Monday, 31 March 2014

#273: Darlia - Soundcontrol, Manchester - (28/03/14)

Darla (w/ The Minx)

Sound Control, Manchester

March 28 2014

Photos: David Brown (The Minx), Steph Murphy (Darlia)

One of many venues situated just a stone's throw away from Oxford Road train station, Sound Control, though unassuming on the outside, plays host to an multiplicity of eclectic club nights and gigs on a weekly basis, the former often following the latter. Such is the case tonight, and as we descend the stairs in to the basement, pushing through a set of plastic strips (such as you would find in a warehouse) and being hit with a musky damp smell, you can understand why the venue hosts as many D'n'B and house nights as it does; the concrete floor and dim lighting bringing to mind my singular experience of an illegal rave.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

#272: The Darlingtons - Rotations (single review)

“Build me up, break me down. And pray for the rain again” laments Kiran Roy, lead singer of The Darlingtons on forthcoming single 'Rotations'. If there was ever a line that summarised a band almost completely, then that is it. Desolate, but not without a certain degree of optimism, Sheffield's The Darlingtons are one of the most exciting bands on the up at the moment; their blend of post-rock melancholia and shimmering shoegaze guitars setting them apart from some of their more upbeat contemporaries.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

#271: Catching Up With...Itch

After the dissolution of The King Blues in 2012, front-man Johnny Fox, aka ITCH, struck out on his own. With a handful of EPs already under his belt, and his debut album out today, Louder Than War’s Dave Beech caught up with him for a Q&A. (This interview was done before today so any references to the “forthcoming” album are to the one released today!)
Having recently been on tour with Dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip, it seems that ex-King Blues frontman Itch has barely had time to catch his breath over the last 12 months. Following a string of festival appearances over Summer, Itch immediately embarked on a run of smaller UK shows just prior to Christmas, before setting off once again for his current support slot.
With all that touring it hardly seems possible that he would have been able to find time to record his forthcoming album, The Deep End, let alone take a break from everything to catch up with us. Find time he did though, all the while musing on politics, Tim Armstrong and errr, Russel Brand.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

#270: Damn Vandals - Rocket Out of London

Damn Vandals

Rocket Out Of London 

April 7 2014 (Sexy Beast)


Following up their 2012 debut was never going to be an easy feat for London four-piece Damn Vandals. Heaped with praise from the likes of DIY, BBC6 Music and Classic Rock Magazine, 'Done for Desire' was ten tracks of sludgy stoner rock akin to the likes of Eagles of Death Metal. Now with second album 'Rocket Out of London' not far from release, it seems the format is very much the same as last time if not cranked up a notch. Ten tracks again, this time clocking in at less than 26 minutes.

#269: Darwin & the Dinosaur - Remus (EP review)

Darwin & the Dinosaur


7th March, 2014


In what is almost certainly a bid to distance themselves from the likes of You Me At Six or Paramore, Norwich's Darwin & the Dinosaur are purporting themselves as an alternative post-punk outfit. And while that may be true to a minor extent, they have more in common the aforementioned than they do, say, The Fall. Genre discrepancies aside however, and D&TD are a solid band that will undoubtedly go on to appeal to fans of the likes of Pierce the Veil or Deaf Havana; their most recent EP Remus feeling like a fusion of contemporary emo, pop-punk with lavish elements of post-hardcore ferocity. It's nothing we've not heard before, but when everything is wrapped up and tied off as neatly as it is here, it definitely doesn't have to be.

Comprised of five tracks and at fifteen minutes long, Remus is a perfect introduction to D&TD. Begining with the blistering 'I Said Goodbye', the record goes for jugular straight off the bat; an incendiary Alexisonfire-style intro eviscerates listeners before they know what's hit them, before slowing down completely into a melodic verse, again akin to Alexisonfire. It's an uncompromising way to start an EP, but it hooks you in instantly.

Following track 'Evergreen' is a less polished, more melodious track in which dual vocals bring to mind early Silverstein, the slightly out of key nature of them only adding to the tracks overall feel. This almost-punk feel is something that runs throughout Remus and is what lends the band their power-pop qualities. The record isn't without it's heavier side though, the final two tracks 'Forever May I' and 'Stalemate' both eschewing the punk vibe in favour of more emotionally charged, albeit mellow post-hardcore.

