Music Review – Darlia – I’ve Never Been to Ohio

Only two to go after this before I’ll have to start writing some original content!


Like Darlia, I’ve Never Been to Ohio either, however unlike them it had never crossed my mind to write a song about it.

The Blackpool, UK based three piece are doing their best to bring Rock back to the masses. Their first EP Knock Knock had an awesome triplet of Grunge/Punk hustling on it, with singer and guitarist Nathan Day sounding like Alex Turner and Kurt Cobain had been genetically spliced and made to share a voice box. Day also appears to have purloined a time machine, travelled back to 2010, and misappropriated Noel Fielding’s wardrobe and make-up artist.

The new song is a little more laid back than their previous work, starting with an Alice in Chains face-full of noise and rarely letting up to allow the listener to take in the brazen dropped tuning and Dave Williams’ overdriven bassline, which powers the track forward. Jack Bentham keeps time well, without doing anything too extravagant to dampen the energy of the song. While being no Matt Cameron, he certainly has a few more drumming chops than, say, Ringo Starr when The Beatles started out.

As the track barrels along you start to get hints of other influences, indie, baggy, even dance makes itself known through the repeating words of the chorus, but at heart it truly is a rock song. Pounding, heavy chords and a youthful exuberance smack you in the face from start to finish.

Up to this point, EPs have been the raison d’etre of Darlia, and it’s worked well for them. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Petals, their first full length album being released on the 23rd of February, can encompass the passion and excitement of their previous short form factor releases. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out!


Music Review – The Phantoms – Wasting Time

I only have a few of these left in the archive, from the old and no-longer with us Semplesize site.

I started off being disappointed with this track but The Phantoms managed to change my mind in three minutes and fifty eight seconds.


Oh, a new Editors track, is what I thought as the guitar introduced itself, then the bass and drums started and I became confused because it sounded like Lars Ulrich had joined in on the drums along with Jason Narducy adding his bass playing expertise. Finally the singing cut in and I realised that Paul Smith from Maxïmo Park had lost his Geordie accent.

But then I removed the preconception hat I had been wearing and quickly discovered that what I was hearing was Wasting Time, the new single from The Phantoms. While initially sending mixed messages the song quickly gets into its stride and wonderfully collides all the disparate parts into one glorious whole.

The amount of noise they make is impressive, even for a four piece and this is obviously what they want, as the Bio page on their website leads with the headline “And then, there was rawk…” One reviewer likened them to Oasis, but that, I think, is doing a great disservice to The Phantoms. The guitar, bass and drums work together to make a fantastic grunge inflected backing to a song which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1992, if Colin Simpson’s accent was from Seattle rather than West Lothian in Scotland.

Even the middle eight brings to mind some of Soundgarden’s more serene twiddling, but then it’s back to the out and out, shake you by the teeth rock music. After a final flourish, the track even finishes with slowly diminishing feedback, seemingly from every instrument including the drums.

Throughout the song you are strongly recommended to “make up your mind”. Well I have, this track is brilliant!


Music Review – Tired Lion – I Don’t Think You Like Me

Another review I did for the dearly departed Semplesize site.

At this point I had done about five other reviews for the site but this was the first track that really leaped out and grabbed me by the throat, so much so that I subsequently bought their album – Dumb Days – which is as good as I hoped it would be from this track.


The first thing that strikes you about Tired Lion is that they have managed to find a fantastic name for their band. When you hit the play button you also discover that they have managed to find an absolutely brilliant sound, part Sonic Youth, part Pixies, they have harvested all the best bits from the explosion of alternative rock that was a soundtrack to the early part of the 1990s.

Now, having said that I’m going to change tack somewhat and say that I Don’t Think You Like Me starts off with a riff that is ever so slightly reminiscent of the best ever Electric Six song, Naked Pictures of your Mother. As it continues the guitar’s morph into those of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, slapping you in the face with their rough and ready, “listen to me” overdriven feedback.

When Sophie Hopes starts singing the transformation into a band all of their own is complete and the fun, already at a jelly and ice cream kids party level, increases to a headshaking, jumping off a cliff altitude. Her vocals easily equal those of Romily Alice and the song would nicely fit on a CD entitled The Best of CBGBs.

The only problem facing the band is they reside in one of the most remote cities on the planet. Which is Perth, in case your geography isn’t all it should be. Therefore, as well as struggling with the normal emerging artist conundrums of self-promotion, wondering where your next meal is going to come from, paying to play and wondering if any of your music is being listened to, they also have to contend with the fact that, to play more than a dozen gigs they are going to have to travel at least 2,000 km to reach the next major city (Adelaide, people!).

Hopefully the topographical hurdles don’t get in the way, as I would like nothing more than to see Tired Lion wake the world up with their very modern take on classic alternative rock. Oh, and by the way they’re wrong, I do like them, very much!



