all up with a dash of Pavement and bring it to a new generation of music fans are ok in my book. Bull are that band, and on a good night they’re awesome. Last-minute stand-ins for the first scheduled act, turns out it is a good night, with a lively set that makes for a killer start to the night.

Broken Skulls almost threaten to derail things. They’re not bad by any stretch. But they are the musical embodiment of an identity crisis. The drum ‘n’ guitar duo can certainly play. Drummer Dan Sawyer is solid, and so is the guitar work, courtesy of brother Dan, although the guitar needs to be louder. Much louder. Leaping from chiming, weaving textured segments quite naturally, the songs themselves work. But it’s the chasm between what the band thinks it sounds like and what it actually sounds like that’s a sticking point. They think Black Keys. They think post rock rock. They think ‘kind of punk rock, kind of not’. But Dan has a U.S. heavy blues / hard rock, gritty, straining, vocal style that just doesn’t sit comfortably. Still, it’s not as awkward as the between-song chat, but still, it is early days and there’s definite potential on display here.

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Broken Skulls

Avalanche Party have even more potential. They seem to have their act nailed, and the material too. They know how to amp things up. Attitude, man, attitude. And pace: frantic pace. They’ve got both in spades. They’ve also got some cunty mates, unfortunately. I’ve got no gripes with moshing, but kids in bovver boots and braces, jeans rolled above the top of 12-hole DMs with suedehead crops rucking the fuck out of one another for sport, I’m not so sure about. ‘I think our behaviour was rather frowned upon’ I heard one of them say to his mate while dabbing a bleeding nose in the bogs after the set. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually paid much attention to what was going on on stage, sadly. It’s a shame, because the energy of the set and the quality of the material was top-flight. YTheir brand of driving indie rock may not be remotely revolutionary, and the guitarist may be sporting the most preposterous man-bun, but when it’s done this well, you can let such niggles pass. Doing brash with panache, Avalanche Party have the potential to be the next Arctic Monkeys, but not while their dozen or so tosser mates are in tow.

Avalanche

Avalanche Party

There aren’t many bands who can replicate the initial impact of the first time you see them. Sure, they’re good, but that first euphoric bang… Nah. …And the Hangnails are that rare band that does it every time. And more. With new material sounding absolutely belting, and established favourites like ‘Everybody’s Luck’ and ‘Fear of Fear’ (played with only five guitar strings) cranked out with blistering power, there really is everything to love about Hangnails. The songs – simple but effective, vibrant indie alt rock with a raw garage aesthetic – are great. But it’s all in the execution. They work hard, and crank it up to the max. Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar given them a really full sound, but it’s the way it plays against Steven Reid’s insane drumming that really sets …And The Hangnails apart. He’s got more power than the national grid, and he’s fucking tight, too.

Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

To see four bands of such a calibre for a fiver seems like more than just a good deal, and it’s one hell of an avert for both the promoter, Please Please You, and the York scene as a whole. Given time, and a lighting rig that matches the sound and does the acts and the stage justice, The Crescent has the potential to be York’s long-awaited answer to The Brudnell.