Alternative music reviews

June 20, 2008

Little Fish In Custard

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Little Fish have signed to Custard Records/Universal (the label that has James Blunt on their books). It has been almost exactly a year since a thirty second blast of Devil’s Eyes was played on the Radio Oxford Demo review – their first exposure to the wider world. I have become familiar with a number of brilliant bands/artists over the past 5 or so years but, out of all of the unsigned bands, Little Fish were the most likely to make that leap. The voice, the music, the songs, the live perforamnce? Yes, but others had that too. I like to think it is not because they broke the rules of what a band should be – but they didn’t even accept that there were any rules. No bassist, no distance between the singer and audience, no guitar solos, no restrictions on mixing in any genre/decade/style of music – so what, that’s Little Fish.

May 28, 2008

Darling Dear by Little Fish

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I was startled to say the least. I just found out that the product of the Little Fish trip to America was up on their MySpace site. I thought I’d give it a listen while the England match was just starting but I had to turn the radio off completely after just a few seconds. JuJu’s voice was different and the vibe of the song was completely different from anything they have done before. The song is similar to The Velvet Underground’s Heroin with just two chords and it speeds up/slows down. Further Velvets similarities are that the two chords are the same as I’m Waiting For The Man (just as Bowie’s Heroes was). There’s even a musical break with screaming feedback guitar that recalls Mr John Cale’s viola.

I can be the world’s harshest critic when faced with something that draws on such musical references as The Velvets or Sonic Youth but I have to say that this is a really good song and a great performance. I’m not denying my 30 years of belittling bands who sound like the Velvets (Jesus and Mary Chain etc) – just enjoying listening to a shit-hot drummer and stunning vocalist bring that original excitement back to me.

listen to it on Little Fish on MySpace

November 11, 2007

Sweat ‘n Shiver

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Long day. Full of cold, dosed up on Lemsip and Penicillin (tooth problem). Had to sleep in the M40 services to make it back to Oxford.

I got back and found my copy of The Go-Betweens That Striped Sunlight Sound had arrived. Probably the most wonderful gift I could ever give myself. Robert Forster and Grant McClellan playing the Go-Betweens history on acoustic guitars, talking about the songs and the time they were written. Plus there footage from a live concert where they play Karen – that song is still, for me, the finest moment in the history of pop music.

Then it was down to The Cellar in Oxford and Little Fish playing their ‘Rock’ set. I think I have figured out Little Fish. They are not a band who have ever followed the nuances of the Indie scene. They have the influences of classic 1970s blues and rock – but never, ever come close to copyists. Hearing this harder set made it clear that someone has soaked up the guitar riffs of Cream and added the spirit of Patti Smith without sounding anything like either. Perhaps if heavy metal had never been invented then this is the way that Rock would have developed. There are even moments that take me back to the catchiness of Glam like Mud and Sweet but instead of building a career on it, they form just a small part of a song. Hearing Sweat ‘n Shiver played loud and heavy in a great atmosphere was a revelation and so much more powerful than the demo version. I have hinted at ‘performance’ before. By this I mean the ability to hold the fascination of everyone in the crowd. I remember U2 in the half-full back room of the General Wolfe in Coventry when they were promoting their first single 11 o’Clock Tick Tock. U2 turned out not to be my favourite band of all time but even I knew I was in the presence of something special. The energy and passion that Bono exhibited in that small room was stunning. JuJu of Little Fish more than equals it.

It’s been emotional.

October 13, 2007

Little Fish at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford

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Tristan and The Troubadours looked very young (even younger than policemen these days). It seems age isn’t a barrier to talent and originality. They have violin and keyboards and guitars and swap instruments a bit as well. Sadly (I assume because of their age) they will almost certainly not know what a complement it is for me to say that I was reminded of the same sort of vocal intensity and varied arrangements as The Band Of Holy Joy.

House Of Brothers is one man with a guitar. He plays music that is alt-country influenced and doesn’t suffer in a comparison to Elliott Smith or Richard Buckner, although lacking their musical variation. Heartfelt songs sung with a voice that is evocative and entrancing.

Roxy, also known as Roxanne: The Early Years is very Folk and has a great voice. She also has a set of charming songs – especially when her friends joined her on a variety of instruments.

And then it was my main event. Little Fish have produced one of the best set of demo songs I have heard in five years of reviewing. I am not even sure they fit into my Indie/Alt arena of the last 10 years – there is no reason why they couldn’t have been contemporaneous to the great moments in the 70’s when Patti Smith produced Horses. Perhaps the only thing that really cements them in the 90s onwards is the fact that they are a two-piece through design and not necessity (the White Stripes proved it could be done).

No secret that I like the music, but I saw a real performance as well. On the opening song Devil’s Eyes Juju’s eyes actually flash and I’m sure it wasn’t just me but everyone thought she was looking at them. I had to drag my eyes from her and observe the other Fish (I am a Muso after all) and one of the secrets was clear – in a two-piece you need a shit-hot drummer. The songs Perfect Stranger, Infidelity and Am I Crazy followed and they were all made more exciting by seeing them live. The energy and enthusiasm that JuJu puts into her music is exciting and the impassioned singing just leaves me breathless.

Let’s not get carried away here, there’s a lot of development in song-writing to be done yet and there will be pitfalls such as being offered a support slot because they don’t need much setting up. But Little Fish, in my humble opinion, have the ability to break out of any genre trap and find a big, though discerning, audience.

Apologies to the final band, but no-one could follow that and I walked off into the night with my mind spinning and a new energy in my steps.

October 6, 2007

Little Fish

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I don’t want to get too attached to Little Fish because I am sure that they will shortly leave my world of unsigned bands, self-produced CDs and wondrous small labels. Anyone in Oxford or London can catch them in a small intimate venue soon – but don’t hesitate because the secret is out and even Gary Barlow (yes, that one, the musical talent from Take That) has heard and recognised he is in the presence of something special.

Little Fish

July 10, 2007

Little Fish

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Want to hear something new? Want to hear something spectacularly good? Then take a listen to Little Fish. They are an unsigned band based in London and I’ve just heard them on Radio Oxford’s Download Demo Reviews.

Singer Juju is originally from Oxford. She has a voice with a similar power and soul to Grace Braun (DQE and a brilliant Slow River solo album). A voice rich in Blues and passion. The music is stripped down guitar, voice, and drums (they are a two-piece) but the dynamics and intensity they achieve is stunning. Take a listen to Am I Crazy on their MySpace site and weep at the sonic embrace they can create.

Shivers down the backbone and cold sweats for me. I love this feeling.