Gig Review – Swervedriver – Amplifier Bar

Initially I was shocked when I walked into the Amplifier and it was smaller than a postage stamp. For a band of Swervedriver’s calibre I expected at least big enough to swing a couple of cats in. Intimate just about covers it!

Although Dream Rimmy are probably too young to have heard of either Throwing Muses or Ride they sound exactly like Kristen Hirsch singing over the latter’s musical chops. A highly entertaining bunch of chaps and chapesses. A tight rythmn section, three guitars with unerrimg synchronicity and an awesome synthesizerist (um…), make them ones to watch out for.

Childsaint’s influences tend more towards The Breeders, Slowdive and PJ Harvey, but the sum of these alt-rockers turns out to be more than their constituent parts. With choruses being belted out by all four of the women making up this outfit, all they need is a bit of recognition and they will have young girls the world over aspiring to be like them.

Swervedriver, however, are a law unto themselves. Beginning the set with latest album opener Autodidact they start as they mean to go on. Unstoppable guitars hammering your senses into submission, then doing it again and again until you’re begging them to slow down.

For Seeking Heat came next, with ear pummeling guitars and more energy than you could shake a drumstick at. The set continues mixing old with new, Never Lose That Feeling gets a big reaction from the crowd and the drums feel like they are trying to rearrange your internal organs, then Setting Sun calms things down a bit until they intensify towards the end where a hammer on your head would have much the same impact.

Rave Down is pretty much as you’d expect, only more so, followed by a bass heavy These Times. Then it’s back to the new album with For A Day Like Tomorrow, which has a big rock chorus and a stupendously long outro, setting the tone for the rest of the concert.

Sunset is almost album perfect and MM Abduction is slow but perfectly formed. Lone Star could also have come straight from I Wasn’t Born To Lose You and The Birds also has a stretched but exciting finish.

Then we get to the song everyone expects in a Swervedriver set: Son Of Mustang Ford – only this version is verging on heavy metal and no worse off for that. To complete first part of the set I Wonder? builds to a crescendo and begs the question, are they wonder-ing how long they can make one song last. Not that there was anything wrong with that, it gave a nice chance for all four of the group to showcase their musical talents.

After a short break they came back on for an encore, picking Everso as the first song and continuing from where they left off. For real fans they then played a version of Last Train To Satansville which sounded more like the less well known B-side Satansville Revisited.

The final hurrah was Duel and the crescendoing continued to rise up until a barrage of feedback, pick slides, wah-wahs and pedal driven excess called the whole thing to a close.

Now it’s  finished and my ears are gently humming to themselves, I feel a little sad that it’s over and the 17 year old version of me who first heard of Swervedriver has gone back to sleep again. However the much older and wiser me, living in the here and now, has a new night out to put at the top of my list of all time best gigs and is pleased that his favourite band have matured in the 25 odd years I have been following them.

 

The Setlist

Autodidact –
For Seeking Heat
Never Lose That Feeling
Setting Sun
Rave Down
These Times
For A Day Like Tomorrow
Sunset
MM Abduction
Lone Star
The Birds
Son Of Mustang Ford
I Wonder?

Encore

Everso
Last Train To Satansville
Duel

 


Politics

I’m not generally one to weigh in on political matters but I thought that today’s vote for independence, or otherwise, was too important not to talk about. I wrote this on my Facebook page so all my friends could see it, although to be fair I think I know how most of them are voting already, that’s what makes them friends!

 


 

Good morning Britain from Australia,

Before you head out to the polls today please take the time to watch this video of Professor Michael Dougan, a Law professor whose speciality is European Constitutional Law at the University of Liverpool, talking about the implications of leaving or staying in the EU.

Having moved to Western Australia two and a half years ago (for purely personal reasons, nothing to do with the economy, jobs or immigration), I am seeing your current situation from the outside but from the point of view of an insider.

Now while I love living in Western Australia (WA) I think there are some things that could be learnt from looking at us. WA, and Perth specifically, is a very remote place, both geographically and socially. One of the outcomes of this is that everything – yes really, EVERYTHING – costs a lot of money because Australian trade agreements were set up by a single, sparsely populated country (Australia) with other countries who were either more populous or else more powerful.

I don’t want to show any lack of respect to my newfound home, it’s a great place to live, however I do miss the ease that I could get hold of, say, an egg whisk for a ridiculously low price simply by hopping onto Google and searching for egg beaters. I often ended up purchasing from e.g. Amazon. Now Amazon is an American company, America has trade agreements with the EU…BUT NOT THE UK!!! This means that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales would then have to pay the same (very steep) tariffs as China, Brazil, India, etc.

I also used to enjoy, to a greater or lesser degree, my occasional trips overseas. Which were a lot easier because most of the places I used to visit were within the EU. No problems with getting visas, and the queues at immigration were always relatively short.

There is a lot of stuff I miss about the UK, but if a greater part of the British population vote “leave” today then it will probably be some while longer, than it would otherwise have been, before I can bring my family back for a holiday, because the prices are likely to mean that we will have to save up twice as much before planning such a trip.

