Monthly Archives: March 2014

BBC Introducing Guernsey: March 2014 – Hartebeest and Sark Folk Festival

BBC Introducing Guernsey March 2014On the March 2014 episode of BBC Introducing Guernsey I began the journey towards summer festival season with the announcement of the headliners for this year’s Chaos weekend in June and I was joined in the studio by some of the organisers of the Sark Folk Festival who told us about who they have coming over in July.

Also electronic duo H A R T E B E E S T came in for a chat and told us about their journey from CourageHaveCourage to where they are now and their plans to take their music into the live arena and why websites like Soundcloud are so important to new musicians.

You can listen to the show on the BBC radio player by clicking here.

Tracklist

 

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Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home

Going Back Home - Wilko Johnson and Roger DaltreyGoing into this record it is clear from just looking at the track list that, while Daltrey’s name appears as one of the headline artists, this is, in essence, a Wilko Johnson record.

Backed by Wilko’s band of some years, Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Dylan Howe (drums), and playing a selection of Wilko’s songs (along with one Bob Dylan cover) this presents possibly Wilko’s most complete album since he left Dr. Feelgood, and that is where Daltrey’s input really comes in.

During his time with Dr. Feelgood it was Lee Brilleaux that brought Wilko’s words to life with a force and attitude that grabbed you by the throat and let you know that these were a bunch of guys not to be messed with.

What Daltrey brings here is, understandably, different, but you can hear in it something of the attitude and power Brilleaux had, tempered by age and experience and given a new twist all with a sense of the Maximum R&B that pervaded the music of both Dr. Feelgood and The Who.

Wilko Johnson and Roger DaltreyThat said the album doesn’t just feel like a retread either, it starts out with real power on Going Back Home and this pervades the album with I Keep It To Myself, Sneaking Suspicion and All Through The City all keeping that rolling.

Alongside this the album has some slower moments in the middle in Turned 21 and Keep On Loving You, that balance things out, adding dynamic and demonstrating Johnson’s varied songwriting abilities.

What is really striking here though, compared to Wilko’s straight solo records, is how well Daltrey’s voice and Johnson’s guitar work together. On the solo recordings it was the guitar that was the star whereas here, once more, the balance is complete at the front of the band.

Dylan Howe and Norman Watt-RoyAdded to this, along with the always-exceptional Watt-Roy and Howe, is the piano and organ of Mick Talbot and harmonica of Steve Weston that build on the standard three or four piece band to create a package of some great rhythm & blues/rock ‘n’ roll music.

With all of the background story going on of Wilko’s health over the last year it is hard to view this album totally impartially but, if this is to be his swansong, it is a fine celebration of a career that has included some excellent songs and having Roger Daltrey bring the vocals back to life in such style really tops it off to create something that has the potential to be a special record in years to come as well as a great listen right now.

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Metallica: Through The Never

Metallica: Through The NeverI’ve previously reviewed the soundtrack album that goes with Metallica’s latest concert film, so here I will be primarily focusing on the film itself.

Shot in 3D and released in cinemas Metallica: Through The Never is the most lavish and extravagant concert film Metallica have released to date, following in quite a line of previous efforts which began with Cliff ‘Em All in the late 1980s and has continued pretty much in line with their studio albums from …And Justice For All to Death Magnetic.

With this history of concert films in mind what is presented here is, essentially, a pulling together of all of their previous efforts into one show packed with references, props and effects familiar to fans. Along with this there are things that, had they had the budget and technology in their earlier days, Metallica would probably have featured in their live shows in the mid-80s.

What this leads to is a perfectly satisfactory concert film that gives something of a flavour of the 30-plus year career of “the world’s biggest metal band”, but with a nagging sense that all these props are somewhat distracting, and at times detracting, from the four men on stage playing what should be predominantly viscerally intense music.

Through-the-Never

James Hetfield during Master of Puppets

I know I’ve mentioned the music before, but a brief thought on that before I continue. Across the film it all sounds fine, but for the most part, little more. This leaves a sense that the band are very much going through the motions and are presenting what feels like a ‘cabaret thrash’ show and it is really only on One, Nothing Else Matters and set closer Hit The Lights (when all the effects are put aside) that the might of Metallica’s glory days is really hinted at.

