Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

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.

DSC_2113[1] 

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.

DSC_2120[1]

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.

DSC_2133[1]DSC_2132[1]

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.

DSC_2144[1]

Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

Advertisements

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.

AA

cave-in-final-transmission

1st April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I can’t recall if my rants about infantilism as the latest tool of oppression in the arsenal of late-to-the-point-of-crumbling capitalism have made it to any reviews or commentary pieces, or if they’ve been contained to nights down the pub with old friends, after which ideas for delivering incisive critiques have evaporated with the fumes of alcohol the following morning. The greatest likelihood is the latter. Anyway. In summary, the term ‘adulting’ is indicative of the millennial inability to deal with life in general (which I get, because we all struggle, but part of being an adult is stepping up and enabling the next generation instead of cowering in the face of responsibility and running to one’s parents for help in filling out forms for car finance or doing a spot of DIY), and the fact that I find myself surrounded by people in their late 20s accessorising with the same all-things-unicorn my seven-year-old daughter is already growing tired of is a clear symptom of a deeper societal issue. Is the unicorn the symbol of the snowflake (a term I abhor, for the record)?

I write from a position which is both central to, and exempt from, the gender wars which are raging all around right now, and will be open in saying that I don’t write from a position of relating. I’ve suffered prejudice simply for that, too, but we’ll not revisit that here. The key point is that inclusivity isn’t about where you’re from, but how you treat others. Irrespective of gender, I’ve always been an outsider, and know that outsiderism from wherever you’re standing is hard.

Maybe I should just shut up with the commentary and stick to the fact that Neverlanded are giving away their debut EP, F.u.U. (that’s Fluffy Unicorns United) in exchange for a donation to Mermaids UK, a charity which ‘offers support to transgender and gender variant children and young people, their families and supporting professionals’. And regardless of the music, I can only give total backing for a band who are willing to launch their recording career with a view to promoting something other than themselves. Alongside Modern Technology (link) who are donating the proceeds of their debut to Mind and Shelter, Neverlanded seem to be leading a new generation of socially-conscious philanthropic artists who are more concerned with making a difference in whatever small way they can than fame and wealth.

It’s a double bonus that the EP’s four tracks, ‘Brainsane’, ‘MesS.O.S.’, ‘This Friend Of Mine’, and ‘Scream 4 Ice Cream’ are more than just solid, but remarkably strong.

They pitch themselves as being for fans of Placebo, L7, Silverchair, Garbage, Nirvana, Cranberries, Pixies, and Refused, which lands them right in the heart of the melee of 90s alternative, and it’s precisely what they deliver.

‘Brainsane’ pounds in with a riff that’s as beefy as hell, the drawling vocals and loud / quiet dynamic straight out of 1993 in the best possible way, because it balances rawness and emotional sincerity with a full gutsy sound. If ‘MesS.O.S.’ is poppier, it’s poppier in the way that Nirvana’s ‘Been a Son’ is poppier. The slower, almost dream ‘This Friend of Mine’ is well-placed, and the lack of angst is no detractor, not least of all with it being followed by the lo-fi grunge-out of ‘Scream 4 Ice Cream’ that drives the EP to a lurching, overdriven close.

Not only is F.u.U total quality from beginning to end, but it succeeds in contributing to a well-explored genre without sounding remotely generic: in fact, it’s exhilarating in its passion and purity.

AA

Neverlanded - FUU

31st May 2019 – Constellation Recods

Christopher Nosnibor

The album title may be as soaked in sickly-sweet dripping niceness as it is cliché, but it’s very much a contrast to the name of the Montréal trio responsible for it, just as it is with the music it contains. It’s pitched as ‘an exhilarating and relentless barrage of astringent noise-punk driven by the ferociously wide-screen tri-amped guitar squall of Kaity Zozula, the brawny pummel of Joni Sadler’s drums, and the wry subliminal/phenomenological sing-speak of vocal phenom Ky Brooks’, and one for fans of Au Pairs, Harry Pussy, Magik Markers, Melvins, X-Ray Spex, Life Without Buildings, Sonic Youth, and Perfect Pussy. All of which is to say that it’s a squalling, slanted, angular, gritty, snarling bastard of a record. Noisy? Oh yes, but it’s noise that’s not only about volume but extreme discord, about tones and abrasion that drills into the skull and hammers and the head and kicks at the kidneys and spits in the face while screaming ‘fuck you, motherfucker!’

