Posts Tagged ‘Nirvana’

11th September 2020

Music – and people and individuals – can be positive or negative forces. Often, in the arts, destruction isn’t only a necessary but truly essential part of the creative process, and this can also mean on a long-term cyclical basis also. But ultimately, the title of Arcade Fortress’ debut album makes for a solid recommendation: there has to be some equilibrium, and in destroying more than you create, the result is a negative, an artistic minus, a kind of void or black hole.

There are times I’ve been sceptical about this, though. I mean, creating is ultimately about legacy in some shape or form: what if your output is vast but dismal? What if your legacy is like Status Quo without ‘Matchstick Men’? What if your legacy is Oasis? What if your legacy is the Vengaboys?

Clearly, some people just don’t care, and just want to leave a mark, even if it’s just a skidmark. If the tile of their album is to taken as any kind of statement or manifesto, Arcade Fortress is a band with an eye on their legacy, and they set their stall out without shame, namely to draw together aspects of Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and Frightened Rabbit, to produce ‘a collection of eleven festival-ready rock songs’.

And so it’s all about objectives, about ambition. I don’t think these guys have any aspirations or illusions about becoming the next voice of a generation or anything so lofty or pretentious, and once you come around to understanding that, Create More Than You Destroy makes the most sense.

Up first, ‘Oxygen Thief’ is urgent, punchy, and has a poky, up-front production. The chorus is a punk-popper primed to curry favour with Kerrang Radio with a chanty ‘oi-oi-oi-oi!’ hook bridging from a catchy chorus. It’s a surefire moshpit fave in the making, if and when moshpits return – which surely they must, at least one day. We have to cling to some hopes. And hope and aspiration is strongly infused within the songs on here.

‘Crowded’ is a bit Foos-play-pub rock, and for some reason, my ears just hear Meatloaf fronting Biffy Clyro on ‘Erosion’. Elsewhere, ‘In It’ is more Reef / Red Hot Chilli Peppers than appeals to my ear. But then, the driving ‘Nothing to Say’ blends the quiet / loud dynamic of grunge and the raw four-chord stomp of punk to produce a song that’s simple but effective and hits the spot, and with a more melodic slant on gunge than either of the two most obvious touchstones, Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr, ‘Albi’ is a slow-burner that is well-executed.

It’s not hard to hear the appeal of Arcade Fortress here. It’s been a long time in the coming, and Create More Than You Destroy is not an album to be judged on whether it’s revolutionary, but on whether it’s an artistic success based on ambition and purpose: and since their ambition is to produce songs that, quite simply, rock, and in taking on an array of styles, Arcade Fortress show they’re adaptable and have an ear for the accessible: success surely awaits.

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Arcade Fortress Artwork

28th August 2020

James Wells

If a band can’t sell itself up, what hope have they for anyone else? So fair play to Horrible Youth, who pitch themselves as ‘an Icelandic five-piece sludge and grunge band that sprang to life in Oslo in 2016 and quietly recorded their stunning debut, Wounds Bleed.’

And you know what? It is stunning. ‘Monkeys’, the album first track is a low-tempo grunger that blends Nirvana and Metallica and ultimately comes on like Melvins – and if you’re going to for sludge and grunge, Melvins is the band against which any other is going to be judged.

The songs on Wounds Bleed are concise (the majority being under four minutes) and built around simple repetitive riffs cranked out with a big, overdriven guitar, and favouring the mid to lower ends of the EQ spectrum for a dense, murky sound. Only the cymbals crash through the

Single cut ‘Blissful Tropes’ brings a psych twist to the lumbering riffery, and it’s got hooks and weight in equal measure (it’s hardly a pop tune, but there’s a sinewy lead guitar behind the shouting), making it a standout on what is, undeniably, a really solid album.

It sure as hell ain’t soft or gentle, and doesn’t do the cliché ‘mellow’ track at the end of side one or anything, instead slinging riff after riff, with the rawness of Tad at their best. ‘Serve the Plague’ hits a particularly hefty, low-slung, goth-doom groove, and the tempo picking up around halfway through to thrash out a full-throttle attack.

Combining density and intensity, and packing a megalithic dose of angst, Wounds Bleed distils the sound of 1994 and turns the volume up to eleven, and the result is something special.

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28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The story of my ambition to form a band called Minotaur feels somewhat misplaced in the face of the new single by noisy Nottingham two-piece Minatore, so I’ll give it a miss at this opportunity.

