STEVE STRONG | Turbo Island | ALBUM REVIEW

STEVE STRONG | Turbo Island | ALBUM REVIEW

Steve Strong | Turbo Island | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Steve-Strong Turbo-Island

Let’s get 2019 off to a Strong start, sorry had to! Joking aside the new feature-length album from Steve Strong is anything but weak. A tour de force of musical prowess and creativity. Highly accomplished, multi-instrumentalist Steve Strong releases his new album Turbo Island.

This might be the first review I’ve done based purely on reputation, I must admit I’ve not heard his music before. Hearing nothing but praise for his live performances and his record labels past history, I instantly said yes! For those (like me) who are unfamiliar; Steve is a one-man band, and although in Steve’s case that term is possibly a red herring. The term conjures images of a stereotypical gnarly bearded guitar and kickdrum situation, which is understating plethora of equipment Steve Strong nestles behind during his live performances.

Ten tracks of sublime mellow instrumental goodness. Lovely clean guitar tones reminiscent of Toe (the Japanese band) lend themselves to some nice early morning chill vibes. It’s been my morning commuting soundtrack, a delightful air of calm emanating from my iPod, while the world rushes around me.

I absolutely adore the song titles, Deline Cion, Life After Post Rock and Sensible Skeletons all bring a smile to this curmudgeons face. Intro track Gravel Gardner also amuses and proves to be a highlight of the album with some very accomplished percussion.

From the start, I’m fully engrossed. I’ve had the record on repeat for an most of the week. 2019 is shaping up to have some rather special records, Teeth of the Sea record actually fits quite nicely side by side and there’s certainly a cross over for audiences there.

Full credit to his creative process, the songs sound like full band compositions. The amount of coordination and dexterity to perform these pieces as a solo act is nothing short of miraculous. This is his second full-length album and is certainly his strongest release to date. Turbo Island is an album of overwhelming compositions and creativity. A math-rock masterpiece.

Out tomorrow (18th Jan 2019) on Durham based Sapien Records, home to many diverse and talented acts including our much loved We Are Knuckle Dragger and Shitwife (aka Big Lad). Out! Head over to his Bandcamp page for some rather awesome looking records

THE TWILIGHT SAD | 10.11.2018 | Paris Point Ephémère | REVIEW

THE TWILIGHT SAD | 10.11.2018 | Paris Point Ephémère | REVIEW

The Twilight Sad – 10th November 2018 – Paris Point Ephémère

Feature by Sarah Sarti

When you walk to the Glasgow bus station in the middle of the night and you see two foxes playing in a small garden unconcerned by the pouring rain or you, you know it’s gonna be a great weekend. This morning my destination is Paris, where l am gonna spend a weekend with a friend and on Saturday night The Twilight Sad will play the first gig of the European promo tour for the new album.

Paris welcomes us with a lovely sunny day, so what do you apart from strolling along Canal St.Martin? Look for a crepe, obviously! There is time for a quick mint tea at the beautiful Mosque and a walk in the Jardin Des Plantes while the sun is going down. In the evening we go to the Musee Du Luxembourg where there is a Mucha exhibition we both long for: the rooms are packed but the beauty of these painting will stay with me for a long time. We have dinner then head to the hotel, the day has been long and we need our beauty sleep.

Saturday is Sad day, so the sun is gone and an almost Scottish rain lashes the whole city! Our mission this morning is to visit Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur: the place is so charming that it cannot be spoiled, not even by the constant river of tourists. We have a walk in the less busy part of the area, there is a small vineyard and a beautiful cemetery, called Saint Vincent, where a lot of graves are covered with ivy in a million of autumnal colours, really enchanting. We sit for lunch and a coffee for a while, and in the meantime, the rain stops: we also manage to pretend we are not so excited about the gig tonight, so we have a look at a small art gallery called Les Douches where there is a photographic exhibition by Aaron Suskind.

We go to the venue at 7pm and there are already some people queuing, looks like our “secret” band is not so secret anymore, and this is a very good news because The Twilight Sad deserve to be known and loved by a wider audience.