Music Review – Van Dale – Bed of Bricks

Another review I did for the now post-mortem Semplesize site.

Looking back, I may have been a bit harsh on these guys, but after another listen I stand by my assertion that they were a bit of a one trick pony!


It’s over 20 years since Weezer bought out their seminal, self-titled, power pop debut, and for this new song they’ve gone back to their roots… Oh, hang on, sorry, really???

Um, alright. Let me start again.

Van Dale wear their influences on their sleeves. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you only have one influence it can be a bit limiting. Originally released in 2013 as track two of the (unsurprisingly) self-titled debut album, Bed of Bricks was arguably the best track on the 26 minute, long player.

Of course, Weezer have now been doing this for 23 years, they have changed, developed and, arguably, improved with age, whereas Van Dale are inextricably stuck in the quagmire of early nineties post-rock.

Not that I’m unpleased listening to this song, it brings back some fantastic memories of times gone by, but unlike In The Garage or Buddy Holly I don’t know this song like the neck of my heavily worn acoustic guitar. The recollections are false and so it leaves me with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The amazing thing is that two of the members are also involved in Way Yes, a much more chilled out affair and, to be honest, more creative and exciting than Van Dale. Not that I want to dissuade the band from making and releasing more stuff, I’d be interested to see how this alternate reality version of the godfathers of nerd rock develops over time.

If reissuing the album is a start to getting their creative juices flowing again to make more music, then I hope they find themselves some other bands to listen to. If, however, they are just going to refabricate something from Rivers and his compatriots then there is only one way to finish.

Say It Ain’t So!



Pathfinder

I mentioned this story some while ago, it was unfinished at the time. Since then I completed the first draft, rewrote it, had a couple of other people read it, left it in a virtual draw somewhere at the back of my computer for about two years, then did a final copy edit and decided that now was as good a time as any to put it up for your reading gratification/disappointment.

Let me know what you think?


It had been three long years since the first astrophysicist’s alarm had sounded. In that time every resource available had been drawn upon to build mighty ships capable of carrying sufficient technical and scientific citizens, animals, plants and knowledge away from the Earth to seek somewhere to settle and terraform as a replacement home. Perhaps one which would be far enough from any asteroid belts to minimise the risk of a similarly catastrophic meteor strike to the one which currently threatened the end of existence on this planet.

Hank still wasn’t entirely sure why he’d been selected as a “Chosen One”. A geologist by profession, his main interest was in palaeontology – Precambrian for preference. It was a bit of a niche field of study, and for some reason it had removed him from his comfortable laboratory and his sedimentary rocks and placed him here amongst the intelligentsia and those with recognised special technical abilities.

There were some up-sides, of course. For one thing when the town-sized meteorite Delendis actually struck destroying an estimated 95% of life on Earth, he would no longer be there to suffer the resulting climate swings, which were estimated to last 30,000 years, and the accompanying environmental upheaval. There was also the fact that he would be heading off into the infinite blackness of Space – it was what every child dreamed of and many adults aspired to, but he wasn’t so sure it was as exciting in actuality, when the crew was 2,000 strong and he personally wouldn’t have anything to do with pressing the buttons that changed course, accelerated or slowed down “Pathfinder”, as the craft had been unimaginatively designated following a six month long world-wide brainstorm.

Another advantage that he hadn’t originally foreseen was that the average age of people picked for the mission was 23. Hank was slap bang in the middle of this demographic and couldn’t help but notice that a good percentage of the other passengers were quite attractive. He wasn’t sure that anyone in the planning consortium had thought about this, the sexual tension that these circumstances were creating would be created under these circumstances; a couple of thousand frustrated scientists, engineers and, for the most part, geeks, who weren’t generally used to hanging out with the opposite gender, let alone being stuffed into a flying box with them – even if the box itself was about the size of a large tower block, albeit one designed by someone who had spent too much alone time in a darkened room without air conditioning.

Still, Hank had always been more comfortable around the fairer sex than a lot of his contemporaries and optimistically hoped this might give him a bit of an advantage when it came to finding something to do on those long, or in fact constant nights!

The overcrowded living conditions were also leading to tensions of other sorts. On more than one occasion Hank had entered a room to be greeted with angry silences from the engineers and aerospace technicians who were attempting to get the machine ship-shape, before the planned take off in less than six days’ time.

Just now though, this was none of his concern. Hunger had visited early tonight, so he headed to the eating quarters at around seven o’clock, instead of his habitual nine. He’d always tended towards a nocturnal lifestyle and the habit had persisted, even after leaving university.

