Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

Christopher Nosnibor

In what has been a difficult time for small venues – meaning it’s also been a difficult time for bands who aren’t massive to get gigs – The Fulford Arms in York has gone from strength to strength and while other venues have – sadly – come and gone in the city they’re not only still here, but have built an admirable reputation.

The fact it’s independent and well-run (that is to say professional but also wonderfully friendly), has great sound, and decent beer at the more affordable end of pub prices counts for a lot. That they cater to a remarkably broad range of audiences is another key: it’s easy to stick to tried-and-tested crowd-pleasers like tribute acts or be a ‘rock’ venue, but often to diminishing returns. It’s the only venue in the city you’ll find oddball electronic nights, big-name acts, local acoustic artists, and spoken word events in a single week. Their accommodating approach to new and unusual acts has made the place a real hub for the city’s music scene.

Tonight’s show marks the sixth anniversary of the venue being taken over by its current owners, Christopher Sherrington and Chris Tuke, and it’s very much a celebration of everything that makes The Fulford Arms a great venue. The lineup is very much focused on local acts, and celebrates the diversity of bands active in and around York right now.

Early doors, Miles. sees multi-instrumentalist Michael Donnelly follow the trajectory of his previous band, Epilogues, to a more minimal end. Oh stage, he’s a striking figure, with floppy fringe, specs, above-ankle trews: he’s an 80s/90s hybrid visually, but musically, his delicately-crafted songs are of no specific time, and are perhaps even worthy of being described as timeless. Subtle ambient drones and throbs provide depth to his understated picked acoustic guitar and magnificent soaring vocals on introspective, emotion-rich songs.

Miles

Miles.

Kids today! With their shit clothes and shit music, not like in my day… You hear it all the time, and not just from crotchety old bastards who remember when punk broke, or even slightly less old bastards who remember when grunge broke, but from people barely in their 30s. That may be true of the crap that gets played on the radio, but beyond the mainstream, we’re in a time where the guitars are getting louder, heavier, denser than ever. And REDFYRN go all out for loud, heavy, and dense, with a breathtaking juxtaposition of floating ethereal folky vocals and punishing sludgy/grunge riffs, with comparisons to Big | Brave and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard not being unjustified, although there’s also a more direct grunge-orientated aspect to their sound, which is more than straight stoner / doom / sludge and all the better for it. Apart from the bassist, they look pretty straight, especially the drummer, but looks are deceptive. They’re heavy and mega-riffy from the first chord, and when they announce the third song as being heavier, they’re not wrong: the bass positively barks and snarls its way through a grating grind of guitar before spinning into an extended blues jam by way of a midsection.

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REDFYRN

Percy don’t piss about. They’ve been at it long enough that they can pretty much plug ‘n’ play, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get from one of the most consistent bands on the circuit: workmanlike is by no means an insult in context of their Fall-influenced kitchen sink grouchfests. Does the delivery help or hinder? It’s probably appealing and offputting in equal measure – like they give a fuck. In so many ways, it’s business as usual for them: tight even when loose, scratchy guitars clang over busy rhythms as Andy Wiles, centre stage on bass throws all the Peter Hook poses. And they’ve got some cracking tunes: in fact, the current set is bursting with them, and it’s apparent that something has changed in the Percy camp of late, and they’re producing the best songs of their career right now. They really step up the intensity on the Fall-does-dance Middle Class Revolt style ‘Rubbernecking in the UK’ followed by the fiery politicking ‘Will of the People’, which ends in a squeal of feedback. They seem more energised than at any point in the last 20 years, and this is probably the best I’ve seen them in all the years since I first caught them back in 97 or 98.

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Percy

My Wonderful Daze take the stage with the guys looking doomy in smeared makeup. My notes for the evening peter out rapidly at this point as ‘m lost in the performance: the band have an incredible dynamic. Amalgamating some hefty grunge with a deftly accessible side, with bursts of noise and fury erupting from simmering tension they’re in some respects quintessential alt-rock, but don’t sound quite like any other band around. Raw but melodic, and with a compelling focal point in the form of Flowers who channels a gamut of emotional range, they’re solid and exciting at the same time.

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My Wonderful Daze

Cowgirl are a fitting headliner, and so very representative of the core of the York scene, featuring the ubiquitous local legend Danny Barton (who must be in or have been in at least two dozen acts who’ve garnered some appreciation in their hometown and beyond) and another former Federal Sam Coates. He’s sporting some heinous tassels on a fawn suede coat, and a bootlace tie. Who on earth wears those these days? The look is somewhat at odds with the band’s Pavementy slacker indie rock, but they’ve got the tunes and the knack of delivery. A lot of it’s the confidence of seasoned performers, but equally, a lot of it’s down to tidy songwriting, and these guys can kick ‘em out effortlessly and copiously. The penultimate song of set is an extended psych workout that’s not only a departure but the highlight of the performance because it’s good to see them cut loose.

