Lonely the Brave & Mallory Knox, UEA Norwich, 22nd March

Mallory KnoxTen years on from its mid-2000s heyday here are two bands still flying the flag for guitar and skinny jeans indie rock. These two acts, as well as sharing the feeling of being indie bands out of their time, are also both touring to support new material; an EP and an album that make the case for indie rock in 2017.

Technically the support act, Lonely the Brave take to the stage in front of an already packed audience. Opener ‘Black Mire’ gets them singing along. They follow it up with another single, ‘Dust and Bones’, steadily finding their groove.

Lead singer David Jakes, initially quiet between songs, soon settles down and starts joking with the crowd, putting thoughts that this is only the support band to rest.

It would’ve been nice to hear some tracks from new EP ‘Diamond Days‘, but they’re only playing a short set and it seems reasonable that they should stick to playing the hits. They close out their performance with ‘The Blue, The Green‘, leaving the crowd suitably warmed up.

Now for the headline act, Mallory Knox share a great deal of musical DNA with their tourmates, both of them veterans of the Cambridge indie scene, but as soon as they plough right on into ‘Giving It Up‘ it immediately feels like they’re taking things up a notch. Harder and heavier, their decision to open with material from the new album, ‘Wired‘, pays dividends. Blitzing through the first few numbers, the band trade solos, clearly enjoying the freedom of the live setting.

The new material immediately feels more urgent, thunderous backbeats underpin brasher, simpler riffs, taking cues from the garage-rock revival bands that have aged far better than their indie rock contemporaries. Title-track ‘Wired‘ is a particular highlight, slowing the pace slightly and sounding far heavier in the room than on the record.

Frontman Mikey Chapman’s polished crowdsmanship keeps the set moving with great momentum – there’s never a moment of dead air. The band plucks tracks from across the whole breadth of their discography, with old favourites like ‘Wake Up‘ and ‘Shout at the Moon‘ standing alongside fresher cuts, ‘California‘ and ‘Lucky Me‘ and, despite the new album being a mere fortnight old, the new material elicits the greatest audience response.

They close the set with Saviour, another track from the new LP, descending into storms of guitar and drums before exiting the stage to universal applause. The chant of “one more song” reaches fever pitch before the band return for a one-two punch of ‘Lighthouse‘ and ‘Better Off Without You‘. The new single rounds off the night nicely; this is a band with confidence in their work. Packing the set list with new material is risky, but done with this much enthusiasm it’s hard not to be convinced.

Theatre Royal …and another slice of pure psych pop brilliance

.​.​.​and then it fell out of my head by Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal’s fourth album, …And then it fell out of my head

Theatre Royal‘s fourth album, …And then it fell out of my head is yet another slice of pure psych pop brilliance.  Strong melodies, engaging lyrical content and well structured songs.

Dipping toes into past glories and offering the occasional nod to those who have gone before them, Theatre Royal effortlessly manage to place a contemporary spin sound on the so-called ‘Medway Sound’ and in doing so, act as the perfect conduit between past and present. A truism borne out at the recent ‘Medway Weekender‘ where they offered perfect baton-clenching support to Cliffe and Medway’s finest, The Claim, at the prestigious 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street.

…And then it fell out of my head continues their love and inspiration for the river and the sea and all that goes before it. Lyrics constantly return to the river and the waves either physical or metaphorically speaking in songs like Port Bou and Standing In The Land, with what I perceive to be a strong political statement (“how can we be free, when’s there’s dying in the sea, because of you and me”).

The ‘current’ fab four must ooze confidence being able to start their fourth album with a track as powerful as Port Bou. It sets the scene, “I swim in the midnight sea, just the waves and me”. Wave after wave, the song keeps crashing forward and has me nodding  metrical, measured, throbbing, beating, pulsating, cadenced, lilting, repeated, periodic, regular, steady paced approval, as if I’m already familiar with a first play.  A good sign of a great pop song; and this one is screaming Echo & The Bunnymen in their pomp!

