PILE | Green and Gray | ALBUM REVIEW

PILE | Green and Gray | ALBUM REVIEW

Pile | Green and Gray | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Pile return with Green and Gray bringing a softer edge, yet retaining their distinctive alternative-rock guitar god sound. Lead singles Hair and even Bruxist Grin hint at a mellower approach but don’t be fooled there are some moments of sheer intensity that will send shivers up your spine.

Pile have managed to carve their own distinctive sound, the type that proliferated 90s alternative scene, just damn fine guitar-based music that has in recent years has fallen out of favour. It’s not unreasonable to compare them to Built To Spill, bringing elements of Shellac chaos and Jesus Lizard hooks or maybe even some Pavement. Fans of said bands will find a comfortable home with this music and also that they have discovered one of the USA’s best-kept secrets. Pile have been around since the mid-2000s and have built a following and reputation with their previous six albums.

Firewood is a slow building opener, seemingly confirming my suspicions that this might be a chilled record. Those suspicions are happily crushed on the following track; Your Performance a complex math-rock-esque stomper.

On a Bigger Screen brings pure venom and throat ripping performance from Rick Maguire and gives confirmation that the album will not be a slow plodder. This is fantastic stuff! A Labyrinth With No Center brings a lush singalong anthem that twists, distorts and delights.

The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller is another colossal vocal performance of sheer ferocity and anger at the hypocrisy of the subject matter, to the point where you can imagine his vocal cords being permanently damaged. It’s an incredible performance beautifully captured by the engineer. The mid part of the record is a riotous affair and shows them at their strongest.

No Hands brings the record full circle to a mellow close. It’s an incredibly well-written record and masterfully sequenced. They are truly the new kings of alternative rock.

Available via Bandcamp and the usual outlets with a vinyl version coming soon pile.bandcamp.com/album/green-and-gray 

ROISIN MURPHY | 19.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

ROISIN MURPHY | 19.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Roisin Murphy – 19th May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond. Photos by Victoria Wai

As a precursor to her slew of festival shows in the weeks and months ahead, Roisin Murphy decided to warm up for these in Newcastle. Opening tonight are duo Audiobooks, the pair initially don’t strike you as a typical duo and their music reflects that. Acclaimed and in demand producer David Wrench’s beats are crisp and clean, and they sound particularly pleasing in this wonderful venue. However, the same cannot be said for the bewildering Evangeline Ling whose vocals rather than enhancing the beats they sit atop, instead fail to enthuse.

Their sound is definitely unique but perhaps not in the right way, the culmination of their set sees Wrench shredding through a plethora of riffs whilst Ling screeches through the final track. The build up to Roisin Murphy’s set starts the best part of fifteen minutes before she even takes to the stage, a palette cleansing drone that slowly builds accompanied by looping visuals. As the lights dim and the band take the stage, Murphy makes her grand entrance opening with House Of Glass. This heavy number setting the tone for what is to come.

It’s a night of many costume changes, Murphy’s on stage wardrobe is truly impressive. Personal favourites Demon Lover and Ten Miles High featuring early in this superb set. However, by far the best costume and accompanied song is Plaything, as Murphy carries her silver ‘plaything’ around the stage. Sparking a significant crowd reaction as she twirls it around, it’s not just about that however as the song itself is particularly vibrant and packed with unbridled energy.

That is true of most of this fervent set, with Murphy barely stopping to draw breath the majority of the time. Without doubt she is in incredible form tonight, closing out her set with Overpowered and Flash Of Light you cannot help but be overcome by her style and manner. She has this crowd hanging off her every word, as they dance their night away. Roisin Murphy proves without a doubt how truly brilliant she is tonight with this insanely impressive set, it’s predominantly effortless her costume changes her relentless excitement all of which rubs off on to this elated crowd.

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ULVER | Drone Activity | ALBUM REVIEW

ULVER | Drone Activity | ALBUM REVIEW

Ulver | Drone Activity | Album review

Ulver Drone Activity
Ulver Drone Activity

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Norwegian band Ulver’s name means ‘wolves’, but stylistically they are chameleons. Beginning their career in the 1990s with a trilogy of black metal albums, they then opted for a starkly different electronic approach in the new millennium with Perdition City. Next, they experimented with modern classical and ambient on 2007’s Shadows of the Sun , before digging out the guitars again for the post-rock-flavoured ATGCLVLSSCAP in 2015, and then settled on a synth-pop direction for the following year’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Keeping up so far?

Drone Activity, as the name suggests, sees Ulver adopting a more minimal approach. Recorded live but heavily edited in the studio (in a manner similar to the largely improvised ATGCLVLSSCAP), this year’s album consists of four pieces which are all over 15 minutes long.