Pitched as a ‘grunge punk song drenched in hooks and guitar riffs,’ trans front man Tommy Keeling describes ‘Boys Tell Lies’ as an ‘angst fuelled’ song, ‘speaking up about rape culture.’ Sadly, despite all of the traction of the #MeToo movement and what appears to be a widespread outcry over the truly horrific culture that’s society-wide and by no means restricted to the film and music industries, this shit is still prevalent.

It doesn’t help when world leaders casually espouse the culture, with Trump’s widely-reported ‘grab her by the pussy’ comments and Johnson saying money spent on investigating historical child abuse cases was ‘spaffed up the wall.’ A lack of respect and of boundaries may only be part of the problem, but it’s a significant one, and is indicative of just how little consideration there is for the impact on victims.

‘Happens every day…’ Keeling sings in the chorus, which swings more into early Dinosaur Jr territory as the song breaks from the driving Nirvana-esque verse that’s full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal overdrive and rage, a cracked vocal and blistering guitar propelled by a pounding snare. Every bar positively explodes with energy.

Minatore may have minor scope for invoking cultural change, but it’s at the grass roots that change begins – and if you’re going to draw attention to a topic, then doing it with a killer tune is definitely the way to go.

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.

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Neverlanded - FUU

Christopher Nosnibor

The fact the word ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ is perhaps worth bearing in mind. A band can probably be considered to have achieved a certain level of fan appreciation when they see the same faces in the crowd at venues around the country on a given tour. As one of those fans who’s attended multiple (although never more than a couple or three) dates on a tour for several bands, I’ve found it interesting to observe how audiences in different cities react, and also how those reactions feed into the performance. And, of course, there’s a certain curiosity about a band’s consistency. And in my capacity as a critic, the same is true – although it’s fair to say that as far as my second time of seeing Weekend Recovery in a month is concerned, I’m attending as both fan and critic. Having just unveiled their debut album, their touring schedule has amped up considerably, with almost three months of dates around the UK now to promote it, followed by a cluster of festival dates in the summer.

But here are now, this does mean I’m playing compare and contrast with Leeds on a Friday night where Weekend Recovery are the main support, and York on a Thursday, where the band, with their origins down south and now based in Leeds, are headlining. It’s hardly like-for-like. Much as I love York and its music scene, there is a conservatism which runs deep in the city’s gig-going community. Local bands will fair ok, but any act from out of town who isn’t well-known will, more often than not, find there’s a lot of space in the room. So it’s credit to Weekend Recovery that while the place is far from packed, there’s a respectable turnout, especially given that it’s the week before payday.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my rage. Increasingly, I’ve come to respect and admire and enjoy bands comprising guys of or approaching middle age ranting about the mundane. They’re not all even a fraction as good as Pissed Jeans, but Paint Nothing, while endlessly ripping off The Fall up to 1983, occupy the same office-based miserabilist territory as Scumbag Philosopher. The singer’s wide-eyed intensity augments the spitting anger. The audience may be divided, but those who don’t dig these four shouty, balding midlifers ranting about stuff clearly haven’t lived.

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Paint Nothing

Brooders are probably young enough to have been parented by Paint Nothing, and probably were busy being born when grunge was all the rage. But having built themselves up as a live act with some impressive support slots and single release ‘Lie’ on Leeds label Come Play With Me imminent, the trio bring a finely-honed fusion of abrasive noise and not-so-abrasive melody. When they hit optimal heavy, they’re in the territory of Therapy? in collision with Fudge Tunnel, and the clean guitar sound, that’s awash with chorus and flange is lifted wholesale from Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. At times they get pretty and it’s more indie than grunge, and with a psychey / shoegaze twist. There’s never a dull moment in their varied but relentlessly riffcentric set.

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Brooders

Last time I saw Brooders, it was supporting Hands Off Gretel at the same venue, so it’s perhaps fitting that Weekend Recovery’s front woman Lorin’s sporting a short dress, holed tights and knee-length white socks, passing a note to the now-classic 90s kindergarten whore look.

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Weekend Recovery

Their set isn’t radically different from the one in Leeds last month, and kicks off with a driving rendition of ‘Turn It Up’ which encapsulates the up-front grunge-orientated sound of the album, which marks a distinct evolution from their previous work. ‘Oh Jenny’ sees the titular character introduced as a ‘colossal slag’ after I’d chatted with Lorin before the show about the merits of ‘colossal’ and ‘massive’ as adjectives (we have a colleague who’s a colossal pussy; my boss is a massive cunt) and the set closes with ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ as is now standard, and it’s delivered full-tilt and brimming with a balance of desperation and sarcasm.