As mentioned previously D&TD aren't a band who have set out to break any boundaries and as such those of you looking for something a little more left field are probably best looking elsewhere. However should one be looking for a band who wear their hearts on their sleeve and who don't come across as a whiny carbon copy, then they needn't look any further. Will Darwin & the Dinosaur be gracing the pages of magazines such as NME anytime soon? It's doubtful. Will they, and they should be plastered across the pages of Kerrang! and Rock Sound however? Most definitely.



Sunday, 23 March 2014

#267: Lyla Foy - Mirrors the Sky

First garnering the attention of the music press back in 2012 under the moniker WALL, London-based singer/songwriter Lyla Foy seems likely to find herself the subject of similar critical acclaim with her forthcoming debut Mirrors the Sky. Having dropped the pseudonym and now performing under her own name, Foy has built on the solid foundations she laid as WALL, crafting a debut album of fantastically minimal pop that effortlessly glides from track to shimmering track; the lyricism wrought with emotion, the delivery sugary sweet.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

#266: Brown Brogues - Zoloto (EP review)

Since moving from Wigan to Manchester, scuzzy two-piece Brown Brogues have developed somewhat of a cult following over the last four or five years with their fusion of guttural garage rock, bluesy vibes and punk ethos. Think the MC5, jamming with The Stooges by way of The Black Keys, all wrapped up in the spit’n'sawdust surrounds of one of Manchester’s many dive bars, and you won’t be far off the mark. With Record Store Day 2014 just around the corner, it seems justifiable that such a cult band should want to celebrate the occasion by releasing Zoloto, their first EP since 2012′s Born to Lose.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

#262: Catching Up With...The Minx (U&I Music Magazine - March Issue)

Though they've been around for a couple of years now, The Minx, a two-tone/punk hybrid from Wythenshawe, are finally seeing the fruits of their labour reaped. Their last few home-town shows have been sold-out energetic affairs, increasing in size every step along the way and it's easy to see why. Their music doesn't lend itself to the rainy city in the way that it other bands do. Indeed, the inclusion of an organ injects their repertoire with a definite dose of sunshine more akin to the West Indies than Wythenshawe. As a band, they're so atypical of both their surroundings and their era, that it's hard to put a finger on what makes The Minx so special; and therein lies their appeal.

Tracks such as 'Forest Bank' exhibit this brilliantly. Drawing from a wealth of influences such as ...And Out Come the Wolves-era Rancid and The Clash, it's immediately obvious that the band refuse to bay to the generic expectations laid out by Manchester as a city. And while it can certainly be argued that 'Manc Music' doesn't have the same clichéd restrictions it did twenty years ago, it's still a music scene dominated predominantly by an indie majority. The Minx, however, have other plans.

Their most recent release 'Corporation Pop' was recorded in one live session, and though the production quality wavers slightly in the face of it, the punk authenticity of the session reigns supreme, giving fans another reason to fly The Minx flag high. A tumultuous, anarchic track, the sheer energy that bursts forth is untapped and unadulterated, much like the track itself. An explosive chorus of gang-chant style vocals isn't quite the icing on the cake as much as it's the safety-pin through the nose, and if any of the four remaining tracks taken from this studio session muster even half the energy this does, we're in for something truly special.

Though it's taken a while for the ball to get rolling, now it has it shows no sign of slowly down, the momentum behind it building with every gig, every release. A host of fairly high-profile support slots across Manchester also, has done nothing to hamper the inevitable ascent to the top of the game. Loud and brash, anarchic though not without melody, The Minx are one of Manchester's most exciting young acts at the moment. You can almost bet that 2014 is going to see them follow in the footsteps of the city's most recent exports. Expect big things. Expect them soon.

U&I: Hi guys, thanks for taking the time out to answer our questions. To start with, your sound isn't inherently 'Manchester', at least in comparison to the generic indie of some acts out there at the moment, but how would you describe yourselves personally as a band?

To be honest, I don’t think we fit in with the whole “Manchester” tag, and what comes with it. The Minx aren’t “trendy”, but I think that’s why it works. Don’t get me wrong, we love Manchester music, and the likes of The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Inspiral Carpets etc are big influences on us but I don’t think it necessarily shows in the music we make. Now the Buzzcocks on the other hand..

U&I: You've been a band for a while now, but it seems over the last 12 months that things have really started moving in your direction, with some decent support slots for the likes of Inspiral Carpets and a string of sold out headline shows in Manchester already under your belt. Was there a pivotal point in which you started noticing stuff happening?

