Tag Archives: grunge

The Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam – The Fermain Tavern – 11/03/17

The Sacred Hearts at The Fermain Tavern

The Sacred Hearts

After four years away early 1990s Guernsey music legends The Sacred Hearts made a rare appearance at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 11th March 2017.

Alongside fellow 90s rockers SugarSlam the band were not only celebrating a major birthday for one of their number but also helped raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity as something of a follow-up to last year’s Jonah Beats event.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 18th March 2017 and you can read it below. You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam review 18-03-17

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Against Me!, Milk Teeth and Mobina Galore – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 08/12/16

Against Me!

Against Me!

Heading into Camden’s famed Electric Ballroom venue on a surprisingly mild December evening it was clear that the night’s headliners, Floridian punk rockers Against Me!, had brought a sense of occasion with them.

Snaking down Camden High Street from the venue’s doors, waiting for them to open, was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve seen for a show all clearly attracted by the message of inclusivity the band have been championing for, at least, their last two albums but in less specific ways their whole career.

This idea of inclusivity was reflected in the supporting line up. It sounds like something that shouldn’t need commenting on but, as this was, I think, the first time it’s happened at a gig I’ve attended, all three bands were at least female fronted but in each case this was far from their defining factor.

Winnipeg duo Mobina Galore kicked off proceedings with a wall of grunge punk noise that combined the fuzz sound of Nirvana-era Seattle with the heavier end of The Offspring’s brand of pop-punk.

Mobina Galore

Mobina Galore

Jenna and Marcia were instantly captivating thanks to the sheer power of their sound, the fact there were two and not at least four people on stage was never sonically noticeable, bringing to mind the likes of The Hyena Kill and Science of Eight Limbs in different ways

This, combined with the way they worked together and obviously fed off one another’s energy, created something that got the already big and still growing audience nicely warmed up.

Had the set gone on any longer I worried their sound may have become a bit repetitive but for a raging half hour Mobina Galore were powerful and absorbing from start to finish.

It was obvious from their reception that Stroud based quartet, Milk Teeth, brought quite a following with them and as they launched in Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation before segueing into their own material that quickly gained more.

The band’s sound was rooted in pop punk but they weren’t scared to venture into heavier territory and it was when they merged the two that they hit their best moments.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth

Becky Blomfield was a constant focus with powerful vocals along with a great line in high kicks and bass playing while Billy Hutton, celebrating a year on guitar with the band, acted as a great counterpoint.

Highlights of the set came with Swear Jar and a very nice slower number from Blomfield that was the first moment of the audience consciously coming together in support of a band’s explicit lyrical sentiments – though plenty more such moments were still to come.

With a nice little speech from Hutton continuing this, Milk Teeth delivered a brilliantly uncynical performance that, judging by the audience response at the end of the set, saw them win over many new fans to their diverse punk rock sound.

As a banner revealing a pair of black and white, Rocky Horror-eque, lips was revealed and Against Me! hit the stage the now packed crowd in the sold out Electric Ballroom pushed forward and the level of excitement surpassed possibly any show I’ve ever attended.

Against Me!

Against Me!

Launching into True Trans Soul Rebel before a surprisingly powerful 333 and then Haunting, Haunted, Haunts the band matched this excellently and proceeded to ride a wave of energy with the audience for the next 90 minutes spanning their entire career, balancing older material with a focus on songs from new album Shape Shift With Me.

Despite the fact some of the subjects dealt with in Laura Jane Grace’s lyrics can be on the dark side their delivery camet with a positive attitude and a huge, infectious smile, throughout, with Dead Friends, White Crosses and Delicate, Petite and Things I’ll Never Be highlights of the first part of the set in this regard as the audience sang virtually every word back at the band, at times almost out doing the PA.

While the first half of the set would have made this a stand out show in anyone’s book something changed to elevate it even further when, in the introduction to Bamboo Bones, Grace made a comment that, while she is an atheist she got the impression that the energy she feels performing is the equivalent to that the evangelical claim to feel in church.

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard) of Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard)

This seemed to strike a particular chord with the audience, myself more than included, as we shouted back the words ‘What god doesn’t give to you, you have to go and take for yourself’ with an astonishing conviction and invoking a sense of a ‘punk rock revival meeting spiritual’ which continued for the rest of the night.

From there through Boyfriend, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I Was A Teenage Anarchist and an almost overwhelming Black Me Out, Against Me! took this further elevated energy and converted it into something truly life affirming and poignant on both a personal and social level.

Throughout the set all four members of the band were astonishing. Grace and guitarist James Bowman (the other long-standing member) clearly have a telepathic connection on stage. Inge Johansson (who joined in 2013) looked like Johnny Ramone picked up a bass and got a whole hell of a lot happier while being an energetic powerhouse and clearly having a powerful connection with Grace while Atom Willard (also in the band since 2013) was mesmerising behind the drums, truly thundering and powering the band’s folk-tinged punk rock.

Inge Johansson of Against Me!

Inge Johansson

As the audience called for more Grace headed back onto stage alone and, as well as a customary thanks to the crowd, made the point that playing in the UK means she can be pretty sure she’s not playing for anyone who voted for Trump, before delivering a particularly poignant solo version of Baby I’m An Anarchist from the band’s debut, again with full crowd vocal backing.

With the rest of the band back FuckMyLife666 and a particularly rousing Sink, Florida, Sink closed the show with the audience a sweaty, moshed up mess but still calling for more even as the house lights came up and the backing music returned.

Only beginning to disperse once Grace returned to the stage to distribute some guitar picks brought to a close one of the best night’s I’ve spent in a music venue anywhere (this may be up with the Rancid gig at Brixton in 2006 I have bored my friends about) and re-confirming a sense of punk rock (and live music in general) as not just a genre but a feeling, a lifestyle and a place that is genuinely accepting and life-affirmingly positive in an entirely uncynical way.

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SugarSlam Vs Insurrection – De La Rue – 03/12/16

Insurrection

Insurrection

It might only have been the first weekend of December but it was clear in St Peter Port on Saturday night that Christmas Party season was in full swing, so it was refreshing to find an antidote to all the forced camaraderie and bad jumpers at the De La Rue, as veteran bands Insurrection and SugarSlam marked milestone anniversaries.

With 30 years under their belts old school British-style hardcore act Insurrection only make occasional appearances these days but, with gigs in the UK over the past couple of years and talk of new recordings on the way, they are far from dormant.

As they launched into opening song Regression (following a suitably politically dark intro tape) they more than proved this with a wall of fuzz and feedback guitars, thundering drums, powerful bass and the distinctive howls of vocalists Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp.

Insurrection - Le Page and Allsopp

Le Page and Allsopp of Insurrection

While it could be argued their more political material, mostly now dating back to late 1980s, is gaining a new relevance, it’s hard to view the hardcore/anarcho punk style without a strangely nostalgic feeling, even for me who wasn’t there first time around, and it was clear tonight that any messages were largely preaching to the converted.

Newer songs like Speak Your Mind and brand new one Black Dog though felt far more immediate with less specific but still important messages and slightly more advanced sounds, Black Dog even headed into doom-like territory with quite a groove developing under the intensity.

All that said regardless of the subject matter the band played with a real ferocity and pace that, while possibly not to the taste of the more casual punters in the audience was in its way refreshing, even if this was possibly the most good-natured set I have seen from them – complete with spontaneous tequila shots mid-set from one enthusiastic audience member.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

While not quite as longstanding as Insurrection 2016 marked 25 years since SugarSlam first hit the stage, I believe at an all dayer in the bowels of Beau Sejour. The last couple of years have seen the revived band go from strength to strength with stand out performances at several shows and festivals and here they seemed to approach the gig with a new-found confidence combined with a relaxed and fun nature that really suits their grungy, power pop/rock style.

Their set may have felt on the short side but I got the feeling they were playing at a kind of hyper speed, possibly to try to follow the openers, but that didn’t stop it being a great performance that had the now expanded crowd (including several in bad jumpers by this stage) engaged.

Drawing mostly on their own songs (with a few crowd pleasing covers thrown in) their sense of fun was infectious and it’s hard not to sing along to likes of State, Crank and Psychobabble while Jackals showed the band’s heavier side.

SugarSlam - Brett and Plumb

Brett and Plumb of SugarSlam

The set culminated with AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie that, I’m told, highlighted their first ever show, before they were called back for their now customary tribute to Lemmy and blast through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades that left the audience still shouting for more.

All of this combined to make for a surprisingly relaxed night of great music away from the enforced jollity of the season and showed why, when you have the right bands, the De La Rue is capable being one of the best spaces for live music in town.

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

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Lifejacket, SugarSlam and Granite Wolf – The Fermain Tavern – 24/09/16

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

After a summer packed with festivals and outdoor music events around the islands live music headed back indoors on the last weekend of September 2016 as The Fermain Tavern kicked off its ‘Awesome Autumn’ with the first Sound Guernsey gig of the new school year for under-18s on the Friday and Lifejacket, SugarSlam and new band Granite Wolf on Saturday 24th.

Starting the season with a new band seemed particularly fitting and as soon as Granite Wolf hit the stage it was clear we were in for a treat. Comprised of former members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods there was a fair suspicion of what we could expect and no one was let done as the five-piece delivered a collection of punishing hardcore driven metal.

Granite Wolf’s short but intense set was perfect for the style of music that, if you’re not a fan, can be somewhat repetitive, though the grooves in the heaviness kept me engaged throughout.

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

While frontman Tom Domaille wasn’t quite as upfront as he was in his Brutus Stonefist days his voice was exactly we’ve come to expect while his brother Robert on bass and drummer Dan Garnham provided a visual focus as well as that groove. Mark Mercier and James Ogier on guitars delivered riff after riff in the manner that was always this troupe’s trademark in their past incarnations.

There may still be work to be done with the ‘performance’ aspect, but, for a debut outing, Granite Wolf put on a fine show and kicked off the night with a real blast in every sense.

After high-profile sets at Chaos and The Gathering the more intimate confines of The Fermain Tavern brought out a different aspect of SugarSlam with a more relaxed and fun feeling to their performance but all the while, of course, led by their excellently pitched grunge flavoured power-pop rock.

They kicked off their set in high gear and, despite a bit of a mid-set guitar problem, didn’t look back.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

Drawing on a collection of songs that spans more than 20 years they all sounded fresh from the likes of Crank and Psychobabble from their mid-90s debut to State (released earlier this year), it all fell together seamlessly and the band were as tight as they come.

There was some brand new material in the set tonight as well, and mention of a new EP in the (hopefully) near future, and that fitted in just as well. SugarSlam certainly fall into the top bracket of bands gigging in Guernsey and certainly deserve a far bigger audience (though there was a decent crowd for them tonight).

Rounding off the set with crowd pleasing covers of Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and The Sacred Hearts Adorable (a song The Slams seem to have adopted) closed their already very good set on a high.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After more choice, if slightly incongruous, pop selections from DJ Vauvert Underground, Lifejacket took to the stage and delivered the most engaging and enthusiastic set I’ve seen from them in a while.

The band have spent the last few years slowly building a dedicated fan base and that was in evidence tonight as it was clear most in attendance were totally engaged giving the band a kind of cult flavour that fits well with their general demeanour.

With new twists on older songs and some brand new material alongside Andy Sauvage (guitar, vocals), John McCarthy (bass) and Claire Moxie (drums) had the sense of a band in the midst of an evolution taking the best of what’s come before and building on it.

Claire and John of Lifejacket

Claire and John of Lifejacket

While clearly still very much Lifejacket, the new songs added more dynamic to the set and alongside a frantically paced take of crowd favourite Brains made for a hugely satisfying experience that left the crowd calling for more.

As a way to kick off the new season at the Tav I would be hard pressed to find a better choice for Guernsey’s premier music venue celebrating three rather different but complimentary rock bands that highlight the diversity of new, live music available on the island.

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

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Lord Vapour, To The Woods, Lifejackt and Gregory Harrison – The Fermain Tavern – 07/05/16

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

With a three-day weekend for Liberation Day this year the sheer amount of live music going on over the three days was huge. My musical weekend began at The Fermain Tavern where three varied but heavy rock bands took to the stage across the course of evening, following a lower key acoustic opening.

That acoustic kick off came from Gregory Harrison accompanied by his double bass playing friend. The addition of the double bass to Harrison’s usual deep and soulful acoustic rock did bring a new musical depth, but, given their lack of rehearsal time before the show meant they stuck with the more down beat material from Greg’s repertoire. This somewhat compounded the lack of engagement from the mostly distant audience most of whom stayed chatting around the back of the venue.

None-the-less Greg and his bandmate played very well and with a brand new track rounding off the set did, eventually, up the energy in their music and in the room getting a highly positive reaction from those who cared to listen.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After a fairly long break from a Guernsey stage (they did play a show in Jersey a few months ago), Lifejacket were back tonight and their time away seemed to have increased the intensity pouring from all three members of the band.

Coupled with this heightened intensity of performance came a now familiar but at times slightly reworked set of songs that drew a crowd down in front of the stage from the off.

While band leader and frontman Andy Sauvage very much focused on the songs as Lifejacket played, bass player John McCarthy provided something of a visual focus, but I have to say my only real criticism of Lifejacket tonight, particularly in comparison to the later bands, is the lack of audience engagement and showmanship during the set.

If Lifejacket were a band to focus on the technical side of their music as they play, from the off it was clear (as if I didn’t know already) that To The Woods were very much the opposite – particularly in the case of their larger than life frontman, Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle.

Bobby of To The Woods

Bobby of To The Woods

Starting the set with a new song, and dotting a few more throughout, its clear they aren’t a band resting on their musical laurels as the new numbers all develop on their grungy formula, one even brought to mind the likes of Pearl Jam from rhythm section James Ogier (bass) and Dan Garnham (drums) as Battle raged over the top in his own inimitable style.

As the set went on mosh pits and attempts at stage diving came and went, while Fire even encouraged a bit of a shout-along (though Bobby isn’t quite Freddie Mercury yet, despite his poses). The crowd did begin to drift a bit towards the end hinting that possibly To The Woods do the opposite of Lifejacket in coming across as too much about the personality as they perform – though they certainly have the songs to back it up.

A special mention has to go to Dave Riley (formerly a bandmate of Bobby in Iron Cobra) for possibly the best/worst stage dive and crowd surf the Tav has seen to date.

After a bit of a protracted break, during which much of the audience drifted away, Lord Vapour launched into their set with a wall of fuzzy, phase-y noise that just about coalesced into a slightly too loose version of their sensitively titled song, Sugar Tits.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

With Island Man they seemed to get back into a nice groove for a few songs before the lead breaks and jams grew and grew to the point where the structure of any songs fell apart.

As this happened, and midnight neared, they once again began to lose many of the audience and, while there were some great riffs and impressive moments from all three members that showed a great potential, it was hard not to see their stoner grooves as becoming unstructured noise with guitar posing from Henry Fears and Joe Le Long’s vocals descending into an uncontrolled wail.

With a few calling for an encore after a bit of a break Lord Vapour rounded their set with what may or may not have been a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady that closed the show off on an odd note given the very impressive performances that had come before.

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

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Doomed, Dangerous and Dashing – The Fermain Tavern – 13/02/16

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

As soon as doors opened at The Fermain Tavern on Valentine’s weekend there was a sense of anticipation in the air, and not for the annual forced celebration of all things consumerist that happens on 14th February. Instead what people were looking forward to was, not only a night of great new music, but also the return to the stage of two of the island’s most popular bands in Last of the Light Brigade and, opening the show, Byzanthian Neckbeard.

After nearly two years away from a Guernsey stage (in which time they’ve lost a guitarist) doom metallers Byzanthian Neckbeard made a statement from the off with the use of sheer volume. Normally Paul ‘Taz’ Etasse’s drums are the loudest things in any room, but here the sound blasting from Phil Skyrme’s twin amp stacks outstripped even that.

It would have been easy for such volume to be too much but, given the style of music being played, it made for the perfect, crushing, sound and emphatically made the point that this band are back.

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Playing as a three-piece now the sound has morphed slightly with less of the ‘solos’ (if that’s the word) and feedback work, but it was just as satisfying. Phil’s screaming, roaring, vocals were suitably backed in places by Dan Robilliard’s while Dan’s bass locked into tight, thunderous grooves with Taz’s drums to great effect, leading to the highlight of the set for me in the very groove driven closing number.

With a large crowd down in front of the stage throughout, Byzanthian Neckbeard felt like a band with something to prove and they certainly delivered not just ear-splitting volume but heavy, powerful songs that all combined in a performance that could rival bands of this style at any level.

The audience was already warmed up and still growing as To The Woods launched into their set with more purpose than I’ve seen from them in sometime and certainly having a large, enthusiastic crowd seems to add extra power to frontman Bobby Battle’s already impressive energy.

To The Woods

To The Woods

It was at this point that it struck me that, with the cross-section of ages and fans of different genres, the audience gathered at the Tavern bore more of a resemblance to those at the L’Ancresse Lodge and such in the past, than any I have seen in a while, adding even more fuel to the good atmosphere.

With a couple of new songs further bolstering To The Woods selection they tore through the set with aplomb, with Bobby ending up in the crowd on at least three occasions. Bass player James Ogier meanwhile, looked to be having as good a time as ever as his more understated performance included a spot on delivery while drummer Dan Garnham was on blistering form.

