Posts Tagged ‘The Fall’

June 2022 – Ten Foot Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Most bands start out splurging output and slow down over the course of their career. Percy aren’t most bands, and over the last decade have accelerated their output. And also, contrary to the common trajectory, instead of mellowing, they’ve got angrier, gutsier, ragier. Monorail really does find them at the top of their game, bursting with zeal and brimming with vitriol, kicking arse like never before.

‘Chunks’, premiered at their recent York show supporting Percy slams in hard and angular, landing between Grotesque era Fall and Truman’s Water. Jagged, jarring, it’s a full-throttle it’s an instant headache. ‘We’re all just chunks in gravy’, Colin Howard snarls and sneers, and it’s punchy – a very different kind of throbbing gristle. There’s no let up as they pile into the scorching ‘I.C.U.’ and it’s immediately clear that Percy have hit a new level.

They haven’t changed fundamentally: they’ve always been sociopolitical, and they’ve always cranked out driving riffs with a choppy, discordant edge, accentuated by Howard’s Mark E Smith influenced slightly nasal sprechgesang, and there’s a clear continuity that’s run from their self-released 2013 debut album, A Selection of Salted Snacks, through their debut album proper, Sleepers Wake on the esteemed Mook label and 2020’s Seaside Donkeys, which featured the Brexit demolition anthem, ‘Will of the People’.

Monorial isn’t so much about evolution or progression as it is about hitting that sweet spot – which really isn’t so sweet. In other words, their two years out from gigging during a tumultuous time socially and politically has seen them really hone their frustrations into their most attacking material yet. Same style, same form, just harder, faster, more pissed off. It’s not only their best work to date, but it’s absolutely essential listening, especially for those who still reminisce about John Peel and the golden age of indie, because these guys are everything you could want and Monorail has future cult classic written all over it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

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Percy

“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.

Wild Goose Chase Records – 27th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Little Musgrave – the vehicle for Brussels-based Joey Wright – was conceived and recorded during the first Coronavirus lockdown, and its homemade, DIY, lo-fi stylings are perhaps representative of the style and form that will, ultimately, prove to define the period from Spring 2020 to Summer 2021 as musicians, twitchy and desperate for release took to recording at home, minus bands, and without access to studios or even half their kit, let along bandmates. Primitive drum machines, apps, recording and even mixing on mobile phones and releasing via Bandcamp has for many been the only way.

Why not wait? You may ask. Because creatives often need to create and to put it out there: creativity is a compulsion, and for many, public reception is validation of their output, even though got many it’s equally a source of anxiety and self-doubt.

‘Matches’ is a no-messing mess of sinewy guitars chopping out some rough and ready post-punk tinged indie that lands, lay-legged and in a heap between The Fall and Pavement. Wright isn’t really a singer in the conventional sense, often adopting a more Sprechgesang mode of delivery – although that isn’t to say he can’t sing, and there are some brief moments of melodic reflection. This is also a fair reflection of the abstract / elliptical lyrical content, which is wildly veering and often abstract, but not without moments of sensitivity.

The lack of polish, while borne out of necessity, is endearing in that it also presents a lack of pretence. And, also of necessity, the fizzing guitars and simple, insistent rhythms that pump away and pin the loosely-played songs together, are found alongside, as the liner notes proffer, ‘sounds which could have been recorded live in the dentist’s chair – we’re talking drills, saws and high-pitched whines’. With trips to the dentist off the table during lockdown, one assumes these extraneous sounds were sourced elsewhere, and primarily around the home. It’s remarkable just how unsettling a blender or electric shaver can sound when recorded and played back out of context, you know.

More often than not distilled into sub-three-minute bursts, clattering percussion and jarring angles are defining features; ‘Your Reputation Precedes You’ pitches a semi-spoken word performance over a clanking industrial-edged backdrop, while elsewhere, ‘Workers’ day’ is dissonant, difficult, and antagonistic, but as a thunking synth bass groove emerges through it all, it takes on an awkward electrofunk vibe that evokes the stylings of early Shriekback – before dissolving into a mess of feedback, whirs, and buzzing, and the scratchy Fall-esque ramble ‘Stick By Stick’ collapses into mangling noise.

