Foo Fighters – Concrete And Gold

Foo Fighters - Concrete And Gold - album coverFor the past two decades Foo Fighters have been gradually transforming from pop-grunge pioneers to stadium rock titans.

While their last album, the geographically conceptual Sonic Highways (that came with an accompanying series of documentary films about the cities where each track was recorded) had some interesting moments, its hard to argue that the band have slipped comfortably into fairly middle of the road territory of late, with their reputation relying on the big songs from their first four or five albums.

So, onto new release Concrete And Gold and, unfortunately, it doesn’t really buck this trend.

While its hard to find any major standout moments, even several listens in, there’s still a lot to like here as Dave Grohl and co seemingly go on a journey through their influences, all with their own flavour added in.

Across the record things switch from Led Zeppelin aping to Fleetwood Mac like passages through The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and no doubt more.

While it still sounds like a Foo Fighters record, with various parts harking back to their post-grunge heyday, its hard to escape the fact that all those other bands do their thing better than the Foos do – though I’ve no doubt it will all sound immense in a live environment.

Foo Fighters 2017

Foo Fighters

As well as the proud influence displaying, this is the first time I can remember Foo Fighters (and by definition, Grohl) being so obviously political.

La Dee Da is the most obvious example, but it does permeate the record as a whole, giving it a slightly odd place in the Foo’s cannon but fitting in perfectly with the current zeitgeist of American (and wider western) society that is hugely politically charged – though I want to make it clear this is nothing compared to the likes of the recent release from Prophets of Rage.

The album also sees Foo Fighters move away from producer Butch Vig who across their last couple of records had come across as almost an extra member of the band. Here though production duties go to Greg Kurstin and, whether its down to production or not I can’t entirely say, the final product sounds far more muddled than the band’s past output.

Foo Fighters live 2017

Foo Fighters live

In the end then, Concrete And Gold sees Foo Fighters continuing on their path to span the gap between genuine credibility and out-and-out pop, and they once again do an admirable job and will no doubt sell out arenas and stadiums the world over.

However, I doubt that in 15 or 20 years anyone will be talking about any of these songs the way they do today about My Hero, Everlong, Breakout, All My Life or Times Like These.

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Granite Wolf and SugarSlam – The Vault – 13/10/17

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Following Brunt at The Golden Lion a couple of weeks ago and WaterColour Matchbox at The Vault last weekend the loud, heavy end of Guernsey’s music scene continued to be represented in St Peter Port on Friday 13th October 2017 as hardcore riff machine Granite Wolf and hard power pop quartet SugarSlam rocked the venue on the seafront.

After a bit of time away Granite Wolf launched into their set in tight, punchy and intense form with their brand of hardcore with hints of heavy metal making a refreshing blast to the senses.

While its hard to pin down visually quite why, the five-piece presented a united, gang like, front on stage and this was infectious with the audience at the front feeling like part of the process of the energy flowing through the room.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

With riffs and beatdowns aplenty they did get a couple of modest mosh pits going but it seemed many in the crowd were more worried about spilling their pints than really letting go on the dancefloor, but nonetheless they got into the heavy sounds.

With a good mix of fast, speed metal, heavy head banging stuff and powerful hardcore, Granite Wolf once again set out their stall as one of the bands to watch in the island – I just hope they get to gigging a little more regularly now they seem to be back to their more solid, original, line up.

After something of a protracted break to set up and sound check, SugarSlam hit the stage in slightly heavier mode than usual, no doubt to try to match the earlier band, however, less than two songs in they ran into trouble with a blown amplifier.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With that hastily fixed they were back on form and racing through a set mixing covers and originals new and old, but by this time the audience had sadly diminished to quite a degree.

Undeterred the band blasted on and those who remained clearly had a great time with songs by Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age going down just as well as the band’s own – Jackals being a particular, immense sounding, highlight that isn’t heard as much these days.

Given the time and an under the weather drummer the band cut their set short, wrapping up with their take on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Rockin’ In The Free World, before the audience convinced them back for a super speed blast of Ace Of Spades to close the night on sweaty and exhausted high.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King book coverStephen King’s sprawling epic is one of the stories that has become ingrained in the popular culture of the last three decades. A big part of that will be down to Tim Curry staring TV adaptation and the more recent movie version, but also thanks to the sheer scale and relatability of the novel.

