Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Blaggers Records – 28th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought I was pretty much abreast of happenings on the Leeds scene, but seemingly since lockdown put paid to live action for two years and since then reduced rail services and skyrocketing rail fairs have capped my forays over the county border significantly, it transpires I’ve missed out on a lot, including the emergence of post-punk influenced indie quartet Cliché Cult. They’ve banged out five singles already since forming in 2020, and this, their first with Blaggers Records, home to JW Paris, who have found favour on 6Music and on these virtual pages also.

‘Slippy’ is kinda loose-sounding, rough ‘n’ ready Northern indie with some chiming guitars that see it land somewhere in the region of Turn on the Bright Lights Interpol and Gene and Marion in that way that nods confidently in the direction of The Smiths but avoids the maudlin self-pity and whiny nasal vocals.

You wouldn’t describe them as typical Leeds, but it’s not hard to discern why they’ve built themselves a following, and fast, and if you’re looking for a song that fits the description of ‘indie anthem’, look no further.

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The buggers keep doing this: disappearing, then coming back, with no forewarning, no fanfare, with more killer noise.

And so here we are: ‘Leisure Centre’ crash-landed today to herald the imminent arrival of a new EP, out next month.

It’s as good as anything they’ve ever done. ‘Leisure Centre’ has the same kind of nagging, repetitive riff that features in so much of their work, from the definitive early songs like ‘Trick Fuck’ through to more recent classics like ‘Shirts’. And if anything, ‘Leisure Centre’ sounds like ‘Shirts’ on heavy tranquilisers: slow, stumbling, lunging, all the weight and all the murk. And of course, it’s all about that big, churning riff. It sounds a whole lot like Pissed Jeans. This is very much a good thing.

If the rest of the EP is half as good, it’s going to be a corker.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I like trains. Ironically, it was a lack of trains that almost prevented my making this show, as the largest national strike in the series yet meant there were none operating. David Martin and his band also likes trains, as he reminded us during one of his few brief exchanges with the audience during the set, going on to add “we support the action”. So would many in the audience, judging by the response.

While we’re waiting for things to get underway, we’re afforded the opportunity to appreciate the magnificent surroundings to a backdrop of minimal instrumental beats, before northern noise duo Polevaulter take to the stage assault our ears with a truly abrasive racket. Having given a platform to the emerging Benefits late last year, ILT have come up trumps with another killer support act this time. Complimentary but contrasting to the headliners, Polevaulter hit us with stark, crisp programmed drums and dirty live bass grind and feedback and shouty vocals. They’re a powerful hybrid of post-punk and industrial, and crank out a blinding wall of nihilism. As much Cabaret Voltaire and Factory Floor as Benefits or Sleaford Mods, they equally belong to the Leeds lineage of drum-machine driven post punk defined by the mutant noise of Age of Chance.

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Polevaulter

More minimal beats pave the way to an atmospheric intro as I Like Trains take to the stage and launch into a set that – unsurprisingly – is dominated by tracks from KOMPROMAT, their first album in eight years. There’s a palpable urgency to the performance, which launches with the triple salvo of ‘A Steady Hand’, ‘Desire is a Mess’, and ‘Dig In’.

They’re tight and look reinvigorated – and Guy Bannister still looks the same as he did back in 2005, switching between – and sometimes simultaneously playing -guitar and synths, integral to the rich, deep, and full-bodied sound, while the visuals make for a full 360-degree multisensory experience. They still kill the crescendos, too, and I’m reminded once again why I’ve been coming back to see this band for the last fifteen years: they really do put everything into their shows, and play hard, too.

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I Like Trains

They pack the songs in tight, with minimal chat or pause, and deliver ear-shredding bursts of noise from seemingly out of nowhere, and tonight, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Having moved from a baritone croon to a more spoken style of vocal, David Martin actually pushes himself a lot harder in his delivery: there’s real passion behind every line, and – more irony – in having assimilated slogans and double speak clichés into the fabric of his lyrics, he’s truly found his own voice as a writer.

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I Like Trains

Mid-set, they play a rearranged version of ‘The Beaching Report’ from Progress Reform. With some screwdriver slide guitar work, it’s bleak and haunting, and simply had to be played. Reform, reform… What goes around comes around, history repeats, and cuts bite ever harder. The song’s relevance now brings a lump to the throat: today’s strikes aren’t purely about pay, but reforms that will have a significant impact on safety.

History and remembrance have run as themes through I Like Trains’ work since their very beginning, but tonight, observing the contrast between the refrain of ‘Terra Nova’, of Scott’s doomed arctic expedition – ‘More’s the shame / they will remember my name’ – and Boris Johnson’s gurning face against the slogan ‘God loves a winner’ during The Spectacle’ – which absolutely kicks – is a sobering experience.