And while Matches doesn’t sound like The Fall per se, its wild eclecticism and the levels of discord achieved by the guitars (are they in tune, let alone playing the same key? Just listen to ‘Which of you has done this?’ to get a handle on the stylistic collisions that aren’t just characteristic but define the album.

Weird and wonderful with the emphasis on the latter, Matches is inventive and unusual. At times difficult and brain-bending, it’s also self-aware and interesting, and deserves some time to adjust to. It’s not mainstream, but it’s got real cult potential.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore continue to make the most of lockdown, with the pair banging out a second mini-album, comprising three of their recent singles along with three brand new tracks. Does the title have a significance? Does the end of lockdown mark the end of Videostore as Nathan and Lorna return to work and also reconvene with Argonaut? Perhaps time will tell, but for now, this is a document of the effects of life in confinement – or, as they put it, ‘what happens when you are locked down with Disney plus and Taylor Swift and Spacemen 3 CDs for company.’

It’s an interesting blend, but also a hybrid that works and is distinctively Videostore: scuzzed-out lo-fi pop songs that articulate ennui and nostalgia with a rare energy. As ever, it’s the contrast between Nathan’s worldweary monotone baritone and Lorna’s light, lilting, airy tones that really distinguish and define their sound.

It starts off with single cut ‘Superhero Movies’, a lively blast of choppy guitars where they ruminate on the disparity between movies and life, whereby everyone aspires to be a superhero from the comfort of their sofa. Media and unattainable aspiration is also the focus of ‘Your Perfect Life’. ‘Halfway There’ is a middle-aged lament that finds Nathan mulling over the passage of time, and in its downtempo mood and delivery, I’m reminded of The Fall’s ‘Time Enough at Last’, and even the semi-spirited call of ‘techno techno techno techno’ and a swerve into synth territory near the end can’t lift the melancholy mood – that’s a job for the blistering Pixies-like blast of single ‘Your Mind’, which stands out even more in context.

Low-key single ‘Anglepoise’ marks another return to Brix-era fall stylings, and there’s something affectingly sad in the sound of tiredness, of defeat. The last song, ‘Go’ is the biggest surprise of the set. It’s not a cover of the Moby track, but it is an all-out electro dance banger. It’s incongruous, so say the least, but there are some trademark squalls of noise among the trancey synths and insistent beats.

They Closed Down The Videostore may only contain six tracks, but it’s their most diverse work yet – and if the store remains open, the indications are they’ve no shortage of ideas to pursue.

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Buzzhowl Records – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Health Plan’s all-caps bio on their Bandcamp doesn’t really tell us much, bujt it does, I suppose, tell us enough in the pan of three short, declarative sentences: ‘HEALTH PLAN ARE DAN, STEVEN AND FRANCOIS. WE PLUGGED GUITARS STRAIGHT INTO A LAPTOP AND MADE SOME POP SONGS. MEMBERS OF USA NAILS, BLKLSTRS, THE EUROSUITE, DEAD ARMS’. Whether or not that qualifies them as a supergroup I’m not sure, but this emerging hub of intersection musicians is proving to be a fertile melting pot, and on the musical evidence of this, their eponymous debut, they are a super group. And of course, as you’d expect, a noisy one.

The album’s eight tracks are an extended exercise in crashing, droning noise rock, and it’s not intended to be pleasant: this is the kind of music where you marvel at the layers of noise as they scrape and clash against one another, feedback shrieking against low-end-grooves, as reverbs bounce off one another in different directions. And maybe there is something masochistic about enjoying this kind of thing, but it’s about sensation, and feeling the sound batter your body and brain.