Even by King’s standards It is a sprawling tale that comes in three-fold fashion. Set in the town of Derry, Maine in both the late 1950s and mid 1980s it traces a group of youngsters who become a group of friends in the 50s, while also charting their reunion in the 80s and mixing in the mysterious history of the town at the same time.

In many hands this could easily be done through obvious flashback or just become an absolute muddle, but King weaves the three threads together expertly and actually plays up on the switching time frames to great effect in a few of the novels more intense passages.

This method makes it a unique exploration of the divide between childhood and adulthood and, while It certainly features it’s fair share of gruesome terror, it is this that is the crux of the story – like the best horror tales it takes a real world experience and explores it through heightened metaphor, in this case the titular beast, dubbed by the characters simply, It (seen most famously as Pennywise The Dancing Clown but having as many faces as there are people to see it).

Stephen King

Stephen King

In this way its astonishing to think any would ever try to make a film of It. Much like The Shining, King’s particular vision is so ingrained in what the written word can do and a film can’t that it’s genuinely refreshing to read, even more than 30 years since it original publication. Again like The Shining this really comes to the fore as the book heads towards its climax, but is present throughout.

Across the two main timeframes King creates a true ensemble of characters, seven in the heroic gang and a group of antagonists and side players, all of whom are brilliantly drawn and created to give them all real purpose and individuality.

In the 50s passages this grows into a real coming of age story that goes far beyond anything you’re ever likely to see in the cinema, and likely to read anywhere else, particularly in a later scene that has caused much discussion but, to my mind, is handled well enough to fit the story (even if it is a little gratuitous).

Meanwhile in the 80s all these characters are clearly explored developments of the same people and, while at first several appear possible a little too coincidentally successful and the lead being a horror writer veers towards the possibility of King echoing himself, it’s not long before they all make sense and the two time zones link up perfectly.

Added to the coming of age story, where It could represent several aspects of that process, the mysterious and evil presence in Derry grows in the adult sections to represent more grown up troubles and again King balances this, whether its visions of domestic abuse or addiction or more in a way that is never heavy-handed but laced through within the individual stories of the characters.

It original cover

Original cover

What I think really makes It stick in the mind though, beyond even just being a thrilling ride of a story, is how it marries aspects of ancient legend, folktales & fables and pulp horror, again echoing the three-fold aspect of the setting.

In doing this it feels like a story that has always been there; clowns have always had a slightly scary edge, children always play in the places adults think scary and wrong and, as children at least, we all know that something lurks just beyond what we can see, waiting to do whatever unspeakable acts it might be there to do. While as adults we have to deal with other monsters unknowable in youth but strangely echoing.

This all comes together to create one of the most compelling novels I’ve encountered that has more depth than its reputation suggests and is at once both chilling, gruesome and thought-provoking in equal measure and I think contains enough substance to have something different in each of those aspects for everyone – I am also now even more confused how they make the rest of the story into the second part of the recent film.

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Pride of Guernsey awards – 07/10/17

Pride of Guernsey awardsLast night I attended my second Pride of Guernsey awards ceremony after being nominated, for the second year in a row, for the Moonpig Arts Contribution Of The Year Award.

For some context the awards are run by The Guernsey Press to celebrate people in the local community in a range of categories from Overcoming Adversity to Parish Champion to Young Achiever.

Following my nomination last year by Andy from Lifejacket and this year by Dan from Jawbone I was announced as a finalist, alongside Martin Cordall and Glenn Drake – longstanding musical director the Guernsey Youth Theatre (amongst other things) and charity choir leader respectively – following a public vote.

Pride of Guernsey medalThen, in a moment of complete surprise, I was announced as winner of the award for 2017 at the ceremony at the Guernsey Press offices.

Anyway, that’s the back story and it comes at the end of a pretty big week for what I do through BBC Introducing as it’s marked nine years of the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show and ten years of BBC Introducing nationally.

I can’t remember exactly what I said by way of an acceptance speech but this is a rough summary of what I can (and what I wanted to say), and really I just want to thank anyone who voted for me and all the great bands and musicians working over here without whom I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, write about or otherwise promote.

