Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

23rd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m a huge sucker for that strain of Joy Division / Cure inspired 21st century post-punk as exemplified by Interpol, White Lies and early Editors – at least when done well. And On the evidence of their previous releases, Leeds’ Tabloids do it well. Given that they formed in 2013 and have to date only an EP and single to their credit, their debut album has effectively been some four years in the making. In doing so, they’ve created a work that feels meticulously crafted, but by no means sterile or overworked.

It’s also a very ‘Leeds’ affair: produced by Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart (The Cribs, Pulled Apart By Horses) and mastered by Tom Woodhead, formerly of ¡Forward, Russia!. Their input has certainly been sympathetic to the band’s objectives, and they’ve balanced crisp pop sensibilities with atmospheric, analoguey tones and a vintage 80s snare-led drum sound.

The inclusion of the previous single releases does nothing to diminish the sense of All The Things That You’ve Become standing as a coherent album, although there’s very much a ‘debut album’ feel to it on account of this.

‘Pedestal’ reduces a Smiths-inspired jangle to a minimalist jag of tension skewed across a thumping bassline with a nagging lead guitar line and a falsetto vocal providing the key hooks to a killer alt-pop tune.

‘Circle’ is a magnificent, emotionally-charged slow-burner, and one of the album’s standout tracks. Taking the tempo and the drive back, it’s one of those songs that bursts into a climactic finale at precisely the right point.

Ordinarily, basing an album’s merit, or even its context, within a framework of reference points either smacks of lazy journalism or is otherwise indicative of a band who are painfully derivative. But when you’re looking at something which is knowingly and purposefully steeped in heritage, the touchstones are essentially serve to define the work. When operating in a critical capacity, it’s not necessarily as reductive as noting ‘X sounds like Y’ so much as questioning how the material holds up against the all-important points of influence. It is, of course, emblematic of the nostalgia which dominates our present space. We want bands which remind us, if only in some vague, notional sense of the past.

If heavy hints of Depeche Mode echo through the dark, sparse and soulful ‘Cannibals’, The Cure make an obvious reference point for ‘Vessels’, not least of all in Lloyd Bradley’s pining vocal, but also its funk-tinged but also dark-hued bass groove, but then, I’m also reminded of The Associates and, more contemporarily, The Cinematics. Closer ‘Toothache’ is short, but powerful, and makes for a satisfying finish to a rounded, solid album.

Tabloids

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Leeds quartet Furr have shared their new single ‘Another Fable’ the first track to be taken from the next instalment of Leeds’ Come Play With Me 7” Singles Club.

Previously supported by the likes of Classic Rock Magazine and Upset Magazine, Furr play QOTSA inspired pummelling riffs complete with big choruses. The band also just played a massively well received show at Live at Leeds Festival last Saturday to a packed Dork / Key Club Stage in their home city.

You can hear ‘Another Fable’ here:

 

FURR

Mi Mye have announced details of the final single to be released from their 2016 album The Sympathy Sigh. The Wakefield quintet will release the soothing and melancholy ‘Methadone Church’ alongside a re-imagined ‘He Believes In Me’ featuring the vocals of James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls.

Inspired by Hemmingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, the album earned the band praise from the likes of The 405 and The Line Of Best Fit. (Aural Aggravation can’t take any credit here: we’re miserly bastards at times when it comes to praise and even selecting what we cover.)

‘Methadone Church’ is a thoughtful and beautiful song that deals with Jamie observing life around him at his place of work in Armley in Leeds. He explains “Chad and I were leaving the studio where I work and when we got to the bus stop we saw a mother with twin girls walk past us. The girls were identically dressed and the mother had blood on her top lip. That’s all the song is, just that, I wrote it as soon as I got on the bus. It’s a track that doesn’t judge or comment, it’s just what was there.”

The other side of this new single features a new version of album track ‘He Believes In Me’ sung by James Smith of label mates and long standing friends & collaborators Post War Glamour Girls. Jamie recently co-produced the band’s  Swan Songs album.

When asked on what made him so keen to collaborate with Mi Mye, James said “I adore the man and it was an honour to be asked to sing on He Believes in Me. To voice Jamie’s inner monologue of confusion and fear toward a religious maniac ranting and grabbing people on the streets of Wakefield was a more spiritually uplifting experience than that preacher man will ever have.”

