BBC Introducing Guernsey: February 2015 – Citizen-X and The Doomsday Project

Citizen-X

Citizen-X performing Spock

Click here to listen to the show.

For the second BBC Introducing Guernsey of 2015 I featured a live session with a bit of a difference, along with an interview with a young and upcoming pop-punk band who have just released their debut album.

Citizen-X has a long history adding electronic elements to alternative music and making his own electronic sounds. In recent times this has coalesced into his current form of iOS music he is making now. He joined me in the studio to play some of his tracks live through his iPad and tell me about his music and his musical past.

The Doomsday Project played a session for me last month and this time round they spoke to me about making their debut album, what its like getting started as a young band today in Guernsey and their aspirations for the future.

Along with that was two hours more music from around the Bailiwick of Guernsey which you can listen to for the next month on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

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The Electric Shakes, Lifejacket and To The Woods – The Fermain Tavern – 07/02/15

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

On Saturday 7th February 2015 there was a night of garage rock, indie and grunge at The Fermain Tavern as Guernsey gig goers had their first chance to witness Bournemouth based rock ‘n’ rollers The Electric Shakes, along with support from Lifejacket and To The Woods.

There was an extra sense of interest for the visitors as, amongst their number, on guitar and vocals was former member of Thee Jenerators and Teaspoonriverneck, Steven Lynch, and having heard the band’s debut album last year many clearly wanted to hear the new band live.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 21st February 2015:

The Electric Shakes, Lifejacket, To The Woods review scan - 21:02:15And here’s a video of The Electric Shakes from the show:

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The Get Down presents Blackalicious, Mr. Thing and Asylum Seekas – The Fermain Tavern – 14/02/15

Blackalicious

Blackalicious

Throughout 2014 DJ Oneofakind’s The Get Down began a series of shows with established international artists at The Fermain Tavern that have become some of the most popular and well attended nights of original music happening in Guernsey.

That continued on Saturday February 14th 2015 as The Get Down welcomed Blackalicious to the Tav.

The night started off with DJ Four-Q on the decks with a selection of some excellently funky hip-hop which set the tone for the night. The tracks even got a few around the darker edges of the dancefloor moving a little as Asylum Seekas prepared to take to the stage.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

Guernsey’s premier live hip-hop act were down a DJ tonight so Four-Q continued on the decks to provide the backing for Apex and Jimi-Riddlz. While this wasn’t the most intense performance I’ve seen them deliver but the more lighthearted tone actually made it more it enjoyable as a casual listener.

The MCing duo delivered 40 minutes of non-stop music that was hugely impressive as they bounced back and forth, barely stopping for breath, and as the set went on the initially slightly aloof crowd began to get more involved.

What still impresses about Asylum Seekas is that there are no airs or graces in their raw lyrics, that span references from drunken nights out to The Great British Bake Off, showing a real sense of wit and invention around their chosen themes.

Mr. Thing

Mr. Thing

Without a break Mr. Thing seamlessly took over DJing duties as the expectant crowd began to fill the dancefloor and get moving. Mr. Thing was a highly energetic stage presence despite being anchored behind the decks and got the crowd involved with his selection of yet more funky hip hop.

As Lifesavas took to the stage the crowd pushed forward even further and Jumbo introduced Vursatyl and they did a few tracks themselves before introducing the man known as Gift of Gab, bringing the full force of Blackalicious onto the stage as The Fermain Tavern ‘went of’ for the next hour and a quarter.

With the dancefloor as packed as I ever remember seeing it the whole crowd responded to every call from the stage and vice-versa with some of the tracks garnering a massive reaction that even over came the huge volume of the music – when soundman Chas says he likes making hip-hop loud, he really isn’t lying!

Blackalicious

Blackalicious

The highlight for me came when Gift of Gab delivered an acapella rendition of a new track from the group’s upcoming album that was astounding in both lyrical dexterity and vocal delivery.

After an hour and a quarter the crowd still didn’t want to Blackalicious leave, but, after an encore, Mr. Thing took to the decks again bringing to close one of the most astonishing nights of live music I’ve witnessed in some time, both in terms of delivery and audience response and participation – and as birthday parties go, it seems Oneofakind staged quite a fine example here.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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West Side Story

West Side Story movie posterHaving picked up 10 Academy Awards upon its release the film version of West Side Story has its place assured as an undeniable classic but its one that always brings a certain nostalgic feeling for me as I took part in a production of the stage musical as a teenager (playing Diesel, conglomerated into Ice on-screen), but, 15 years on from that production, revisiting the film has opened up a new level of appreciation for it.