Alongside the straight performance sections of Through The Never comes another aspect to the film – a vaguely narrative arc running through the concert footage.

Dane DeHaan

Dane DeHaan

This concerns a young roadie-cum-stagehand-cum-fan who is sent on an obscure mission during the opening number who we cut back to throughout. While clearly not intended as a literal narrative to accompany the music it is somewhat abstract but, rather than adding an extra element to develop ideas presented in the songs, what these sequences tend to do is distract from the concert footage and are often jarring in transition between the two.

Much like the concert the narrative scenes, featuring Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan, are perfectly satisfactory and contain some interesting visuals and ideas, but it never really seems to come together to give the sense that both parts are serving the same master so the narrative arc is left somewhat lost.

Kirk Hammett and the Tesla Coils

Kirk Hammett and the Tesla Coils

What this leaves us with then is something that, unfortunately, captures current day Metallica pretty accurately. While there are still hints at what made them the powerhouse they were, and it appropriately celebrates this, Through The Never also shows them as the overblown behemoth they have become. So in the end, if you want to see a great Metallica concert film, it’s still best to dust of Live Shit: Binge & Purge, but if you want a spectacular, but ultimately soulless retread of some of their greatest songs (and a couple of others) then look no further – but the Ride The Lightning ‘Tesla coils” are cool!

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The Crowman – The Resurrection of Blind Jack Lazarus

The Crowman

The Crowman

The Crowman, along with his co-conspirator The Fiddling Pixie, has released his second full length album of steampunk infused garage folk, The Resurrection Of Blind Jack Lazarus.

The album is available through Twist and Detour records should you want to get yourself a copy and you can find the man himself over on his Facebook page.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd March 2014 and you can read it below:

The Crowman - The Resurrection of Blind Jack Lazarus review scan - 22:03:14And here is the video to lead track I Ain’t Ever Gonna Drink No More, directed and shot by Chris Denton:

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The Cryptics, Ray & The Guns and Thee Jenerators – Jamaica Inn – 15/03/14

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

As I arrived at The Jamaica last Saturday, DJ Oneofakind was already setting the tone for the night, spinning an array of funky sounds with a garage-y vibe that, as the night went on and the bar filled up, would have people dancing with delight to these not so often heard records – all, appropriately, on the original vinyl.

Thee Jenerators launched into their set with all the power and energy we’ve come to expect but, as In Love With The City roared to a close all was not well as technical difficulties, mostly from some over enthusiastic drumming, caused a break in proceedings, but, soon they were back and roaring once more.

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

The rest of the set was a raucously sloppy affair with massive power pushing it forward non-stop, as microphones flew across the room and the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll really made its presence felt.

It was clear during their tribulations here that Thee Jenerators new line up have coalesced now with Andy Sauvage on guitar doing his best to steer the chaotic band while Mark Le Gallez was, as ever, an anarchic dervish on the tiny stage and dancefloor.

With old classics like Mystery Man and Rocket 88, from their now more than 10-year-old debut, blasting out it was new tracks like Bela Lugosi and Daddy Bones that were my highlights and proved that energy in the right places can make any performance something worth seeing.

Ray & The Guns

Ray & The Guns

Ray & The Guns took to the stage next with a more traditional rock ‘n’ roll sound getting things going with the Peter Gunn Theme really showcasing Nick Dodd’s twnagy six-string which pervaded the set.

Unfortunately, following the frenetic garage power of Thee Jenerators meant Ray & The Guns sounded a bit underpowered by comparison, but, none-the-less, they played a set that grabbed the crowd from the off.

As always Ray sounded great on lead vocals with a voice that works as well here as it did with the heavier spaced out sounds of Remainder 3 in the past and leads the band through their mix of classics and more modern rock ‘n’ roll numbers with fine style.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

Following some more excellently picked tunes from Oneofakind, Jersey-based four-piece The Cryptics took to the stage playing a very authentic sounding take on 60s psych-rock, with a bit of Stoogeyness thrown in for good measure. Again they had the crowd caught from the start and got some dancing a few songs in.

