Alternative music reviews

May 8, 2009

We Were All Born On A Burial Ground by The Peter Parkers

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We Were All Born On A Burial Ground by The Peter ParkersI remember The Peter Parkers. I did a short review of their album This Is Sity Music years ago. I liked it a lot. I listened to it a couple of times last year as well as I was digitising my CD collection and I had one reservation: I never managed to get a handle on who the band were, on what to expect when listening to them. I admired all the diversity of sound and rhythm but after all these years I didn’t love it.

So here’s The Peter Parker’s new album five years later. It opens with Make Out Party and it is as I remember the band – possibly brilliant but infuriating in the way it avoids giving you any melodic hooks. The second track Nod If You Can Hear changes everything. It starts just with drums and bass and when the guitar comes in it is distorted but just fits neatly in with the other instruments. This is almost chilled. Even though you could sway along to this, there is distortion and tension in the words and music so it isn’t ever easy listening. Then, at around 2 minutes, in kicks the middle section as the guitar gets strummed hard and this beautiful organ sound (anyone remember The Blue Orchids?) rings out. Glorious.

Nod If You Can Hear Me by The Peter Parkers

Nod If You Can Hear Me by The Peter Parkers (Clip)

From this point on my doubts disappear.There’s time to relax and get into a groove on tracks like Sleazy Soft but there’s still the challenge of the sonic attack. Like modern Mogwai they understand that the traditional ‘start quiet and end in crescendo’ is too cliched now. Quiet and loud is mixed up to allow the listener to experience disquiet and resolution in a single track. This is a wonderful album that will intrigue you for years to come if you can just get a hold of a copy (contact the band through MySpace).

To Thomas (3rd Bounce Pounce) by The Peter Parkers

To Thomas (3rd Bounce Pounce) by The Peter Parkers (Clip)

I suspect that the need to classify everything is the sign of an obsessive personality and I speak as someone who ordered his record collection for 25 years by the relationship of the band/artist’s music with the Velvet Underground (you know, Stockhausen and experimental to the left, Bowie and other acolytes to the right). But I am happy because I can now pigeon-hole The Peter Parkers into my musical Pantheon. It hadn’t occurred to me to compare them with Sonic Youth because they are not ultra cool and arty. But I now realise that musically there is a real similarity. Sonic Youth in the early 90s, playing live, after the singing finishes they begin to go off into an extended instrumental jam – that is what The Peter Parkers sound like to me. It’s at that point where you begin to hear new harmonies as the distortion of the instruments combine with the echoes of the hall. It’s a psychedelic feeling without chemical inducements.

The Peter Parkers on MySpace

May 7, 2009

Great God, This is an awful place…

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iLiKETRAiNS, Night & Day, Manchester, Sunday 3rd May 2009.

A fortuitous glance at the ILT website led me to find that they were playing the Night & Day as part of Manchester’s Northern Quarter MAPS Festival. Having seen them back in December, I was intrigued as to how the set would differ. We arrived in time to see Sycamore bludgeon the world into submission armed only with minor chords and copious effects pedals, and to see Spokes, who promised much with intricate twin guitar/violin largely instrumental interplay, but were sadly let down by a sound that robbed them of much of their musical subtlety. ILT took the stage in yet another change of corporate image (now looking like pilots crossed with Cunard waiters) and played a set that travelled nicely through old and new. Opening with ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ they then more or less alternated new and old. Standing out of the new stuff was ‘Forget to Breathe’ (at least, that was its working title last time out) and ‘Divorce before Marriage’ which held their own alongside old favourites like ‘Voice of Reason’ and ‘Victress’. There was a rare outing of ‘Terra Nova’, which provided the traditional frenzied sonic highlight before leading into the closing, somewhat anti-climactic ‘Sea of Regrets’, which we were informed will be the next single. So, what a difference a few months makes, and I for one look forward to the forthcoming new album.

I had to laugh when I saw they are playing Belgium’s Dour Festival in July. How apt…

Review by Big Dave

iLiKETRAiNS on MySpace

February 10, 2009

To Lose My Life by White Lies

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WhiteSomeone of advanced age such as me can place White Lies exactly. They are The Teardrop Explodes in the practice sessions before the first album. They have left behind the desire to experiment as on the Sleeping Gas EP and turned towards a more melodic future where the lead singer will be an imperious presence towering above the music. This is hardly a great insight since Harry McVeigh’s voice is so close in tone, range, and phrasing to julian Cope’s – so close that I initially couldn’t be bothered to listen to even a single track right through. A few days later I got to thinking that The Teardrop Explodes had never lived up to their promise – three brilliant singles but then never again reached those intense early heights. So if White Lies gave me an equivalent of an album’s worth of the early brilliance, who am I to complain.

And, sure enough, once I cleared myself of all of those doubts, To Lose My Life is a great album that can happily sit alongside early Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes/Depeche Mode. In fact, if you played this to a youngster who had never heard these late 70s/early 80s bands then they might well prefer White Lies because it is better produced and more consistent. Perhaps remixing the past, rather than forging the future, means you make less mistakes. So let’s get this straight. I am saying that White Lies will never produce anything as glorious and original as the first two Teardrop Explodes singles. Fine. I’m also certain that they will never match the highlights of Julian Cope’s solo work. But what they do deliver is a stonking album.