So get your lugs round ‘He Believes In Me’  and enjoy….

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or is a friend on Facebook is likely to have seen that I tend to draw attention to the fact that I won’t be chained to my desk at home writing music reviews because I’m taking a ‘night off’ involving beer and live music – in other words, I’m out and about watching live music, which I’m invariably reviewing. As such, these nights off aren’t really nights off in the strictest sense. Those who know me in person know that I never really take a night off, regardless, and that includes the nights when I go and watch live music as a paying punter, or a mate has very kindly bought me a ticket to join them watching one of their favourite bands. These are indeed rare occasions, but should constitute a true night off. But that simply isn’t how I work. Truth is, I no longer know how to have a night off. Stopping would likely kill me. Besides, I feel owe practically everything to underground music in some way or another.

So, while I’ve dug what I’ve heard of Part Chimp, my attendance is not in capacity of reviewer or rabid fan – although by the end of the night, I’m both. I’m already a fan of Joe Coates and his Please Please You gig promotions, though – the shows he puts on are carefully curated and the PPY name can be relied upon as a guarantee of quality. Likewise, I’m a huge fan of Wharf Chambers as a venue, and not just on account of the fact they sell decent beer on draught from as little as £2.80 a pint.

And so it is that Thick Syrup make for extremely worthy openers. Their Facebook page describes the band as ‘Garage rock/funk/post punk/hard rock… but none of those things specifically’, and it’s a fair summary. Boil it down, and they’re a solid alternative rock band, whose singer, Gemma, performs from somewhere in the audience, often right at the back of the little venue and facing the stage, on account of the fact she can’t hear what it sounds like from on stage. Out front, it does sound good, and while they’re not big on between-song banter they are big on sturdy, rocking tunes dominated by meaty, overdriven guitars. They’re good fun.

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Thick Syrup

Grey Hairs, hailing from Nottingham, offer a different kind of fun – one marked by a front man possessed of an almost psychotic intensity. The rhythm section is immense, and the foursome kick out a supremely hefty racket. The riffs are big, ballsy, grunged-out slabs of noise: they’re a good fit by way of a main support for Part Chimp, and the fact that they’re also touring with Hey Colossus in May should perhaps give a fair indication both of their sound and their quality. With a new LP, Serious Business released at the start of the year, the set draws substantially on this shouty, sinewy collection, evoking the spirit and sound of vintage Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile releases, as well as contemporaries like Backlisters at al who draw inspiration from gnarly 90s US rock. The heavy chug of ‘Sausage’ is full-on, but then, ‘Backwards’ shows they’ve also got a knack for a cracking chorus too. They’re a motley bunch, and it’s no critiism when I observe that front man James is no pin-up. But the image they present corresponds with the angst they channel over the 9-5 grind and the twitching anxiety of immersion in mere existence amidst a morass of bland culture and the conflict of possessing a creative bent. Oh, and they’re bloody loud.

Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs

Part Chimp, however, are much, much louder. I mean, they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore. And when the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt, reviewing becomes a far bigger challenge than you might think. Instead of analysing precisely why Part Chimp are so bloody awesome, what about the performance completely blew me away, why I felt euphorically drunk on a lot less beer than I know I can handle, I spend an age pissing about on the Internet trying to establish precisely how hard basalt is, and how it compares to the more common ‘hardness’ reference point of granite. I discover that basalt is more porous and is considered a medium hardness rock, whereas granite is classified as a hard rock; and so my word selection seems appropriate: Part Chimp are heavy, the riffs as weighty as hell, but they’re not hard rock band. There’s a malleable, sludgy aspect to the sound. I’m still no closer to qualifying or objectively quantifying the experience of watching four guys, a few years older than myself and by no means cool in the rock star sense, or in any way ‘the kids’ might consider cool, working up a sweat as they hammer out this immense, furious racket.

