Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

It’s not often that an evening of live music begins with spoken word poetry. It’s a shame, as the two media can often prove complimentary. John Cooper Clark supporting The Fall and KJ Farrington supporting Sleaford Mods stand out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Self-professed punk poet and nerd, Henry Raby, gets things going with a couple of pieces. A seasoned performer who seamlessly rides out any fluffed lines (and can turn forgetting a line into a plug for his book), he’s relaxed and emanates an energy that’s infectious, and which is paired with a disarming affability.

Katie Watson’s poetry is personal, confessional, brimming with anxiety and keen observations, and rendered with fine details and a certain self-effacing humour. Her delivery is superb: having previously caught her not s long ago at a spoken-word night in a small room, she seems to revel in the bigger space, the challenge of a larger audience, and being faced with a microphone.

What Henry has a knack of bringing to events he’s involved in is a spirit of inclusivity, of equality, of unity. We’re all misfits together here. So, the board gaming nerds, the varied shades of gender and a range of musical and literary tastes are all catered for here.

Crumbs describe themselves as ‘a post-punk pop party pack’ who like ‘pets and puns’ (and alliteration, on this evidence). The four-piece blend jangly 90s indie with a grunge sensibility. Pavement would be an obvious, but fitting touchstone, and at one point I find myself thinking about a collision between The Cure and Carter USM, while elsewhere, there’s a new song that boasts a chunky, funky bass groove and choppy, fractured guitar worthy of Gang of Four. It’s an eclectic and compelling mix. The guitarist has some of the dirtiest overdrive I’ve heard in a while, creating a strong contrast to the crisp, chiming tone that features in most of the songs’ verses. It’s a simple dynamic, but highly effective. Playing on the floor in front of the stage, the sound in the front rows is mostly backline, and this only heightens the experience of the band being in such close proximity to the audience.

Crumbs

Crumbs

Having only caught the second half of Dream Nails’ set at Live at Leeds, and found it to have been good fun, I was keen to see how they’d go over the duration of a full headline set.

They’re high-octane and high-energy from the get-go, and if there was any question over whether or not they could sustain it for a full set, they answer it with a resounding yes. There really is no let-up in their four-chord poppy punk thrashabouts. The lyrics veer between vulnerability and vehemence, and while they may lack overt depth or subtlety, the directness is part of the appeal. And behind the effervescent performance style, and the bouncy, accessible tunes, there are some serious issues, largely centring around the challenges of being a woman in the world today.

And these are the reasons why I’m here. I go to gigs to watch and listen to bands. As a music critic, I write about them, and because we live in a very visually-orientated age, pictures accompanying a review are often useful. But Dream Nails don’t like having their pictures being taken by men, and since I didn’t have any female company in tow to shoot a pic on my behalf, there’s no image here.

Men snapping away make them feel uncomfortable. Especially men in my demographic with certain types of camera (I’m 42, although the post on their Facebook page which appeared within a short time of the show’s ending would suggest they think I’m older, and I prefer t travel light). Fair enough. Although generally, if you’re going to implement a policy, such as no photography without consent, it’s better to state it up-front. But when that policy is called during the show, and applies only to a few – well, men, actually – the issue becomes rather thorny under scrutiny.

Nobody likes to be singled out, especially not based on an assumption, and even less when the assumption is incorrect – because that’s prejudice. To be singled out as one of two men with cameras, with the justification that they hadn’t given consent, and fuck the male gaze, was not comfortable. I can live with uncomfortable: I’m aware that my own performances have a tendency to evoke a very tangible sense of discomfort and awkwardness. But no-one is ever singled out or humiliated, and it’s not about ‘unlearning oppressive behaviours’.

But more than anything, I found not only the approach troubling, but what it represents. Now, the battleground of gender is one of which I have only a cursory knowledge, but I am acutely aware of the divisions and infighting between the various identifiers. But ultimately, being a straight white male, I’m in the bracket which is the worst of the worst on the enemy scale. As we mark the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women over 30 the right to vote, at the same time as picking through the fallout of the events that led to the #metoo campaign, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go and that male oppression is rife.

However, the ‘calling out’ of ‘creepy’ guys taking photos of a band performing assumes that all men are creepy and only go and see bands with women in because they want to go and ogle women. Which also seems to undermine the idea that as women making music, people –regardless of sex / gender (I’m aware the correspondence between the two varies considerably) – may simply appreciate their art, and, like so many others, shoot snaps for posterity or social media because it’s the age we live in. To judge an individual based on the behaviour of a number (not even necessarily a majority) is prejudice in action.

