Posts Tagged ‘Blues-Rock’

Fast & Bulbous – 14th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps the best known Hazy Jane right now is Brewdog’s unfiltered IPA, which has by far eclipsed the profile of the Idlewild-associated Dundee indie pop act The Hazey Janes. But that could be about to change with the ascending star of this two-piece blues-rock act, hailing from Halifax with their third single showcasing their talent for authentic, gritty blues tunes.

‘I Find it Hard’ is a mid-tempo song that takes a very traditional template chord sequence, and a lot more stripped back than ‘Yellow Belly Blues’, released in February. That’s a good thing: less a lift of early Royal Blood, it sees the band go back to the basics of the genre. Sure, there are still the rockist leanings of Led Zep on display, but then the glory of blues is that those same chords are universal, and cranking those chords through an overdrive pedal is similarly something that’s for anyone and everyone. In short, when it comes to playing the blues, there’s no ripping off one act or another: it simply comes down to how it’s done: it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

One benefit of being a duo is that is doesn’t require the co-ordination of a whole bunch of people all juggling jobs and different personal schedules, and if lockdown has had one benefit (and it’s one of maybe two, the other being working from home), it’s rendering distance less of an object and pushing people to overcome geographical barriers to collaboration. ‘I Find it Hard’ bears testament to this. From lyrics and vocal lines, to drum parts and song structure, the entire track was composed through a back-and-forth of 60 second voice notes from throughout lockdown.

You’d never know: this sounds and feels live, like they’re playing in a small venue right in front of your face. The guitar is chunky, the drums are beefy, and it’s a solid tune. Nailed it.

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The Hazy Janes Artwork

11th December 2020

London trio Slow Cooked Bears are all about the hybridity, bringing together a mixture of visceral alternative noise rock to forge what they describe as ‘a left-field, avant-garde sound that’s both nostalgic and modern with elements of grunge, synth pop and reverb heavy post-rock’.

Now, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, especially now it’s become the last cash cow for late capitalism to milk, and there’s never been a better time to milk it dry than in 2020 when half the world is stuck at home, unable to socialise, see friends or family, shop or conduct all of the activities that have been part of everyday life for the last century. Who doesn’t yearn for the past? Who hasn’t at some point in recent months delved into musical memories that remind them of time spent in the company of friends?

Their releases to date all carry something of a spacey theme, that seem to have little correspondence to the oddball barbarism of the band name, which makes ‘The Grand Scheme’ something of a departure from Eclipse (2018) and Space Odyssey (2019).

It kicks in with a big swaggering blues riff and burns into a grungy alt-rock descending chord sequence for the chorus. It’s hooky as hell, and they sound confident but not cocky, and there’s a 90s vibe that hints vaguely at Placebo while they’re kicking out Zeppelinesque guitar breaks spun through a contemporary filter that alludes to the likes of Rivals Sons and (earlier) Royal Blood. As such, it’s nostalgia, but with a twist, and it works. In the grand scheme of things, and even by any measure, this is a pretty strong single cut.

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21st February 2020

James Wells

So the name sounds like either a virus or some kind of lozenge or medicine marketed to soothe the symptoms or a kind of virus, and the Birmingham quartet may trade in the kind of blues rock that’s been kicking around the last forty years since Led Zeppelin invented the heavy blues rock genre, but fuck it: ‘Frosty’ kicks ass. It does so by virtue of volume, and by bringing a dirty grunge twist, but first and foremost, it kicks ass because it’s solid.

It gets straight down to business. It’s got a lumbering, spiralling, circular riff that twists around on itself, and the guitar’s cranked up to eleven while the rhythm section thunders along and it’s everything Reef wanted to be, but failed to reach.

Ones to watch? Hell yeah.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

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Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

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Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

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Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.

Cherry Red Records – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Forty-two years on from their inception and David Thomas’ Pere Ubu are still cranking them out. Significantly, they’ve continued to push parameters and stubbornly refused to bow to commercial concerns, pursuing the production of art over commerce. On this outing, Thomas has assembled quite an impressive ensemble, for ‘a three-guitar revision [which] sees Keith Moliné, Gary Siperko and Kristof Hahn (Swans) expand the established orchestra of analog and digital synths (Wheeler, Gagarin), clarinet (Boon), drums (Mehlman) and Thomas’ unique vocals.

For the most part, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo is a set of swampy, snaking blues-based workouts, although it certainly explores the full expanse of the core aspects – and explore is the operative word here. Experimentalism has always been a defining feature of Pere Ubu’s output, and 20 Years is no exception. But there’s nothing indulgent about it: in fact, it packs more than its share of driving garage rock, and half he songs clock in at under two and a half-minutes.

If the slow and meandering ‘Cold Sweat’, which borders on romantic post-rock, seems like an odd choice of opener, its simply testament to Thomas’ perverse will and fans should know what to expect by now. So, the melody is off and the quavering croon is vaguely uncomfortable, but the payoff hits immediately afterwards with the locked-in blues jam of ‘Funk 49’, which finds Pere Ubu come on like The John Giorno band, with a real swagger. It’s entirely out of step with anything contemporary, but then, even echoing 80s beat poetry, it doesn’t actually sit comfortably anywhere.

‘Howl’ isn’t a reference to Allen Ginsberg’s celebrated poem, however, but does find Thomas swing between Jim Morrison and Howlin’ Wolf as he lurches through some murky psychedelic blues. From the stealthy, woozy atmospherics of ‘I Can Still See’, to the uptempo rock ‘n’ roll attack of ‘Monkey Bizness’, with its warped lyrics and off-kilter splurges of synth, 20 Years has a range and dynamism which contrive to shape a rounded and exciting album. The slurred blur of ‘Walking Again’ closes the album with a drawling, dark derangement.

The brevity of the tracks doesn’t feel like they’re sketchy or incomplete, but imbued the album with a punchy directness. Similarly, even the more freeform compositions aren’t indulgently long, with none of the pieces stretching beyond five minutes, meaning that the experimentalism is very much kept in check and the focus on songs retained. And ultimately, songs are important. There’s no waste on 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo, and there’s no chaff, either: for all its experimentalism, it’s a tight, taut and lean album overall. It’s also really rather good, and an album that shows that even after more than four decades, Pere Ubu can produce music that’s more thrilling than the majority of contemporary acts.

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