I think last year (2013) was the real start for us. That’s when we started (properly) releasing our tunes and getting real radio play. We had a solid plan from January 2013 to get the “Hey! Mr Warden” EP out, followed by the (Can You Find) My Head? Single, with gigs around both, and we just stuck to it and it worked..

U&I: There's obviously a lot of two-tone and reggae influences mixing with the punk vibes in your music, do you think this is a cultural thing that stems from growing up in a city like Manchester, or is that just the kind of music you grew up listening to?

Both! We’re all really in to reggae, and have been since growing up. We’re lucky to be based in multicultural Manchester, I’m positive that’s had a spin on how our music has formed.

U&I: Similarly, what do you think it is about the city that allows such a multitude of bands to flourish the way they do in Manchester? And do you think the sheer amount of music on offer creates a competition between bands?

Manchester’s always buzzing, with some great live venues so there’s always good shows on. I wouldn’t say there’s competition, in all honesty I wouldn’t mind hearing/seeing more.

U&I: Your latest single '(Can You Find) My Head' came out last year and it summaries The Minx as a band brilliantly. How well has it been going down with fans and critics?

(Can You Find) My Head? has gone down a storm. With the track being picked to soundtrack Dr Martens global AW13 campaign, it put us on a whole new level and opened our fan base globally. Everyone seems to really dig it, which is cool.

U&I: You announced on Facebook the other week that you had been in the studio laying down some new tracks. When can we hear them and are they another EP or part of something longer?

We popped to a little studio in Rochdale, set up live and laid down 5 new tunes in a day. We filmed it all and will be uploading each track as a series over the coming months. The first track has just gone live “Corporation Pop” (see above)

U&I: You had a crazy year in 2013, and must've had some brilliant experiences. What's been some of the most memorable? Any tour stories you want to entertain our readers with?
The best experiences of 2013 were definitely our 3 consecutive sold out Manchester shows at Soup Kitchen, Deaf Institute and Sound Control. Each one was just brilliant and bigger than the last. As for tour stories.. We’d rather forget.

U&I: Manchester's full of eclectic venues, they're as much a part of the city's musical heritage as the bands which play them, arguably more so in the cases of some. With that in mind what do you think about the current noise complaints befalling some venues in the Northern Quarter?

I think it’s all a load of bollocks. If you move next door to a music venue, then it’s expected you are going to hear noise. If you don’t want to hear noise, move to rural Wales or something.

U&I: You're gigging with Darlia at SoundControl late next month, and you must've gigged with a fair few bands in a similar position to yourselves over the years. Anyone you'd like to plug or give it of exposure to?

There’s some great bands knocking about. The great thing about putting on our own headline Manchester shows is we get to hand pick the support acts. So far we’ve had Guy Connor, Bourbon Street Beat, The Velveteen Saints, No Hot Ashes, Dirty North and soon to be James Munro at our next sold out Eagle show on the 28th March. They’re all great.

U&I: With 2013 proving to be the year for you that it was, 2014 is going to have be pretty special to top it. What are the band's plans for the year ahead? Headline tours? Prospective albums? Festivals?

Onwards and upwards. Our debut single “No Friends” is set to be re released around April time. We’ll be looking to do our next big headline Manchester show around the same time (venue TBC). Small tour, and as many festivals that will have us?

U&I: Finally, any parting words or exclusives you'd like to leave our readers with?

Monday, 10 March 2014

#260: Delamere - The Deaf Institute, Manchester (08/03/14)

One of the best feelings one can have in this profession, is seeing a band they've championed for a while finally get the break they're so deserving of. One such band for me personally, is Stoke's Delamere, a four-piece whose steady stream of heartfelt self-releases earned them the attention of Manchester-based label Scruff of the Neck late last year. Tonight sees the release of their first single with label backing and also gives me my first chance to see them as a headlining act. First however, there's the matter of the two support bands to attend to, local acts The Hymek Manoeuvre and Glass Tides, both of whom have a sound as varied as the audience in attendance tonight.

First on the bill are Chorlton-based The Hymek Manoeuvre a six piece funk fusion outfit who warm an eager crowd up brilliantly. Opening with a number that smacks of '60s pop outfits, their set soon gets heavier with tracks such as 'Crocodile' adding some bite to their repertoire with penultimate track 'Hatred' proving to be another highlight.