‘Post Traumatic Growth’ piles in as an introduction, a mess of buzzing bass, relentless percussion, and squalling guitars, landing somewhere between Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with additional blasts of exploding lasers and blank monotone vocals.

And this is the flavour of the album: motoric and messy, lo-fi and abrasive. The rhythm section holds things down, albeit muzzed up, fuzzed out and indelicately. It works a treat: the bass buzzes and booms, and the drums thump, and in combination they punch hard. The guitars are toppy, discordant and disco-ordinated, slashing away at angles across the linear rhythm grooves.

When they dial it down a bit, as on the altogether more sedate instrumental ‘Fade’, where a thumping bass beat flutters like a heartbeat beneath a current of swirling, meandering sound, the production is still such that it’s anything but comfortable, and it’s not lo-fi, but wilful awkwardness: there’s a cymbal that cuts through the mix at a mean volume, and it’s not smooth or in keeping, but harsh, crashing, incongruent.

‘Vapid Expressions’ comes on like The Fall, like MES at huis most hectoring in a swelling surge of motoric repetition that drills into your brain. ‘Stuck in a Loop’ lives up to its title, a cyclical repetition of a motif pinned to a relentless beat, providing some kind of lull before the acerbic hollering of ‘Cataract’ that drives it to a finish in a frenzy of sax and distortion.

While so many bands take cues from The Fall, Health Plan do so with real style, and moreover, take as much influence from the band’s stubborn refusal to conform, or to pretty up their sound with tidy production. To my mind, punk has always been about an aesthetic rather than a style – primarily about going against the grain and not giving a toss about anything other than pleasing yourself – meaning that Health Plan is truly as punk as fuck.

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5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve spent hours racking my brains to fathom what the opening bars of ‘Nouveau Bleach’ – the first track on the eponymous EP by Nouveau Bleach remind me of, and I still can’t bloody make it out. With a name that’s straight out of Nathan Barley, this south London trio are as postmodern as they are post-punk, and the four tracks of their debut EP sets their stall out plainly, with no pissing about.

There’s are elements of The Fall with the ramshackle, rattling guitar that goes here there and everywhere, and especially the yelping, partially atonal vocal, with the simple repetition of the sloganeering refrain ‘Nouveau bleach / Rinse repeat’, conveying the ennui of tedious repetition so succinctly. The baritone vocal has a hint of Editors’ Tom Smith about it, but then, there’s quite a concoction of elements in the mix., and the production being lo-fi and primitive really suits the sound.

‘Pharmakon’ is amore straight head punk tune, and the band soon reveal a simple but effective formula, based on heavy repetition, and ‘Kondonauts’ exemplary – again, The Fall, Public Image, and comparisons to more recent acts from Scumbag Philosopher to Bilge Pump seem reasonable: a propensity for the motoric, for repetitive, cyclical riffs and unmelody still reveal some lovely moments – but mostly jarring, sharp-edged ones that make sitting back and just listening uncomfortable ‘but does it spark joy?’ they ask. In some way, it sort of does, and you join the dots to Gang of Four and snotty, shouty 90s underground and riot grrrl.

If it sounds like an explosive, incoherent identity crisis, it’s because it probably is: Nouveau Bleach are absolute magpies, and not entirely discriminate, which is actually an asset: everything is material, and they bring it together in a broiling melting pot to create a unique and antagonistic fusion, and it kicks ass.

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Atypeek Muzik

Christopher Nosnibor

Apparently France’s One Arm is a ‘mythical’ band, although the newly unveiled existence of Mysore Pak, their first album which gathers a fill twenty years of work, suggests that’s not entirely true. There’s nothing like a bit of mythology and legend to bolster the status of an obscure cult act – and this particular cult act has managed to score a number of other cult performers to contribute to the recordings here, most notably Little Annie, who adds ‘kosmic vocals’ to ‘Space is the Place’.