The show is sold out and when Michael Timmons goes onstage the venue is already packed: this intimate and elegant songwriter is playing for the first time in Europe and will open all gigs on the tour. He holds our interest with a handful of songs from his debut album “Bone Coloured” and l am happy to say the audience listens in silence and pays the right attention.

The Twilight Sad…oh, well, this is the hard part, right? Because l am supposed to sound unbiased but this band live is so amazing, so powerful and so emotional that is impossible not to be enthusiastic. The audience gets on fire as they open with There’s a Girl In The Corner, then we are introduced to some new songs: it’s the first time l hear I’m Not Here and they nail it, delivering an immense version. The Arbor and Vtr are on the setlist as well, the second being already one of the hardcore fans favourites. The rest of the show is a collection of songs that we should call “classics” already, from “The Wrong car” to Cold Days From The Birdhouse, but the most touching moment is without a doubt is the Frightened Rabbit cover Keep Yourself Warm, a song that never fails to move everyone.

As usual they play no encore and when the lights turn on, here we are, a bunch of miserable souls with our ears buzzing and our hearts full. It’s been said before but really, do yourself a favour and go to see these guys playing.

JON SPENCER | Spencer Sings The Hits | ALBUM REVIEW

JON SPENCER | Spencer Sings The Hits | ALBUM REVIEW

Jon Spencer | Spencer Sings The Hits | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Jon Spencer | Spencer Sings The Hits | Album review

The Blues Explosion man makes his thrilling solo debut. Spencer Sings the Hits is a good old rock ‘n’ roll record, more of an amalgamation of styles showcased in his other work and bands. It’s got that unmistakable Jon Spencer sound and certainly wouldn’t feel out of place in the JSBX back catalogue.

A big movie soundtrack placement has opened a lot of new ears to the #1 band. I’ve been a fan since I was 16 years old when I first heard the scuzzy slice of perfection that is ‘Wail’, I’m not sure where I heard it, probably on a John Peel show. They may never have hit it huge, too good and too punk to be a commercial act but their output and legacy is a marvellous back catalogue. But it’s great to see them getting some attention and the time is right for this record. A big UK tour with the Melvins will surely help bring the songs to a wider audience.

One of the great things about a Spencer related release is the uncertainty of what you’ll hear. He’s a creative soul who could make banging on cardboard boxes sound utterly amazing, his impeccable showmanship ensures live shows are fantastic and I can proudly say Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is one of the best live bands I have ever seen, the Pixies used to hold that title (in my mind, there’s not an actual award for that I’m afraid). Got that instantly recognisable Spencer guitar tone.

‘Fake’ finds him commenting on the current climate of social media overload and overwhelming negativity of an overly hypercritical Trumpageddon world, that’s slowly crushing everyone. ‘Time 2 Be Bad’ is a standout track for me, with it’s Boss Hog groove and swagger. Spencer shouts “It’s a good time to be bad!”

‘Alien Humidity’ is another album highlight with its punk-blues vibe. The album closes on Cape. It’s a short record at 33 minutes, many albums these days feel bloated and padded to fill the sides but this is how rock ‘n’ roll should be, short, sweet and no bullshit. 12 magnificent songs that are a very welcome addition to my Spencer collection. I firmly believe this album ranks up there with the best of his work.

I really want to see Spencer in a Cape on the upcoming tour. I was already excited to see JS with the Melvins but on hearing this record, having a few days to digest it and replay it multiple times, I think I am now REALLY excited to hear these new songs in a live setting, as he boldly states He Got The Hits!

Spencer Sings The Hits is out on 2nd November 2018 on the perfect home for his music; garage rock haven In The Red Records.