This – literal – finger-pointing may have been well-received by a sector of the audience, but even if it hadn’t been directed at me, it would still have sat uncomfortably on a personal level: publicly humiliating someone based on an assumption is very much a knee-jerk response, the likes of which result in heated arguments. My knee-jerk reaction was to omit Dream Nails from the review altogether, but precisely what would that achieve? Certainly nothing productive. First, what’s actually needed is rational debate and mutual understanding of commonality. Second, they played a decent set, and went down well with a crowd of a respectable size, which is no small feat – especially in York on a Thursday night.

Moreover, feminism, at its heart, is about attaining equality for women. To substitute misogyny with misandry is not a push for equality, but to simply invert and replicate the behaviours of the guilty, and thus perpetuate division. Dream Nails generously commented on their Facebook thread, ‘Also if u r a male fan who is feeling affronted by this, pls remember you are still always welcome at our shows without your cameras.’ So, credit where it’s due, they’re still espousing equality. But is conditional equality really equality? Not really. Obviously, I’m grateful for the concession to be allowed to attend their shows in the same way anyone else is.

I shouldn’t feel the need to state that I’m not anti-feminism; quite the opposite. Moreover, I’m fundamentally opposed to any -ism that promotes inequality, discrimination, prejudice. And so, while Janey Starling may have provoked something personal in her actions, my beef isn’t so much directed at her or the band, but at the way complex and difficult issues are addressed, without any attention to the details or any sense of nuance, with too many people shouting about the lack of consideration they’re shown by others without showing that same consideration in return.

They ended their set with a blistering rendition of ‘Deep Heat’.

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Sometimes, I just need a night off. And what better way to unwind than going to see a trio of noisy bands? It may be something of a busman’s holiday for a music critic, but a night-off gig means there’s no obligation to produce a review. Which means I can drink all the beer and not care about making notes, about remembering anything other than the atmosphere, the overall experience of whether the bands and the night were any good. Right? Only, I’ve gone and done it anyway. For posterity. Out of habit. And because it’s shows like this that provide the best entertainment, but rarely get the coverage -or attendance – they deserve.

Granted, it’s baking hot and it’s Wednesday night after the universities have split for summer. But it’s free entry, dammit! And the lineup features bands who’ve travelled from Hull! And bloody good bands at that!

Admittedly, I’m here for Cannibal Animal, a band who’ve consistently impressed, both live and recorded: their latest EP is an absolute banger.

Night Owls arrive with squalling feedback and noodling synths, with driving drumming and some melodic hooks. There’s much to like about their brand of sinewy, synthy, post-punk… and beyond ‘I am for real’ their singer hollers ad infinitum during their second song, and nothing in their edgy, angular set gives reason to doubt, although their style is so wide-ranging I do find myself wondering exactly how to position them. But then, it’s not about pigeonholing, but quality of material and performance. And these guys are good on both fronts.

Night Owls

Night Owls

Cannibal Animal’s latest offering marks a significant shift toward the more psych-influenced end of the post-punk spectrum, evoking the sort of surf-goth of obscuritants like The Volcanoes more than the overt rockabilly of, say The Cramps. ‘Ellipsisism’, the lead single from their snarling ‘A Decline in Morality’, which also reminds me of the mega-obscure ‘Genetic Disruption’ EP by Murder the Disturbed (released on Small Wonder, the same label which would release Bauhaus’ seminal ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ 12” in the same year) EP is a clear standout, although it’s the EP’s closer ‘Ripe’ that’s lodged in my head on the train home.

The brittle, flanged, chorus-soaked guitars of the studio renderings are cranked up to the pain threshold and into a thick mess of distortion and shrieking treble, resulting in a set that slams from beginning to end like a sonic battering ram. It’s no criticism to observe that Luke Ellerington isn’t your conventionally appealing front man, but he’s charismatic and compelling and his presence is huge. It’s tense, loud, and thrilling, and I could go home happy after their set.

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Cannibal Animal

But then there’s Lumer, who’ve also made their way from Hull. Theirs is a set of angsty, aggressive post-punk with pummelling tom-driven drumming that’s tense and expansive.

I’ve had a few pints by now, since I’m not planning to review the show, and spend some time marvelling at their keyboardist’s dubious moustache and the fact the singer bears a passing resemblance to a young Kirk Brandon.