However you’re going to vote today, have a great day. And think carefully before you pick a box to tick.

Cheers

Dan

 

 


 


Music Review – Jamie XX – Gosh

Unusually I’m including the actual music video for this review because it seems to have gone walkabout on the original site, and the video is what the review was mainly about.

When I’m going to do a review, I tend to whizz through the tracks offered by Semplesize, have a quick listen then pick my favourite song. This one was different! The first time I watched it I hardly even registered the music. Read on to find out why.

Original is here.


 

I fell across the Video for Jamie XX’s new song, Gosh, because I found a story about it on a random Astrophysics ‘blog the other day (I’m a writer, that’s the kind of thing we do!). Now, Jamie XX has never been on my horizon, if you’ll excuse the pun, but this video made me sit up and stare.

As well as a word-smith I am also a bit of a geek, and so the idea behind Gosh really appealed to me. The video starts off with a pale red dot in the centre of the screen which, over the course of the first minute, gets infinitesimally larger. Then suddenly something hoves into view, spinning mechanically and, if you hadn’t realised before, it now becomes apparent that the circle in front of you is the planet Mars, in all its interstellar glory.

For the next minute and a half you are treated to slowly panning images of the planet’s surface, then, if you’re observant, you notice that something is not as it should be. An aerial shot of the red dusty exterior isn’t completely static as you’d expect. Four small dots are skimming across the terrain like they’re attempting a land speed record, which they might be when you come to think about it, throwing up huge plumes of the crimson dust that is, as I write, being sampled by the Curiosity rover!

Some lights start to show up on the vistas around the three minute mark then some, for want of a better word, space stations show up, hovering like stellar hubcaps in the solar radiation above the atmosphere. More lights show up on the rocky face of the world, followed by a closer shot showing structures of a very habitable nature, which can only be man-made.

The crescendo of the story starts at three minutes fifty, when you get your first glimpse of more Earth-y colours, a ragged brown line, strongly delineated against the ruddy, rocky landscape dips into view and spotted across it is greenery. Trees, lakes and eventually clouds glide past. Finally the perspective jumps back to the planet as a whole and you can see that it is absolutely what you would expect from a life bearing rock, thrashing its way through space at nearly 87,000 miles per hour, in the outer part of Sol’s Goldilocks zone.

The music, which I have rather absentmindedly ignored up to this point, is actually a beautiful accompaniment to the visuals, giving the impression that Jamie XX came up with the concept for the video before he actually wrote the song.

When you get down to it the basic concept behind most music is the sharing of experiences and feelings. With this video Jamie XX has drawn me into his world, shown me a small part of what keeps his mind ticking over in the wee small hours, and drawn in a fan who would not otherwise have given the track a second thought.

Very impressed.

 



Music Review – Darts – Below Empty and Westward Bound

After a bit of a hiatus, I recently got back into writing reviews for Semplesize. I’ve done a couple in the last couple of weeks and am hoping to keep up the impetus, which is lucky because otherwise I’d have run out of ones to repost on this site pretty soon.

I quite enjoyed doing the review for this Darts track, although it bought back lots of memories that I thought had been filed under: slightly vacant teenage years.

As ever, the original is here.


 

About five years ago I auditioned with a band called CatBoy and the Dogs of Sin. As soon as I hit the play button on Commanche, the first track on Darts’ new album, the growly guitar tryout from my past danced through my head in vivid surround sound. The main thing the two bands share is a fondness/slightly worrying stalker tendency towards all things Mudhoney.

Okay, so they’re not a one trick pony and seem to have a few other influences too, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies (are you seeing a theme yet?), but for the most part the Mark Arm-esque vocals on all the tracks led by one of the two Ayers brothers don’t veer far from the gravelly, shouty, jagged template created in 1988, when Superfuzz Bigmuff was released.

Talking of which, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they used both Bigmuff and Superfuzz pedals while making this album, there’s certainly a lot of aural crunch going on all over the place.

The female led tracks, such as Aeroplane and Below Empty, while different in their way are stylistically close enough to the other songs to give the whole thing a bit of personality, even if that personality happens to feel more at home 30 years in the past.

Commanche and Dead both take their cues from The Pixies, even down to using an American Indian tribe’s name, a la The Navajo Know, for the first track and outright stealing the drum beat from La La Love You and using it for a fill in Dead, the name of which is, incidentally, lifted directly from another song on Doolittle!

The rest of the songs veer uncontrollably between Mudhoney and Sonic Youth with dirty guitars and screeching solos. The only departure is on the closing track, My Darling Bendigo, which takes the time machine even further into the past, feeling like a long-lost Velvet Underground song, with sustained feedback drilling into your ears underneath the avant-garde split gender vocals. But they can’t help themselves, at about 1:52 a guitar straight from the Sonic’s Sugar Kane cuts in and it’s back to the shouting.