RODDY WOOMBLE | 01.10.2018 | Perth Theatre | REVIEW

RODDY WOOMBLE | 01.10.2018 | Perth Theatre | REVIEW

Roddy Woomble – 1st October 2018 – Perth Theatre

Review by Sarah Sarti

This morning l woke up in ltaly, took a flight to Edinburgh, left my stuff in Glasgow and jumped on a train to Perth. Why?, you may wonder. Tonight in Perth Theatre there was the first (ok, no, the second, cos last night they played in a tipi in Dell of Abernethy!) gig of the last leg of Roddy Woomble tour, following last year’s release “The Deluder”. His fourth solo studio album is probably his most articulate and heterogeneous work, and since l have never seen Idlewild live either, l am pretty excited about tonight. For this part of the tour Roddy is supported by long time Idlewild companion Andrew Wasylyk playing both piano and guitar.

The set includes the enchanting “A Skull With A Teardrop”, an “Attempt To Be Romantic” in his own words and “To Feel Like A Fool” from his last album and old gems like “My Secret Is My Silence” and “Waverley Steps”. There is also space for a bunch of stripped down ldlewild song, like “You Held The World In Your Arms”, “American English” and “A Little Discourage”.

The last treats of the evening are a brand new Idlewild song “Forever New” and a cover from the songwriter Billy Fay, “Be Not So Fearful”.

A beautiful and moving evening, l advise you with all my heart to catch him live acoustic over the next couple of months before he gets back to the rock dimension we all know as ldlewild ♡

SKID ROW | 07.03.2018 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

SKID ROW | 07.03.2018 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Skid Row – 7th March 2018 – Newcastle O2 Academy – Review and photos

By Gordon Armstrong (G’s Gig Shots)

BANG! Slave To The Grind. Sweet Little Sister. Piece Of Me! Skid Row know how to grab your attention, kicking off their set in style! They’re definitely out to shake you by the scruff of the neck!

With the exception of a Ramones cover (Psycho Therapy) and We Are The Damned the rest of the night is taken from their first two albums Skid Row and Slave To The Grind. Rachel Bolan is still one of THE coolest bassists on the planet and Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill are still wrenching notes out of their guitars that really shouldn’t exist! The crowd take on most of the singing for 18 And Life and I Remember You and I swear I saw a lighter held aloft during the latter.

Skid Row - 7th March 2018 - Newcastle O2 Academy
Skid Row – 7th March 2018 – Newcastle O2 Academy

ZP Theart is a great frontman and gives his all throughout. Now I’m not a “No X = No Y” person when it comes to line up changes but I was never a Dragonforce fan to begin with, so was on a hiding to nothing going along tonight knowing his style of vocal wasn’t something to my taste BUT I’m not the one that matters it’s the 6-700 others in the room arms raised and cheering who count. I don’t want that to be seen as a negative comment as I could see the crowd were loving it and he was great, just not to my personal taste.

The bombastic Youth Gone Wild brought the night to a close and despite the niggles I had I really did enjoy the night overall. It’s still great just to see the music being played.

PHOTO GALLERY
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SUMO CYCO | 19.03.2018 | Think Tank Newcastle | REVIEW and PHOTOS

SUMO CYCO | 19.03.2018 | Think Tank Newcastle | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Sumo Cyco – 19th March 2018 – Think Tank Newcastle – Review and photos

I arrived at the venue (sadly) just as Skarlett Riot were taking end of set photos with the crowd. Which left me annoyed with myself! One of these days I will catch them. Judging by the applause I missed a rather cracking set 🙁

It’s a cold Monday night, but there is already a mini-moshpit of devoted fans already at the front and raring to go! Also, there seems to be a million photographers here, much to my amusement! I needn’t have brought my camera tonight =D

I decided to stay at the back out of the way, rather than my usual upfront position. Too many cooks in the kitchen and I thought I’d be annoying to the punters who’ve paid to see the band! I found myself a canny spot where I could see all goings on, apart from the drummer 🙁

I think this photo sums up my amusement 🙂

Okay, that’s enough of that, now can I say about this show? Skye Sweetnam stalks the stage with feral intensity. Encouraging the crowd to go wild. She has a hell of a voice, reminds me of the brilliant Be Your Own Pet (remember them?!) when she lets rip.

Punk rock and groove metal slip into rap without difficulty, adding a mix of singalong pop anthems. Impressive. It’s that melting pot of styles I love about Sumo Cyco, genre mish-mash executed perfectly.

