Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

Christopher Nosnibor

So I’ve been following – if that’s quite the word – Suburban Toys since the early 90s. Vicky McClelland is (I think) the fifth female front person I’ve seen them perform with, and I’ve missed some in between. She’s strong. She’s fiery, but also understated, and gets on with singing songs and sometimes playing guitar without fuss. She sounds good, and is good to watch.

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The Suburban Toys

They showcase some new (to me) songs, still solid pop-tinged punk with dashes of reggae and cues from ‘The Passenger’. The throw in a ripping rendition of ‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex mid-set. It suits Vicky’s vocal range and delivery. Older songs like ‘With You’ have been radically reworked (again), and this is probably the most attack I’ve seen them play with in all the years since the early 90s. They finish with ‘Sonic Reducer’ played at breakneck speed with bassist Vin on lead vocals. It’s good fun. And fun is important.

The kids – fans – are less than half my age and wearing threads that were all the rage when I was 10, 34 years ago. It’s alarming. The drummer’s facial hair is heinous and the guitar straps are so short they could strim the strings with their chins… But there’s an appeal to their raw, ragged choppy guitars and I get the impression that despite the cheap sunglasses and quirky fun elements, Perspex are a serious band with some neat post-punk and 90s alternative reference points – think Pavement, think Trumans Water. And they’re technically proficient, nailing some tidy grooves and taking the set to an accomplished climax with some uptempo space rock motorik riffology. 6th formers on the piss. One girl’s got plastic beads and a very 80s blouse, while one of the sportswear cunts is sporting a Factory T. What hell is this?

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Perspex

I’ve seen Percy even more times than the Toys, and over a comparable time-span. The West Yorkshire Superheroes (who hail from York) have been around forever, and subscribe to the tradition of hardworking northern bands like The Wedding Present and The Fall, and Half Man Half Biscuit who just keep on plugging away, solid and dependable. They always look like they’ve just knocked off work and stopped off for a pint: singer/guitarist Colin Howard always has about 4 days’ stubble and they seem genuinely comfortable being middle-aged workers doing the band thing on the side. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I won’t say it here because I’ve other reviews to write and a day-job of my own, and it’s too much of a digression.

There’s actually a guy here in a Percy T-shirt, which is a measure of something. But they’ve not got the college cocks’ backing, sadly, and the room has thinned a bit. The benefit is that I’m less worried about having my toes danced on by some 6ft teenager.

Bailing in with the Fall-like ‘Hep’, they’re bring a clanging attack of furiously thrashed jangling guitars that are nearly in tune and provide the backdrop to sneering, spitting monotone vocals. And, like The Fall, they may have only recently released their first album proper 20 years into their career, but half the set consists of unreleased material. And, also like The Fall, they kick out a fair rockabilly ruckus and reference The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’

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Percy

‘Rubbernecking in the UK’, pushes the synths to the fore, and it’s exhilarating and also pure early 90s indie. Magnificently atonal guitar provides a skewed backdrop to sneered lyrics about the mundane everyday. Masters of four-chord chugs, ‘Unicorn’ is fierce and noisy by way of a climactic closer.

Having seen three decent bands for free and supped decent beer at £3.60 a pint I’ll say it again: pub gigs and small venues are where it’s at.

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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’.

London-based “Anti-Music Collective” Moderate Rebels release ‘Beyond Hidden Words’, streaming from 25th June, from their just-completed second album, due out in November on Everyday Life Recordings.

Describing it as an ‘un-song’, Moderate Rebels say, “We’re not sure what this music is exactly. It arrived with us as a feeling, then a defiant chant, a repeating half hallucination set to building noise, an invocation of strong communal power and hope, through the confronting of the uncomfortable, and the taking of some personal responsibility for being part of that conversation… The sound of a dream, set to the dream of a sound.”

Moderate Rebels follow their debut album ‘The Sound Of Security’ and ‘Proxy’ EP, both released in 2017. The collective’s previously stated approach to their songwriting is “to use as few words and chords as possible”.

Get your lugs round ‘Beyond Hidden Words’ here:

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Moderate Rebels Beyond Hidden Words front cover HR

Leeds quintet The Golden Age of TV have shared their contribution to the Leeds based Come Play With Me 7” Singles Club with new track ‘Television’, which will be released on June 22nd.

The Golden Age Of TV have quickly gathered a lot of momentum with razor sharp, whip smart and perfectly crafted indie pop. Their three singles so far have all earned support from Radio 1 with Huw Stephens playing every song they’ve released. They’ve also performed at Reading & Leeds and with bands like Fickle Friends, Toothless & Alex Cameron, and nailed it at Long Division in Wakefield at the weekend.

Get your lugs round ‘Television’ here:

Joining The Golden Age of TV will be electropop quartet ENGINE. Surfing in from the outer rim of Burley and noisily settling on the Meanwood Nebula, ENGINE continue to blaze an individual DIY trail in Leeds. The group combines sampled psychedelics with introverted song-writing of a bygone era. With their recent debut album Cucumber Water now and an ever growing live reputation including support slots with Connan Mockasin, Infinite Bisous and C Duncan under their belts, ENGINE have moved forward with the driving, infectious, electronic groove ridden new flawless pop song ‘And I Say’.