To Lose My Life by White Lies

To Lose My Life by White Lies (Clip)

White Lies

January 31, 2009

Sam Amidon/Doveman/David Thomas Broughton – Hedge, Whalley Range,

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Local folk collective Hedge host tonight’s three acts in Whalley Range’s St Margaret’s church which is good for atmosphere and acoustics. Nominally 3 acts, but they interweave and collaborate to become three themed sections of a collaborative evening. Sam Amidon’s tales of guns and death in America’s early years are set against Doveman’s jarring other-worldly keyboards. The effect is disorientating, so that he’s half way through a song before you realise it’s a cover of Tears For Fears ‘Head over Heels’.

Doveman’s set segues seamlessly through a set of disparate covers (Neil Young, Bertold Brecht, Crowded House and Tom Petty), keyboard-driven, but with Sam on guitar & banjo (and an “interesting” take on the chorus of ‘Free Falling’…) and DTB assisting on drums.

With DTB taking the stage, all attempts at genre categorisation have long since given up and gone home. Building elaborate backings with voice, guitar and effects loops, it sounds like Jake Thackeray backed by a Gregorian choir. At times seemingly angry, frustrated, withdrawn, you get the sense that no-one’s ever sure which direction the set is heading. It seems we have a new candidate for the position of Great British Eccentric.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, the three encore with R Kelly’s ‘Relief’ – complete with a wry deconstruction of the lyrics. It wasn’t Rock n’ Roll. But I liked it. Oh, yes…

Review by Big Dave

January 21, 2009

The Child Of A Creek

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Unicorns Still Make Me Feel Fine by The Child Of A CreekThe Child Of A Creek is a name chosen by Italian singer/songwriter Lorenzo Bracaloni. he writes the songs, plays the instruments, and records everything himself. His latest album is “Unicorns Still Make Me Feel Fine”. What you are presented with is a kind of Psychedelic Folk based on picked guitar and additions such as flute or harmonica. The delicious strangeness of the songs come in part from them being written and sung in a foreign language. However good his English is, there is an unusual quality to both phrasing and pronunciation.

I get the feeling of the late 60s from both the music and some of the lyrical concerns (e.g. unicorns!) but the general sadness is very alt-country and has similarities to an unplugged Sparklehorse. So it’s a bit strange, a bit out of time, but strangely magical.

Home Of Unicorns by The Child Of A Creek

Home Of Unicorns by The Child Of A Creek (Clip)

The Child Of A Creek

December 16, 2008

In Still Life – iLiKETRAiNS, Ruby Lounge, Manchester

Filed under: iliketrains,reviews — @ 1:40 pm Comments (0)

I checked back to my review of October 2005, and noted that I had written “See them at this level while you can – you might not be able to for long”. Well, the good news for devotees is that my predictive powers have been proven as accurate as ever, and iLiKETRAiNS continue to plough a lonely furrow eluded by commercial success. Supported by AirCav (who we missed, thanks to my co-reporter’s over-optimistic expectations of motorway traffic) and Jeniferever (most enjoyable Swedish ambient post-punk), iLiKETRAiNS took the stage with ’25 Sins’, and gave us an hour of old, new, and very new, from ‘A rook house for Bobby’, to an as-yet untitled new number, apparently provisionally titled ‘Forget to Breathe’. Hampered by illness, and restricted by an early curfew (to make way for a Metal night!) there was no encore, no ‘Stainless Steel’ or ‘Curtains Close’, but that was no bad thing as it would have been difficult to top the closing “Spencer Perceval”. The band showed their breadth (for me, the harmonies on ‘Victress’ were amazing) and Dave Martin fixed the crowd with steely glint above a luxuriant beard like the lovechild of Ian Curtis and Scott of the Antarctic. Sometimes their influences are a little too obvious (Peter Hammill could claim royalties on ‘Forget to Breathe’) but for me they remain a little-known national treasure; literate, thoughtful, quirky and inspiring. I also wrote in 2005 “My faith in live music is restored…”. Well, it was again tonight.

Also, in the week after the death of Oliver Postgate has resulted in a wave of nostalgia for cheap animation, may I recommend this video:

review by Big Dave

November 17, 2008

7 by Smilex

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I was driving to work on a Monday morning a little while ago. On the car stereo was a USB stick with the mp3s I was transferring to work. Amongst other music, I had a few review submissions, some Dead Boys albums, and Silverhead’s 16 and Savaged that I hadn’t heard for 35 years. A song came on that I didn’t know. It was fast and furious and sounded great (the video for this song Explode is above) with it’s riffing guitar but I couldn’t figure out who the band were. I couldn’t even figure out the decade – there was trashy guitar from 70s Glam Rock but then it sounded like Aerosmith, then 90s Grunge. One thing I did know was that I liked it.

I got to the office and quickly found it was Smilex, who are an Oxford Alternative Rock band (with the emphasis on rock). Their current release is “7”, a CD of seven songs based on the Seven Deadly Sins. They are the band that the “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” sticker was designed for. The songs are an orgiastic high-speed drive into depravity but with humour such as the line ‘nobody leaves in their own underwear’ – remember parties like that?

This is definitely an album for when you feel like bouncing off the walls. There are wonderful screams on Sex For Sale and For What It’s Worth. The constant attack of distorted guitar and desperate vocals do mean it can only be played when in the right mood. The exception to that is the track that, for me, stands out above all others on the album. Syllabus is loud and heavy to begin with but relaxes into a protest against school/church/government and this world in general before rising to a blood pumping chorus. It even spends the last minute quietly with strings and a refrain of ‘I have faith in these desolate times’. This track really speaks to me on every level and goes into my collection of favourite songs of all time.

Syllabus by Smilex

Syllabus by Smilex (Clip)

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