Frontman Screamin’ Johnny Moth looked like he’d stepped out of a 60s American TV performance, while guitarist G.T.O adds the Detroit rock vibe with wah and fuzz making his Stratocaster drive and Billy Cryptic’s bass playing was consistently praised by those at the front between songs.

With their trash-surf-garage sounds in full effect it was new EP title track Black Lucy and their take on The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird that stole the set and closed the live music for the night on a high before Oneofakind topped things off with some more great tunes that had The Jam jumping as people began heading out into the night with ears ringing from a fine night of retro-infused, but thankfully far from hipster, rock ‘n’ roll and garage.

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

And this video isn’t from this gig, but gives you a taste of The Cryptics:

A version of this review also appeared in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 27th March:

Cryptics, Ray and the Guns, Jenerators - 27:03:14 scan

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The Wicker Man (2006)

The Wicker Man poster 2006There are good remakes (Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), there are bad remakes (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho), there are pointless remakes (again Van Sant’s Psycho) and then there is Neil Le Butte’s 2006 go at The Wicker Man.

As with most films there is probably a vague reason to remake Robin Hardy’s 1973 classic The Wicker Man. For many years, outside of cinephile and horror fanatic circles, it was seldom seen, with the studio that funded it doing their best to bury its original release and future versions suffering from cuts and re-edits galore until the more recent DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Directors Cut and the even more recent extended cut, so, in the early to mid-2000s maybe giving viewers a new way into the story seemed like a good idea.

Unfortunately whoever had that idea either totally misjudged what they wanted or just didn’t have a clue what they were dealing with.

Nicolas Cage - The Wicker ManWhile the original melds the best bits of Hammer with some true folk horror creepiness, along with excellent performances from leads Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward with a real sense of anarchic freedom running through it all, Le Butte’s ‘vision’ seems to miss every point entirely and descends into Nicolas Cage shouting about bees and hitting women.

While this sounds like it could be an entertaining “so bad its good” romp, from the start it is simply nonsensical, adding to the original narrative a back story that makes little to no sense it just goes down hill from there as Cage’s “California Cop” heads to Summersisle (why the extra ‘s’?) to investigate a missing girl.

wicker_manAs the film goes on I thought that, at some point, all the disjointed scenes might somehow coalesce into something that did make some kind of point, but sadly, this wasn’t the case so never did I side with, or feel any connection to, either protagonist or antagonist and, when the inevitable “unfortunate event” occurs, it just left me thinking, so what, that was a waste of an hour and a half (as much as I ever consider watching a movie to be a waste of time).

Throughout, the film lacks any sense of cohesive style with Nicolas Cage seemingly doing whatever he wants while being lit really badly in front of a camera that doesn’t really know what it wants to see. This is very telling because anytime these factors become noticeable it means a film can only be genuinely bad as the narrative, nor the acting, nor anything else are distracting from the mechanics.

wicker-man-2006-burning-of-the-wicker-man-endingThe one thematic notion that I thought might explain all this is if the film was some kind of fever dream for Cage’s cop, unfortunately this notion was never backed up so what we have been left with is a film that seems to not have a clue what it really wants to be or say and is simply a poorly stage folk horror film. What puts it over the edge into the territory of the pointless and truly awful however, is its evocation of the original classic, as this film really has nothing to do with the original notion or spirit of The Wicker Man.

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Babyhead, The Recks, DJ Oneofakind and Francisco – The Fermain Tavern – 07/03/14

Babyhead

Babyhead

Babyhead made their long-awaited return to Guernsey on Friday 7th March 2014 at The Fermain Tavern with support coming from The Recks, Francisco and DJ Oneofakind.

The show was a second sold out event in a row following The Get Down the previous weekend and saw the room bounce to ska, hip-hop, reggae, folk, indie, funk, soul and rock across the course of the evening.

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 ‘Going Out’ pages on Thursday 13th March 2014:

Babyhead, The Recks, Francisco scan - 13:03:14

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From Bedrooms To Backseats – Bow Down EP

From Bedrooms To Backseats - Bow DownWith four years as a band under their belt From Bedrooms To Backseats have gained a reasonable experience on Guernsey’s live circuit and, despite several line up changes, have kept up their sense of having fun on stage mixed with creating a set of generally solid original songs.

