Posts Tagged ‘Please Please You’

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.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Six years ago, I saw Eagulls, alongside Cold Ones, supporting Cerebral Ballzy at A Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds. Cold Ones were pretty awful but Eagulls were, to be blunt, utterly fucking gash, and I vowed never to see of hear them again if I could possibly help it. It’s a vow I’ve kept until now: there was no way I was going to pass up on Protomartyr playing practically on my doorstep as part of a co-headlining tour.

We’d been advised to get don early doors (7:30) as York (and now Leeds) perennials Fawn Spots were scheduled to play at 7:45 ahead of a 10:30 finish. In the event, I arrived at 7:35 to find a guy with a guitar, miniature keyboard and massive rack of pedals set up in front of the stage in the process of building a layered, loop-based sound that straddled post-rock, post-punk and shoegaze, with some tendencies toward whappy time signatures and general fiddling. It’s really rather good, and on the strength of this brief outing, 99 Watts from Darlington warrants further exploration.

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99 Watts

Fawn Spots are a band I’ve spent a long time exploring, and they’ve evolved so much over the course of their career. Having stated out as a snotty two-piece reliant more on attitude than ability, their debut album, released on Fire Records was testament to their blossoming into a thrashy post-punk powerhouse. Now free of the label and into their next phase, tonight’s set showcases material from in-progress album number two. It’s a new sound again, amalgamating elements of mid-80s Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope. Early in the set, Oliver’s guitar playing sounds like Marty McFly at the prom, but fortunately, it’s just one broken and one out of turn string rather than a disappearing hand to blame. A switch of guitar later, he’s back to form, and while the songs are yet to bed in fully, it’s clear the next album will be a blinder.

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Fawn Spots

All of Protomartyr’s albums to date have been belters, and the reception they get shows just what an ardent fan base they’ve built with them. The kids – and they are kids – down the front are flopping and flapping uncoordinately, fringes drooping. And they know every single bloody word. It must be gratifying to see, though you’d never gauge it from the faces on the stage: three IT guys in jeans and t-shirts, fronted by their frustrated manager, a guy in his mid-to-late 30s and still in the beaten suit he wore to the office, churn out the tunes with passive expressions. If Mark E. Smith had been into US blues rock and discordant post-punk, The Fall would have sounded like this. While the deceptively detailed guitar parts are big on texture, the powerhouse drumming really drives the energy levels up, in contrast with Joe Casey’s downtrodden baritone grumblings. Repetition and dissonance are integral aspects of their angular sound, and it’s the fact they’re overtly uncool which makes them ultimately and ineffably cool.

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Protomartyr

Eagulls are bloody loud and crank out a dense wall of sound from behind a thick smog, silhouetted by stark lighting. Gone is the shambolic amateurism and apparent lack of identity of six years ago: the bands on stage are slick, confident, and it’s a straight fact that they sound fucking incredible. Immediately, The Cure and A Flock of (S)eagulls come to mind my way of reference points, and everything in their performance is immaculate. I feel like I’m experiencing first hand, at last, the spirit of gigging in 1985 (being born in 1975, I was simply too late to witness bands like The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy in their heyday.

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Eagulls

So why am I not absolutely feeling this, one hundred per cent, to my very marrow? Because it’s not 1985, it’s 2016. While everything about Eagulls is exactly right, it’s only a replica, a reproduction, out of time. It’s convincing, but it’s a carefully-studied fake. I’m not actually questioning their sincerity or integrity here, but their authenticity. Three songs in, and the rush of seeing such an accomplished performance has full hold: by seven songs, it’s becoming apparent that for all the style – and Eagulls have all the style when it comes to presentation – the content isn’t quite on the same level. It’s the same issue as I have with Department M: it’s meticulously observed, perfectly executed but lacking in soul and conviction.

Still, they do put on a show, and are deservedly well-received. But Protomartyr were always going to be the band of the night, and without doubt, they were.

Christopher Nosnibor

For a Sunday night it York, it’s not a bad turnout, and while I’m not often a fan of seated shows, this bill of laid-back electronic-based music lends itself perfectly to adopting a less upright position for optimal enjoyment. Plus, it makes a welcome change to be able to put my beer on a table in front of me, rather than have to clutch it and thus warm it with increasingly condensation-dampened hands, or to concern myself with wearing a jacket with adequately capacious pockets that facilitate free hands for taking notes, taking photographs.

Two of tonight’s acts I saw only a few weeks ago, and when Mayshe Mayshe opened up for Living Body (for whom Shield Patterns were the main support) at the Brudenell in Leeds, I was charmed by her lo-fi minimalist pop tunes. Tonight’s set confirms that the bells, whistles, mini-pianos and hair-dryers aren’t gimmicky features of a novelty act, but genuinely useful features of a sound that’s spurred by innovation. Her songs are beautifully crafted examples of quirky bedroom elecro-pop. But for all the sparseness, there are some dense bass tones.

Mayshe Mayshe

Mayshe Mayshe

Having been less than enthused by the performance of hipster laptop DJ Game Program supporting Silver Apples recently, I’m even less enthused by Jakoby’s noodlings. In fairness, he has a lot of ideas. Some of them are good, and some are very good. But many of them are not, and his compositions have a tendency to throw everything at every track, often simultaneously. There were at least a dozen points that would have made a tidy ending to the set, but he kept bringing it back up and what’s likely intended as a brain-bending sonic overload ends up being an overlong exercise in onanism.

