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.

The Love Family – New Single & Album for the (un)Beaten Generation

The Love Family - Traces [drone attack] Remix by Terry Lane
The Love Family – Traces [drone attack] Remix by Terry Lane
The Love Family
Traces [drone attack]
Remixed by Terry Lane
Available as a digital single via Grip Records on 24th March, 2017

THROW OPEN THE WINDOWS. DEATH TO TIMID POP!

Watching fads, scenes and sub-genres come and go, The Love Family have quietly gone about their business producing hard hitting slabs of power chord-driven post punk flavoured alt rock from deepest Medway through the past two decades.

With a forthcoming album and epic 13 minute remix of the lead track to boot, original members Gary Robertson and Paul Ireland have been spending time locked away in Kent’s  Squarehead Studio with producer Rob Wilkes and finding the unhinged freedom of not having to consider performing new songs live, a godsend.

“Allowing yourself the freedom to use multi-tracking and overdubs to produce a more perfect representation of what is in your head, rather than consider how we are going to perform songs live as a three-piece without any backing tapes, has been such a release,” said Gary Robertson.

Paul Ireland added: “That allowed us to work more as a group, rather than concentrate on our own instruments”.

The new album is simply called ‘Tracks’, consisting of an intro and outro version of new song, ‘Traces’ collate with the group’s 10 favourite tracks since their debut album ‘Out of Reach’ in 2013; and to celebrate their new found freedom to explore all possibilities, they asked Terry Lane to rework the lead single in whatever style he wished.  His re-imagining of the track is as far removed from the original as it is breath-taking in its behemoth drone monster-like production.

Unconventionally, the Traces [drone attack] remix weighs in at over 13 minutes.  The remix uses instrumentation from the original version while genetically engineering a hip hop beat to a slowly building, ever increasing wall of sound until it is unleashed like a wild pulsating sonic beast that gradually unravels before your ears, rolling forward into a space echoing experimental noise.

Traces [drone attack] will be released on 24th March as a digital download.  While the original versions of ‘Traces’ will be available on The Love Family’s second album, ‘Tracks’, which is scheduled for release on 12th May. Both will be available to buy from iTunes and Amazon and available to stream on Spotify.

For more information visit the official Love Family Facebook page.