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Part Chimp

They play a fair few songs from the new album, (and the first to be released following their reunion last year, following a five-year break), Iv released today. And that’s Iv, not the numeral for four. The riffs on the new songs are slow, heavy, fully doomy and laced with a psychedelic stoner infusion. There’s no pretence or posturing: there’s a keen sense that these are regular guys, who have regular lives, and when they’re not doing regular stuff, they’re making music. Music that’s noisy, dense and jarring, yet in a perverse way has the capacity to be immensely uplifting. They’re relentless, and play hard, and, as is only fitting, there’ a lot of hair being thrown about down the front. It’s music to go apeshit to. Part Chimp: All Brilliant.

Hide & Seek Records – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This being a Post War Glamour Girls album, there’s a lot to chew on, and I’ve played Swan Songs on the bus to and from work most days for the last month and a half in an attempt to really let the songs embed and to unravel. It’s not because Post War Glamour Girls make albums which are difficult or lack immediacy, but because there’s just so much to extract, and each listening reveals more. I’m still discovering new details and dimensions in their 2014 debut, Pink Fur, and suddenly, here we are at album number three.

And with album number three, they’ve made it a clean sweep of awesomeness: not a case of third time lucky, but a straight hat-trick. Few bands can claim such a record, although Post War Glamour Girls are unlikely to gloat, or even reflect on this achievement: chances are by the time the album tour is under way, they’ll have filled the set with new material which may or may not feature on album number four.

Swan Songs is by far their most commercial and accessible album to date, but it would be a chronic error align that in any way to them selling out, and in many ways, it’s equally their knottiest, thorniest release thus far. Yes, they’re contradictory and contrary, and that’s precisely their appeal. And while they always sound uniquely like Post War Glamour Girls – there really isn’t a band going – or, indeed, previous – who sound quite like them, they’re spectacularly varied in their style, and you never know what to expect from album to album. This is music born from restless energy and a drive to create something new, to challenge the band and their fans in equal measure. The one thing that is seemingly guaranteed is the quality of the material.

Swan Songs is most certainly their most eclectic-sounding album yet. The overall tone of the album is altogether less down than its predecessor, Feeling Strange. The downcast, brow-beaten self-loathing is replaced by a roaring defiance, at least in part. And, of course, it has all the band’s trademark qualities, honed to a new level of sharpness.

The album’s opener, ‘Guiding Light’ comes on like a cross between Big Country and The Wedding Present circa ’92 with its spiralling celtic guitar motif and stadium-fulling chorus – before making a 90-degree swerve only Post War Glamour Girls could pull off, with James Smith veering off into one of his densely-packed rants. You only catch snippets of the lyrics, but in the space of a minute he’s here, there and everywhere, pulling in what appears to be a reference to Gang of Four and macroeconomics with a line about ‘guns before butter’.

‘Chipper’ is more common PWGG terrain, and finds Smith in brawlingly nihilistic form, howling, bleating and hollering over a murky backing of guitars that jangle and warp and bend as the driving rhythm section powers on relentlessly. At the middle eight, it heads off on another trajectory, Smith coming on like a brutalised hybrid of Mark E Smith and JG Thirlwell on top of Alice Scott’s icily calm backing vocals. If ever a band knew how to work contrasts, it’s Post War Glamour Girls.

Conjuring a brilliantly visual image while working a dubby post-punk seam, the more understated ‘Gull Rips a Worm’ marks something of a departure, with Smith revealing a more soulful side in his melodic vocal delivery. Meanwhile, ‘Big Trip’, which recently found its way onto Radio 1 thanks to a shout-out from fellow Leeds legends Pulled Apart by Horses, is a brilliantly gruff and darkly grounded paean to escapism. It might not quite rank with the time the uncensored version of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ was spun at teatime on a Sunday during the Top 40, but it’s pretty subversive. It’s also indicative of the band’s mass-market potential, given the right exposure.

Awkward buggers that they are, the two sets I saw them perform following the release of Feeling Strange, showcased unreleased material in favour of either the latest album or their rapidly-expanding back-catalogue. These shows hinted squarely at a more direct pop sound, and while Swan Songs is a long way off this, being neither direct or upbeat and poppy, the second half of the album is the closest they’ve come to creating unadulterated pop in the studio.