What a difference a couple of hours made! There were people from wall to wall and conversations bounced off the ceiling, almost deafening in their intensity. Hank squeezed in at the food bar and grabbed some salad and something vaguely resembling meat, then looked around for a seat, which seemed to be in short supply. He had to jostle through the crowds of bespectacled people to wedge himself unceremoniously between a thin, drawn looking guy and a woman with a long scar across her cheek, both of whom appeared uncomfortable at his incursion.

He started eating, slowly becoming aware of the conversation taking place next to him. The scar-faced woman was trying to speak quietly to a muscular man across the table, but the volume of people and conversation made this difficult. What they were talking about sounded like it should have been more confidential. Apparently, ‘One of the rocketists,’ this being slang for the actual rocket scientists, ‘was telling the flight planner that he didn’t think the materials they were using were man enough to take the strain. He said that they were better before we went all biodegradable! Apparently a thousand years ago we’d have been using carbon fibre and metal, instead of all this Plastech and Polymet garbage. It wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t returned all the non-recyclables into the earth, let alone the fact that it seems to have upset the tectonic stability of the planet.’ cleverly managing to argue for and against environmental sustainability at the same time.

The talker’s confidante leaned back in his chair and placed his long, sturdy hands behind his shiny head. ‘Last I heard they were worried about the lateral stabilisers. My guess would be that we’ll get into space and start spinning like a Ferris wheel. On the bright side, at least we might improve the Grav-Lock mechanisms in the process and be able to stand up without floating away.’

Hank had heard many such conversations in the two weeks since his relocation to Pathfinder, most of them were one sided put-downs of another worker’s or divisions’ attempts to fix things and keep to schedule. But the volume of complaints had been steadily increasing over the last week and everyone was getting close to breaking point.

He finished his meal and left the table, shoving his tray through the hole beside the doorway which took the dirty dishes to who knew where, to be cleaned and redeployed. As he walked out of the room he almost bumped into Maggie. ‘Hi Hank.’ She had a way of talking which twanged at his baser instincts, but he didn’t know if it was the tone of voice or the fact she managed to make a flight-suit look like a fashionable ensemble for a night on the town. It certainly didn’t help him think.

‘Hey, Maggie. How’s it going? Have they fixed that air conditioner in your room yet?’ His eyes attempted to find somewhere innocent to rest his gaze but had to give up and settled on her face.

‘No luck! On the bright side, it makes bedtime interesting when you don’t know if you’ll need to wear a fur coat or a negligée until you step into your bedroom.’ She accompanied Hank as he walked down the corridor, ‘what’s happening in the world of prehistoric beasties?’

Hank vaguely studied the back of his hand as he thought about an answer, ‘To be honest, I think the only reason I’m on this trip is to pad the numbers and give the botanists someone to ridicule.’

Maggie put her hand on Hank’s shoulder, sending a shiver down his spine, ‘I can’t imagine anyone laughing at you. I tell you what, do you want to come back to my room for a drink?’

Hank was momentarily taken aback but managed to gather his senses and form a reasoned response, rather than blurting out “really?” Which was the first thing that came to mind. ‘Yeah, I don’t seem to have a lot on until we make planetfall, which should be in about fifteen thousand years’ time.’

Maggie led the way as Hank tailed her, wondering which of the 439 decks her quarters would be on and whether she would have time to realise her offer had been a mistake before they got there. But it was only a couple of levels up and, before he knew it, he was standing in a strangely perfumed room, while Maggie went to find “something more comfortable” to wear – which in Hank’s estimation was always a bit of a misnomer.

He visually investigated the room, although there was no reason for this as pretty much every berth on the ship was identical. His eyes soon alighted on the display stretched across part of the wall opposite the bed. The screens had their own power supply and turned on as soon as you entered the room, or at least they were meant to… more often than not though you came in to find it merrily announcing current mission stats and a likely launch date to no one at all, or it’d turn itself on at three o’clock in the morning just after you’d got to sleep because of some badly timed ventilation testing in the laboratory down the corridor.

There was currently a news story playing which showed the projected date – roughly three weeks away – for the impact of Delendis into Earth. Hank stalked over to the monitor and popped out the fuse holder at the bottom left corner, the screen showed an agonised pattern of random noise before it lost its picture and became just another section of the plain matt white wall.

The sound of the door to the bathroom sliding open reminded him where he was. ‘Sorry, I might have disabled your monitor.’ Hank turned around to see what Maggie’s idea of “something more comfortable” was. She appeared to have gone for the less is more approach, the diaphanous material hung in just the right way to make Hank’s major intellectual functions temporarily abandon him for a better viewpoint, he realised his mouth was hanging open and snapped it shut, nearly severing his tongue in the process.