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Weekend Recovery

In between…. Lorin may not pogo as much or appear as bouncy in general as the last time I caught them, but bassist Josh (wearing the same outlandish shirt as at the Leeds gig – not that I can comment on outlandish shirts) and guitarist Owen throw lunging, leg-splaying poses all over. But this isn’t mere posturing: they’re really giving it all the energy. And the crowd appreciate it. Did they get what they came for? Of course.

Headcheck Records – 17th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems an age since we featured a review of Weekend Recovery’s single ‘Focus’ here at AA. It was, in fact, September 2016, when James Wells noted the band’s ambition and suggested they were probably ones to watch.

Here we are, a year and a quarter later, on the eve of the release of their debut album. They’ve relocated to Leeds, and have an extensive touring schedule and slots lined up at Camden Rocks and Rebellion Festival this year. And it feels good to be able to say ‘told you so.’

Weekend Recovery have certainly done it the hard way: sheer grit and determination, hard plugging, hard gigging and a succession of strong single and EP releases are how they’ve got here in a comparatively short time. It helps that they’re a cracking live act, but ultimately, it all comes down to having songs. And Weekend Recovery have songs.

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They describe the songs on Get What You Came For as being ‘their most mature and personal tracks to date,’ and it’s telling that none of the material from previous releases is included here. As I said, they have songs, and plenty of them. So many bands knock out debut albums that collect their singles and EPs and augment them a clutch of new songs, and leave you wondering if they’ve shot their load before they even got as far as an album. Not so Weekend Recovery: Get What You Came For is a proper album, and it possesses a unity and cohesion. It also maintains the pace throughout, avoiding the all-too-common mid-album mid-tempo slump.

They bail in hard with blustering guitars on ‘Turn It Up’, a grungy / punk tune with a descending chord sequence and some nifty bass runs backing a vocal delivery that’s as much Debbie Harry as anything, and it’s a vintage punk pop vibe that radiates from ‘Oh Jenny’ (again, we’re talking more Blondie or Penetration than any contemporary Kerrang! Radio fodder by way of a comparison if you need one).

Oftentimes, when bands refer to their songwriting as having matured, it usually means they’ve gone safe, and are all about the craft, man. Chin-stroking introspection paired with layered-up acoustic-led laments, soulfulness, an emphasis on musicianship, and all that shit. There’s none of that shit on Get What You Came For: by maturity, they mean they’ve focussed and refined their approach, trimming any trace of fat to produce songs that are sharp and direct, powerful and punchy. Dull, overworked, overthought, it isn’t.

The Paramore / Katy Perry comparisons which applied to their previous works no longer hold here: it’s less pop and more punk, and there’s a hard edge and tangible fury which drives the songs here. Instead of prettying things up with an eye on the commercial, Weekend Recovery have tackled the turbulence of life head on and sculpted it into music you feel. Lead single ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ is the most overtly commercial and poppy cut here, but the guitars are sharp and there’s a barb to the lyrical angle on dating sites and the inherent narcissism of social media.

When they do slow it down and strip it back on ‘Anyway’, it’s Courtney Love’s solo material that comes to mind. And while it’s not up there with the first two Hole albums, I’d take solo Courtney over the last two Hole albums any day. The title track is a gritty minor-chord crunch with some thumping percussion, singer Lauren snarls venomously, while at the same time displaying a certain sass, before ‘I Wanna Get Off’ wraps the album up with a full-throttle flurry of guitars.

There’s a real sense that Get What You Came For captures the real Weekend Recovery. They’ve broken loose from the mouldings of their early influences and found their true identity here. And, no longer concerned with confirming to a form, or even being so bothered about being liked, they’ve unleashed the rage, harnessed all the pain and the fury that drives that creative urge, and channelled it honestly. The end result is an album that’s driving, immediate, engaging – and exhilarating, exciting, energetic, and very good indeed.

Weekend Recovery - Get What You Came For

30th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s their strongest – and yet conceivably their most commercial – effort to date. It benefits from a fuller, denser production, which accentuates the driving guitars. ‘Why don’t you love me / Are you too good for me?’ Lorin asks by way of a refrain. But it’s not needy-sounding: in fact, the delivery is less overtly rock than on previous outings which made clear nods to Paramore and The Pretty Reckless, and instead is borderline bubblegum. It contrasts with the grungy riffery which thunders along behind it.

Pop is not a dirty word, and what Weekend Recovery achieve here is the kind of hooky guitar-based pop Nirvana specialised in (think ‘Sliver’, think ‘Been a Son’, etc.). Catchy as hell and bursting with energy, this could well be – and deserves to be – the release that pushes Weekend Recovery fully into the limelight.

Weekend Recovery - Why

Weekend Recovery

Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.