‘Polyanna Cowgirl’, which featured on last year’s live album, is a big, reverby song that draws together elements of classic dreampop with vintage mid-80s postpunk and even more overtly charty music of the same era. Ah, such different times… And so, they manage to imbue the song with a certain nagging nostalgia, as well as a pining wistfulness. The hefty welter of drums and driving bass render it uniquely Post War Glamour Girls, but the multifaceted harmonies and chiming guitars, expansively produced, bring that cinematic slant to the finished product. The shimmering ‘Golden Time’ wafts and warps gently before ‘Sea of Rains’ drifts into I Like Trains territory, but Smith’s bleak lyrics render it a very different animal: ‘The lust you tried to drag from the soles of his shoes / is the worst excuse for loneliness I’ve ever had to use,’ he reflects, grimly.

 

 

The jarring, splintering, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ sees the band ploughing headlong into the Fall-like realms they stomp with aplomb, Smith duelling with Scott like vintage Mark E and Brix, a snarling, spitting inscrutability counterpointed by a melodic yet icy tone, while squalling guitars break over a thick, strolling bassline.

Now, I’m a huge sucker for a monster closing track. On past form, it seems Post War Glamour Girls are masters of the monster closing track (even if Feeling Strange perversely delivered said monster track as the penultimate song in the form of ‘Cannonball Villages) and Swan Songs proves no exception, with the seven-minute ‘Divine Decline’ building from nothing to a raging behemoth of a song. ‘Love and hate stem from the same cell,’ Smith croons, before the whole thing erupts. ‘All I ever wanted /as to be a better to better person / and I’m working on it constantly / working like a dawwwwwg!’ he growls. It’s a storming finale, and no mistake, as the band whip up a dense maelstrom of sound.

As is so often the case, Smith channels a vitriolic rage which one feels is largely directed toward himself. It’s a recurrent aspect of the album’s lyrical content: ‘My manners aren’t amazing / My poetry is pisspoor / My attitude’s an anathema,’ he snarls self-critically on ‘Chipper’. At the risk of too closely, or even mistakenly, aligning the art with the artist lyrics with lyricist and assuming the role or armchair analyst, one can’t help but wonder on the evidence his lyrics, coupled by his driving of the band’s relentless forward trajectory, if he isn’t fighting himself every moment of every day, and if Post War Glamour Girls aren’t some means of his justifying his existence to himself. If this is some kind of therapy, then – from a purely selfish perspective – our best hope is that it takes a good few more albums to purge himself yet, and that the title is more a reference to the conceptual contents of the album rather than an indication of the band’s final sign off. Because, not only is Swan Songs a killer album, but a cohesive and rich set which is the work of a band really hitting their stride and riding on the crest of a wave.*

 

Post War Glamour Girls - Swan Songs

 

*The success of this closing punchline is limited, not least of all on account of the fact that swans’ natural habitat is inland and on / by rivers, lakes, and ponds, and therefore unlikely to be tidal or otherwise, meaning that swans are rarely found in an environment where waves are common. But every review needs a punchline, right?

Clue Club

The other day, I chipped in on a debate over split releases, which essentially revolved around the question ‘yay or nay?’ Personally, I like split singles. I commented that I would usually purchase a split release for one of the bands, but, often, subsequently get into the other.

It so happens that the first release by Clue Club, a subscription-based aspect of Clue Records  features two bands I’ve seen, heard, and enjoyed immensely in the last year. Split-singles-based projects seem to be popping up with increasing frequency (see, for example, the excellent Come Play With Me), and this represents a belting start to this one.

Fighting Caravans were up there with my favourite discoveries of 2016, and probably one of the best live acts I caught all year, on all three occasions I saw them. ‘It’s a Nice Ride (To be Fair)’ is entirely representative of their brand of fucked-up gospel-tinged desert country. Over a spacious, bittersweet guitar, Daniel Clark visits the classic themes of death and hell with a delivery that treads the thin line between psychopathy and self-destruction.

Similarly, the drifting, dynamic shoegaze of ‘Frail’ is exemplary of Colour of Spring’s sound, and provides a perfect stylistic contrast, too its counterpart, too. It’s a dense yet delicate song which conjures a heady atmosphere of blissful melancholy by means of understated vocals and bold, swirling guitars.

Clue Club subscription is available here.