“First of all thanks to Dan from Jawbone for nominating me this year and if you want to see some great punk rock go check them out, they’re the best doing it over here right now.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me but really what this is all about, and what what I do is all about, is promoting the unsigned, undiscovered, under the radar (that’s the slogan) music being made in the islands and obviously I couldn’t do that without the bands, musicians and artists making it.

Guernsey’s always had more than its share of great live music, since The Roberts Brothers back in the 60s through Ponders End, The Risk, The Pulse, Crunchy Frog, Hobo Sounds, Mechanical Lobster to Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks, Mura Masa and so many more, there’s so much great music being made that deserves to be heard, and there’s loads of gigs on tonight and every weekend so go out there and experience it – when we’re done here, go to a show!

Thanks!”

If you want to check out what BBC Introducing Guernsey is all about the best place to go is the Facebook page by clicking here

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Brunt, Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop – The Golden Lion – 30/09/17

Brunt at The Golden Lion

Brunt

On the 30th September 2017, for the first time in years, loud and heavy rock music returned to the downstairs bar at The Golden Lion as Brunt took to the small stage alongside acoustic acts Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop.

The event was organised as a fundraiser for Action Aid and presented one of the most varied line ups seen at a show like this in a while.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 7th October 2017 and you can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Brunt, Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop review

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Cain Hill

Cain Hill posterHorror cinema is a funny thing. It’s one of the oldest genres of populist film and has been a constant presence from Nosferatu to Bride of Frankenstein to Psycho to Texas Chainsaw to Blair Witch to Saw and onwards.

Through that time it has shifted and changed, evolved you could say, to keep up with the times, and in that has ranged from the highest of budgets to the lowest with success rarely dependent on that factor.

Cain Hill then is a new super low-budget feature film from Guernsey born director Gene Fallaize that had a special screening and Q&A at the island’s Beau Cinema on 29th September 2017 thanks to Guernsey Arts Commission.

The film takes the form of a kind of found footage piece, combined with a more traditional haunted house story with bits of slasher movie thrown in telling the story of a documentary crew investigating an abandoned psychiatric hospital, supposedly inhabited by a murderous former patient/inmate.

While the low-budget means the film does look and feel rather cheap as I’ve said this can be overcome, particularly in this genre – see the original Evil Dead for one. In Cain Hill however it never quite manages to do this, despite the obvious efforts of the filmmakers.

Cain Hill cast

The main cast

With lots of references to classics of the style, along with the feeling that pretty much every trope of the genre has been thrown into the mix, the final outcome is a muddle that strives to build a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere around its lead characters (a generally unlikable and unrelatable bunch) but ultimately seems to want to focus more on its villain, the mask wearing, baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire with nails through it wielding, Chester Lockheart (the physically impressive Phill Martin).

Cain Hill isn’t alone in focusing too much on its monster and stumbling because of it, but I think it just feels more noticeable here as the tension necessary to make him truly horrifying is missing and, unfortunately, slips too far into either just being slow rather than tense or, when the action kicks in, sadly laughable (a response shared by several in the cinema tonight).

Cain Hill - Chester Lockheart

Chester Lockheart

In the end then Cain Hill comes with a lot of ambition but, partially due to the limited means, partially due to a flawed structure, it seemed to not know what it wanted to be and quite how to overcome these shortcomings to create a satisfying final product.

Following the film we got a Q&A session with the director which added some extra confusion to the film, particularly around the source material that, apparently, is loosely based on a true story, but it was hard to pin down exactly in what way.

This was added to by the announcement that Fallaize’s next film would also be based on a true story, that of The Beast of Jersey, giving the feeling that there is a bit too much of a sense of exploitation going on in these choices (though I got the feeling this wasn’t exactly intentional).

Cain Hill Q&A

Host Wynter Tyson with Gene Fallaize (left) at the Q&A

Aside from this though the Q&A was interesting although I was left with the feeling that this was something of a misguided passion project and possibly could have worked better if cut back to a leaner running time.

Also through the Q&A we found out the film has distribution and will be released around Halloween thanks to producer Scott Spiegel, who rose to prominence as producer of genre landmark, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead – so it seems whatever I missed he got about Cain Hill.