Second up are Glass Tides, and though they've only been together a short space of time, they ply their trade with a quiet confidence, preferring to let their exploration of both dynamics and tempo do the talking for them. The inclusion of a violin also adds some diversity to an otherwise traditional set-up and i wouldn't surprise if before long they find themselves, like tonight's headliners, releasing their first official single to a packed out audience.

Having watched the first two support bands squashed rather unceremoniously leaning out over the venues small balcony, we opt for a more comfortable position stage left, as the burgeoning throng of the crowd pushes towards the front, anticipating the arrival of Delamere on stage. Opening with 'Head Strong' the band waste no time in kicking off their set in a big way – their trademark anthemics ringing out across the Deaf Institute’s modest gig room.

Tracks such as 'Vampire' incorporate lite-shoegaze moments, mounting walls of noise encompassing those of us stood close to the stage, whilst 'Heart' is a mid-set highlight that sees singer James Fitchford utilising both skin and rim of a floor tom to provide added timbre to an already richly woven track, before warning the crowd “you don't want to do that after a beer, I was nearly sick”.

New single 'Do You Want Me?' follows next, the mid-song breakdown that I gushed about here, really coming in to it's own in a live environment. This track is the reason for us being here tonight, and it's great to see the crowd singing back the words, despite it only debuting a couple of weeks prior. The first real crowd movement of the night, comes during fan-favourite 'Colour Me In'. One of the band's oldest tracks, it allows the audience to really let loose; the mixed crowd dancing terribly, though all in great spirits, knowing the track almost word for word, and with the dancing carrying on well in to the final track of the evening 'Betty Boop'.

Having only caught Delamere once before, at a support slot just down the road in Academy 3, tonight has exceeded any expectations. Though their last show was plagued with sound problems, tonight is as crisp and as clean as you could hope for. Every note of every solo is discernible, every high-hat or bass beat noticeable and the vocal reach of Fitchford, unparalleled. There's a reason why Delamere have been signed, and tonight shows why; their live performances far excells their recorded output, and that's not an easy feat. If this is the sound of a band whose wheels have only just set in motion, I can't wait to see what they'll be like in 12 months time. The only real complaint of the evening comes in the choice of set structure; an early inclusion of 'Colour Me In' would probably have got the crowd moving far sooner than it did. However, that shouldn't take anything away from a band who are well and truly on their way to bigger sounds, bigger stages, and in the case of lead guitarist Ash Egerton, one can only assume, bigger beards.


Scruff of the Neck Records

Friday, 7 March 2014

#258: Introducing...Ghost Outfit

There’s something inherently pleasing about seeing bands from your city begin to make a name for themselves. Being from Manchester, you might think that for me, this happens quite regularly. But when those bands are fairly middle of the road indie outfits (I’m looking at you, The 1975) more often than not, it begins to get a little predictable. Thankfully though, over the course of the last 12 months, things have started to change, and more atypical acts have began to not only break the surface of the city’s scene, but smash through it.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

#257: Barstow Bats - Self-Titled (EP review)

Dumfries quartet Barstow Bats haven't, in the grand scheme of things, been a band for all that long.Formed in 2012 and signed a year later, it seems things have worked in the bands favour from pretty much the word go and while their sound isn't all that original, it doesn't have to be. Built on a foundation of 60s pop influences, contemporary indie and typical Scottish weather, the band's debut self-titled EP is four tracks of appropriated genres, gritty vocals and an untapped energy that runs riot across the record's reasonably short run time.

First track 'Play Piano' is a loose, jangly garage rock anthem that rattles towards it's conclusion with the same style and swagger as an early Strokes record. This, coupled with a romanticism that smacks of Dundee's The View, makes for an engaging opening track that encourages listeners to delve a little deeper. Similarly, 'Heartbreak Kicks' is a straight-to-the-point bluesy number complete with wailing guitar and chunky bass riffs. With nothing fancy at play, no opulent ornamentation, it's straight up, balls to the wall rock'n'roll that drips with the same swagger as it's predecessor.

Final track 'Marcitrio' is where the EP gets really interesting. With the first three songs upholding an almost reckless punk aesthetic behind the guitar licks, 'Marcitrio' is where you feel the wings of Barstow Bats begin to unfurl. A slow and mournful lament, the track relies almost solely on the vocal stylings and lyricism of Andrew Rendall, the instrumentation forming an ominous canvas on which the lyrics paint. It's a stark contrast to any of it's predecessors, but it suggests a deeper musicality can than anything it proceeds, and a maturity within the band collective. Great stuff.