Sumo Cyco – 18th March 2018 – Think Tank Newcastle

It’s quite remarkable that this band hasn’t yet achieved stadium status. They have everything right, great songs, great stage presence, youthful energy and the experience to make it. They tour relentlessly. It seems that if they are to breakthrough they’ll be doing it the good old-fashioned way; hard work. They appear to be having the time of their lives doing it. With the likes of Marmozets hitting it big, there is a glimmer of hope.

Sumo Cyco are a fantastic band, please go see them in the small venues before the rest of the world cottons on! Their name is rock ‘n’ roll!

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LITE – Cubic – ALBUM REVIEW

LITE – Cubic – ALBUM REVIEW

It’s rare when I have time to sit down, indulge myself in an album and attempt to make sense of it in word format. I just had to make the space in my schedule for this album.

As an added bonus, it’s great to stumble across a band I’d seen years ago at ArcTanGent Festival and I’d neglected to follow up and buy their albums. I blame the hazy party destroyed memory. So I am extra excited to re-discover LITE and their rich back catalogue to plunder and binge. But, I’ll restrict myself to just the new LP for now!

Lite Cubic

Anyway, I digress. LITE are a seasoned prog/tech/whizkid/instrumental band from Tokyo. As I type this, I’m on to my 5th or 6th play of the album. Each play reveals more subtle melodies, noises, blips, bobs, ufos, synths and more, layered in there for the listener to locate. It’s a record that you need to listen in stereo (who doesn’t these days?!), but stereo with the speakers placed as far apart as you can. Plonk yourself down in-between, turn the sound up, and just listen to that guitar interplay. Stunning. ‘Warp’ is a great example of this. I’m so fascinated by the compositions that it took me a few listens to even realise there are vocals on this song.

‘Square’ brings the Battles vibes, albeit without the comedy effects and samples. Recorded by none other than Keith Souza. Who captures a lush full sound, which is often missing from ‘cleaner tone’ band recordings. There’s a depth there, something that’s not quite tangible. Production-wise this is a heroic effort.  Souza along with Heba Kadry (who mastered it) nailed this one down.

‘Angled’ pops on, proving a highlight for me with it’s simple jarring hook. Perfect timing, after 5 songs the album still evolving, I want to know where this album will go next.

‘D’ is a ludicrous song. How do I describe it? Reggae, funk dance party jam and damn good fun! See for yourself.

Just when you thinking ‘they can’t top that’,  along comes ‘Prism’. Just perfection.

The album ends on ‘Zero’. This one frustrates me a little. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Or at least it doesn’t feel like the right finale. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like the track? Maybe. It’s a short album at 37 minutes, but it does feel like the correct length. Ditch the vocal and it’s actually pretty good track. 2016 the year of the instrumental. Most of my albums of the year will be sans vocals. ‘Cubic’ may nudge it’s way into the top 10.

‘Cubic’ is an eclectic mix of intriguing,  robust, , snared and drawn in, lose technical precision. Seemingly effortless playing that can only come from serious dedication to touring and practising. 14 years together, I think they may have delivered their finest work to date.

‘Cubic’ is out on Topshelf Records 16th November 2016.

Animals As Leaders | Intervals | Plini – July 2016 – Newcastle O2 Academy – REVIEW and PHOTOS

Animals As Leaders | Intervals | Plini – July 2016 – Newcastle O2 Academy – REVIEW and PHOTOS

Animals As Leaders | Intervals | Plini – July 2016 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Three instrumental bands perfectly aligned for a night of nerdy prog metal muso wizardry. A series of recommendations for this gig from local bands made me investigate further. Would this be a night to remember? I had a sneaky feeling it would be.