Once the overture fades into a series of aerial shots of New York we are dropped into a heightened and expressionistic world of teenage street gangs on Manhattan’s West Side. Over the following 10 minutes or so we are introduced to their world as movement and dance are used to tell the story of heightening tensions between the ‘local’ gang, The Jets, and the Puerto Rican newcomers, The Sharks.

As the back and forth dance culminates with a moment of real violence (albeit rendered in now PG, early 60s mainstream cinema friendly fashion) the film begins in earnest and we are led through a surprisingly tight reworking of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet updated for a modern world that still rings true today.

West Side Story - AmericaThis use of dance is one of the highlights of the movie as it goes on to be used as an expressionistic analogue for the venting of emotion whether its like here as tension, in ‘the rumble’ and America sequences as a form of battle or in the astonishing Cool as a means of learning to control emotions in the face of an insurmountable situation.

Focusing on Cool for a moment this is one of the less well recognised highlights of the film as it combines all the elements that make West Side Story work so well, in one sequence. The choreography is extremely tight, but in that, has a freeform feel that is appropriate for a teenage gang of misfits. On top of that the lyrics draw strongly on be-bop and jazz, with a good dose of the Beat movements use of language, to create something entirely of its time and place but also expressionistic enough to be somehow timeless and instantly recognisable as teen-speak (like Nadsat in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange). This combines with great performances and excellent use of the camera to create an enthralling sequence on all levels.

West Side Story movieAcross the film the dance performances are flawless, while the singing varies from spot on to suitably rough bringing a sense of reality to the street toughs, helping it tread the line that musicals always have to fight between the sublime and the ridiculous and the acting is generally of a good standard too (though a few of the Puerto Rican accents wobble at times).

The story itself has enough tonal ups and downs to keep it moving for its two and a half hours with the comedic and ensemble highlight of Officer Krupke being something of a signing off point for the beginning of the tragedy borrowed from the Bard.

It is in the tragedy that the film finds its heart and its message as, while Shakespeare certainly told a gripping tale of young love and ultimate sacrifice, here it is transformed into a warning for the dangers and pointlessness of gang violence. This culminates in an amazingly well delivered scene where the heroine, Maria (Natalie Wood), takes control of the situation and seemingly brings the opposing gangs together, albeit after several of their number have paid the ultimate price.

West Side Story - Tony and MariaTopped off with the classic cinema look of the period have, West Side Story is a highlight, not only of musical cinema, but of cinema in general as it uses every aspect of its production to tell a moving and effective story, put across a message, and is packed with memorable moments and performances.

Rewatching it now, 15 years removed from my first experience of it as teenager, has revealed a new side and appreciation of it for me that puts firmly in among my favourite movies and proves that musicals don’t have to be brightly coloured and ‘nice’ as West Side Story veers from the humorous to the genuinely brutal with genuine grace.

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Robert J Hunter – Songs For The Weary

Robert J. Hunter - Songs From The WearyAlderney born blues musician Robert J. Hunter released his debut album, Songs From The Weary, through Spectra Music Group on Saturday 7th February 2015 with a show at Nambucca in London.

This is the culmination of half of a decade for the young man who has worked tirelessly gigging both solo and with bands in the Channel Islands, and more recently in London. The lead single from the record, Demons, stood strong in the iTunes UK blues chart peaking at number 2 last November.

My review of Songs For The Weary was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th February 2015:

Robert J Hunter - Songs for the Weary review scan - 14:02:15

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The Inbetweeners 2

The Inbetweeners 2In a genre that can loosely trace its roots back to the amazing The Young Ones in the early 1980s, The Inbetweeners 2 seems to have taken it to a new low in the form of one of the most cringing 96 minutes of film I’ve ever sat through.

The film tells the story of the four protagonists of the TV show, now they’ve moved on from school and headed variously to university, work and (crucially for what is loosely called a plot) Australia. After a disastrous party weekend, which sets the bar spectacularly low, we see them go travelling/on holiday and attempt to poke fun at pretty much every trope of student life going and, for the most part its stuff we’ve seen done 100 times better, 100 times before.

Unfortunately, rather than doing what seems to be its intent and poking lighthearted, gross out, fun – or ‘Bants’ as the characters here might have it – it generally just ends up being over crass and generally offensive to pretty much everyone it sets its targets on.