Lumer

Lumer

The one thing about gig drinking is that there’s always someone way drunker than you, and while I’m conscious of gaps in my notes, I’m more conscious of the fact there’s a really drunk guy who keeps falling over while moshing loosely. People keep picking him up and throwing him back upright, before he lurches toward the stage. But he’s happy and they’re cool with it, and as outstanding as the music, it’s the community spirit. It’s truly uplifting and a joy to witness.

I’m also conscious that the volume is so intense that the sound is mushy, especially standing as close to the speakers as I am… and it doesn’t matter. The energy that crackles from the band, and which is bounced back by the audience is immense.

If you want clean sound, stay home. If you want to get out of your skin, cut loose and live, go and watch live bands in small venues.

I need to take more nights off.

Svart Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I read ‘ffo Unsane, Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Blacklisters’ and practically jazzed my pants before I’d even opened the email, let along downloaded the promo. That was before I read the slick, sleazy, fluid-dripping pitch for Finland-based Throat’s sophomore album, as seeing the band plunging ‘head first into unprotected encounters with musical elements hardly even hinted at on their previous releases.’

‘Safe Unsound’ opens the album with a sparse into: just guitar and baritone croon that invited comparisons to Glenn Danzig. But then the guitar goes to picked notes and the atmosphere builds into more Neurosis territory… but they keep pulling back. You’re waiting for it to break, for something to happen… How long is it reasonable to hold back? I recall seeing Shellac-influenced Glasgow act Aereogramme circa 2003 and being bored to tears: there simply wasn’t enough reward for the patience of enduring the build-up. But then, Shellac can be masters of frustration: just listen to Terraform.Thankfully, Throat cut loose and hit the distortion pedals around the three-and-a-half minute mark during this eight-and-a-half minute epic. And the song has a sort of coda which is a repetitive, grinding loop worthy of early Swans, which culminates of two minutes of screeding feedback and noise. So far, so punishing. And there are still another seven songs left to go.

‘No Hard Shoulder’ justifies the Jesus Lizard/ Blacklisters comparisons, with its driving guitar and bass welded together and glued to pulverizing drums that forge a Melvins-ish take on grungy stoner rock. Gritty, shouty, unpolished, it also evokes the Touch ‘n’ Go vibe while also hinting at favourable parallels with contemporaries like Pissed Jeans. So far, my jizzed pants are justified, and the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint.

Things go a bit Techno Animal / Godflesh / NIN on ‘Shortage (Version)’ with its hefty, crashing beats, straining digital noise and thickly distorted vocals which, in combination, carve out a lugubrious, funereal piece. Dense and dark I equal measure, it provides a mid-album interlude of crushing, neogoth intensity that stands quite apart from the other tracks. and the sonorous, subsonic bass just kills.

‘Born Old’ slams back into 90’s T&G territory and sounds like Tar at their best. Obscure? Sure, but if you get the reference, the album’s for you. If you don’t, but are digging Throat, you need Tar in hour life. Really. ‘Rat Domain’ slams and churns hard, the jarring grunge riffery whipping up a churn that resonates in the gut, before closer ‘Maritime’ hammers home six minutes of brutally jarring noise-rock, which is angular, sinewy, and relentless in its abrasion, and even brings a hint of the gothic before piledriving into the home straight with a remarkably accessible, melodic finale. If it seems at odds with the rest of the album, it’s hardly a weak finish, and instead demonstrates that Throat aren’t all about the gnarly noise… just mostly.

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16th April 2018 – Riot Season Records

Christopher Nosnibor

For the love, not the money, Every time. I fell out of the loop, and missed out on the promo and wasn’t even aware that one of my favourite active bands had a new album out. And that’s reason to write about it. I feel I somehow owe the band for all of the killer music so far, and owe it to myself for posterity. So, I’m playing catch-up here with the Hey Colossus offshoot, and immediately, what strikes is the grit of the guitar and the murky production that renders The Making of Junio Bonner possibly their grimiest effort to date.

It’s the combination of spindly lead guitar lines that loop over the bowel-bothering bass frequencies before dissolving into overdriven sludge, coupled with the cool-as-fuck drawling vocals that does it. And yes, it’s pure 90s grunge, with big nods to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but with the dingy, greasy, rough-hewn raggedness of Tad. Do I like Henry Blacker for being an allusive throwback? Inevitably, grunge is in my DNA having immersed myself in all the bands of the day in my mid-late teens in the mid-late 90s. But no: Henry Blacker don’t evoke nostalgia. However much their template may be of an era, their music is timeless. Because good music is.