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Cowgirl

What do you say to round off a night like this? There should probably be a pithy one-liner, but I’m all out: the Titanic Plum Porter is top-notch and I tumble out into the cold January night with its full moon, happy that things are good on the scene in York, and that while there may be infinite shit to wade through in life and in 2020, The Fulford Arms will continue to provide an oasis of musical joy.

December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently ben reduced to a two-piece, you might be forgiven for expecting Yur Mum to have gone quiet, but hell no. Having only released their debut single, ‘Road Rage’ in April 2018, they’ve packed in over 200 shows since their inception and won Tom Robinson’s backing with ‘Sweatshop’, the lead single from this self-released five-tracker.

They’re a band on the up in every sense, drawing reams of positive attention and for all the right reasons: they first came to my attention in their original triangular configuration while touring ‘Road Rage’ and supporting Svetlanas, and no two ways about it, they were outstanding and more than held their own even in the company of the ferocious firestorm of the Russian headliners.

This EP doesn’t disappoint, and is the sound of an act firing on all cylinders, and it blasts off in riffy style with ‘What Do You Want?’, which tears from the speakers with all the overdrive and locks into a hefty grunging groove. There’s grit and swagger and the incendiary guitar blisters and peels while Anelise Kunz delivers a full-throated roar and thunderous bass runs.

Aforementioned single ‘Sweatshop’ starts with a churning bass reminiscent of Shellac, and then the drums drive in and they pound at it, hard, for a hard-hutting two-minutes and twenty. This is grungy punk rock at its most exhilarating.

There’s no let-up with the title track, either, and if there’s a metal-edged 90s alt-rock tinge to it, then it’s al to the good: it’s les about originality and more about delivery, and Yur Mum showcase a knack for a strong delivery. Make no mistake: they’re pretty sodding heavy, and there isn’t a second where they sacrifice weight for melody, and ‘Rotten’ goes full L7/In Utero era Nirvana with roaring angst.

‘Closure’ does finally display a softer side, and there’s a pop aspect to it – in the same way Hole’s Live Through This had a pop aspect to it, blending dynamic range and a clear sense of tune with a gut-punching rhythm section and a raw edge.

Fuck it, for my last review of the year, and of the decade, I’ll put it out there: 2020 is going to be Yur Mum’s year. And if it isn’t, then I give up.

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MamaSkull

After a thumbs-up review some weeks ago, DIY noisemongering power trio Neverlanded throw their new single, ‘Refuge’ out to the world. We dig it. You should give it a listen.

Bohemian Drips – BD011 – 4th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s not much beauty on the face of this. But it is outstanding, I’ll give it that.

The Berlin-based trio trade in a kind of angular, grungy 90s alt-rock hybrid. With Josefine Lukschy’s scratchy vocals and the off-kilter country leanings that characterise the first song, ‘Flap’, I’m reminded of Thalia Zedek’s 90s act Come, and it’s a Come / Hole / Solar Race vibe that defines this six-tracker.

You wouldn’t exactly say it’s big on tunes, but it is big on attitude, not to mention messy guitars spluttering out stop/start noise and a busy, sinewy mess of busy lead lines over some tense bass. ‘Tadpole’ brings jarring Shellac-inspired racket paired with some twisted Rage Against the machine meets

As song titles go, ‘Stuck in a Turd’ is nothing if not memorable. It brings a kind of mangled cyclical jazz groove to the fucked-up riff party ‘you’re nothing but a speck of dust!’ Lukschy spits venomously and manages not to sound comedic, which is quite an achievement.

‘I want to tear your heart out!’ she hollers as the opening line to the last song, ‘Welcoming the Awful Being’, another choppy, lurching math-tinged grunger. And it’s a killer finish, too: after some meandering, it all comes together in a climactic sustained crescendo, a space-rock workout that drives the EP to a rush of a finale.

In the tidal wave of retro and revivalism, this kind of slanted alt-rock that exploded in the late 80s and early 90s and defined what many – myself included – consider a kind of golden era when alternative broke into the mainstream and the standard and selection of noisy alternative bands was incredible, never really went away. But right now, it seems like there is more – which is most definitely a positive. Especially when that more is represented by crackers like this.

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Dog Dimenion Cover

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

Incredible. I arrived at a gig in Leeds with a dry shirt, thanks to it neither raining nor sweltering. And while it’s not exactly heaving in Wharf Chambers tonight, the eclectic (and international) lineup has drawn an interesting and curious crowd. I decide to take notes on my phone, and not to spend too much time on editing. This is a gig that’ about the moment, and it needs capturing.

DJ Perro, up first, isn’t a DJ, but a band from Mexico. The quintet perform the apex of busy math-rock and they’re buoyant with it. And kinda maybe how you’d imagine Mexican mathy post rock somehow. They clearly love doing what they do, and they’re astoundingly good at it. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. It makes my upper arms itch, and it makes my brain twitch. The songs are incredibly complex and incredibly tight and they’re a pleasure to watch. There’s something transportative and elating about watching five staggeringly good musicians, no egos, and some stellar compositions perfectly executed.

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DJ Perro

Failyer have two synths players and play drony, grating synth noise with live drums from James Islip, gig booker, tonight’s doorman, and perhaps best known as one half of seminal noise duo That Fucking Tank, who I first stumbled upon supporting Whitehouse in Sheffield in maybe 2005. And the blew me away, while pissing on the headliners. It was the same night I discovered Kelham Island beers, so the fact he Duck& Drake where I stopped on the way was serving Easy Rider. Failyer’s sound is sort of Krauty Fall meets Suicide motorik noise. Sinewy, echoey, sparse, repetitive. The skinny singer sits for large segments of the set, leaping up to spit punky vitriol into a sea of rapid reverb while throwing shades of Pete Murphy. It’s an awkward but cool take on The Cramps meets The Fall meets DAF. Or something. They’re the best reminder I’ve seen in ages of why the Leeds underground is an awesome thing. And there is no success like Failyur.

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Failyur

Grey Hairs are the reason I’m here and while I’d remembered they were good, I’d forgotten just how blindingly, blisteringly good. What’s cool about them is that they don’t give a shit about being cool. The press write-up says that ‘their third album Health & Social Care … [is] a scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age’. But the reality is more. Way more.

The riffs are all the grunge with hardcore punk moments high in the mix, and front man James transforms angst and anxiety into performance art: twisting his hands and arms around his face, twisting and pounding his palm against his forehead. covering his eyes and exuding a spectacular awkwardness: his presence is awkward, confrontational, and oddly appealing. It’s a performance you can get into – or otherwise be repelled by, depending on your position and life experience.

I could go home or even die happy already.

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Grey Hairs

But then I’d have missed the awesome spectacle that was Doble Capa, the Spanish duo of whom the event’s write-up describe as being like That Fucking Tank but better. The pair certainly have that Tank vibe, and some serious energy. Thumping drums and what even the fuck is that four-string effort rammed through a trainload of effects (mostly distortion) to crank out a massively messed-up racket is the essence of what they do. It’s punkabilly blues noise making optimal use of a minimal setup. A blur of hair. A blast of noise. It’s compelling. And it’s great fun.

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Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

Hydra Head – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The backstory to the release of Final Transmission is a sad one. Having reconvened in February 2018 to begin work on a new album after being busy on myriad other projects, the meeting at their Boston rehearsal would be their last with bassist Caleb Schofield, who was killed in a road accident at the end of the following month.

The album’s opening track carries all the poignance and pain of this loss, featuring as it does a voice memo sent by Caleb to the band immediately after the rehearsal, containing a sketch for a new song, played on acoustic guitar. The melody is merely hummed. And yet it’s all here, and Schofield’s own final transmission forms the starting point of the bands own final transmission in its current format.

Final Transmission features all of the quintessential grunge tropes, dominated by driving guitars churning though three- and four-chord riffs which exploit the quiet/loud dynamic. A quarter of a century on and is still hasn’t grown tired, at least when well-executed, and it’s fair to say Cave In have got it nailed. There’s a definite 90s feel to it, but then, there are so many other elements subtly woven in: if ‘All Illusion’ has hints of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, it’s also laced with dashes of prog and psych, and there’s a dreamy, expansive quality to many of the songs here. More than any other band, I’m rem

‘Lunar Day’ goes dingy, dirgy, grinding doomy prog, while hot its heels follows the uber-bombastic guitar extravaganza of ‘Winter Window’. Both tracks are short (the former is less than two and a half minutes, the latter four and a half) but structurally they’re sprawling and epic. ‘Lanterna’ gets a bit Metallica but we’ll let it pass since it grinds out hard and low with a surly bass. Closer ‘Led to the Wolves’ is a raging tempest that simply explodes in all directions in a blistering tumult of overdrive, the bass being absolutely gut-churning.

Where Cave In go from here, who knows? But from a deep, dark place, they’ve delivered something that’s also deep and dark, as well as powerful and engaging.

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