Overall this is a good album with a lot to keep you interested, my advice would be that if you like it and you’ve never listened to Mudhoney, the Sonic’s, Dinosaur Jr. or any of their original alternative cohort from the 1990s you should look them up when the last track of Below Empty & Westward Bound finishes.

 


 


Music Review – Ali E – We Are Strangers

Getting back into my own territory, Ali E looks like an escapee from two or three decades ago, I was quite pleased when I first listened to this one and made no bones of stating so in the review.

Original is here.


 

Like a cross between PJ Harvey and Kim Deal, Ali E walks her own path. Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, her songs sound like she has let music and events soak her neurons throughout her life, which has created a turbulent mix of 90s post rock and magic summertime vibes.

We Are Strangers starts with a simple two string riff that will stick in your head, it moves swiftly on through the rest of the introduction then quietens down for a laid back verse with minimal guitar, a deep, dark bassline and some whispering drums. But before you know where you are, it mugs you with a noisy pre-chorus, which lasts not more than a couple of heartbeats before it fades back into the verse, leaving you wanting some foreclosure.

After a short verse-like interlude the chorus proper starts and you are rushed through an all too short fist of power chords and split lead vocals. However just because it’s short doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, dragging you bodily into the next part of the song.

Unlike a lot of bands Ali E doesn’t seem to believe in a verse, chorus, verse structure, going for a more free flowing style of “what do I think will sound nice next?” even bringing some violins in to round the sound out and make the whole thing seem like a slightly surreal bus accident involving The Levellers and Melissa Auf der Maur.

In the grand scheme of things, We Are Strangers may not be introducing us to anything particularly ground-breaking but then, in the grand scheme of things, who cares! This is a fun track that makes you want to get up and dance!

 


 


Music Review – Known to Collapse – Circulated Undercover Ground

Even back in the 90s I was more of a Grunger than a Baggy, so to find this track to review didn’t particularly bring back any memories other than watching psychedelic music videos played on the Chart Show on a Saturday morning.

I was pleased to get the chance to review this one though as it has some interesting depths.

The original review is here.


 

 

The video for Circulated Undercover Ground is one third psychedelic head trip, one third soul-searching expedition, one third modern day fairy story and one third commentary on the modern world. Yes, I know that makes four thirds but there is a lot going on for the smiley face that stars in this clip.

Known to Collapse is the brainchild of Kevin Lehner, a California based multi instrumental protégé, videographer and all round nice bloke. His musical journey has taken him from Boston to New York and finally to the sunny shores of the south west coast of America. I only mention this because you can almost hear the influence of his travels on this single.

First and foremost is the jangly surf-pop of Los Angeles Beaches, closely hounded by the smooth sound of laid-back Boston alternative scene, strongly veering towards The Lemonheads more relaxed tracks. Then, of course, New York City does what you’d expect and churns the other influences up in its social and cultural Kenwood mixer.

This song reminds me of nothing so much as a few early nineties indie bands from the more northern extremities of England. Artists like Happy Mondays, The La’s and The Soup Dragons all come to mind, but Circulated Undercover Ground is what would have happened if these bands had grown up eight thousand kilometres west-southwest.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a penniless writer I would give money to Kevin’s Indiegogo crusade, but as it is he will have to be happy with my contribution to his campaign, which is telling the world that I think he’s pretty talented and is likely to appeal to your better natured musical demons.

 


 


Music Review – Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average

Before browsing the Semplesize list for that day I had never heard of Loose Tooth, but that didn’t stop me enjoying their mode of excitable teenage rock thing.

I was quite pleased that I managed to elbow an oblique reference to some actual literature into it, although I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Hardy it was nice to make the cross-media comparison.

As ever, original is here…


 

Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, also the city that delivered Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Walkmen to our ears. Loose Tooth, however, have shunned the normally laid back vibes of their geographic brethren and gone for an all-out 90s alternative-fest.

Much like the ground-breaking Charles Dickens novel with a timeshare in the song’s title, Pickwick Average is a sequence of loosely-related adventures, just in rock music rather than literature.

It starts off with a rough drawl of a guitar riff, then swiftly escalates into a full on incursion of overdriven guitars and disaffected vocals, however this isn’t the full story. After giving you a good slap in the face to start off, the song plays on the quiet-loud-quiet theme, so beloved of pretty much every grungy rock band of the last twenty years.

After finishing the first verse, such as it is, there is a break for coffee and a bit of decelerated introspection, wavering back and forth between fast and slow the song doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming or going.

But wait another minute and suddenly they’ve made up their mind and decided that quarter time is the way to go, the drum laboriously beating out a backing while the guitars seem to be noodling around just for fun, as if angling to accompany a comedy film based around Alabama.

Loose Tooth is quite reminiscent of The Breeders, with asymmetrical guitars and a longing for a better life. Pickwick Average is a fun track, with enough happening to keep you interested all the way to the sober end, the only downside being you’ve probably heard another band doing the same thing before.