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BBC Introducing Day 2017

BBC Introducing 10 yearsFor the past ten years BBC Introducing has been championing new music around the UK, and at BBC Introducing Guernsey, I’ve been a part of that, officially for the last nine years.

While BBC Introducing Guernsey marked nine years last weekend (you can find out more about that here), we got involved with the 10th birthday celebrations by featuring a selection of tracks from bands and artists we’ve supported and championed, and those who’ve gone on to make their mark on a wider stage, across BBC Radio Guernsey‘s day time output.

You can listen back to all the tracks on the BBC iPlayer by visiting the BBC Radio Guernsey homepage and listening to all the shows, but here’s the list tracks featured and on which show:

Oscar Pearson
Buffalo Huddleston – Sunrise
Robyn Sherwell – Islander
The Recks – Low Life

Jenny Kendall-TobiasBBC Introducing Day artists 2017
Le Quesne – He’s An Idiot
James Dumbelton – College Boy
Buff Hudd & Flexagon – Drifting (Into The Light)
Of Empires – See You With The Angels Kid

John Randall (presented by Ollie Guillou)
Static Alice – SOS (live)
Robert J. Hunter – Bigger Things
Tantale – Wash Her In Wasps
Thee Jenerators – Guaranteed High

Islands at 5
The Space Pirates of Rocquaine – Edge of the World
mura masa – Lovesick

If you’re making music and want to upload it to BBC Introducing or just find out more and explore some of the great music being championed around the country than click here to visit the BBC Introducing main website

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Prophets of Rage – Self-Titled

Prophets of Rage album coverTwenty five years ago Rage Against The Machine blasted into the world with an incendiary hybrid of heavy metal and rap fuelled by perceived injustices and inequalities in life in the USA.

Since then the band have come and gone a couple of times with varying levels of success, and each have pursued their own careers outside the band, but the trio of Tom Morello (guitars), Tim Commerford (Bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), following a few stints with the late Chris Cornell as Audioslave, have now reconvened, joined by hip hop pioneers Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill, under the name Prophets of Rage.

Given the political outlook of all six men it’s probably unsurprising that they should be so re-energised now and across their self-titled debut there is a newly found power that was missing from Rage Against The Machine’s resurrection when I saw them at Reading Festival in 2008.

Here, from the opening strains of Radical Eyes onwards, Prophets of Rage mix everything you’d expect them to in a great balance that brings the hard rock groove of Audioslave into the metallic edge of Rage Against The Machine, with the biting MCing of Chuck D and the more varied but no less pointed vocal stylings of B-Real, all with DJ Lord being a constant presence along with the band.

Prophets of Rage band

Prophets of Rage

It’s hard to not compare this to Rage as, sonically, there are a lot of similarities but, compared to that band’s work this is, unsurprisingly, more mature. Certainly it is packed with political motive, titles like Unfuck The World, Hail To The Chief and Who Owns Who, make that obvious before you even listen, but rather than the largely polemic ranting of Zack De La Rocha, Chuck D and B-Real add something more to it making it much more digestible and more personal feeling.

The supergroup is always a worrying concept and Prophets of Rage certainly fall into that category but, unlike some examples, they don’t feel like several other acts rammed together but do feel like a new band in their own right, just fuelled by the same things as their past projects.

Added to all of this is the fact that songs are hugely catchy and great to listen to.

Prophets of Rage live

Prophets of Rage live

It’s not often a record can sit in the CD player in my car for a week and just loop, but this one does and each listen reveals new things, from the interplay between Morello’s guitars and Lord’s decks to how well Chuck D and B-Real’s voices work together to make a bigger sound that I can envisage and really want to experience live just from listening.

The album has no real weak points but its opening trio of tracks (Radical Eyes, Unfuck The World and Legalize Me) are a solid highlight as are Hail To The Chief and Take Me Higher and I can only imagine (and hope) that with the continuing political upheavals taking place Prophets of Rage will have fuel for plenty more great music to come.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2017 – Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Roz & Lazlo from Sark Roots

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Introducing prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, BBC Introducing in Guernsey marked nine years on the air while wrapping the 2017 summer festival season for its September show.