Maggie stood by the bed, ‘Are you planning on using that for something?’ She pointed towards his hand. Hank looked down, as if seeing the fuse and his hand for the first time. He reached back and placed it gently on the desk without removing his eyes from the sinuously seductive prospect in front of him.

Hank massaged his forehead to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating then walked towards Maggie while loosening his flight-suit. Probably not the attire he would have chosen for such circumstances, but with a choice limited to that or nothing, it was probably preferable.

The two stood in front of each other, Maggie patiently waiting, Hank struggling with the unforgiving fastenings that held the suit in place. When he had finally removed the top, he looked into her piercing and intelligent green eyes, which looked back at him with dividends. He glanced down, then up again and started to think of a polite way to suggest they might be more comfortable on the bed, ‘Well I don’t know about you but…’

Suddenly the lights went off, Maggie gasped, ‘Hey, how did you do that?’

‘I didn’t do anything,’ Hank replied, ‘probably just another power cut.’ As he finished saying this a red light started flashing in the corner of the room. It was the sort of light that suggests to the observer that its presence is not a sign of forthcoming gaiety. ‘What on Earth is that for?’

Maggie motioned towards the small piece of electronics laying on the desk, ‘It might be a good idea to plug that back in.’ Hank almost managed to pull off a casual walk over to the screen, trying not to look as worried as he felt.

After a couple of abortive attempts, the fuse slid back into its housing and the screen crackled back into life, a calm voice droned out of it “… please prepare yourself. An error has occurred. Await further instructions.” The screen showed a live shot of the Pathfinder in its entirety, lit up from below, with the night sky framing the uneven crenelated upper surface of the ship.

Her smooth face creased, ‘How can we prepare ourselves if we don’t know what’s going on?’

Hank shrugged, then moved his head closer to the screen and squinted at the ultra-high definition picture, ‘Hey, come take a look,’ he continued to inspect the night sky as he felt Maggie’s body press into his back, this close contact should have set his teeth on edge, but his mind was too busy trying to make sense of what he was looking at, ‘Is that what I think it is?’

Maggie’s eyes flashed back and forth with the small moving objects on the screen, ‘Comets? Lots of comets! You don’t think that’s why the alarm’s going off, do you?’

Hank thoughtfully scratched his chin, ‘I’m not sure but I think it might be a good idea if we go to bed,’ Maggie gave him a look which suggested that wasn’t the suggestion she was expecting, ‘for our safety,’ he added, completely failing to sound as authoritative as he was aiming for.

Maggie’s frown turned into a grin, ‘I was at those safety briefings too. They mould to your body contours when the ship’s taking off.’ Her eyes widened when she realised what Hank was suggesting.

The screen blustered back into life, flashing red and white out of time with the light in the corner of the room. “Attention. The estimated time for the impact of Delendis has been adjusted. Impact will take place at twenty-one hundred hours tonight.”

Hank and Maggie both glanced at the clock next to the screen. It read 20:23. Hank looked at Maggie with his lip curling in consternation, he was about to tell her he would go back to his room and leave her to prepare when the voice inexorably continued. “Please find your nearest launch berth and assume positions for take-off immediately. This is not a drill. Launch sequence will commence in T-minus two minutes.”

Maggie launched herself towards the bed and flicked the launch mode switch, Hank looked uncertain as to what he should do until she said, ‘What are you waiting for, get on.’ He assumed the correct position, on his side as the plaque above the bed instructed, trying to lay facing her, in as professional a manner as he could while she was wearing something which left so little to the imagination. Why he thought this necessary, when five minutes before he had been assuredly stripping off in front of her, was not something he cared to think about as he settled back feeling the odd clamminess of the biomech mattress subside wherever his skin pressed into it.

Maggie moved her head into a more comfortable position, which meant they couldn’t help but stare into each other’s eyes, ‘I didn’t even think the ship was ready yet.’

Hank reached out for her hand and squeezed it in as reassuring a manner as he could muster, in lieu of actually finding something to say which might make her feel better. The screen on the wall showed decreasing numbers, while the computer-generated voice droned through a 120 second countdown, which seemed to take forever. Eventually the last five digits elapsed then, nothing happened. Hank glanced awkwardly towards the screen, which showed 00:00. ‘Looks like you could be right…’

An ear-splitting creak thundered through the ship, followed by the sound a planet sized central heating system would make getting ready for winter. Finally, a noise like a concert hall full of radios picking up the static from the start of the Universe signalled the first Grav-Lock Impulsion engine firing, it was shortly followed by many more. The initial feeling of heaviness passed through Hank’s body and he wondered if it would get worse, just as the ship juddered off the ground with a crunch and pushed him against the padded mattress so hard that he couldn’t even turn to look towards the window.