…And then it fell out of my head is another very strong album, which being their fourth is a testament to their fine songwriting prowess. Twelve new songs, each with their own merits.  Along with Port Bou, Tune Out is a stand out track for me. A fast and furious, adrenaline rushing, foot-tapping, lipsmacking, thirstquenching, acetasting, motivating, goodbuzzing, cooltalking, highwalking, fastliving, evergiving, coolfizzing, wonderful psych pop tune from the evergreen Theatre Royal.

I really love the play out of this song, and only wish it continued for a few minutes longer, rather than a quick change and fade.

Where The Land Meets The Sky is another favourite from the album, with what I thought was a ‘ba baba ba ba’ homage to Cliff Richard & The Shadows ‘Out In The Country’.  But turns out I was wrong and a nod in The Velvet Underground’s later sunshine pop tunes is all that is referenced here.

If you haven’t already heard and fallen in love with Theatre Royal, you need to get out more!

…And then it fell out of my head by Theatre Royal is released on Vacilando ’68 Recordings on 31st March on limited colour vinyl and is available to pre-order now.

Brutalism – the wonderful debut album from IDLES

Brutalism - debut album by IDLES
Brutalism – debut album by IDLES

Following five years and two EPs, IDLES release their excellent 13 track debut album, ‘Brutalism‘ on Balley Records.

With a scream and spasmodic drum machine, Brutalism jumps into your face with the spitting angst of ‘Heel / Heal‘, quickly followed by the singles, ‘Well Done‘ and ‘Mother‘.  Three tracks in and I’m already thinking ‘Brutalism’ is going to one of my favourite albums of the year.

Idles have found their own path.  Their output has changed from whence they began.  It would be too simplistic to say they now fall somewhere between Sleaford Mods and original punk bands like The Lurkers, but that wouldn’t be too far from the truth; even though they sound much better than either of those bands. The musicanship is tight.  Like IDLES locked themselves away and practised until they bled in sync and reappeared last year to unleash their Frankenstein monster of a sound upon a deserving audience.

While the music is hard, fast and living somewhere in the darkness on the edge of town, lead singer Joe Talbot delivers his words with a snarling menace, spitting angst and equal measures of wit and political commentary. Shouty rap comparisons with Sleaford Mods are unavoidable, but that’s not to take anything away from Talbot and his sincerity.

The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich.

I know nothing, I’m just sitting here looking at pretty colours.

Mother. Fucker. Mother. Fucker.

 

Steeped in great music history, Idles hail from Bristol – home to Massive Attack, Tricky and trip hop; and equally as important The Pop Group, Adrian Sherwood and the On-U Sound label. Now Idles have taken up the baton as they offer something special from one of the most exciting cities in the UK.

Did you see that painting that Rothko did.

Looks like it was done by a two year old kid.

Did you see that selfie that Francis Bacon did.

Don’t look anything like him, what a fucking div!

If the music doesn’t give clarity, the videos show IDLES are having a great time and not taking themselves too seriously.

‘Brutalism’ is a wonderful album. IDLES are destined for bigger things.

IDLES, Colchester Arts Centre, Live Review

IDLESIDLES, Colchester Arts Centre, 9th March

Sincerity is once again the currency of UK punk; politics has displaced posturing in this new wave of young, English bands spearheaded by the likes of ‘Sleaford Mods’, ‘Fat White Family’ and now, Bristol‘s own ‘IDLES‘.

First full-length effort ‘Brutalism‘, out March 10th, fulfils much of the promise of their earlier material. Post-punk in the original sense, the songs brim with righteous indignation and savage, barked vocals, underpinned by a throbbing rhythm section and crushing riffs – this isn’t the same old three chord stuff; these guys can play.

The venue seems appropriate, now an arts centre, once a church. Lead singer Joe Talbot sermonises on what outrages him about today’s Britain (rather a long list), giving no quarter to government ministers and celebrity chefs alike. You get the impression that he’s saying all this with a wry smile, and there is certainly a strong sense of the absurd running through his lyrics. But don’t mistake this flippancy for insincerity; it’s funny, but it’s not a joke.