So, for their first release proper, the Bow Down EP, its good to hear them continuing to develop their sound as the first track opens with a piano line before building up with bass, drums and then guitars to bring us up to speed with their sound which, in their words, combines pop-punk, hardcore and metal.

To be honest, other than the cleaner vocal style of frontman James ‘Raddy’ Radford, I find it hard to see the pop-punk side of their sound but certainly it is metalcore of a sort that, at its best, brought to mind early Bullet For My Valentine or Ascendency and The Crusade-era Trivium, but with something of their own thrown in too. This does give their sound a slightly dated feel, but their energy carries it through and, along with their own touches, helps build on that foundation.

From Bedrooms To BackseatsThe EP’s highlights are the title track which balances power and viciousness, without becoming over poweringly bleak, and lead single Bridges which sees the band continue with the development of their sound, much like the discs intro, with female vocals and piano lines joining the distorted guitars and Raddy’s screaming.

While From Bedrooms To Backseats have clearly developed their sound over the years and, on record, they lose the sense of, for want of a better phrase, mucking about, that often gets in the way of their live shows, the predominantly DIY nature of this recording does mean some things get a bit lost in the mix.

Raddy of From Bedrooms To BackseatsDIY recording is admirable, and certainly shows a dedication on the part of the musicians to getting their music heard, but metal of this nature is hard to capture in this way as often distortion overrides other sounds and causes things to get lost and this is, unfortunately, the case in places with the Bow Down EP.

With the Bow Down EP, From Bedrooms To Backseats have created something that, while not entirely successful sonically, does have a lot of good points demonstrating not only the dedication of the band to their music but also to developing their sound from live performance to recording and, for fans of the more modern sound of hardcore laced heavy metal, there is a lot to like across these five tracks.

The EP will available from Saturday 15th March 2014 through the band’s Bandcamp page.

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Lifejacket Studios present Stan Smith, Brutus Stonefist and The Crazy Babies – Fermain Tavern – 08/03/14

Stan Smith

Stan Smith

While the metal scene in the Channel Islands might be slightly quieter now than maybe it was a few years ago there’s still a lot of it about and it was celebrated in fine fashion at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 8th March as Jersey’s Stan Smith joined Guernsey bands Brutus Stonefist and The Crazy Babies for a varied night of heavy metal.

First on stage were The Crazy Babies or, as frontman Stace Blondel would have it, Micro Machines, as they treated us to their set of Guernsey music scene inspired originals – taking us on a sordid journey from the Vazon Bay balcony to the Golden Lion via who knows who, what and where.

Stace and The Egg

Stace and The Egg

With Stace on bass and bedecked in a beige cardigan this first part of the set was undeniably fun and entertaining, though maybe some of the references would be lost on those less familiar with venues over here 5 to 10 years ago. That sad, if Stan Smith’s reaction was anything to go by these tales transcended knowledge with some surprisingly deft metal licks.

Once Stace handed the bass over to Wookie and ditched the cardigan in favour of an Ozzy t-shirt things kicked up a gear as The Crazy Babies blasted through a set of Ozzy Osbourne covers which, while loose and fun, showed off more of the band’s musical talent, particularly in Stace as frontman and Scorch on lead guitar who evoked Randy Rhodes, Zakk Wylde et al excellently (or should that be egg-celently?).

With more than six years under their belts as a band the last couple of years have seen Brutus Stonefist scale back the number of appearances they make, so this always makes a show from them something of an event. Following their storming show last Halloween this one started in somewhat inauspicious style as the band sounded sloppy and unfocused for their first few songs before technical issues with the drums stopped Stand Up And Fight rather abruptly in its tracks.

Brutus Stonefist

Brutus Stonefist

Once the technical problems were overcome it seemed to fire the band off in a more focused fashion as they finished up Stand Up And Fight before blasting through the rest of their set and, while it may still not have been their tightest, it was still a solid outing with more groove in the thrash at times than they’ve previously exhibited.