Maggie’s hand pressed down on his, but he didn’t know if this was voluntary or because of the acceleration, he hoped it was the former. The speed of the ship seemed to constrict Hank’s lungs, it was almost unbearable and lasted, as close as he could estimate, for at least as long as the countdown to take-off had. Although there was no reduction in the ongoing acceleration of the ship there was suddenly a lurch which left Hank and Maggie floating five centimetres above the bed. Maggie huskily reminded him, ‘Don’t move yet,’ as another static crackle and an almost gentle descent back to the welcoming surface indicated that the internal Grav-Lock systems were now on-line.

‘Come on, I have to see’ she said, as she sprung off the bed towards the small semi-spherical window. She looked out, her jaw dropping at the sight of the Earth dropping vertiginously away behind them.

Hank squeezed his way in next to her and saw the inspiring sight of the planet – on which every single thing in recorded history had ever happened – drifting serenely into the starry night sky. Not far away from the big blue/green ball of everything they had ever known, a city sized rock outlined by red fire was drawing towards the planet, leaving a stream of particulate residue in its wake and preceded by many smaller meteors and meteoroids which were clustering round the larger carbonaceous motherlode.

‘Well, that’s it then. We’re off.’ The situation was affecting Hank in psychological crevices he didn’t even know he possessed, ‘No more sunny days and walks in the park, no more birds singing in the trees, no more waterfalls, no more lazy days hammering at rocks in the middle of nowhere. I’ll miss it.’

Maggie looked askance at him, ‘Don’t be so melodramatic. Get a grip on yourself, this is exciting!’

Hank shook his head and dragged himself out of the introspection. ‘The worst thing is that it’s the big ones that go first,’ Maggie gave him a quizzical glance, ‘in mass extinctions, which is what this is likely to be. It’s the megafauna and flora that go first. The Permian-Triassic extinction took out 90% of all life on Earth. Funnily enough we’re probably about the biggest thing that might survive through the radiation, re-entry firestorms, dust and debris fallout, earthquakes, hurricanes, acid rains… You get the idea!’

‘So, wouldn’t be much fun then. Makes you glad to be the most intelligent creature on the planet, or off it, in fact.’ She turned and kissed him. ‘Well, we seem to have a little free time, shall we find something useful to do with ourselves while everyone else is still panicking?’ She moved back to the bed and slid on seductively, patting the empty spot next to her, ‘Come on, before it gets cold.’

Hank stared at the retreating planet for a while longer, before turning and taking in the full glory of Maggie’s curvaceous body. ‘Ah, why not?’ He pounced across the space and landed next to her, ‘I guess we have a duty to propagate the species. After all, apart from the livestock and specimens down on the zoological decks, we Troodons are going to be the only dinosaurs that live on after Delendis wipes out all life as we know it.’


Music Review – Furr – Think Sharp Kid

Another post from the sadly defunct Semplesize site.

Last news from Furr was a new single out in 2019, but the link to their website doesn’t seem to work any more. ☹

I hope they’re still together, ’cause this single kicked some serious backside!

 


 

I hope you weren’t sleeping ’cause Furr are about to wake you up in no uncertain terms. The kick drum which introduces Think Sharp Kid might as well be a high velocity foot to your temple, followed very closely by a grunge inspired riff which slaps your face until you are fully cognisant.

Jack Byrne starts off by telling us to “dream small son, it don’t matter if you don’t make nothing to be proud of,” triple negative notwithstanding, he launches into it with gusto and seems to have fun bouncing back and forth between falsetto and tenor as the Electrix Six-a-like bass line carries the song along in the background.

In the first chorus we’re asked to believe that “an original idea is what I need,” but this is one thing that Furr are not short of. Leeds in the UK still seems to be one of the major breeding grounds for original rock music and this track sounds a little like the Josh Homme produced Arctic Monkeys effort Humbug, however unlike Alex Turner, Byrne doesn’t show any hint of a provincial accent instead going for a more Middle American drawl, but it suits the music like fine bamboo suits a panda.

In a small nod to the resurgence of all things Star Wars; fuzzy glow sticks hang around the heads of the band as they beat their instruments into submission. The middle eight consists of the song title being sung by Jack while Sam Jackson, Guy Read and John Roberts grasp bunches of the aforementioned light strips and shout the words back in response, looking vaguely like they want to break into an off kilter killer rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

In conclusion I only have one thing to say to Furr – Shut up and take my money!

 


 


Gig Review – Swervedriver – Rosemount Hotel – 22/09/2019

Ursula, the opening act, sounded not unlike a collaborative supergroup fronted by Rob Dickinson, with members from Ride and Throwing Muses, a bass player filched out of middle era Smashing Pumpkins, oh yeah, and backing vocals by Kristen Hirsch.
They are a nice, easy, slow, overdriven Fender powered, alternative rock band with moments of hysterical wildness.
The only problem they had was one of the drummer’s crash cymbals continually falling off the front of the stage, so after about his third go picking it up he decided enough was enough and shifted it to the other side of his kit.