I arrived at the venue just after doors. I was surprised to see there was a huge turnout early on, a rarity for a Newcastle audience! This genre brings a very niche but highly dedicated following. Musically, the night got off to a slow start for me but I soon warmed to the barrage of riffs…

Plini

Plini - July 2016 - Newcastle O2 Academy
Plini – July 2016 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Aussie kids are up first with a mellow start to the proceedings. The tone failed to engage me. Super slick and super clean playing, which really reminds me of Chon. I found myself battling to engage with the music, it just wouldn’t click for me. I found myself following the drums, watching this guy play was a joy.

I pondered this for a while and spoke to other audience members to gauge their opinions. I think I’m on my own with this one! Almost everyone I spoke to was ‘blown away’. I wanted a bit more beef in the tone, it felt like a tease. But I suppose that’s purely personal taste. Strandberg guitars lack soul for me. Perhaps tastes are a smidgen too crude to fully appreciate Plini? I think I need to go and investigate their music further, potential growers.

An undeniably talented band and great warm up act for the evening ahead.

Plini – PHOTO GALLERY

Intervals

In retrospect that’s exactly what Plini were, a warm up, a brilliant move. Intervals took the stage, whom would bring the crunch and groove I craved!

Intervals are (after recent lineup changes) now using touring players. Or as the security asked, is that the same band as before? Aaron Marshall steps out of the shadows and takes centre stage.

Same band, same genre, same guitars! Yet so different. Now this, I liked. The drumming had been knocked up 10 more notches and the shear power of it from down in front was impressive and awe inspiring.

I stood stageside for much of their set, fully engrossed in the drumming of Nathan Bulla. So powerful, I could barely hear the guitars as points. At the core of a brilliant band there’s always a brilliant drummer. Never has this been more true. Intervals are bloody superb, Their first time in Newcastle and they damn near stole the show, not an easy task with this lineup.

Intervals – PHOTO GALLERY

Animals as Leaders

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect before the show. Before the show I’d spent sometime talking to fans, some of whom were visibly gutted that a VIP meet and greet had been cancelled last minute. I too, had my video interview with them cancelled last minute, so I did wonder if something was up and would it affect the show. Seemingly it didn’t and the show went on to be a triumph. I’m confident the gig was adequate compensation for the missed chance to meet their heroes!

By now the Academy was packed. All eyes firmly on the band. Admiration and excitement from the crowd is unmistakable as they head into opener ‘Wave of Babies’. Eyes firmly on the band and watching every note, every chord, every lick and of course the gear.

I’m usually a purveyor of the less is more approach to guitar playing. In this case more is definitely more! More notes more strings, more jaws on the floor.

A young lad down the front air drums every beat, every tom, every crash. Proving that it’s not just guitar nerds tonight. In fact the drumming is remarkable in each band, again I find myself drawn to the drums. Fascinating watching them bring order to complex and meandering time signature changes.

Animals as Leaders - setlist - July 2016 - Newcastle O2 Academy
Animals as Leaders – July 2016 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Their set flows by quickly, the band managing to captivate the audience. Guitar nerds of Newcastle rejoiced. Raving about how good the night was.

Animals as Leaders – PHOTO GALLERY


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REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN – Colossal Velocity – ALBUM REVIEW

REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN – Colossal Velocity – ALBUM REVIEW

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man – Colossal Velocity

I’ve not reviewed anything in a while, mainly as there’s been nothing that ‘floats my boat’ as they say. Every now and again something pops up that I can engage with. This one is filed under crank the f**k up. A good healthy dose of proper punk. How could I resist?

To keep it interesting (for me only, I suspect!) I am going to write this review as I take my second listen to it. That gives me 22 minutes to try and communicate why this album is class.

Manchester based three piece have been around for over a decade and have their craft nailed down tight. On their upcoming release ‘Colossal Velocity’ they flex their musical muscles.

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man - Colossal Velocity

Seventeen compact songs hurtle by in just over 22 minutes. ‘To Be Frank’ opens the album and entices a mad grin upon my face.

Album teaser

‘Small Minded NIMBY Prick’ is a thrashing shout along! Losing my shit to this track.

‘The Establishment’ is evidence that RPM are much more than the average a four chord punk act, some cracking compositional work, which goes beyond the punk boundaries with a nod at rock ‘n’ roll.