This is a band who still have a very strong idea of where they come from. All have been familiar faces in the Bristol indie scene for years now, grafting to get gigs and put records out. ‘Exeter’, Talbot’s heartfelt paean to his hometown, opines how “nothing ever happens” there and, after five years languishing in relative obscurity in the South-West prior to the release of this new album, you can forgive him for thinking that. But now, riding the wave of their breakout record, all those feelings of being trapped and frustrated are let loose and the songs are all the better for it.

Best title of the night goes to ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ (a sort of panic attack upon viewing great art), a song about the line between high and low art, a line the band themselves seem content to straddle.

New single ‘Mother’ is the standout number, bitterness and resentment turned anthemic. Belting out lyrics about overworked mothers and book-shy tories you are utterly convinced by their sincerity. This isn’t punk as window dressing, this is the real deal.

They’re only onstage for about an hour but that seems plenty – being so outraged about everything seems exhausting and they never slow down for a minute. Not ones to bother with the artifice of an encore, they instead come down and join the crowd – a class move and utterly in character.

With the level of airplay and exposure the band are getting at the minute it surely won’t be long before they reach the wider audience they deserve. This is punk that is accomplished, funny and political for all the right reasons and it deserves to be heard live.

Tonota 80 – Killer Sands and Beating Hearts – debut album

Tonota 80 - Killer Sands and Beating Hearts debut album
Tonota 80 – Killer Sands and Beating Hearts – debut album

Tonota 80 have a mature sound for a three-piece.  Think a Husker Du steam train hurtling toward the sound barrier.  Carrying with it hints of sweet tasting Green Day bubblegum punk-pop, undercurrents of 1960’s harmonies, and a nod to something much heavier like the twin lead guitar-driven rock of Thin Lizzy.

The name Tonota 80 is taken comes from A Whirlpool of Stars, a pulp sci-fi novel written in the 1970’s by British science fiction writer, Kenneth Bulmer, written under the pseudonym of Tully Zetford.  Apparently a Tonota 80 can vaporise a man from no less than 600 metres away…. which is nice!

Tonota 80 are Richard Pronger (bass and backing vocals), David Bloomfield (guitar and vocals) and John Edwards (drums and vocals).  David and Richard first met in a music shop in their home town of  Maidstone, many years ago. Shortly after, Richard recorded a demo tape in his bedroom for David and John’s band (The Andy Pandys) which also featured Stuart Ellis on bass guitar – now with Medway and Cliffe’s finest export,  The Claim.

As the years passed, they went their separate ways. Richard taught guitar and bass and has continually dabbled in the recording process, nurturing his immense musical talent in a band called Hedgegrow Technologies.  While David and John spent many years in The Strookas, a three-piece band inspired by the blistering guitar work of Husker Du, Radio Birdman, Dinosaur Jr. and Swervedriver.

‘Out of the blue, through our partners contacting each other on Facebook’, Richard recalls, ‘David and I got back in touch. I was remastering some old recordings.’

Fast forward two years and Tonota 80 are set to release their debut album, following the acclaimed EP ‘Jonesing for Chips’ which was championed by among others, BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq.

‘I think the time was right for the three of us to get together’ David reflects. ‘We have all experienced such a lot of differing musical influences during the time we have been apart that the sounds we made when we got back together were really exciting and different to anything we had done before.’

‘Recording has been a breath of fresh air’ recalls John. ‘Richard has a portastudio, and had a small room where we somehow managed to build a massive sound. Luckily, this meant it was cheaper than booking a recording studio and so we were never having to work against the clock and rush things. This has resulted in a collection of songs that are musically more experimental, thought through, analysed and, quite frankly, brilliant.’

Killer Sands and Beating Hearts‘, the debut album by Tonota 80 features 12 storming tracks covering varying subject matter such as love, politics, domestic abuse, Sylvia Sims, social media, being out of control, war and pizza.

You can buy this blistering harmony-driven slice of indie guitar noise by contacting Tonota 80 direct via email tonota80band@gmail.com.