Initial spins don’t reveal any instant grabs like ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’, ‘Cold Laking’, or ‘The Grain’, but then again, it’s time spent with Henry Blacker that allows the growers to emerge: over time, their previous two albums have proved themselves to be solid gold, albeit caked in mud and shit. And perhaps the lack of standouts is an indicator of its absolute consistency: all the songs are equal, and all are equally solid. And solid is the word. The back-to-back dispatching of songs centred around cyclical grooves and relentless riffery places it in the same space occupied by Nirvana’s debut. It grafts and grinds, hawks and chisels away, snarling, spitting, raging.

‘Shingles to the Floor’ is almost an accessible rock tune when you wipe it down. The classic rock intro on ‘Cellmate’ gives way to a panelling, thick, grungy riff that hits that sweet spot of optimum density, where the guitars fill the speakers with a distortion that threatens to overload them with a fuzz that sounds like tearing cardboard while the bass isn’t something you hear but feel. The mangled vocals, half buried, are the perfect addition.

‘Keep it Out of Your Heart’ locks into a thick, stoner groove that Queens of the Stone Age would likely kill to replicate these days. It has a certain overloaded smoothness and a swagger that chugs and chunks as it drives onwards. And maybe it’s one of those tracks that grows as a standout after just a few plays after all…

The density of sound, the way the riffs churn in on themselves and repeat as they snarl and grate, all combine to build a claustrophobic intensity. There’s no room to breathe here, and there’s no slow-tempo lighter-waving anthem at the end of side one: it’s truly end-to-end in conception and delivery.

AA

Henry Blacker

Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

Loner Noise – 25th May 2018

It’s a delight, when facing an endless stream of dross and mediocrity, or otherwise stuff you’ve never heard of but that has only limited appeal (I daresay I’ve bypassed some great music on the basis of a dismal press release or email, but then again, I’ve squandered countless hours listening to cack that’s been oversold), to receive a promo invitation for something that’s quality is assured.

Bristol trio Nasty Little Lonely have, since day one, been kicking out gut-punching, balls-out riffage with a grimy, sleazy edge, and they haven’t put a foot wrong. ‘Wicked Vicious’ continues the trajectory set with their two previous singles on Loner Noise, ‘Ugly Vitamin’ (October 2017) and ‘Glitter’ (February 2018), and plays up the ‘power’ in ‘power trio’.

‘Wicked Vicious’ is driven by a snarling, lumbering bass, over witch jittery, tripwire guitars, tense with treble and stretched, sinewy and angular across in a mathy mess reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard and a hefty, grinding hunk of the vintage Touch ‘n’ Go roster, as well as contemporaries who’ve drawn on the same sources, like Blacklisters. It grabs you by the throat in the first attacking bars, and then tightens the grip, pinning you against the wall and constricting.

There’s nothing pretty about this venomous assault: Charlie Beddoes may be coming on almost cuetsy in her semi-salacious, squeaky vocal, but make no mistake, there’s menace and malice and venom behind that hissing, spitting, yet also bubbly delivery, and the relentlessly churning rhythm section. It may only be 2:47 in length, but seriously, check the weight and the girth: ‘Wicked Vicious’ packs some serious meat. Nasty… vicious… killer.

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NLL - Wicked

With their debut album Valley of Thorns having landed last week and attendant single ‘Mind Games’ actually breaking the UK charts, it’s been a big few days for The Kut. And they’ve now announced an extensive UK tour in support of the album. We’re excited.

The dates are below, and you can watch the video to ‘Mind Games’ here:

Tour Dates –

27/07 – B2 – Norwich

28/07 – Mama Liz’s Voodoo Lounge – Stamford

29/07 – The Green Door Store – Brighton

31/07 – The Joiner’s Arm – Southampton

1/08 – Mole’s Club – Bath

03/08 – The Zanzibar – Liverpool

04/08 – The Bread Shed – Manchester

07/08 – TBC – Glasgow

08/08 – Bannerman’s Edinburgh – Edinburgh 

09/08 – The Brickyard – Carlisle

10/08 – Trillian’s Rock Bar – Newcastle Upon Tyne

11/08 – The Soundhouse – Leicester

12/08 – The Verve – Leeds

13/08 – West Street Live – Sheffield

14/08 – Arches Venue – Coventry

15/08 – The Castle and Falcon – Birmingham

16/08 – The Chelsea In – Bristol

17/08 – The Moon – Cardiff

The Kut