Barnstormer ‘I Am Absolutely Fuming’ gives a modern take on the current social media rants that have become common place. In 2016 everyone has an opinion and a platform to share their views. At least that’s my take on this track, have a listen for yourself below.

Further displays of their musical versatility on the delightfully titled ‘I Wanna Be A Spaceman’.

The production is light and compressed, I’d love to hear a bit more bottom end in the mix. That said, I think this will sound terrific on vinyl, surely far superior to the MP3 version I have.

The musicianship is absolute class throughout the record. It makes me want to see the band live, that energy and precision is bloody great. Thankfully they’ll be playing Gateshead next month, 30th July at the Black Bull, where I’m sure they’ll go down a storm.

20 minutes in to my second play and my time is nearly up! To sum up the record; ‘Colossal Velocity’ is a relentless barrage of masterful punk, fucking brilliant! Very refreshing to here this proper hardcore/thrash punk in a sea of pitiful bland pop punk dross. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be!

I’m going back in for a few more listens, I need to get my head around the lyrics, interesting themes and social commentary that I’d like to explore and try to digest. Punk rock for 2016. Modern, thrashy, intense and bloody refreshing.

Out on TNSrecords soon. Have a punt, you won’t regret it! ‘Share if you agree’

Pre-orders up on Bandcamp now

JUJU (self titled album) – REVIEW

JUJU (self titled album) – REVIEW

Review by Graeme J. Baty

A new act called JuJu popped up on my radar, 2016 seems to be experiencing a healthy/welcome resurgence for prog/Krautrock type music. I tentatively listened, unsure what I was in store for but found myself drawn in. Pleasantly catchy and soothing with a solid beat. This is interesting I thought. Intrigued by what I’d heard, I sat myself down in front of the hifi, turned the volume up and popped their self titled debut on.

The band name doesn’t really give a hint at what is to come, the album cover is rather captivating and it enticed me to give them a play. Their sound delightfully defies pigeonholing. There’s likely to be some comparisons to Broken Social Scene, Can, Sonic Jesus, flecks of later period Mercury Rev and even some British Sea Power. It’s a fair mixing pot of styles, the sound really does take on it’s own persona.

juju

They’re a band comprising of other musical projects (Herself and Lay Llamas). It’s a concept album of sorts, the blurb which accompanies the album states “Through the music, JuJu tells the legend of a continuing exodus from Africa that more often than not ends in ignored tragedies at sea, ‘a total defeat for humanity’.” Forming a soundtrack to a deep meaningful story of crisis. Musically the album captivates me, but I wish I could find out more about the stories behind the songs.

Samael‘ opens the album with an infectious fuzz groove, proving to be a highlight of the album, a very wise choice for a debut single. ‘We Spit On Yer Grave‘ changes the pace with a soft piano repetition, it lulls you in as it grows and grows, catchy as hell. It possesses a lovely Broken Social Scene-esque dance vibe. This is great!! Three songs in and ‘Stars and Sea‘ is where I’m really hooked, lovely acoustic based song. The mood is slowed for next track ‘Dance with the Fish’ . It’s a lush instrumental piece reminiscent of Mercury Rev, which winds down the 1st half of the record perfectly. ‘Sunrise Ocean‘ is a long exponentially growing looping hook that sucks you in as it evolves in front of you. ‘Lost‘ is the penultimate track, scattershot rhythms and marvellous entwining riffs.

The last track ‘Bring ’em War‘ feels somewhat out of place, with it’s sea shanty time signature it fits the theme but it is a bit of an anticlimax. It just doesn’t seem to click for me and at eight minutes it’s a slight chore. I’ve listened to the record four or five times now and each time I keep getting the urge to skip this one. However I do think this track will go down very well in a live setting. Here it feels a little out of place, the square peg in a round hole. That said I’d love to see this whole album performed live.

The word ‘delightful’ keeps popping in my head as I listen and write this. I think that is the perfect way to summarise this record. Delightful.

Their debut is due out 6th May 2016 via Sunrise Ocean Bender Records.