The Inbetweeners 2For a start the four main characters are entirely unsympathetic stereotypes so, once they get into scrapes, I didn’t really care if they got out of them. As the movie goes on they meet, variously, typical Giles Wembley-Hogg like travellers (Marcus Brigstocke already spoofed them better), crassly stereotyped Australians, and various side characters ranging from ‘psycho’ girlfriends to transsexual prostitutes.

I think it was Bernard Manning who once tried to justify his ‘comedy’ as not being racist or sexist but offending everyone, and this falls into a similar territory, albeit possibly without the same nasty intent he seemed to have, this just feels misguided.

The Inbetweeners 2As the film rolls along it falls into the standard episodic nature of the not so well handled road movie and jokes are often repeated and remain largely unfunny. That’s not to say there weren’t a few laughs, but generally they seemed to come at points that I wasn’t sure were meant to be funny.

The highlight of the film came in the cameo from Greg Davies who’s sheer presence and slightly Rik Mayall-like nature elevated his brief appearances slightly. Unfortunately that was too little too late leaving The Inbetweeners 2 feeling like a waste of celluloid (or more like hard drive space) and its one the few films I’ve actually considered walking out of and wouldn’t have minded if I’d fallen asleep in (alongside Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom)… now where are my The Young Ones DVDs.

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The Doomsday Project – album review

The Doomsday Project album coverOn February 18th 2015 Guernsey pop-punk four-piece The Doomsday Project release their self-titled debut album.

Despite only being in their teens the band have been gigging regularly for a few years including slots at the Chaos festival and supporting UK rockers Evarane amongst frequent outings at The Vault, The Doghouse and more.

As well as featuring in session on the January 2015 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey, I was given a sneak preview of The Doomsday Project’s album and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 8th February 2015:

Doomsday Project album review scan - 07:01:15

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Wildcard X Anything Goes

Wildcard X Anything Goes - volume 4Along with their range of clothes for Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Guernsey/Lincoln based clothing brand Anything Goes Apparel teamed up with Wildcard Clothing to put together a sampler of some of the music that (loosely) inspired their designs.

Much like their previous sampler, Anything Goes Volume Three, there is a mix of current rock styles on offer from tech-death metal to indie from bands spanning the UK and Channel Islands.

Things start off with some metal-edged rock from Surrey four-piece Hearts Under Fire who display a fairly generic but ultimately enjoyable sound with Knots. The melodic side of their sound is tempered nicely by buzzsaw guitars that, topped with female vocals, make for a very listenable experience that could easily be a crossover success.

Kill The Ideal

Kill The Ideal

Next up come Lincolnshire’s Kill The Ideal with Higher which has a similar metallic guitar edged pop-rock sound to it, albeit in a bit more of a forceful style. Mixed in with this is a good dose of the kind of hard indie rock that was coming out of the UK 10 years or so ago and there are clear undertones of Reuben and their ilk in Kill The Ideal’s sound. This makes for a combination that sounds like it could make for an immense live show and on record is equally as enjoyable.

Belfast’s Mireau turn up the heaviness on the sampler with Dead Famous. While their Facebook describes them as “rock/hardcore” I’d push things further than that as, to me, there is a tech-death-metal side to proceedings, with the beatdowns of the hardcore/metal crossover genre mixed in. With a message hidden in the music and some nicely contrasting sung passages alongside the growls, this makes for another fine listen, though certainly with less crossover appeal than the preceding tracks, but for that it feels all the more ambitious.

The Silence - photo by Adrian Pollard

The Silence – photo by Adrian Pollard

The Silence fall into a genre really pioneered in the mainstream by Paramore and their sound fits nicely alongside those now megastars more vibrant earlier work, with a bit more chugging guitar adding The Silence’s own flair. With a nice combination of punk bounce and rock swagger Broken Pieces is a punchy highlight of the compilation.

Gainsborough’s They Say Fall deliver some real heaviness on Eris Quod Sum combined with some raging post-hardcore that manages to be at once brutal and emotional with a melancholy tone laced through the vicious, buzzing guitars and backing vocals, although it ultimately feels like part of something bigger than just the single track can provide.

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade bring a more traditional slice of Brit-style indie rock to the disc with Familiar Places, taken from their Last Laugh album. As with most of the band’s songs they come with a real sense of authenticity in Tyler Edmond’s lyrics, backed up with some excellent musicianship that should really be capable of getting a whole room bouncing and moving – this feels like Kaiser Chiefs’ I Predict A Riot should.