‘True North’ starts proceedings with an appropriately chilly drone piece, punctuated by dissonant guitar chords in its later stages. ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ incorporates some subtle rhythmic elements and electronic effects, gradually increasing in intensity. It’s interesting enough, if a little overlong. ‘Blood, Fire, Woods, Diamonds’ occupies similar territory. Ulver’s sonic palette is richest on closing track ‘Exodus’, which briefly shifts in tone halfway through to incorporate arpeggiators and bell-like tones, before an ominous low-end storm erupts.

Back in 2010, Ulver performed one of their first ever concerts at The Norwegian National Opera. The show was released on DVD the following year, and is much more akin to a ‘live album’ (in that it features previously released material performed in front of a live audience) than this collection. Here the band uses the concert space as a venue for improvisation. It’s unclear where the live performance ends and the studio work begins, but perhaps this work was more interesting to experience in its original live setting. Time will only tell if Ulver will continue in this vein for a while or promptly abandon electronic drone for something else.

Drone Activity is available from House of Mythology in a variety of formats, including several different coloured vinyl editions.

MASSIVE WAGONS | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | PHOTOS

MASSIVE WAGONS | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | PHOTOS

Massive Wagons – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

Since Massive Wagosn were also incredibly fantastic to photo I decided to do an separate and extended gallery of their set with The Wildhearts

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TOWERS OF LONDON | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | PHOTOS

TOWERS OF LONDON | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | PHOTOS

Towers Of London – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

Since Towers of London were so incredibly fantastic to photo I decided to do an separate and extended gallery of their set with The Wildhearts

PHOTO GALLERY

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LUNGBUTTER | Honey | ALBUM REVIEW

LUNGBUTTER | Honey | ALBUM REVIEW

Lungbutter | Honey | Album review

Lungbutter - Honey - album review
Lungbutter – Honey

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

I knew little about the band going into this review. The name grabbed my attention immediately. They have to be interesting with a name like Lungbutter right? A quick listen confirmed by suspicion. Some utterly delicious detuned guitar tones and spoken word groove of lead single Flat White appealed instantly. A slice of American alternative taking me right back to the 90s with a delightful mixture of Sleater Kinney and early period Sonic Youth, coupled with beat poet lyricism. The Montreal trio take that sound and reinvent it to something modern and thrilling. Utterly refreshing in a world of over produced cringe-worthy auto-tuned vocals. Lungbutter serve up primitive and thrilling sounds.


Bravo proves a highlight of the record with it’s catchy detuned hook that you can almost sign along to. Almost, I can confirm that you can dance to it as I am doing right now! Curtain is another standout. A one minute punk-rock  pounder.

Eleven songs in under 34 minutes gives the perfect length. Ensuring it’s not too much yet leaving you wanting more.

It’s a mighty fine debut offering some fabulous sounds that will be adored by those of us who still mourn the loss of Sonic Youth and the chasm their split has left in the alternative music world along with some deep lyrics to explore with repeated listens.

Honey is out on Constellation Records on 31st May 2019

THE WILDHEARTS | MASSIVE WAGONS | TOWERS OF LONDON | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | REVIEW and PHOTOS

THE WILDHEARTS | MASSIVE WAGONS | TOWERS OF LONDON | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | REVIEW and PHOTOS

The Wildhearts | Massive Wagons | Towers Of London – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

The Wildhearts - 12th May 2019 - Newcastle Riverside
The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

Well what can I say about this gig? The final night of The Wildhearts triumphant tour for the launch of their 2019 album Renaissance Men and some might say (not us at Blank Slate we’ve always been massive fans!) unexpected return to the big time.

Towers of London – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

There was tremendous showmanship on display from the support acts. In fact, both Towers of London and Massive Wagons proved an absolute hoot to photo. So rather than just share a couple of pics from their sets I will add full photo galleries of each band’s set in separate features 🙂

Towers of London have also reformed and are enjoying themselves immensely by the looks of things. They ended their set with members of Massive Wagons joining them onstage for underpants dances and backing vocals on Fuck It Up. MW followed with their own set of high kicking rock anthems to a packed Riverside crowd, fans clearly here in numbers nice and early to see all of the bands.

Massive Wagons – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s my first time seeing The Wildhearts live in about 3 and a half years, although I’ve interviewed and covered solo shows during this gap, this is the first time I’ve been able to get to one of their gigs due to gig clashes, ill health or general bad luck!

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s a privilege to get the chance to photo and review a band that I’ve followed since I was about 14 years old when I heard Suckerpunch for the first time. They will always have a little spot in my heart with their catchy and timeless back catalogue of classics and barrage of riffs that send shivers down my spine each time I hear them.