Toward the end of the set, they finally concede to a proper delve into the back catalogue (although there are no songs from Elegies to Lessons Learnt – thanks to the early finish meaning we don’t get the ‘Spencer Percival’ encore of the night before) or The Deep), giving us ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ (dedicated to the memory of Debs, “perhaps the biggest I Like Trains fan”) and ‘Terra Nova’ back to back, both bringing ear-bleeding crescendos.

They close with an absolutely stonking extended rendition of ‘The Truth’, with a thudding, insistent bass groove chopping a deep furrow against a backdrop of warped images of Liz Truss. The climactic thrust which sees David nailing the truth of the truth and appropriating my own stage performance style in the process (and who wouldn’t want to, right?), tossing screwed cards into the crowd and flipping the written cues in all directions… it feels like a performative metaphor, whereby the truth is discarded wantonly, recklessly, with no regard, before he finally intimates ‘The truth will trickle down… I am totally out of my depth’. He’s never been more intense than this, and I Like Trains have never felt more vital.

15th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The evolution of I Like Trains continues with their first new output since 2020’s Kompromat, which marked a seismic shift both sonically and lyrically. Not their first, either, since they made a giant leap after Elegies for Lessons Learnt, after which they made the change from being iLiKETRAiNS to I Like Trains and towards a more conventional dark alternative rock style. But Kompromat saw them ditch the last vestiges of jangling echoed guitar and baritone crooning in favour of politically-charged angularity, that saw them become more aligned with Leeds forebears Gang of Four than anything remotely tied to their post-rock roots. It was unexpected, but it really suited them.

One thing I have immense respect for I Like Trains for is their self-awareness, and knowing when something has run its course. Elegies took the historical events recounted against brain-melting crescendos format established on Progress Reform to its absolute limit with the nine-minute ‘Spencer Percival’. They recognised that, and moved on. Kompromat was a one-off, and ‘The Spectacle’ bookends that particular spell.

As they write, “‘The Spectacle’ is a standalone single. Part of the KOMPROMAT world, but not quite closure. There’s more where Boris came from.”

We know this to be true: Johnson’s replacement continues his trajectory down towards the lowest common denominator soundbites without substance. Only whereas Johnson’s ideology was largely built around what favoured Johnson, Truss seems blindly fixated on hardline Conservatism, even if it bankrupts the country. And ironically, having dismissed Scotland’s first minister as an ‘attention seeker’, the new Prime Minister’s penchant for a cheesy photo op seems to only accentuate her obliviousness to pretty much everything. As such, The Spectacle continues, and the refrain of ‘Keep it light and repeat it often’ continues to resonate beyond Boris.

But ‘The Spectacle’ is a transition that unfurls before your eyes / ears and is one of those songs that ends in a completely different place from where it started without it being clear where the transition took place. It’s a disorientating, time-bending experience, smoke and mirrors and spin in action, and a brilliant piece of songwriting.

It starts out with the choppy guitars and largely spoken vocal style of Kompromat, which finds David Martin stomping in the steps of not only Mark E Smith, but closer to home, James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls / Yard Act – a style which suits him remarkably well – before the song takes off in a different and unexpected direction around halfway through, when he tosses the mantra and launches into a slab of lyrical critique over guitars that slow at first, before building in crashing sheets of noise and a mangled solo breaks out, and drags the song to a taut finish. They pack a lot of action into just shy of four and a half minutes, and they’re unashamed in pointing out that the single – like so many singles – is a promotional device, here with the purpose of enticing punters to the upcoming merch-flogging opportunity which is their forthcoming tour.

We’re all trapped in the wheels of capitalism, but ILT show that they can simultaneously play and subvert it – while at the same time making great music. ‘The Spectacle’ is as sharp as a pin, and ILT continue to thrive as strong as any virus in a post-pandemic world.

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Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a queue up the two flights of stairs half an hour before doors, and the front two rows are packed out long, long before Weekend Recovery are due on, a mere fifteen minutes after opening. Tonight’s event is something of an oddity. LA rock act Starcrawler, who are something of a hot ticket and have been since their emergence in 2015, being hailed as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll – like so many before, and likely many to come – are playing a handful of UK headline dates in between festivals, with All Points east in London on August 28th and End of the Road on September 3rd. Having sold out Norwich and Liverpool at £15 a ticket, Leeds is a late addition to the tour, and free entry. It’s Friday night and of course it’s packed, and likely would have been if they’d charged, which is why this seems odd, even if they’re treating it as a warmup for End of the Road.

There’s nothing remotely warm-uppy or stop-gap showy about tonight, and there’s a buzz from the outset.