From Bedrooms To Backseats feature Anything Goes’ own Martyn Brown on drums and this is their latest single Breathe Deep. While the song itself is the kind of pop-infused metalcore the band have made their name with, the production of this track leaves it feeling lost and murky alongside the other tracks on the disc, for something with a little more clarity, if you like the sound of this, I’d recommend you check out their Bow Down EP.

The New Tusk

The New Tusk

Jersey boys The New Tusk return to the Anything Goes sampler with another slice of punky indie in Uncomfort. Again the production here isn’t the best which might lose something of the song, but at the same time I was left with the feeling that maybe this lo-fi edge actually suits the style the band are looking for as it lends it a realness and immediacy that might be lost if it sounded a bit glossier. Fuzzy, shouty fun, but with some musical substance mixed in there too.

Chasing Cadence by contrast are all big guitars and big gang vocals on Heartstrong. Their metallic pop-rock seems custom designed, again, to get a room moving and shouting along with the band as they’re just melodic enough to have that appeal but with an underlying tone of the heavy in the shredding, high frequency distorted guitars.

Static Alice present a much more mellow, straight up rock, vibe than the rest of the songs here and are something of a welcome break with King Kong from their debut, The Ghost of Common Sense. This is modern rock at its poppiest and continues to demonstrate something of the appeal the band have that sees them gigging almost constantly in Guernsey.

Hank Chinaski

Hank Chinaski

Horsebite (Tales of Extraordinary Sadness) from Jersey’s Hank Chinaski is a mixed bag of sounds. As the title suggests this isn’t too cheery a number but presents a band with a lot of musical ideas. With clean melody lines coming from guitars while vocals shriek in anguish it suddenly switches to fuzzy, overdriven guitars and clean vocals and back again. In all it reminds me somewhat of a grungier version of The Used at their most emotional.

Lifejacket bring catchy indie-punk to proceedings with Merrick from their debut album Lets Get This Out Of Our System And Move On. Their sound is one that manages to combine a pop sensibility with the dark heart of some of the harder ends of indie and throws a bit of a message in their for good measure all wrapped in a neat package that is hugely engaging and infectious.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Another Guernsey band, Subversion, bring some more pop-rock to proceedings on Mystery. Unfortunately a hyper distorted guitar tone runs over the top of everything detracting somewhat from what sounds like it could be a fine, Foo Fighters-esque bit of crossover rock.

Britpop, indie four-piece The Mithered start We Do What We Want with the line “We don’t follow the rules” and is certainly true in sense of stylistic composition here. The track veers from The Police-esque ‘reggae’ to jangly indie that never quite coalesces into a genuinely enjoyable song – but more power to them for throwing everything they possibly can into one track!

Raptor Shack - photo by J Moffat

Raptor Shack – photo by J Moffat

The disc is rounded off by Raptor Shack with Demons from their debut EP, The Wild. Demons is a punchy pop-metal track captures something of the band’s youth in Guernsey and shows them at their best as raspy vocals mix with tight playing and some great melody alongside what is the closest I think you can get to a pop beatdown.

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Vale Earth Fair Unplugged 3 – The Fermain Tavern – 31/01/15

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

For the third year in a row The Vale Earth Fair kicked off their new year, and the road their summer festival, with a night of ‘unplugged’ acoustic style music at The Fermain Tavern.

With two stages the night took on something of a Later With Jools Holland feel as compere Graham Duerden introduced the eight acts who played non-stop from 8 until half past midnight and spanned pretty much every sort of acoustic pop-rock sound you can think of, and a bit more besides.

Starting things off was Chloe Le Page who, despite lots of tuning and some fiddling around with an iPad, sounded very good. Starting the set with a few originals set a nice tone as the Tav got nice and busy early on. Part way through the set Chloe was joined by Joe who sang and played guitar with her on a few covers that, while less satisfying (and I’m always going to be picky when people cover Foo Fighters’ Everlong) was still a good listen.

The Bee Charmers

The Bee Charmers

The Bee Charmers made their live debut next and, while their particular folkified take on a various pop covers and a few folk tunes was a bit twee, its hard not to be when the main instrument is a ukulele, the trio made a decent first outing. If nothing else the combination of Jo Lamb’s voice, Jo Dowding’s uke and Stuart Ogier’s djembe was a new sound and in this setting was spot on.