It kicks off with the title track, a jolting, sinewy mess of choppy, trebly guitar that strains away at a repetitive riff that collapses into an angry buzz before everything goes haywire, any semblance of a tune crashing into an atonal mess of crashing cymbals and whiplash guitar noise that carries the listener away on a mudslide of underproduced sonic discomfort.

Stuttering, jarring guitars that buzz like swarms of furious hornets create crashing discord against calamitous bass and crashing percussion that can’t even pretend to be jazz: it’s wayward, deranged, demented, arrhythmic and difficult, and all better for it. The vocal is more spoken word than singing, the lyrics narrative rather than overtly lyrical. Rhymes ae even further out of the window than melodies, and everything about Honey is challenging and confrontational and rejects all notions of musicality and accessibility – which means it’s bloody great.

All of the reference points and comparisons are so underground that they’re probably worthless if attempting to pitch this to a wider audience, but if you dig Pram, Voodoo Queens, Lydia Lunch, then you’re going to be so into this. Then again, The Fall and Bleach era Nirvana, Siouxsie, Solar Race, and early Pavement are equally in evidence on a scuzzing raketmongous mess of an album that’s magnificently raw and not so much underproduced as delivered as is. This is a band that would work well with some Steve Albini action, but then again, you feel that Honey captures the band perfectly and as intended.

‘Flat White’ is a dirty dinge of spoken words that boil down contemporary hipsterized consumerist culture: ‘flat white and scummy’, although the majority of the album is fast and furious and emerges through a lurching, gut-churning murk. ‘Intrinsic’, unveiled ahead of the album, is a drawling, sprawling ugly mess of guitar-driven disaffection. Flat, trudging, bleak: Brooks’ dry vocal picks apart a repetitious, circular ponderance in a barren monotone against a grinding guitar for an age before the drum thumps in and then everything blasts off into all shades of sharding splinters of screaming nasty.

Nothing about this album is comfortable. I’ve spent the last few days searching for the perfect simile, but there isn’t one. It’s not like being punched in the guts or picked repeatedly in the abdomen, and nor is it remotely like an incision from a sharp blade – more like being hewn into pieces with a rusty saw while being beaten about the torso with a lump of rock. It’s not the volume that’s hard to handle, but the sheer relentless angularity. Nothing fits, and everything grates. Honey is the most awkward and abrasively serrated record I’ve heard all year. It’s so dissonant, atonal, and messed up, listening to it makes me want to puke. And that’s precisely why it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard so far this year.

AA

AA

Lungbutter - Honey

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

 DSCF7526

Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

DSCF7542

Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

DSCF7592

Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

Emerging in 2016 as a Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock act, Weekend Recovery have come a long way in a short time, transforming into on altogether edgier, more fiery, grungy-punk outfit and slamming down a debut album and a follow-up EP, amidst a heavy live schedule in 2018. With a few days off between Christmas and New Year, I caught up with singer / guitarist Lorin to riff on feminism, finance and whipped cream boobs – and to reflect on both the highs and lows of an eventful and sometimes turbulent 12 months.

AA: 2018 has been a big year for Weekend Recovery – you’ve played a lot more live dates and actually started to look like a proper touring band, not to mention the fact you’ve released your debut album. How’s it felt for you?

L: It’s been and gone so quickly – like it’s weird feels like it’s been forever but also gone in a blink if that makes sense. For the first time since the beginning though it’s felt like a band. Like I’d kill for the boys – you know how you can talk shit about your family but no one else can – a bit like that!

Yes, I get that strange warping of time, too: and it feels strange for me having first seen you play in, what, February 2016? It was funny, because you arrived late after bad traffic, draped in a faux-fur coat… and if anything, while the band’s rise has been pretty remarkable since then, you actually seem more grounded as an individual. You seem like a completely different band now. What happened?

I think it was 2017? (I think [it was]) I think I’ve surrounded myself in bullshit for a long enough time to work out who actually wants the band to progress and I can say whole heartedly these boys do – I feel more confident in myself and have learnt the ropes (I think anyway) and also surround myself with good people.