Weekend Recovery open with ‘There’s a Sense’, one of their poppier, woohoo-ey tunes, followed by a beefy ‘No Guts’ and they do a decent job of grabbing the crowd. Lori busts some Quattro moves as has become her style, and they look confident on the bigger stage with the larger audience. It’s the thick, fuzzy bass that fills the sound throughout the set, and they really seem to have hit their stride as a three-piece of late. Bringing on guest a vocalist for new song ‘In the Crowd’ it goes unexpectedly ragga/ska before piling into a lively rendition of ‘Going Nowhere’ that makes for an energetic finale to a set that no doubt won them some new fans, and deservedly so.

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Weekend Recovery

I know nothing about main support Genie Genie, but they seem to have plenty of fans already, and the Bauhaus ripping off Bowie glam gloom schtick is no real surprise, although one guy with a laptop strutting around being menacing at the start of the set rather is. Then the band’s other dozen members flood onto the stage wielding saxophones galore. It’s high theatre, but highly derivative, as the black-mulleted singer tears his tattered t-shirt from his scrawny white torso as the brass honks and parps over quivering organ pipes. All the ham and oversized crucifixes can’t compensate the mediocre material with cornball schlock horror cabaret about Jack the Ripper, guv, and of course, they go down a storm as half the room chant along with endless nananana hooks and the like. There’s no accounting for taste.

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Genie Genie

The crowd are baying for Starcrawler for a good five minutes before they arrive, and hell, they arrive. Side on, I’m badly placed for photos as lithe-as-anything beanpole Arrow de Wilde is practically a sliver from this angle and keeps vanishing behind the mic stand. What the band deliver is proper old-school rock ‘n’ roll, an assimilation of glam, punk, and hair rock played with a flamboyance and an energy that’s infectious. The crowd are rabid.

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Starcrawler

As the set progresses, I find myself growing less enthused: the band are lively but the moves swiftly become predictable and the material is average, and I find myself quite unmoved by the spectacle. Perhaps people are distracted by the appearance and delivery, and as such are oblivious to the fact that this is pretty middling rock fronted by the lovechild of Courtney Love and Mick Jagger. There’s no question that they’re completely committed to putting on a show, and they play hard, but there’s minimal interaction with the adoring audience. Maybe they’re too cool for that, but in a 350-capacity venue it feels a little bit superior – but, viewed from another angle, it’s a band worthy of the 2,000+ capacity O2 kicking out their festival. Either way, it’s hard to really fault Starcrawler: they deliver a solid set of proper old-school rock, and the fans love it.

Human Worth – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since the launch of the Human Worth label, initially as an outlet for releases by Modern Technology, we’ve witnessed the label grow – although never beyond its means and never beyond its principles. Each release sees a portion of the proceeds donated to a nominated charitable cause, and it’s so heartening to see a label and its artists use their platform for social good. With this latest release, a 7” EP from Leeds makers of noise BELK, 10% of all proceeds are being donated to Action Bladder Cancer UK, who work to support patients, raise awareness, improve early diagnosis and outcomes, and support research into bladder cancer.

But let’s never underestimate the social good of music with meaning – and by good, I mean sincere and visceral. Anyone who has ever stood in a room being bludgeoned by a full-blooded sonic attack will likely appreciate the incredible release of the experience, and the sense of community it entails. It’s not easy to articulate the way in which something that’s ultimately private, internal, is heightened by the presence of strangers immersed in that same experience, in their own personal way.

In congruence with the rise of Human Worth, we’re also seeing a satisfying upward arc for BELK, who unquestionably deserve the exposure and distribution, and one suspects that being limited to just 100 hand-numbered vinyl copies, the vinyl release of this is likely to be a future rarity.

This 7” EP packs five tracks into mere minutes. ‘Warm Water’, unveiled as a taster for advance orders on September’s Bandcamp Friday, is a minute and eighteen seconds long. It’s fast, and it’s furious – a focused channelling of fury, no less, distilled to 100% proof, and there’s no holding back on this attack.

There are a couple of additional demo tracks, in the form of ‘Net’ and ‘Question of Stress’ from their 2022 promo as downloads.

It’s all pretty raw, and ‘studio’ doesn’t mean much more polish than ‘demo’, and that’s exactly as it should be BELK trade in proper dirty noise, the likes of which Earache specialised in in the eighties and early 90s, before they went soft and became a rock and blues label, releasing stuff by the likes of Rival Sons. Human Worth have snatched the noise baton in a firm grip, though, and the quality of their releases extends to the artefact as well as the art.

‘Net’ is a stuttering slugfest reminiscent of Fudge Tunnel, only with harsher, higher-pitched squawkier vocals that are more conventionally hardcore, and it all stacks up for one killer release that delivers a ferocious slap round the chops.

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