Outside of that there was nothing to fault them – tight nineties inspired rock!

Mt. Mountain, however, were a different kettle of marine creatures entirely, their setup consisted of a surprising array of instruments, including a flute balanced precariously on the front of a synthesiser – kind of like a who’s who of music equipment.

They seem to be shooting for Mogwai but their aim is somewhat askew and they ended up spending like a blurry Amnesiac era Radiohead.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad… but their reliance on feedback and repetitive riffs alongside lethargic drawn-out lead lines all felt a little too “experimental, because we’re cool” to carry it off.

Their technical glitch consisted of one of their guitar pedals going awry between songs, it sounded like the police had descended (no, not Sting and his mates), sirens blaring, but to be honest it wasn’t all that different from the effects they were using throughout the rest of the set.

On the bright side, the rhythm guitar player looks like a young version of Rivers Cuomo, so at least they have that going for them. Sadly though, they are about twenty years late to a scene which has been done better by many other bands, or perhaps they are just not my cup of tea?

Luckily, the next band were rather more exciting; Swervedriver have been in (then out, then back in) the game a long time.

I first heard them when I was 17, around 28 years ago and have been enchanted by their sound ever since.
Their “return” album – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You hit the world with little fanfare in 2015, it was a massive sound landscape with their original effects driven rock mixed in with the political sniping we know and love.

Then, earlier this year, Future Ruins was thrown at an unsuspecting world – a world whose political climate has gone from bad to worse – and the new album doesn’t pull any punches towards those who have led us into this hellhole we now seem to be living in.

Talking of which…

Mary Winter is the first song from the new album and came on excessively heavy, it seems bass driven was to be the order of the night. Another newbie Drone Lover proved this to be the case with hammering low-end and sparkling guitars as an accompaniment.

Then, without further ado they launched into Never Lose That Feeling which everyone in the room seemed to know and love, and why not, it is one of their most outstanding songs!

Setting Sun slowed things down a bit and even gave them a chance to give the glitter ball a bit of a spin. A quick look round the aging but amiable crowd appeared to confirm that each and every one there was enjoying themselves immensely.

For 99th Dream one of the guitar techs was enlisted and did a brilliant job with a tambourine. A small but important job!

Future Ruins hazed off into happy summers, which is strange for a song about the mess we find ourselves in around the world. Jimmy seemed to be having a lot of fun with a synthesiser/theremin/I have absolutely no idea. For all I know it’s called something like a harmonic transducer!?!

Last Train to Satansville chugged it’s way into your consciousness and had a long, drawn out but powerful interlude where it really did sound like were in a train haunted by bad dreams and serial killers.

The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air in no way faded, it crept up like an angry bear and repeatedly attacked you into submission, then roared at you, leaving a pile of musically chewed up flesh and bones.

Maelström was a surprise, replacing MM Abduction and Autodidact, which they’ve been playing recently, but doing an amazing job of reminding you just what Swervedriver are capable of at the top of their songwriting game, it was a fair swap.

The next two tracks ripped out of the amplifiers like a prize fighter and smacked you round the head until you submitted to the audiophonic battering. For a Day Like Tomorrow and Deep Seat, though wildly differing prospects, seem made to be played together and sung at the top of your voice. Definitely my highlight of the night.

An in-joke seemed to mean that many random tempo changes were scattered throughout Duel, but it survived unscathed and many people seemed amused by the high jinks, myself included.

After leaving the stage briefly, for a swift bout of recuperation, they were hailed back by the crowd’s clapping and cheering and delivered a huge version of Rave Down then, as a crescendo, Son of Mustang Ford finished the night with a bang, a crash, and a high speed pile up.

For many reasons this was a night to remember, but one of the very best things that happened to me was arriving early and actually getting to shake Adam Franklin by the hand and tell him that I love his music.

An awesome experience all round!

 


 

 


 


Dashing Through The Snow – Short Story

To call this a blizzard was to do it a disservice. The volume and speed of snowflakes had turned the air into the visual equivalent of a milkshake and although Eira’s was the only car on the road she had still slowed to a walking pace, in an attempt not to slide into a hedgerow or – judging from the weather – a passing polar bear.

Each corner in the road was a sharp lesson in the physics of momentum and traction, and the last T-junction had almost resulted in the unfortunate loss of a startled weasel. Country roads were probably not the best place to be on a night like this but Eira’s family had always lived in the back of beyond and as her Dad always said, “it’s good practice for when the zombie apocalypse comes!” So, as ever, she was making her annual festive visit back to the place where she had grown up, before becoming a car mechanic and moving somewhere that didn’t think staring at trees was an enjoyable way to spend your Friday nights.