The outro of Everlone is a great example of that, one of the finest pieces of rock riffage I’ve ever encountered. Which is no mean feat when you break down that song riff by riff, it’s shear quota of classic riffs eclipses many bands entire careers in just one song. It appears tonight second song in, nice and early. There was the expectation that they might not play some of the Earth Vs Material prior to the tour since they’ve played that material very heavily for its 25th-anniversary last year.

The Wildhearts know how to deliver a setlist with a selection that is sure to keep the diehards happy and entertain the casual fans. I haven’t bee able to get Dislocated out of my head for nearly a week now. It’s a pure slice of 2019 perfection, ‘I feel dislocated from your world’ is a sentiment I can relate to far too much. The world needs The Wildhearts. It’s a brutal barrage of a song that slides effortlessly into singalong choruses that only The Wildhearts can pull off. The more I hear it the more I adore it.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s an ecstatic night and the whole band appear to be having the time of their lives. It was great to see Danny back there and grinning away. It truly is a remarkable sound that this gang of four chaps can make, the love for them is on clear display from the sold-out Newcastle crowd. Singing and dancing away for the entire set. Including the new numbers which gain a rapturous reaction.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Renaissance Men will feature on many rock albums of the year list and quite rightly so. The Wildhearts were always super popular in Newcastle but now there’s an air of excitement and maybe some ‘I told you so’ smugness from the fans who have followed them religiously for years since they’re now getting more attention from media and a wider audience.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

The Wildhearts in whatever shape or form have always been brilliant and will always be one of Britains best rock bands. They deserve every ounce of praise they’ve earned from this tour and album. What a gig!

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PELICAN  | Nighttime Stories | ALBUM REVIEW

PELICAN | Nighttime Stories | ALBUM REVIEW

Pelican | Nighttime Stories | Album review

Pelican | Nighttime Stories

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Chicago quartet Pelican was formed in 2001, and this is their sixth studio album. Their music is generally pigeonholed as ‘post-metal’ due to its largely instrumental nature, although guitarist Trevor de Brauw is dismissive of labels.

The title track’s relentless heavy riffs are indicative of the band’s current aggressive direction, signalling ‘the resulting dread and anger’ that the band feels at the current cultural climate in America. The album’s title is borrowed from associated act Tusk, whose vocalist Jody Minnoch passed away in 2014. His chord voicings, song titles and structural ideas were a strong influence on the record.

The most initially striking elements of this album, however, are the gentler, more melodic ones: opening track ‘WST’ has a slight folk flavour. It was written as a tribute to guitarist Dallas Thomas’ recently deceased father. ‘I Stared at Me’ features delicate guitar lines and an almost bluesy slide part, before it comes to an abrupt stop at three and a half minutes. Closing track ‘Full Moon, Black Water’ starts quietly before a torrent of riffs erupts, but the piece comes to a fairly peaceful conclusion.

Elsewhere, ‘Midnight and Mescaline’ is more representative: it’s propelled along by strident drums and an army of guitars. Pelican’s sound on this album is at times slightly reminiscent of fellow Chicagoans Russian Circles, although they never quite achieve that seamless a balance of melody and dynamics. They don’t quite have the ambition of English post-metallers Bossk either, but it remains an entertaining set of thunderous guitar parts and intricate rhythms. The album is densely mastered for maximum impact, which is perhaps why the quieter tracks stand out.

Nighttime Stories is available in a variety of formats from the 7th of June.

METRONOMY | 03.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

METRONOMY | 03.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Metronomy – 3rd May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

By Gav Wyatt (G.Wyatt photography)

Here we are at the fabulous Boiler Shop as the Hit the North festival kicks off to see the wonderful electro-pop band Metronomy.

Metronomy first came to our attention many moons ago as a trio, supporting one of our favourite live bands the Infidels at the Newcastle O2 Academy. They had instantly made an impression on us as their unique and quirky sound instantly caught us, and they’d each had a light strapped to their chests, a pound shop gimmick that they synchronised whole routines together to. They got straight into our heads and when we saw them entering the public realm reimagined as a 5 piece and a whole new sound which still retained that unique goofiness that had struck us upon first encounter, we felt a pang of pride at what had evolved and that they still existed.

They emerge all pristine and in white, gentle-voiced and the crowd has grown and cheer as they give a fantastic and energetic performance. Everyone is dancing and having a wonderful time.

Joseph Mount has a gentle rapport and recalls that it’s been quite some time since they were last in Toon, and I am so pleased we got to see them right at the start of those formative days. They are a slick and brilliant live band that uplifted the crowd. A must see band that I am sure we will be seeing more of. Which is more than I can say for my ex-favourite band that introduced me to these guys in the first place.

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