One thing that did strike me about Brutus Stonefist tonight was that there was an odd sense of nostalgia to seeing them back on stage. Maybe this is simply down to the fact of their few appearances and that they come from a period where Guernsey’s music scene had a very different feeling to it, but hopefully nostalgia won’t become one of their defining factors as they move forward with new material and, who knows, maybe even releasing their long-awaited (and much discussed) debut album.

Angelo of Stan Smith

Angelo of Stan Smith

Despite the audience being nothing like as big as The Get Down the previous week, or the Babyhead show the night before, there was a still something of a sense of anticipation for Stan Smith.

As ever the Jersey foursome played with real conviction and passion with vocalist Angelo Vidigal really standing out as one of the most honest and genuine metal performers the Channel Islands has ever seen. While their set here had glimpses of the power they’ve displayed at past shows, with hints of Max Cavalera-era Sepultura and White Zombie peeking through, for the most part it had something of a slower, almost plodding, feel at times.

Despite that the band’s sense of why they do what they do carried them through and encouraged the audience into a hugely appreciative mosh and, as ever, Lloyd Downie proved himself to be a masterful metal technician on his instrument and they still left me looking forward to hearing the EP they were recording with Lifejacket Studios during their visit to Guernsey.

Even if metal, arguably, may be not be quite as prevalent in the Channel Islands now as it might have been a few years ago, gigs like tonight and Dazfest a few weeks ago, show that there is certainly still a lot of talent in heavy metal in the islands and, having slightly fewer events focusing on it, has meant that each event has a more special feeling.

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

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Machete Kills

Machete Kills posterIf you’ve missed the ‘saga’ that is Robert Rodriquez’s Machete so far it started life as a spoof trailer during the much maligned (partially justifiably) Grindhouse movie project he made with Quentin Tarantino but quickly seemed to take on a life of its own and soon Rodriquez announced he was making a full-scale movie based on the trailer.

That film was a mixed bag that failed to live up to the trailer but still had its enjoyable moments despite not quite having the joie de vivre that Sin City or Planet Terror (Rodriquez’s part of Grindhouse) had. So, I came to the sequel Machete Kills expecting something similar with cameos aplenty and a mixed bag or enjoyable moments and near misses.

What I got however was far more than I expected, certainly this is far from being a great film but what it does it does with much more a well placed sense of knowing than its predecessor.

Danny Trejo as Machete

Danny Trejo as Machete

From the off, a trailer for its own sequel Machete Kills Again, the whole thing is on a bigger scale.

While the first movie seemed to content to spoof the already self-parodying action movies that had their heyday in the 1980s what Machete Kills does is add something of a more James Bond aspect to its Tex-Mexploitation vibe – with all the dubious lack of political correctness this implies (though this is rectified slightly later in the movie).

With that in mind, following a pre-credits sequence, we soon meet Mr. President (Carlos Esteves, aka Charlie Sheen in fine form) taking the place of M and sending Machete (Danny Trejo filling the role of Bond) off to Texas to make his way to Mexico to foil a plot by renowned madman-cum-freedom fighter.

Trejo and Gibson

Trejo and Gibson

From there, things escalate in a way that could only be compared to Roger Moore’s era as 007, and the film soon hits a ridiculous stride both in terms of what happens and its pace. This rarely lets up as Mel Gibson turns up to deliver a bewilderingly crazy performance that makes one wonder if he’s acting or if he’s genuinely this far gone.

Machete Kills also, for the most part, puts aside its attempts to look lo-fi so the special effects are, for the most part, pretty good considering this isn’t (despite the cast) a mega-budget movie and the moments where they are more in a traditional b-movie style are much more knowing (particularly the missile and costumes in the climactic scenes).

Esteves and Trejo

Esteves and Trejo

While Machete Kills is far from being a classic movie, even of its genre, it is a far more successful attempt by Rodriquez at creating something coherent based on a 30 second trailer than the original and, despite my better judgement, has me genuinely interested and, I’ll admit, a little bit excited to see if he can keep things going in the third movie which, I can only assume by this film’s Bond aping ending, is “Coming soon to a theater near you”.

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