Her parent’s house was in the middle of nowhere and took up enough space for three normal houses, which meant that it was the terminus for the entire clan to meet up on special occasions. She knew without doubt that there would be several uncles and aunts who had imbibed a little too much sherry, a number of nieces and nephews who would be either shouting, laughing at inappropriate volumes or crying, and numerous multi-generational, cross-family arguments which had started in the mists of time and lost any and all meaning – without losing any of their original vim and vigour.

She estimated that it would take another fifteen minutes to reach ground zero and was just about to turn onto the small lane which led into the big forest where the house was when she noticed a vehicle at the side of the road. There was a figure standing next to it scratching their head. Being skilled in the arts of car repairs, and with Dad’s jokes looming in the immediate future, she decided it would be churlish to leave someone stranded in the snow on Christmas Eve. She gently pressed the brake pedal and her car snaked across the road and slid to an eventual stop five metres past where she had wanted to end up and facing in the wrong direction.

She put on the hazard warning lights then, having come prepared, she reached into the back and grabbed several layers of clothing, pulling them on one at a time until she looked like a furry sumo wrestler, finally a pair of gloves finished the wintery protection and she pushed the door open and shuffled out of the car.

Having been too busy attempting to keep the car under control, Eira hadn’t really noticed what the vehicle was as she glided serenely past, but now, through the haze of snowflakes, she realised that it wasn’t a truck and trailer as she had first suspected. She called out through the snow induced silence, ‘Are you okay? Can I help you at all?’

There was a bump as of someone hitting their head on the underside of their vehicle, followed by some muted but noisy exclamations of discomfort. Eira was about to apologise for surprising the poor person when several things happened at once.

The first thing that happened was that the snow stopped or, to be more precise, it was stopped. She stepped across some kind of threshold between a place where it was snowing and a place where the snow was not there, although she could still see it blasting against the edges of some kind of invisible barrier.

The second thing that happened was she saw the “vehicle” which actually turned out to be some sort of sledge, painted red and with a massive runner under each side that rested softly on the snow as if the whole contrivance was as light as a feather.

The third thing that happened was a noise like eight heavily built mammals with ostentatious antlers snorting and turning to look directly at her, which turned out to actually be what the noise was.

Last but not least was the emergence of a man, who in any other circumstances would almost certainly be described as “jolly”, from beneath the sled. He was dressed in a red velour outfit, complete with a dangly hat bearing a white pom-pom. His feet were protected by heavy, fur lined, dark-black boots which exactly matched the colour of his eyes. His face was mostly hidden by a beard which was whiter than the snow. The picture was only slightly spoiled by the streaks of oil and grease which were on every available surface. ‘ACTUALLY, I COULD DO WITH A HAND IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MECHANICAL ENGINEERING?’

Before Eira’s brain could come to any reasonable conclusions her mouth switched to auto-pilot and said, ‘Actually I normally fix cars, so I might be able to help you,’ and next thing she knew she found herself laying underneath an impossible vehicle, next to a figure whose job title was probably “Seasonal Logistics Distributor”, and looking up into an engine which seemed to inhabit more than the regular number of dimensions.

But even though the engine was of an entirely otherworldly design she seemed to have an annotated blueprint of it hidden deep in her cerebellum. She heard the words come out of her mouth – ‘I think your temporal actuator is interfering with your sublimation valve. That seems to be causing some kind of block in your Angstrom manifold. I think if we just uncouple the amorphous interchanger for a moment it’ll allow the neutrino carburettor to push out the stored antigravity and you’ll be up and running again.’

The imposing old gentleman smiled, ‘HOW CAN I POSSIBLY REPAY YOU, EIRA?’

She thought for a moment, ‘Well, there is one thing…’

***

There had been the usual ruckus of greetings as she arrived which slowly tailed off into the regular background white noise of family quarrels. Eira found herself a comfortable seat on the outskirts of the sitting room and set about drinking the cocoa her mum had pushed into her hand with a vengeance. She normally found these gatherings incredibly stressful but, for once, she seemed to be the most relaxed person there.

If any of Eira’s relatives had paused in their disagreements long enough to look in her direction they might have noticed that she was sporting a rather snazzy pair of earmuffs, what they wouldn’t have known was that these aural protectors were supernatural in origin and meant that she was unable to hear a single thing which wasn’t said directly to her.

This was, she concluded, going to be the best Christmas ever.


Music Review – Snow Patrol – Wildness (Album)

On the surface, Snow Patrol seem a bit too easy listening to be on my playlist, but there has always been a dark undertone to their words that resonates with me.