Jakoby

Jakoby

What a contrast, then, Elsa Hewitt. Same format in principle: a solo performer with a laptop and a mix desk, she’s understated as a performer, but it very soon becomes clear she has an immense talent and is doing something genuinely different. In this line of work, even the inventive and the radical can pale against the sheer volume of acts trying to carve a niche by virtue of their supposed uniqueness. But with some thunderous trip-hop beats – which are in places contrasted with minimalist, flickering glitch beats – and washes of amorphous sound over low, throbbing, scrotum-vibrating bass, topped with ethereal vocals and looped self-harmonies, Else forges a sound unlike anyone else. Building some slow-burning, hypnotic grooves, the gap in the market for Urban Ambient is hers for the taking.

Elsa Hewitt

Elsa Hewitt

It’s Claire Brentnall’s birthday, and having launched the second Shield Patterns album with a hometown launch show in Manchester the night before, she celebrates with a superlative performance tonight. The duo’s layered, detailed music is well-suited to the intimate atmosphere of the darkened Crescent, and the PA does it justice. The tonal separation and sonic depth is magnificent, the vocals crisp yet still shrouded in reverb: effectively recreating the sound of their considered studio recordings, it’s easy to get lost in the space between the layers of sound. Brentnall’s haunting vocals are enveloped in extraneous noise and a gauze-like blend of synths and field sounds, while Richard Knox hammers out thunderous, rolling drum sounds on an impressive drum pad setup. With the minimal lighting, it all makes for a compelling show, and a magnificent way to end a weekend.

Shield Patterns

Shield Patterns

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, so despite there having been a fair few shows – and shows I was interested in – having been booked in what is, for York, a new gig space, this is my first time in The Crescent. And less than ten minutes’ walk from the train station, it’s a good space, in terms of size and capacity, with a well-proportioned stage, and a well-stocked bar. These things are important, and with a decent selection of bottled beers on offer, I went for a Jennings Snecklifter at £3.30 – a great beer for a cold night. It’s still early doors, but by the time I arrived, the place was packed with sixth formers and students. Or maybe I’m getting really fucking old.

Still, any band that can combine the garage firepower of The Strokes with the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr and wrap it all up with a dash of Pavement and bring it to a new generation of music fans are ok in my book. Bull are that band, and on a good night they’re awesome. Last-minute stand-ins for the first scheduled act, turns out it is a good night, with a lively set that makes for a killer start to the night.

Broken Skulls almost threaten to derail things. They’re not bad by any stretch. But they are the musical embodiment of an identity crisis. The drum ‘n’ guitar duo can certainly play. Drummer Dan Sawyer is solid, and so is the guitar work, courtesy of brother Dan, although the guitar needs to be louder. Much louder. Leaping from chiming, weaving textured segments quite naturally, the songs themselves work. But it’s the chasm between what the band thinks it sounds like and what it actually sounds like that’s a sticking point. They think Black Keys. They think post rock rock. They think ‘kind of punk rock, kind of not’. But Dan has a U.S. heavy blues / hard rock, gritty, straining, vocal style that just doesn’t sit comfortably. Still, it’s not as awkward as the between-song chat, but still, it is early days and there’s definite potential on display here.

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Broken Skulls

Avalanche Party have even more potential. They seem to have their act nailed, and the material too. They know how to amp things up. Attitude, man, attitude. And pace: frantic pace. They’ve got both in spades. They’ve also got some cunty mates, unfortunately. I’ve got no gripes with moshing, but kids in bovver boots and braces, jeans rolled above the top of 12-hole DMs with suedehead crops rucking the fuck out of one another for sport, I’m not so sure about. ‘I think our behaviour was rather frowned upon’ I heard one of them say to his mate while dabbing a bleeding nose in the bogs after the set. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually paid much attention to what was going on on stage, sadly. It’s a shame, because the energy of the set and the quality of the material was top-flight. YTheir brand of driving indie rock may not be remotely revolutionary, and the guitarist may be sporting the most preposterous man-bun, but when it’s done this well, you can let such niggles pass. Doing brash with panache, Avalanche Party have the potential to be the next Arctic Monkeys, but not while their dozen or so tosser mates are in tow.

Avalanche

Avalanche Party

There aren’t many bands who can replicate the initial impact of the first time you see them. Sure, they’re good, but that first euphoric bang… Nah. …And the Hangnails are that rare band that does it every time. And more. With new material sounding absolutely belting, and established favourites like ‘Everybody’s Luck’ and ‘Fear of Fear’ (played with only five guitar strings) cranked out with blistering power, there really is everything to love about Hangnails. The songs – simple but effective, vibrant indie alt rock with a raw garage aesthetic – are great. But it’s all in the execution. They work hard, and crank it up to the max. Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar given them a really full sound, but it’s the way it plays against Steven Reid’s insane drumming that really sets …And The Hangnails apart. He’s got more power than the national grid, and he’s fucking tight, too.

Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

To see four bands of such a calibre for a fiver seems like more than just a good deal, and it’s one hell of an avert for both the promoter, Please Please You, and the York scene as a whole. Given time, and a lighting rig that matches the sound and does the acts and the stage justice, The Crescent has the potential to be York’s long-awaited answer to The Brudnell.