Barstow Bats don't care if they're cool, and as a result, they fucking are. Drinking from a wealth of influences, their output certainly isn't as original as some might hope (with the exception of 'Marcitrio') but when it's put forth and brought to the fore with as much confidence and conviction as it is here, originally really doesn't matter. What does, is energy, and the clear enjoyment of the band in question and with the bucketloads of both that Barstow Bats come armed with, you really could do far worse than checking them out.

This review was originally for Listen Up Manchester. Click here to visit their site.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

#256: Dexters - Shimmer Gold


Shimmer Gold

March 17 2014 (Acid Jazz Records)


Guitar bands, it seems, have faded somewhat in to obscurity over the last few years. Overshadowed by a sudden onslaught of synth-driven disco pop, the “boys in bands” mentality shrunk beneath the brim of it's trilby, allowing for a far more electronically disposed mindset to come to the fore. Things look set to change however, as bands such as Eagulls, Drowners and SKATERS are bringing in a new wave of guitar bands. One such band perpetuating the ideas of a dual-syllabic band names are London's Dexters.

Monday, 3 March 2014

#255: Eagulls - Eagulls

Bridging the divide between the post-punk of the 1980s, and 1990s slacker rock, Leeds-based five-piece Eagulls are a band whose name has found itself in my inbox rather regularly of late. The handful of singles the quartet have released, coupled by their appearance at last year’s SXSW festival, has whipped up a veritable shit-storm of anticipation for their eponymous début, released in March. And while the hype machine does have a tendency to big up those within it’s clutches more often than is usually warranted, it seems Eagulls’ explosive combination of snarling punk cynicism and lo-fi aesthetics are worth every ounce of hyperbole.

This review was originally written for Far Out Magazine. Click here to read in full.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

#254: The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco - Cruise Control (EP Review)

The first thing that struck me about Essex pop-rockers The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco, aside from a name that staggers and stumbles rather than rolls off the tongue, is that the wrong Beech has been asked to review them. Indeed, it seems the task of critiquing the band should have fallen to my dad (whose appreciation of music ranges from the downright questionable, to the fantastic). Fitting then, that the band purport themselves as “proper grown up pop music”, as after just one listen of their Cruise Control EP I can already hear my dear old dad crooning along to them after a glass [Read: bottle] or two of Cab Sav.

With their target demographic clearly established, I go in to this review tentatively; at 23 I would hardly consider myself part of the band's target audience, which is what makes this review so difficult. The first track, the eponymous 'Cruise Control' does just that, it effortlessly glides towards it's conclusion, the smooth and glossy exterior juxtaposed against it's frenetic and high-tempo nature. It's obvious why the band chose this as the lead track from the EP, an early highlight, it's the track that harbours the most universal appeal.

From here on out though the “grown up pop music” really begins to make itself known. From a personal perspective, there's not a huge amount here that grabs me. Second track 'The Legend of Josi and the Juke' is an off-kilter bluesy affair in which a sleazy guitar is paired against crisp keys, and comes off sounding like one of the most competent pub bands you've ever heard whilst following track 'List Song' is a far smoother, softer outing featuring some exquisite production.

Lyrically the band perch precariously above a chasm of cliché; not quite falling, but coming dangerously close. Lyrics such as “If love is the answer, I love no-one” are wrought with a triteness that you wouldn't expect from a band who, musically, are as solid as they are. Final track 'Breakfast of Kings', whilst being another highlight, also sees the band ticking every box on the How to Write A Pop Song worksheet, and whilst “I'll take a drink with ya, I'll take one without...” might well be a lyric perfect the track's aesthetic, that or a variation on that, has also been perfect for a plethora of tracks before it.

The problem with music journalism, is that it's a purely subjective genre. Okay so most people can tell a good song from a bad song (or not as a lot of the charts suggest). But when you get down beneath the flesh, in to the blackened lungs and the failing kidneys of the genre, it all boils down to taste. There's a lot going on with The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco that is worth merit, but not a lot of it that appeals to me on a personal level, which (personally...) all my favourite music does. That said however for those who dig “A mix of 70s East Coast strut, post-punk British pop and West Coast Americana” they could probably do much worse than spend some time with The Cruise Control EP.

This review was originally written for Listen Up Manchester. Click here to check them out.