Add to this the fact that not all their songs are quite as slow and melodic – take Starfighter Pilot, Wow or Hands Open – this final one being a song my band used to cover; they have a hard edge which occasionally elbows its way through the mildness.

Which takes us nicely to their newest album, Wildness. Going through the gamut of human existence, the first song, Life on Earth, starts with a family memory which tells that there was snow as high as he was during Gary Lightbody’s first winter, some of my own first memories are of that winter and the way the world looks dressed in white.

Almost a concept album, the word Wildness crops up in a number of the songs and seems indicative of the shape of Lightbody’s current state of mind. This isn’t really surprising as he has been having to cope with the onset and progression of his Father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This is laid bare as we head towards the last few tracks in Soon, a song which both breaks your heart and makes you proud to be part of our species.

The overall feeling you get from the album is a call to arms and a directive to take life by the throat, for instance Don’t Give In is an emotional plea to not let life get you down, Heal Me is about being broken but doing it together and A Youth Written In Fire is about having someone believe in you. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

While tracks like Wild Horses and A Dark Switch have hints of Songs For Polar Bears and When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up about them, the overall feeling of this album is closer to the “anthemic” feel that Lightbody was going for when Final Straw and Eyes Open were written. The tracks pummel you with their heartfelt intensity and leave you feeling battered and bruised.

If this album doesn’t win awards for its song writing then there is something wrong with the world.


Music Review – Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (Album)

It was recently my birthday – Yay – and one of the things I tend to ask for is new (or old) music, as it’s a luxury I would probably not buy for myself.

This year I felt very lucky to get five albums by four different bands including:

  • Rainier Fog by Alice in Chains
  • Fallen Empires and Wildness by Snow Patrol
  • Dumb Days by Tired Lion
  • Pacific Daydream by Weezer

If you know me at all you probably won’t be too surprised to find out that the first one I listened to all the way through was the latest Alice in Chains release Rainier Fog. And it is exactly what I was hoping for!

As I’ve mentioned before, Alice in Chains started out in the midst of heavy, hairy metal and, if you listen to their first album and some of the unreleased stuff that came to light when Music Bank came out, you can really hear how close they came to skirting Grunge altogether and finding a place among the other Rock heavyweights of the time.

But they chose a different path and became the leaders of a new style which was much darker and, generally, more depressing than their Seattle based compatriots, comprising such cheery topics as drug addiction, depression, war, loneliness and psychological problems, they blazed their own trail through Rock and spurned a host of copycat acts.

This, their sixth studio album, sits alongside their back catalogue, including solo projects and other bands that have come and gone along the way, so snugly that it is hard not to think that you know some of the songs already.

The opening track, The One You Know, starts like a screwdriver to the temple, which is then joined by a marching squadron of zombies. The percussive drumming continues through the verse then the chorus opens up into a wonderful musical field of primroses, sounding a bit like they got confused and mixed up the order of the parts of the song.

After setting the scene they waste no time reaching into their back catalogue with the title track, Rainier Fog, which could have been a recently discovered outtake from Facelift…but with better production.

Red Giant is a slightly different beast, sounding like the bastard child of Metallica and Layne Staley. The harmonies are so dark you need a match to see the lyrics. At the moment this is probably my favourite track on the album!

Fly, however, sounds like Pearl Jam writing a new track for Jar of Flies. Acoustic guitars and a screeching electric solo really take you back to the nineties.

The next track is called Drone, so you can guess what it’s like without too much effort. Bluesy sludge through the verses with a melodic fingerpicked solo reminiscent of Lies by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

We’re back with Lars and the boys for the intro to Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, but then segueing to classic Alice in Chains territory for the chorus with a minor key harmonic piece of introspection.

Maybe hails back to the 1970s and, strangely, sounds like nothing so much as The Mamas and Papas. Jerry and William work beautifully together to produce something which is more than the sum of their voices. In this case though all the trees are not brown, they’re dead!

Dirt is the album that So Far Under would fit most comfortably on, with a chorus which has been pitch bent until it snapped. Antagonistic sounds are smashed together between the verses and choruses, but make the track into something that is difficult to turn your ears away from.

In Never Fade du Vall takes over. Sounding a little like Comes With The Fall, a bit like Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and a lot like early Alice in Chains and, as is his way, it sounds like a love song or paean in memory of someone you used to know. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t give him more chance to lead, as he’s quite riveting when he does so.

The final track All I Am does the opposite and hands the reigns to Cantrell. It’s slow, it’s introspective. It could have come straight from Degradation Trip and is none the worse for that.

If you’re a fan then you either have it already or are saving up your hard earned pennies/cents to get it as soon as you can, if you’re not then look them up on YouTube and spend some time getting to know what you’re missing, then buy it and find out what it is to be one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world.