Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Where Has The Writing Gone?

...It's moved! As part of my postgraduate journalism course I had to move to the dark side - Wordpress! So, if you would like to read more musical musings please go check it out... Beat The Static, or if you're interested in the effect the internet has had on journalism I've got a bit of a techno blog going on too at World Wide What?

This isn't necessarily the end of DR Watchword...I might come back to it later...when I've learned how to be a much better writer.

Peace out x

Monday, 4 October 2010

Tubelord at Buffalo Bar, Cardiff. 3rd October 2010.

See that word in the title there? The 'Cardiff' one? Yes, I've moved to the Welsh-land! And it was only after moving all the way to Cardiff that I finally managed to see a band I've been getting more and more into, who hail from my hometown of Kingston, go figure!

Set in the very edgy photo-plastered upstairs room in Buffalo Bar (which does a good pie in the downstairs restaurant), a great line-up of past and present Big Scary Monsters bands gave us a highly entertaining show, starting with Muscle Club, Tall Ships, and finally headliners, Tubelord.

Muscle Club gave a really strong performance to start the night off, some really punchy tunes and strong vocals that had a maturity exceeding the guys' boyish good looks! Since I hadn't really heard much of their material before, they definitely warrant some more research.

I've been fortunate enough to see Tall Ships some 3 times now, and they're incredible every time. It's not often you get to see a band who are so talented that they regularly swap instruments, create such a rich and varied sound, whilst having a great time on stage as they cheekily grin their way through the set. These guys have quite a following now, with most of the audience singing along to tracks like 'Vessels'. As part of their new EP release on 25th October (go buy it!), they also played new song, 'Plate Tectonics', "dedicated to anyone that likes rocks", and I can honestly say that after the massive build of tension that carried the whole audience along with it, everyone just stood there gobsmacked once they'd finished. They're bloody good.

Last but not least, Tubelord. Sporting a slightly different formation than usual, with borrowed vocals from Alan Welsh from Tangled Hair, as usual frontman Joe Prendergast had reportedly mislaid his voice. Or lost it, whatever. While Alan put in a damn good effort - after all, it can't be easy singing someone else's songs, especially when he's bashing away on the guitar behind you, probably itching to be able to do the job himself - it wasn't quite the same as Joe has a set of pretty distinctive vocal chords that do really lend themselves to the songs. Despite this, it was a better choice than cancelling, and the performance was really enjoyable.

I may just have to go and see them again once Joe is fully recovered. Maybe just for research purposes...Maybe because they're achingly good...Maybe to see if they play 'Synthesize' next time, please...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

So Who's This Scott Pilgrim Fella?

Posters are plastered about the place, the ads are on TV, even though it only came out at the cinema yesterday, chances are that you've already heard of 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World'. I had when I went to see it, but nothing could have prepared me for the visual onslaught that ensued. I won't give it all away, and it would be an impossibly long post if I did, so fear not.

Directed by Edgar Wright, who brought us the likes of 'Hot Fuzz' and 'Shaun of the Dead', some laughs were definitely expected - especially since I only have to look at main man Michael Cera (the geeky anti-hero of 'Juno' and 'Superbad') to crack a smile. And there are some fantastic comedy moments, but that's not the main basis that makes this film so great. Wright brings something completely new and exciting to cinema that his former movies do not even hint at. This is strongly linked to the fact that the film is based on the 'Scott Pilgrim' comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley, like in 'Sin City', Wright has used the comic book medium; every time a phone rings, a brash, stylised 'RING RING' flashes on screen. But there is more. There are video games too, oh yes!

I'm going to be totally honest here - I think I  had a bit of a video game deprived childhood, because I don't know many. I at least managed to get the Super Mario references. But, even without knowing the specific games, the references still work, and allow you to really enjoy leaving reality behind as Scott Pilgrim battles a succession of evil exes in order to get the girl of his dreams, multicoloured quirky beauty, Ramona Flowers.

As geeky chic bassist with an unnatural sensitivity to his haircut, Michael Cera is perfect for the part - he is the quietly determined underdog that everyone loves, and packs some impressive punches despite his skinny limbs. Despite one rather cringey musical moment involving the duel with boyfriend number 1, Matthew Patel, the movie is compulsive viewing from start to finish. At times, the pace is so fast, slickly switching between dream, reality, time and place, with witty captions flashing up every now and again, that I think it would take several viewings to take it all in.

I, for one, am quite eager to go back to the cinema and watch it again.