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The Golden Age of TV

Christopher Nosnibor

Having – what feels like an eternity ago – raved about The Holy Orders, I find myself with front man Matt Edible’s sort-of solo album. It’s a fair bit less fiery and more introspective than his work with the band (who recently made their live return and look like getting their shit together again before too long) – to re point that it’s largely mellow and melodic, and draws on laid-back 70s rock for its stylistic touchstones. It’s also quite poppy in places. This isn’t a criticism, but an observation…and unexpected. But then, I’m unfamiliar with Matt’s original musical vehicle, Edible 5ft Smiths, who apparently made ‘one and a half of the greatest undiscovered albums of the noughties before burning up in a small blaze of glory’, and of which the music on this album represents something of a continuation of a trajectory.

‘Advent Beard’ surfaced on-line a couple of years, and as Christmas-themed breakup tunes delivered with roustabout energy and a certain ragged charm. Hearing it in the context of an album, in mid-May when I’m sweltering in some quite unseasonal heat and feeling hayfevery feels a bit incongruous. But on reflection, it’s a song about the sentiment rather than the season, and while Stairgazing isn’t a wet, sentimental album, it is fairly reflective and introspective and – dare I say it – emotional in its tone and content.

The title track is a frenzied fury of angular guitars and vocals that are the sound of a man at every last one of his limits. And then it comes on a bit Dinosaur Jr, which is even better. Elsewhere, ‘Nightclubbing’ (not a cover of either David Essex or Iggy Pop) is a light, folksy-indie effort, and the sparse, piano-led ‘The Healing’, which ventures into post-rock grandeur, with its multi-layered vocals and epic, proggy instrumental play-out, offers another facet of Edible’s songwriting skills.

It’s Matt’s voice that really makes it, perhaps more than the material itself. The man has range, effortlessly moving between gritty and grungy, and soaring sort-of falsetto. In part comparable to James Dean Bradfield in tone and timbre, Edible simply has a great voice: affecting, versatile, listenable and affecting in all the right places,

Stairgazing doesn’t have the rock ‘n’ roll punch of anything by The Holy Orders, but that isn’t grounds for criticism: Matt Edible as delivered a solid and entertaining album that’s quite different, and all the better for it.

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20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I was on the edge of my seat for a cover of Inner Circle’s 90s reggae-pop classic when this landed with me, but on balance, this offering from Windsor-based quartet Saharas is better.

It’s vaguely horrifying to consider the notion that anything jangly and melodic indie with a tense, post-punk undertone, reminiscent of the class of, oh, c2003 or 2004 may qualify as connoting a certain nostalgia. But then, nostalgia is a vague and intensely personal sensation. Being the age I am, I’m probably more likely to feel pangs for 1994 than 2004. And yet, 2004… pre-family, disposable income, part-time work… strolling down to my local record shop mid-morning on a Monday and splurging disposable income on the latest vinyl… Yeah, I can buy into a nostalgia for that, as I recall strolling home with releases by the likes of Editors, Interpol, She Wants Revenge, The Organ, stowed in a nice square carrier bag. I miss it. The likelihood is that someone 10 years younger will feel a nostalgia for whatever they were doing in 2004 (which may well have been a variation on the same thing).

‘Sweat’ very much captures not only the sound, but the energy surrounding the zeitgeist of the first few post-millennial years, which blended a certain optimism with the pessimism of almost twenty years previous. It boasts a spectacularly nagging chorus-soaked guitar-line that hints as much at Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’ as Editors’ ‘Munich’.

It’s all extremely fitting for the current climate: dark times call for dark music, and also inspire a yearning for better times. The early years of the millennium, by which time the euphoria of Labour’s 1997 landslide had slipped into a malaise even before the recession hit, echoed the wilderness of 30 years previous. In 2018, 2004 looks like a hoot.

But most importantly, it’s a cracking tune with hooks galore, and it would be so in any decade.

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Saharas - Sweat

Now this, we dig. Berries have announced the release of their new single ‘Wild Vow’ – the first track taken from their second EP, which sees the band further explore their unique take on riff-driven rock with even more grit and confidence. ‘Wild Vow’ boasts big riffs and choruses and further highlights the clever musicianship, weaving guitar and basslines and well-considered dum patterns that this exciting three-piece are becoming known for.

Get your lugs round ‘Wild Vow’ here:

Berries have some live dates coming up, too:

5th July – Headline Single Launch Show with Scruff of The Neck Records at The Old Blue Last, London with The Opera Comic + Rylands Heath, Free Entry.

22nd July – Tramlines Fringe Festival for Northern Crossroads Promotionsat The Church House Inn, Sheffield.

19th August – The Soup kitchen with Scruff of The Neck Records supporting Proletariat + King Kartel, Manchester.

8th September – The Finsbury, Gigslutz Promotions, London

 

Berries Wild