Mysore Pak is, it would seem, a collection of recordings made over the last twenty years, but try to delve into the band’s history and details are nigh on impossible to locate or verify. Who said that it was impossible to hide in the age of the Internet? Anyway, Mysore Pak has a truly vintage sound, with touchstones going back far more than two decades, taking grabs from 60s psychedelic, post-punk, and early industrial.

The first song, the vaguely baggy ‘Real’ is dominated by the heavy clatter of two drummers and duelling basses and with its thumping motorik repetition, it calls to mind vintage Fall. ‘ESG’, meanwhile, locks into a slightly psychedelic groove – and with the airy female vocals, I;’m reminded more of the careening drift of Stereolab, as well as the more contemporary Modeerate Rebels who similarly spin classic indie with a Krautrock aesthetic. The slowed down, sedated ‘Space is the Place’ creeps and squirms stealthy around a primitive percussive clatter, and ‘City’ is a standout with it’s locked-in groove and discordant howls of wailing feedback.

Elsewhere, things get murkier and harder edge, as exemplified by the cutty, scrapy, hybrid trudge of jittery noise that is the eight-minute ‘Top Tone’. The guitars are sharp, there’s all the serpentine esotericism and eastern promise you could dream of, making this a dreamy, delirious meandered, and similarly, ‘Step 3’, which comes on like a head-on collision between Suicide and The Jesus and Marty Chain is a deeply compelling mess of noise. Closer ‘Virgule’, too, harks back to Psychocandy while plundering a seem much deeper and darker with its rippling flyaway synths and low-riding bass that meanders as it pleases while vintage snares crack in every whichway.

For the primitive production feel and the simplicity of basslines that just loop endlessly, Mysore Pak is so much more than a hipsterish replica of real life that skips along nicely. As accessible as this album is, it’s got more depth and more instant biteback than you would ever imagine. An album that steps out of time and spans infinite time and space, it’s got a lot going for it.

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The album, Seaside Donkeys, may have had its release postponed and live launch rescheduled, but lockdown isn’t going to stop Yorkshire post-punk powerhouse Percy from getting their musics to the masses.

‘Will of the People’ encapsulates everything that is Percy in a fraction over three minutes: ramshackle, Fall-esque rattling guitars, a thumping rhythm section, needling synths and sneering sprechgesang vocals with a flat tone and overtly Northern inflection spitting fury at the stupidity of thee masses over Brexit. A band like Percy could only ever come from the north of England. Fact.

It’s a blistering blast of disaffection, and it’s ace. Check it here:

Yorkshire’s answer to The Fall may have postponed the release of their new album, and since they can’t build any buzz with their usual gigging schedule, they’ve released an album preview to accompany the pre-order on Bandcamp. Showcasing some solid songs and a ragged, lo-fi production on an album that – in the best possible way – sounds like Percy, in the way they’ve sounded like Percy since forever. In uncertain times, here is a band you can depend on…

Get yer lugs round it here:

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West Wickhams are a psychedelic garage noir duo from the Isles of Scilly, Tresco. Consisting of Jon Othello and Elle Flores, West Wickham’s music manifests itself with such style, the effect is a timeless body of sound. Hailing from Tresco, the island of lost souls, subtropical plants and shipwrecked figureheads, the pair recently relocated to Richmond Surrey, proclaiming themselves an imagined rival gang to punk style icons, the Bromley Contingent.

Their colourful history brings a depth to their sound reminiscent of legendary bands such as The Doors, Blondie and Siouxshie and the Banshees. However, the band themselves declare their influences largely from sources outside the music industry; Whitby Abbey, Pipe Organs, Flowers, Polka Dot Cats, Dark Punk, Gothic Novels and Rock n Roll Autobiographies, Castles, Abstract Painting, Euphoria, Mist, Autumn, Halloween, Optical Illusions, Edgar Allan Poe and Andy Warhol.

West Wickham’s debut single “He’s Acquired a New Face” will be released on November 22nd on White Limited-Edition Optical Illusion vinyl.

Check “He’s Acquired a New Face” here: