Monthly Archives: October 2016

BBC Introducing Guernsey: October 2016 – The Secret Smiles and Nessi Gomes

The Secret Smiles at BBC Introducing Guernsey

Three fifths of The Secret Smiles in the studio

Click here to listen to the show

Over the years on BBC Introducing Guernsey I’ve welcomed performers back into the studio as members of different bands several times.

One such is Matt Ward who first appeared on the show back in its early days as a member of indie band The Raffle, a couple of years ago he was back as a solo performer and now, for his third appearance and session, it’s as leader of The Secret Smiles who have been carving out their own niche on the island’s music scene with their brand upbeat, melodious, indie that combines the sounds of 90s British music with hints of the 1960s pop-folk revival movement.

They played a session for us as well as telling us how the band came together and how their year has been so far as they’ve solidified their line up and begun playing some high-profile gigs on Liberation Day, the Vale Earth Fair and supporting The Recks at their return show this past weekend.

We also heard from singer-songwriter Nessi Gomes who has not only just released her debut album but also be named Best Of British Unsigned‘s female solo performer of 2016.

You can listen to the through the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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Burning At Both Ends – Self-titled

Burning At Both Ends album coverAfter less than a year together, during which they’ve made quite a name for themselves from their live shows, Burning At Both Ends have released their debut album.

Bringing original pop punk back to Guernsey’s music scene with hints of heavier things thrown in the album solidifies the band’s place as one to watch on the island’s music scene following its launch at a recent show at The Fermain Tavern.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 29th October 2016.

Burning At Both Ends album review scan

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My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade album cover10 years ago My Chemical Romance rode the crest of a wave that, for a brief moment, brought a kind of post-hardcore rock music into the mainstream amid hordes of black eyeliner sporting teens, unimpressed ‘true’ metallers and, predictably enough, British tabloid scaremongering about the cult of ‘emo’, as they released their arguable masterpiece, The Black Parade.

Following a launch announcement event in August at London’s world-famous (and now sadly demolished) Hammersmith Palais that saw hundreds of black clad members of their fan club, the MCRmy, take part in a mock funeral procession, the New Jersey quintet’s third album hit record stores on 23rd October 2006 and I still vividly remember picking up my copy that Monday morning with a real sense of excitement about what was contained therein.

All the press before the release, and the lead single Welcome To The Black Parade, had suggested that things had changed for the band.

The Black Parade at Hammersmith

The Black Parade at Hammersmith

In terms of line up this was the first album recorded with Bob Bryar behind the drums (though he had been the bands live drummer for most of the touring around Three cheers For Sweet Revenge) but it was also clear that piano and keyboards we’re going to be a big part of things and James Dewees (aka Reggie and the Full Effect) was unofficially drafted in too.

Sonically though the single suggested the vicious, hardcore infused assault of Three Cheers and their debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, was gone – replaced with a kind of prog-ish conceptual feel of sharply produced stadium rock, albeit still with the punk edge of their earlier material.

This came with a certain amount of consternation from fans who’d been following the band since their early days and the usual charges of ‘selling out’ were brought and roundly repelled by the band who, despite what might have been on the single and what the new matching marching band outfits suggested, continued with their incendiary, life affirming live shows such as an outing at Reading Festival, facing off a barrage of projectiles from die-hard Slayer fans.

My Chemical Romance - Reading 2006

Gerard Way and Bob Bryar at Reading Festival 2006

So it was in the midst of all that The Black Parade was released and seemed to instantly capture the wider imagine, outside of the more underground side of things, to create with a mix of punk, goth, glam and hard rock, what has felt like the last great surge for rock music rebellion.

But what of the album itself.

From the opening beeps of a heart monitor the whole thing has an undeniable concept feel echoing Ziggy Stardust, The Wall and others, though that concept is for the most part suitably vague. After the somewhat camp theatricality and bombast of intro track The End, Dead! blasts out the gates like a pop-punk/glam-rock assault building on the likes of Three Cheers’ big hit I’m Not Ok run through a filter of The Who’s Tommy.

From that point on the concept is present but never fully explained, having the feeling of the moments just before death when, supposedly, ones life flashes before ones eyes. Added to that though is the sense that, in many ways, this could be frontman Gerard Way’s story as the album followed a challenging period of rehab for him.

My Chemical Romance as The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance as The Black Parade

The next duo, This Is How I Disappear and The Sharpest Lives show the band haven’t lost any edge and, while sharper and more precisely produced, hark back to their past before Welcome To The Black Parade acts as something of a microcosm of the whole album with Queen like bombast standing alongside hyper speed punk guitars and gentle piano, all within five minutes.

The rest of album takes all of this and does more of the same charting a disjointed journey through the protagonists life, albeit with no real sense of trying to make a point, which I can’t help but feel maybe it should.

Highlights as the album goes on include Mama which has the feel of The Dresden Dolls, Panic! At The Disco and The Used going to war, as the album reaches its most potentially ridiculous point but what feels like exactly what the band was aiming for, as Liza Minnelli makes an appearance before we get some excellently stomping glam-punk on Teenagers.

Gerard during The Black Parade is Dead concert film

Gerard during The Black Parade is Dead concert film

The album’s only real mis-fire comes with the mawkish Cancer which if anything is too on the nose to be properly appreciated whether it was intending to be metaphorical or not.

Famous Last Words leaves the record on a powerful high, even if it feels the concept is all but forgotten, before hidden track Blood (that was to become something of an off-kilter fan favourite) brings it back in a strange way, rounding off an album that was arguably My Chemical Romance’s most free and artistic high point, away from the scene that spawned them but before worldwide media attention hyped them beyond all expectation.

In hindsight its hard not to see The Black Parade as the beginning of the end of My Chemical Romance, throughout the sprawling tour that followed they tried to balance things to please both their old fan base and the new but it never quite seemed to gel. As someone who happily falls between these two camps though, the live shows I witnessed in this period were fantastic, even if they lacked the straight forward power and presence of their earlier, smaller, tours.

My Chemical Romance as The Killjoys of Danger Days

My Chemical Romance as The Killjoys of Danger Days

While the follow-up tried to evoke a similar response it failed to live up to the challenge or the hype (though Danger Days still has some garage punk moments) making this album something of a special one-off.

The reaction to its 10th anniversary and the fact that it encouraged such devotion demonstrate the impact it had and, while the world of music has moved on, I can’t help but feel The Black Parade marks something of a moment in the final days before pop really became digital.

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Vale Earth Fair John Peel Tribute Night 2016

DJ list

The list of DJs

Every year since his death in 2004 the Vale Earth Fair have staged an event paying tribute to DJ John Peel. Peel’s work on BBC Radio 1 (and elsewhere) gained a reputation for discovering and breaking new and eclectic music spanning styles from world folk to grindcore and it has taken the BBC Music Introducing network of presenters, producers and radio shows to even attempt to replicate his work (for which I feel very privileged to be a part).

The Vale Earth Fair’s event tries to do some justice to this by offering anyone with an interest in music in Guernsey to have a 15 minute DJ set over the course of an evening as near to the anniversary of Peel’s death as possible – the 2016 edition took place at the Thomas De La Rue in St Peter Port on Friday 21st October.

19 ‘DJs’ took up the opportunity and provided one of the most enjoyable nights of non-live music I can remember. Being selected by a random draw there was no sense of ‘programming’ the event and anything could have set next to anything else, in a manner Peel often employed (whether intentionally or not) and I think its safe to say that everyone present will have heard something they hadn’t heard before.

What this meant as well was that if a particular DJ wasn’t playing anything to your taste it wouldn’t be long until someone else was on the decks (though of course there’d be no guarantee of them playing anything you might like either).

Graham DJing

Graham from Tantale on the decks

That said, across the whole night I really can’t think of any sets that weren’t at least enjoyable on some level, even those that included what sounded like recordings of morris dancers or entirely cheesy pop.

Across such a varied night its hard to pick highlights but there were a few moments that really stood out, particularly some Napalm Death from DJ Vauvert Underground and a nice noisy number I forget the name of towards the end of Miss San Frandisco’s set. Also Jawbone guitarist Lee following Public Enemy with Bonnie Tyler was quite a moment as was Josh from The Secret Smiles and Clameur De Haro cracking out System of a Down’s Chop Suey, a song which has particular nostalgia following my days DJing at Aberystwyth RocSoc.

With many different methods used to select the tracks played, some played sets of songs they hadn’t heard until the day before, others went for classics and some seemed (thankfully) intent on pricking the potentially pompous vibe of an evening of musos playing for musos, I based my set on what I’ve been listening to recently spanning doom-ish metal to punk ’n’ roll via garage rock.

Tom DJing

My turn

In the end this all did a great job of providing a fine nights entertainment and, to my mind, did a decent job of paying tribute to such a great champion of new music (though there could have been more of a few styles, but the lack of ‘programming’ is one of the events charms) and it continued the Vale Earth Fair’s own 40th birthday celebrations as we head into the autumn/winter gigging season.

My setlist

For those who might be interested this is what I played (click on them to have a listen):

Photos courtesy of Vale Earth Fair

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PUNiK – F**k Yeah!!

PUNiK - Fuck Yeah!!I first properly encountered Japanese punk four-piece PUNiK when they headlined the first night the 2016 Chaos weekend and they made an instant impression. Their debut album, Fuck Yeah!! does just the same as it delivers intense, energetic blasts of no frills punk rock in twelve tight packages.

P.U.N.i.K!! starts the disc off as it means to continue with an assault of trebly, buzzing guitars, snappy, rumbling bass and ferocious drums, all with the band hollering over the top.

From there its much of the same, and all the stronger for it, as frontman Tagu rants in a mix of Japanese and broken English with bass man Nigel’s gruffer vocals providing a strong backing, while Makoto’s lead guitar provides some suitably manic solos and Osamu’s drums never let up.

Throughout about the only intelligible English words are (arguably) unprintable in most reputable publications but set the scene and really tell you all you need to know with ‘Fuck you its rock ’n’ roll’ (in Fuck’N’Roller!!) and ‘Got no money, got no future’ (in Punk Bomb!!) being two of the more choice moments.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Stand Up!! breaks things up a bit with a slightly slower, more bass driven feel, before Hello!! gives the album its one ‘conventional single’ type track that, if you’re looking for a more accessible example of what PUNiK can do, is a spot on piece of pop-rock run through a scuzzy punk ’n’ roll filter.

The production sounds just the right side of four enthusiastic drunk men in a room with some microphones, evoking a sound familiar to anyone who’s listened to their share of DIY music from the 1970s and 80s while the songs at times echo The Damned, The Ramones and Sex Pistols in the best of ways.

While the energy and power of PUNiK is certainly best experienced live, Fuck Yeah!! captures the band’s gang like spirit making for a record that is a raw and filthy pleasure.

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Punk Night at the Tav – The Fermain Tavern – 08/10/16

Short Was Found

Short Was Found

With five bands on the bill, one of whom was marking the release of their debut album and another was making their non-festival Guernsey debut, it was a busy night at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 8th October 2016, celebrating punk rock in many forms.

First up was Silas The Assyrian Assassin who did exactly what we’ve come to expect armed with his acoustic guitar, an always impressive streak of cynical vitriol and some undeniably questionable jokes. As always the set came to life when Silas was playing off heckles from the audience, while his ability to ignore taboos and work this into songs is reminiscent of NoFX’s Fat Mike.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas’ best moments tonight came with his songs dealing with society and politics such as Trust Fund Anarchist and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while the set began to ramble by the end, it was a good start to proceedings – if you like that kind of thing.

Burning At Both Ends changed the atmosphere considerably with their brand of pop punk which was as solid and tight as they come – in fact their performance here made me wonder if it was maybe a bit too precise.

Despite this their songs are undeniably great examples of their style and, as the set went on, their energy increased, particularly following slower number What If Someday They’re Not There.

With this the audience began to get more invested and the energy began to flow both ways as in the best performances rounding off their set on a high and making a great case for picking up their newly released self-titled debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

From one extreme to the other, energy is never something that Jawbone have to worry about while precision seems to not really be something that matters to them so much, and tonight was no different as they ripped through a set of punk classics and originals in their usual, no frills, style.

Back to their full strength line up is when they are at their best and are one of the most fun bands playing in Guernsey today, and they proved this here.

Their original songs bring to mind a mix of NoFX, Rancid and Jersey punks Bulletproof as highlighted in what guitarist Lee described as ‘A love song between myself and the Tory government’.

Jawbone

Jawbone

Rounding the set off with The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg along with Silas on guest vocals marked an energetic and fun highlight and brought to mind punk gigs of years past with songs delivered in sloppy fashion but with real passion.

With the energy up Honest Crooks kept it going and continued the old punk gig spirit with their ska and reggae infused sound.

Particularly notable early in the set was bass player Cheese being handed increasing numbers of shirts and jackets and continuing to play despite his arms being largely immobile as he overheated under the stage lights.

Back to the music and it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the trio with tight songs delivered with energy and fun designed to fill a dance floor – and that’s just what they did.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks with Lee and Dan

As the set went on they were joined by Lee from Jawbone for a particularly heartfelt take on Rancid’s Fall Back Down before his bandmate Dan joined them for kazoo and Bez like dancing duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade.

With midnight fast approaching the atmosphere in The Tav dropped somewhat, as it tends to at this time, as people headed to town while Short Was Found were setting up. None the less the band launched into a loud and furious assault of a set mixing hardcore and metal with straight up punk rock.

Frontman James Pallot delivered with a forceful conviction as always and former Bulletproof rhythm duo Lee and Darren were tight as ever with Darren’s drumming speed and intensity particularly standing out.

Short Was Found

James of Short Was Found

As the set went on the small audience came and went and, while the thrashy guitar solos provided something of a diversion it was hard for the short sharp shock approach from the start of the set to not become a bit repetitive which combined with the lower energy in the room to make for a slightly disappointing climax, but this was far from the fault of the guys on stage giving it their all.

What tonight did prove though was that punk rock is as much a varied force to be reckoned now as it ever was and, while I might be a bit biased, it offers something for pretty much anyone from fun high energy danceable sounds to socio-political vitriol all in an uproarious musical package.

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

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Introducing Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

A couple of weekends ago those gathered at The Fermain Tavern were introduced to a new band with riff after riff after m-f’ing riff (to steal a phrase from The Wildhearts) – that band are the excellently named Granite Wolf.

You can read my review of that show here

Made up of a group of familiar musicians from the last decade of heavy music in Guernsey, including members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods, the band combine a sense of friendship and fun with crushing metalcore sounds.

I caught up with them after their gig for an interview that was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 8th October 2016.

Granite Wolf interview scan - 08/10/16

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Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Sherlock: The Abominable BrideSince 2010 Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have regularly neglected their duties on the revived Doctor Who to revive another great figure of British popular culture, Sherlock Holmes, creating three series of genuine crossover event television (I had a look at series two here). At Christmas 2015 this reached something of a cross roads with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, an apparently stand alone, one-off, special taking the action from the modern-day back to its original Victorian setting.

The plot takes us back to Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson’s (Martin Freeman) first meeting, in this case in the subterranean morgue of ‘St Bart’s’ hospital, circa 1880 something, before fast forwarding to a point following the duo’s famed adventures as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So we get references to these tales, most obviously The Hound of The Baskervilles and more telling to the plot The Final Problem.

It’s in these opening sequences that the story first stumbles as the apparent need to cram in references to both Conan Doyle and Moffat and Gatiss’ own version feel somewhat heavy-handed making it harder to get immersed in both the world and the story. Once this settles down though the tale of ghostly murder does pick up and get rolling, most notably from the meeting with Mycroft (Gatiss) onwards.

The Abominable Bride

The titular bride (Natasha O’Keeffe)

As it goes on an uneasy feeling falls over the whole thing and it isn’t too long before the reasons for this become obvious and this is another slight stumble as the story is clearly trying to do two things at once. On the obvious front it wants to progress the over arching story that started back in 2010, while on the other it is trying to be a compelling mystery in its own right. This leaves the middle section very uneven and while the period setting is fun it never quite rings true.

From there it largely gives up on the period plot and the modern-day one is the focus once more leading, in a way, to some interesting situations (both fun and serious) concluding on something of a loose cliffhanger teasing ahead toward the next series (currently set for early 2017).

Performance and production wise the whole thing is as top-notch as one would expect, in fact Sherlock is consistently one of the best looking and well made BBC productions I can remember, and the Victorian period is particularly well rendered with interesting little flourishes of telegrams and newspaper cuttings echoing the text messages and online news reports of the modern-day tales.

Watson (Freeman) and Holmes (Cumberbatch)

Watson (Freeman) and Holmes (Cumberbatch)

In the end then The Abominable Bride is a mixed bag of a tale that isn’t as stand alone as I had hoped but works well within the larger context and has got me suitably excited for what’s to come. I couldn’t however help but feel I’d like to see this team tackle some of the original stories in the original setting as I think they could make them just as good and engrossing as their modern variations and breath a new life into them away from the more running and fighting Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. versions.

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