WR1

The company you keep can make all the difference. And there seems to be an awful lot of bullshit, even at the lower levels of music-making. It seems ironic that feminism seems to have been a major source of friction on the scene of late – I had some major grief at a gig earlier this year, which subsequently turned into a virtual riot on social media, simply because I was a bloke reviewing a feminist ‘punk’ band – and you’ve had some pretty rough treatment too….

Yeah – it’s been an interesting few years – I think there are a lot of rose coloured bullies in this industry – and what annoys me is it’s so sugar coated people are fooled by it, or worse they know but continue to idol worship as I call it… Thing is the good bands aren’t the nasty ones – ‘cos they don’t have to beat others down to rise up – they rise up cos they’re great.

It seems strange that there should be infighting and animosity between artists: everyone’s struggling as it is. Where does this kind of division come from? And how do you actually manage to operate financially as a band? It seems that these days, even bands with an international profile are dependent on their day-jobs to subsist. It’s something that Pissed Jeans have made a band career of documenting.

I have no idea honestly – thing is with anything subjective there will always be an element of competition which creates friction – the band I have issue with (or rather she does with me) I don’t see as competition because they’re everything I’d hate to be. Financially, fuck knows – even the bands at the top work day jobs haha! Merch sales I guess are the way forward.

You’re pretty on it with the merch and design generally – and everything is your own, from concept to execution. Do you have any background in either marketing or graphic design, or are you just a control freak?

Haha! I have an A-level in it if that counts? And a foundation degree in fashion design haha.

But yes, I am a control freak, lol.

Fashion… you do are a fairly distinctive look, and you change your hair more often than your underwear. What’s with?

Changing my hair – it’s a trying to find myself kinda thing – I got accused of copying someone’s style – so I had a bit of crisis like oh does that look like her or does that – every time I put on a dress I’d look in the mirror and be like fuck that’s too much like her – pathetic right? also I get bored haha!

I wish I had time to get bored! So would you say you have a short attention span? More importantly, around having a crisis and people focusing your appearance and image – do you think it’s something that’s a problem more generally for women in music, particularly in ‘rock’ (if you’ll excuse the phraseology)? Do you feel like how you look carries more weight or gets more attention than the music?

I think look is super-important, like you want to walk in the room and people be like ‘oooh she means business’ BUT I don’t think you have to dress a certain way to achieve this, it’s an air – I think if the music is good the rest will follow.

WR2

I know you’re a huge fan of Katy Perry, and that her work resonates on an emotional level – although clearly her image also plays a part – but do you think her wider appeal is about the music or the look?

I think she’s the whole package – I’m not a fan of her more recent stuff but if you go right back to the start she’s very much an artist in her own right before the crazy hair and whipped cream boobs – but you know music is a business if someone can make music, sell GHDs, perfume, jewellery and pop chips then even better!

So would you do whipped cream boobs or similar to shift units or to raise your band’s profile?

Haha! I’m sure there’s some integrity in it but I don’t think I would.

Wuss! Joking aside, what are your limits, and do you think that some so-called ‘feminist’ bands are exploitative in terms of sexuality?

Well I’ll do anything for a dare so the bar is quite high…. I think feminism is about equality (don’t get me wrong there are some wronguns out there and the light should be shone on them) I’ve never experienced anything adverse luckily but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. But you can’t tar everyone with the same brush everyone has the right to feel safe at a gig. But my dad for example is a really cool guy who isn’t about pushing people and making nasty advances when it’s unwanted. Feminism is great, man-hating is not.

I think when it’s done incorrectly it almost makes people not take it seriously, if that makes sense.

Yes, there seems to be a current within feminist musical movements right now that seems to be staunchly anti-male. To my mind, this isn’t feminism, but perpetuates the same shit women have been facing for years but pitched against men, which is just sexism thrown the other way. You say you’ve never experienced anything adverse in our career to date… there are some bands who are your peers, who may also not have problems, but clearly appeal to a certain male, 40-50 demographic. How does that sit with you, and what’s your demographic?

I think if people are there for the right reasons it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter their age, if they’re there to look up people’s skirts mm maybe they need to have a look at themselves…our demographic is quite broad I think.