It was next that Graham earned his place as compere. While Ramblin’ Nick Mann and the sound engineers on the night tried to get some kind of noise from Nick’s homemade guitars Graham kept the crowd entertained before we got a rather protracted two song set from the Ramblin’ one.

This was a shame as Nick’s Seasick Steve-esque take on old-time blues is always at least interesting using as he does a pair of homemade, three-string ‘cigar box’ (or biscuit tin) guitars, but tonight it wasn’t meant to be, though his one full tune and a capella version of Black Betty (I assume he was aiming more Lead Belly than Ram Jam) were still greeted warmly.

To The Woods

To The Woods

Things kicked up a gear next as we got a typically sweary and lairy, but still slightly toned down, acoustic take on To The Woods. While he may have been playing an acoustic guitar Bobby Battles voice was a forceful as ever and Dan Garnham continued to improve why he’s such an impressive drummer with a stripped down kit and more mellow (comparatively) flavour to his drumming.

I got the impression Bobby’s between song chat might not have been to everyone’s tastes, there’s no doubting he knows how to make an impression and hearing the bands now familiar songs in this style demonstrated that there’s a lot more to them than distortion and shouting – and no one else can say “The working title for this one is Sloppy C**t” and make it quite as charming and funny as Bobby manages!

Following To The Woods is never an enviable position but Dan Guilbert’s reggae drenched acoustic was a very different prospect and, while its something that’s been done a thousand times before, Dan does it well. The highlight for me was his take on Sublime’s Santeria, but as it became increasingly loose and freeform the set lost my attention as it went on.

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

Always one’s to be someway contrary The John Wesley Stone decided to ditch the stage format of the evening and set up to play genuinely unplugged in the raised area of the Tavern surrounded by photos of those who’ve graced the venue and packed in with the crowd.

Hillbill’s slap bass and Tinshack’s guitar kept the rhythm going strong while Jimmy The Pimp and English Bob added embellishments over the top with mandolin and fiddle respectively while all four a’ hooted and a’ hollered the catchy lyrics, with much assistance from the crowd.

If the crowd hadn’t got into the spirit this could have been a problematic set but with everyone getting involved it made for a real highlight that proved just how acoustic music can sound, and despite no engineering the sound was remarkably balanced with all instruments coming across.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

The Americana feel continued next, albeit in a less raucous way, with the Appalachian folk and murder ballads of Blue Mountains. Once again the duo brought a real sense of meaning to the songs that can often be lost in the more hipster or ‘traditional’ ends of the folk movement.

James Le Huray added some mandolin and percussion on a couple of tracks, expanding the duo’s acoustic guitar based sound nicely, but it Henry Lee that provided the highlight of their set for me.

Clameur De Haro had their work cut out for them as the headlined the show tonight with technical issues causing a delay to the start of their set, but it wasn’t long before the crowd got into their lighthearted, folk-ish, mix of rock covers and originals. With technical problems persisting some bands could have been put off but The Clams carried on regardless and after a few tracks the dancefloor was getting moving.

Clameur De Haro

Clameur De Haro

While this probably wasn’t the tightest or most energetic set Clameur De Haro will ever play it was still great fun with Devil’s Hole being a highlight of the original and it rounded off a great night in fun and entertaining style hopefully paving the way for good things to come for the Vale Earth Fair in 2015.

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

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: January 2015 – The Doomsday Project, Asylum Seekas and Mura Masa

The Doomsday Project on BBC Introducing Guernsey

The Doomsday Project

Listen to the show here (available until the end of February 2015).

I started off 2015 on BBC Introducing Guernsey with a real focus on new music, from live sessions to new albums to new tracks sent in through the BBC Introducing Uploader.

The first live session of the year came from pop-punkers The Doomsday Project stripping stuff back to acoustic mode and playing four tracks from their upcoming self-titled debut album.

Asylum Seekas told me about their new album, Intrepid Levels, as well as what it’s been like being part of The Get Down over the last year supporting Chali2Na and Bizarre Ride 2 The Pharcyde amongst others.

And musician and producer Mura masa spoke to me about his debut album and his work so far which has seen him progress from working in his bedroom to international recognition and mainstream airplay on BBC Radio 1 and 2 within a little over a year – you can read my feature on Mura Masa here.

You can listen to the show until the end of February through the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

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