I spoke to Jack Fletcher from Of Empires about their summer which has seen the slick rock ‘n’ roll four piece make their first foray into the UK’s mainstream festival scene with appearances at both Isle of Wight and Reading festivals thanks to promoters of all things guitar music based, This Feeling.

I also caught up with Sark Roots Festival organiser Roz following their second successful event celebrating not just the great music of the Channel Islands but all things environmental as well.

On top of that I had a brief look back at the 2017 Vale Earth Fair and, in marking the show’s birthday, a few of the tracks that have made a mark over the past decade or so.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

Tracklist

You can read my look back at Guernsey’s 2017 summer festival season here

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Guernsey’s Summer Festival Season 2017

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage at Vale Earth Fair

With the autumnal weather setting in and music events moving back into the island’s indoor venues, I think its safe to say as we move into October that Guernsey’s ever-growing summer festival season has come to an end.

As with every year it seems more and more events are labelling themselves as festivals or have that feeling of big, outdoor, events that typifies the British and European style of music festival; from the long running likes of the Vale Earth Fair to the House On Herm events or the food and drink ‘festivals’ that often feature live musical entertainment.

This year’s festival season began, as it is prone to, with Liberation Day on 9th May.

The Recks

The Recks

While the Vale Earth Fair were part of the now customary street party in St Andrews, the ‘official’ side of the celebrations in St Peter Port came in the form of LibRock 2017 on the Albert Pier.

Like last year this event showcased not just big names like The Devotees, The Recks and Clameur De Haro, but also gave a chance to some of the island’s younger bands to appear in front of a bigger crowd, namely Unclassified and Problematic.

Read my review of LibRock

The Guernsey Literary Festival was next on the list and that featured a night of live music and poetry at The Fermain Tavern before Guernsey Arts Commission‘s Arts Sunday took over the St Peter Port Seafront.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

As it has every year Arts Sunday featured about as much live music as it was possible to fit in from the young performers of The School of Popular Music and the Thirst Music School, to a selection of established performers staged by The Vault, to the BBC Introducing Guernsey Stage that was curated to showcase some of the artists featured and championed by BBC Introducing in the islands including Blue Mountains, Buff Hudd, The Recks, Tantale and Thee Jenerators.

Read my review of BBC Introducing Guernsey at Arts Sunday

The first of the big, fully fledged music festivals of the year came at the end of June with the 13th happening of the Chaos Weekend (generally these days shortened to simply, Chaos).

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

After a few up and down years this year’s felt very much back to its past prime with a few visiting headliners such as Graveyard Johnnys and Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, sharing the stage with the best rock bands Guernsey has to offer like Heave, Static Alice and SugarSlam, while The Peace Tent showcased everything from New Zealand folk duo Great North to the doom rock of Brunt to Flexagon‘s brand of psytrance.

Read my review of Chaos Voodoo 13

While I skipped this year’s Sark Folk Festival in favour of the British Summer Time event in Hyde Park featuring Green Day, Rancid, The Living End and more, the big live music events continued throughout July with the Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party, the School Of Popular Music Summer Showcase and a Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser before the main event itself.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This year the Vale Earth Fair was marking 41 years and did so with one of the most stacked line ups in some time. The main stage was headlined by Chali 2Na & Krafty Kuts, Jupiter & Okwess and Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart with the local side represented by The Recks, Robert J. Hunter, SugarSlam and more. Meanwhile outside the Vale Castel The Honest Crooks headlined with Lifejacket, Near Bliss and more.

Read my review of the Vale Earth Fair

In past years the festival season has really come to an end with the Vale Earth Fair but last year and this its extended well into September, not only is there Smaashfest but the Sark Roots Festival has quickly grown into something that feels like an established event.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

This year the event grew from last year’s first to feature a mix of bands from Guernsey and Jersey along with visiting acts from the UK and even New Zealand highlighted by Buffalo Huddleston, The Honest Crooks and The Surfin’ Birds.

Read my review of Sark Roots Festival

With plenty more going on besides, from The Rocquaine Regatta to the North Show and more, its fair to say summer in the islands is about as packed as it can be with events with a strong musical presence that serve to highlight quite how spoilt we are for new music in the islands.

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