Double points score!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Kings of Leon, Hyde Park, 30/6/10

There's nothing better than booking some exciting gig tickets, looking forward to it for months, waiting for the date to slowly tick round. But managing to scavenge a ticket just a couple of days before the gig and having the excitement thrust upon you all at once ain't half bad either. With doors at 2.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon, it also provides a major plus to being currently out of work (though just don't mention the matter of trying to pay for the pricey ticket).

To be fair, there was a lot of music for your money, as KoL were supported by The Features, The Whigs, The Drums and The Black Keys (my friend had mistakenly thought it was the Black Eyed Peas...not sure if 'I Gotta Feelin' ' would've gone down so well in this crowd). The Features are signed to the Kings of Leon's partly owned label 'Imprint', and The Whigs previously supported the guys on the 'Only By The Night' tour, so it's a pretty friendly outfit. Hotly tipped band, The Drums, gave a solid performance of their laid back quirky rock, big hit 'Let's Go Surfing' was a particular high point. Finally, The Black Keys, whose latest album 'Brothers' has caused a bit of a stir, also got the crowd going, but seemed to leave behind the material from the six (six!) previous albums which any die hard fans may have found a little disappointing.

On to the headliners, I'd had a niggling worry in the back of my mind all day before these guys came on stage after hearing somewhat underwhelming things about their headlining performance at Reading last year. Luckily, it seems Hyde Park agrees with them. Frontman Caleb Followill was pretty chatty, clearly humbled by the size of the concert they'd managed to sell out. He even went as far to say that the gig was one of the best experiences of his life. Bless. There were definite advantages to seeing them in between album promotions as the guys played a fairly even mix between all four of their albums - releases and album tracks - as well as a handful of new songs that still have working titles 'Immortals', 'Radioactive' and 'Southbound', which made the forthcoming album seem pretty tempting. Adding to this the fact that they played a cheeky cover of The Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind', which went down very well, a good time was had by all. The one let down, due to no fault of the band, was their performance of 'Sex On Fire' - the song that catapulted them to mainstream international stardom has now been so overplayed, taken over by radio stations like Heart FM, and found it's way into even my mother's musical consciousness...it just doesn't have the same effect it once did when it was released a couple of years ago. But I can't go getting into the problems of bands becoming 'too successful' right now...

Here's the Kings of Leon set list:
'Taper Jean Girl'
'My Party'
'Be Somebody'
'Molly's Chambers'
'4 Kicks'
'The Bucket'
'Where Is My Mind?'
'Sex On Fire'
'On Call'

'Knocked Up'
'Use Somebody'
'Black Thumbnail'

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Before I begin, can I just say...I can't stop listening to this album! To the point where, from once being enjoyable, it has now become some kind of compulsion. So I'll issue this as a public health warning, some of these tracks are as catchy as...I don't know, some kind of itchy S.T.I. Just be careful, ok?!

So, warning over, I briefly mentioned these guys way back, after I saw them supporting for Bat For Lashes at The Roundhouse. Comprised of three main members, Chris Keating, Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton - the latter I believe must have the coolest name in the music business. Despite the artists' sounds being so different, they definitely got the crowd hyped up before Natasha Khan's appearance, and it was only fair that they tag along on the tour seeing as the Yeasayer boys part-produced Khan's album 'Two Suns'. Clearly they have many talents. I thought they rocked back then, and their album hasn't disappointed. Well, I say 'rock', instead they kind of 'roll-up-their-blazer-sleeves-and-point-in-time-with-the-music', but rock is a bit quicker to say.

The guys describe their sound as "Middle Eastern psych-snap-gospel", I don't really know what that means, and I'm guessing it's probably just something they made up, because really there is no definitive answer - they are experimental, and as such cannot stick to any one kind of 'sound'. This much is clear from comparing their two albums, 2007's 'All Hour Cymbals' is worlds away from this year's 'Odd Blood'. The songs that instantly caught my, er, ears, were those from 2 to 5, particularly 'Ambling Alp' and 'O.N.E', because they are just awesome dance-filled slices of 80s cake, with a little layer of modern synth and craziness that bring them up to date. There is also a sense of tenderness in 'I Remember', which laments lost love, in a psychadelic kind of way. For those who may have liked the first album, the popularity of this latest offering may be a turn off for fear that the band has sold out and gone mainstream , well, maybe they have a little. There is a lot on the latest album that will definitely be more accessible to more people, but there is no way they have lost their experimental edge - there is a lot of weirdness too! Just a quick listen to opening track 'Children' illustrates that, with a strange robotic voice throughout that sounds a little bit like a remix version of the guy in 'Saw'. No danger of that one ending up being played on Heartfm!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

TeenagersInTokyo - Sacrifice

It's not often I manage to get my mitts on shiny new music so soon after it's release date, but this time I managed it, 'Sacrifice' was released on Monday and has already wormed its way into my musical consciousness.