Do you think there are people who turn up to gigs to look up skirts? And do you think maybe some artists encourage that? Obviously, your primary thing is the music – and we’ll come to that next.

Maybe and maybe. People will always have their justification for both things I guess, I know accusations get thrown around a lot for example oh you’re bands only popular cos you have a hot girl in it (not my band I hastingly add!) But I dunno, maybe people will always deny it though if that is the intention.

So, while the popular take is that the internet has opened up the world to bands without labels, I still get the impression that it’s playing live to new crowds is the most effective way to build a fanbase. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

I think so, but getting people there is difficult they’ve got to really like you ‘cos no-one has money nowadays and it’s expensive not just entry but travel beers etc.

Yes: it’s a competitive market, and under austerity, people struggle just to pay the bills. So how do you lure people?

By hopefully playing good music, I know that sounds old school and telling people I don’t think there’s any shame in saying hey I play in this band come check it out if it’s your thing great if not nice to meet a new person

There’s nothing wrong with old-school! And there’s a bit of an old-school feel to your sound now. What influences are you currently drawing on now the band’s sound’s evolved beyond the earlier Paramore etc. template?

Mmm… Marmozets, The Blinders, Metric are the bigguns at the mo.

And in terms of lyrical inspiration, how close to home are yours?

Very on the EP. ‘I’m Not That Girl’ was super personal, we’ve just started writing for our album and the lyrics are super hard hitting for me. It’s a bit like Paramore’s new album after laughter it all seems happy but if you read the lyrics away from the music they ate deep.

What drives your lyrics? ‘New Tattoo’ seemed to ache with anguish – and you have a substantial and expanding array of tattoos yourself. Any significance?

Well ‘New Tattoo’ is about seeing someone you really like to find out they actually have a partner already and were screwing around so it’s like a skin deep kinda thing, a tattoo is like a scar and relationships are often scars as well cos they stay with you forever in whatever form. I love all my tattoos everyone I have has a meaning and often designed by someone who means a lot to me.

You’ve just spun my head there! Relationships and meeting people is complex and difficult… do you think that being in a band changes how that works or makes it more difficult? Or do you feel like you’re just the same as everyone else on that front?

Yeah being in a band makes relationships really hard. Like really really hard. Either you’re with someone who isn’t in one and they don’t get it, like how you can spend so much time on something (because if you don’t it doesn’t work) or you’re with someone in a band who gets it but it’s difficult because you’re both so busy. It’s hard to balance everything I came out of a relationship not long back and he was convinced the band was more important than him, which wasn’t the case it’s just different like you wouldn’t make someone choose between going to work and a relationship so why bring in a band is any different I don’t know, it’s a business at the end of the day. There’s Lori who’s the front women of weekend recovery and there’s Lauren who eats chocolate pizza and drinks 6 cans of coke a day. It’s hard to balance sometimes but if the person you’re with doesn’t understand then they aren’t right , or maybe you aren’t right for them.

It’s relatable: reviewing music and being a writer means being holed up for hours a night. It’s not being unsociable or absent as a partner, so much as it’s juggling two careers. It’s more than just work / life balance. Des it feel like there’s a psychological pressure there, too? I’ll put this on the table first: I find it really difficult at times being a writer, a 9-5-er, a parent and all the rest: there just aren’t the hours in the day. Giving up anything isn’t an option, and cracking up quietly feels like all there is.

Yeah, I hate to feel like I’ve failed but sometimes there’s so much to do it seems impossible but it works.

WR3

What distinguishes success and failure for you? You don’t just do the songwriting and lyrics but all of the band’s design and promo, yes?

Yeah. I do everything I think failure is giving up.

Does that mean you’ll still be plugging away at 40? Also…. you’ve got a solo release in the pipeline, right?

I dunno. I know my limits. I do super exciting that should be out and about around June time.

How would you describe the solo stuff? And why do it?

I had some bad news after my tour back in 2017 so I just needed to get some stuff off my chest like big time! It’s electro poppy kinda Foxes, Kyla la Grange, or Sia inspired.

Do you ever stop? What’s the plan for 2019?

Writing an album, record album, more gigging, some exciting support slots on the pipeline and release my solo stuff too. Oh and crack on with my degree, haha!