Innocense by Suspects – pure post-grunge garage punk rock

Suspects - Thomas Prescott and James (Jaff) MaySuspects are Thomas Prescott and James (Jaff) May. They come from Southend, and are a part of the ever-growing, pulsating Cool Thing Records that could very well be at the centre of the universe.

Their debut single, Innocense, sees the the two-piece arrive on the garage punk rock ‘n’ roll platform with a bang!

Innocense is an epic slice of back-to-basics, gritty, driving post-grunge garage punk rock.  Pounding drums, heavy big muff-drive fuzz guitars and an abrasive yet controlled, aggressive vocal delivery.  All of which fixates the listener like a rabbit to headlights or Elvis to prescription drugs.  From the off, Innocence explodes into action. 0-50 faster than Valentino Rossi. Ending way too soon, it leaves an empty burning hum and a spellbinding charm, before I select repeat, again and again.

Innocense perfectly depicts a sound that cuts like a switchblade through the endless pile of shallow, empty candy-sweet, non-confrontational drivel that envelopes the sleepy, zombie-like state we find ourselves in. Suspects are here to wake us up from our slumber and to shout from the roof tops FUCK POLITICS – LET’S DANCE!

Pump up the volume and jump aboard the Suspects train departing from Southend-on-Sea, as it steams head on to Garage Punkville!  This train is bound for freedom with its first class passengers Jack White, Black Sabbath, Queens Of The Stone Age and Black Flag.

Innocence by Suspects is available on Cool Thing Records.

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.

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.

The Blue Aeroplanes – Norwich Arts Centre, Live Review

The Blue AeroplanesThe Blue Aeroplanes @ Norwich Arts Centre, 27th January, 2017

The fact that veteran art-rockers The Blue Aeroplanes can still pack out a mid-sized venue, such as the Norwich Arts Centre, is a testament to their enduring cult appeal. Cutting their teeth on the Bristol “art” circuit of the early 1980s, before coming of age with critically acclaimed albums, Swagger and Beatsongs, the band has undergone almost constant line up changes, always led by mercurial frontman, Gerard Langley.

Aligning themselves with the art scene from the outset suggests that their music is something to be appreciated rather than enjoyed and what may have seemed endearingly precocious when the band were in their twenties is now in danger of lapsing into pretension. What prevents this is the self awareness and good humour with which they conduct themselves: this may be art, but it isn’t high art.

The bands latest effort “Welcome, Stranger!” doesn’t stray far from the tried and tested formula of jangly guitars and deadpan, wordplay-loaded lyrics but, as their first album of new material in six years, represents something of a resurgence for the group and a welcome return to form.

The new material heavily peppers the set list on the night and is as warmly received as the older hits by the fans in the room, much to the visible delight of Langley, who seems to be relishing the chance to showcase his still deft lyricism. Of these new tracks Elvis Festival is a particular highlight; a study of the unflappable confidence of Elvis impersonators, whom Langley seems to channeling during the number.

In an age of anniversary tours celebrating bygone successes it’s refreshing to see a veteran band so focused on what comes next, rather than what came before. I suspect that to slow down and reflect on their past as so many of their contemporaries have done would bore them; this is a band moving forward, even now.

Having a high energy, low inhibition dancer as part of the band and onstage at live shows seems decidedly cliché in a post-Bez world, but Wojtek Dmochowski‘s possessed, talismanic grooving actually predates that of his Mancunian counterpart by a number of years. Tonight he is on fine form, still hurtling and flailing with as reckless an abandon as ever. It’s less visual art and more dad dancing, and that’s ok; it lends a much needed lightness to proceedings, softening Langley’s art-rock edge.

Biggest hit Jacket Hangs stands up as well as ever and elicits the most enthusiastic audience response of the evening. They’ve showed off so much brand new material that it’s difficult to begrudge them luxuriating in some nostalgia – they’ve earned it.

The Blue Aeroplanes have always only held cult appeal and their latest album will do nothing to change that. But for the audience in the little venue in Norwich and up and down the country their singular brand of lyrical, literary rock remains a genuine joy.

Torgeir Waldemar, new album – No Offending Borders

No Offending Borders by Torgeir WaldemarTorgeir Waldemar took the Norwegian people and music press by surprise with his eponymous debut album in 2014. Who had thought that the black-clad, longhaired and bearded man would deliver an album that captivated and moved us as much as it did. An acoustic masterpiece that sounded like it came straight from the rehearsal room of a young troubadour from Laurel Canyon in the seventies.

While his previous album cultivated a pure, acoustic sound, we get more rock music this time, and for Torgeir Waldemar nothing is more natural. With his background as a guitar hero in various rock bands, it was only a question of time before distorted tones would assert themselves in his solo career. No Offending Borders is a gloriously composite work with both dead honest acoustic laments and grandiose rock songs.

But the record is so much more than that, and for Torgeir this is a document that shows the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives. Both on the personal level, with relationships that falls apart and the loss of loved ones, but also on a national and global level, with refugee crises, suicide statistics and the weakest members of our society. You may have guessed it already, but this is a solemn record.

If you’re afraid that Torgeir Waldemar has turned away from what he presented on his debut album, you can relax. Here we get acoustic folk songs like “Falling Rain (Link Wray)”, “Island Bliss” and “Souls on a String”, but the album also contains more intense rock songs like “Summer In Toulouse”, “Sylvia (Southern People)” and “Among the Low”.

Aesthetically, it’s also consistent from beginning to end – nothing at all is done by chance here. The historical lines that are drawn in the cover design, are also meant to point back to ourselves and to make us conscious of our past, so that we won’t make the same mistakes again. The cover of the single “Souls on a String” featured a photo of the decorated carrier pigeon from World War I, Cher Ami. It saved a whole British company during the war, when the British were caught in a battle, without any food or ammunition. Cher Ami was sent away, and taken under fire by the enemy, but finally delivered the message that saved the British troops.

The chair on the cover of No Offending Borders is from Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand. This is the chair that Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, was sitting in when he was told that World War I had started. Wilhelm II was a friend of Norway and spent much time on the west coast in the early 1900s. What would you have done if you were sitting in that chair and received that message? Sit down, think thoroughly about it, while you’re listening to No Offending Borders.

No Offending Borders by Torgeir Waldemar is scheduled for release on Jansen Plateproduksjon on 17th March.