I had already heard a fair bit about TeenagersInTokyo as they have recently appeared at Brighton's Great Escape Festival, as well as supporting the likes of The Gossip and CSS on tour, and subsequently have been appearing in many a music-review magazine and blog. My interest was only really ignited after stumbling across the video for their single 'Peter Pan', which had a dark, sinister edge that really lent itself to the song - which is incredibly catchy in it's own right.

Comprised of Samantha Lim on vocals, whose voice really ties the whole album together and manages to bring a great sense of chaos whilst remaining sultry and vulnerable, Miska Mandic on keyboard, Linda Marigliano on bass, Sophie McGinn on guitar, and Rudy Udovich on drums, it's a predominantly girlie affair that brings a whole new meaning to the term 'girl power'. No, they don't have their own 'peace' finger signs, in fact from the sounds of it their finger signs would bring a somewhat different meaning, because the band have a really great dark, menacing thing going on that separates them from all of the other 80s revival bands, and female-fronted artists that have flooded the music scene recently.

I love the final track '3046' precisely for this sinister edge, it is quiet, slow, and acts as a perfect ending to the album. The rest of the tracks have a similar beat - which it might have done some good to vary a little - but when you've got the likes of 'Peter Pan' and 'End It Tonight' with an addictive beat that has already invited remixes from We Have Band and The Horrors, you're still going to enjoy having a listen. Generally a really promising album, but I reckon they're better live...

'Peter Pan' The Horrors Remix here

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Just a Quiet One In a Brighton Pub...

...Or perhaps a very loud one instead. The pub? The Pav Tav, Brighton. The loudness? An Alcopop! and BSM records free showcase as part of Brighton's immense Great Escape festival. This was my first face to face introduction to some of the great Big Scary Monster's family, which began with a brief meeting with 'The Daddy' of the family, Kevin Douche. This was down to the fact that my great journalisty friend had managed to secure an interview with him, and was kind enough to invite me to go and have a listen and a chat. What I learned was a brief history of BSM, which began with a 17 year old Kevin Douche deciding that saying 'Hey, I've got a record label' sounded pretty cool, so he started saying it, and only worked out what was involved when people believed him. Good job they did really, as now he has signed several fast rising bands from around the country, and is even spreading stateside with BSM USA - the label really is becoming a big, scary monster. It is important to note, though, that it is still very much a DIY, one man show - CD sleeves are printed and glued by hand, hundreds of emails are slogged through for hours - it isn't always a glamorous job. For the bands too, they have to juggle practice and touring with jobs, and sometimes university. After the showcase I witnessed, I think it should be said - thanks for the effort guys!

First on, around 4 in the afternoon, the first of the Alcopop! bands took to the 'stage', which was basically a cornered off bit of pub floor. Elephants gave a really confident opener taking a shine to one particular member of the audience, when front man Owen mused how 'there aren't enough Simons...' Perhaps not the next big philosophical brain, but we'll forgive him that much as the band continued to rock through their very catchy song collection. Stagecoach followed, they didn't have the easiest set as the pub's fire alarm tried to steal the limelight, but despite that they seem to be the band everyone's talking about since, with Radio 1's Huw Stephens tweeting 'Stagecoach was ace' - pretty good praise from someone who knows his music! I tend to agree, and especially liked the end-of-set-madness when various band members decided to ditch the stage in favour of climbing around on the bar - rock 'n' roll!

After a break for a couple of hours, it was BSM's turn, churning out the musical delights, getting progressively louder, with the sensitive acoustic set from Shoes&Socks Off, a beardy display from Men, crazy-guitar-weilding-with-some-unsuccessful-crowd-surfing from Hold Your Horse Is, an ear-drum testing set from Grown Ups, finally finishing off the evening with young Talons. After seeing the great set from the latter band, I couldn't help but wonder if, when sending their sons off to violin music lessons, their parents ever envisaged their sons would end up using their skills to produce killer post rock tunes?

I left the pub in a happy daze, which I'm sure wasn't just down to vodka, safe in the knowledge that I had just tapped a great new source of music, and excited to get my ears on some more. Every band played to such a high standard, and when they had finished they got right back to the front row to cheer on and heckle their musical peers. I have a feeling that in a short while, getting to the front at these guys' gigs won't be such an easy feat.

To read the full interview, and tonnes more reviews, take a look: http://snapshotsandsnippets.com/
To check out Big Scary Monsters; blog, music, merch: http://www.bsmrocks.com/
For some Alcopop! love go here: http://www.ilovealcopop.co.uk/