While this was happening on stage a pit kicked off on the floor in a way I haven’t seen in a long time, complete with stage diving from Bobby’s former Iron Cobra band mate Dave Riley.

To The Woods

Dave takes a dive

When To The Woods first formed Bobby made the point that it was a band he hoped would make people sit up and take notice and, based of this performance, that’s certainly what they’ve done.

With Byzanthian Neckbeard providing the doom and To The Woods providing the danger (certainly for those in the path of Bobby when he headed off stage), it was down to indie rockers Last of the Light Brigade to bring the night’s dashing element.

After a spell on the (no doubt financially more lucrative) local cover and function circuit Tyler Edmonds and Stu Carre have now solidified the four-piece version of the band they founded more than a decade ago, with Kyle Torode on bass and John McCarthy seemingly now a permanent addition on second guitar.

The time away from regularly playing their own material may have seen the band’s followers drift and, combined with the quite major difference in style from the night’s earlier bands, left them playing to a noticeably smaller crowd. As the set went on though the number on the dancefloor rallied as people got into Light Brigade’s slightly tweaked sound.

Last of the Light Brigade

Tyler of Last of the Light Brigade

The new line up has morphed the band’s earlier mod-revival/indie-punk sound into something with a little more reserved cool to it. Still present are the attitude and songs of old but added to it is something of the swagger demonstrated by the likes Of Empires, making for an ultimately satisfying combination typified on new song, and set opener, Sweat.

With such a long time playing together it was clear to see the onstage relationship between Tyler and Stu, with Tyler a more confident frontman than ever. Next to this Kyle and John still come across as the ‘new guys’ with Kyle often almost playing up to the audience too much and John, if anything, doing the opposite and hiding in the shadows.

As the set went on, and the crowd got more involved, it clearly helped the band increase their energy further on stage leading to a closing duo of older songs My Girlfriend’s Been Sectioned and an extended Little Billy rounding off a great night of music that excellently showed off just a small selection of the impressive new and original music being made and played in the island.

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

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To The Woods – Those Deadbeats and Self-Titled EP

To The Woods - Those Deadbeats album cover

Those Deadbeats artwork

Those Deadbeats

Since 2012 To The Woods have been forging a reputation based on their powerful and, in their words, ‘lairy’ live shows. In October 2015 they released their long-awaited debut album, recorded over the summer of 2014, with a spectacular show at The Fermain Tavern.

Having been recorded quite a while before its release the Those Deadbeats feels like something of a time capsule of To The Woods as, not only does it feature the bands original line up (with Jake Martel on bass, since replaced by James Ogier), it features songs that have since fallen from their live set.

The album starts off exactly as anyone who has seen the band would expect, with a grunge influenced sound over which the unique vocals of Robert Battle roar. Album opener Deadend in particular captures all of this well and brings to mind Nevermind-era Nirvana with a slightly more lo-fi and down to earth edge.

To The Woods original line up

To The Woods original line up

As the record goes on there is a surprising amount of dynamic in the band’s song writing with punky smashes to the face like Fire sitting alongside potentially more considered numbers such as The Ballad and even the seemingly autobiographical on the, in its way, witty, Taxi.

This sense of dynamic is something that can be lost when To The Woods are storming through a live set so its nice to be able to hear it here.

On top of this two of the tracks are clearly augmented with extra musicians in comparison to their live versions with Is This Rock and Roll featuring extra vocals and guitars from Sugarslam’s Pete Bretel and Last of the Light Brigade’s Tyler Edmonds while The Ballad features Tyler and, on distortion drenched violin, Gregory Harrison.

Unfortunately there are points on the record where the lo-fi grungy aesthetic goes a bit too far with drums and vocals occasionally getting lost in the mix behind walls of distorted guitar and surprisingly brittle cymbal sounds.

To The Woods

Robert Battle of To The Woods

The other thing that seems to be lost, and I’ve no idea how you’d capture it, is some of the energy of To The Woods live performances. As this really is what has gained them their reputation it makes the album feel like it’s not all it could be. As I say though, quite how you’d capture this on record I don’t know.

What this all combines to make is something of a mixed bag, certainly its far from being a bad album and Those Deadbeats demonstrates many of things that make To The Woods what they, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing.

Note: I’ve been informed since publishing this that the originally released CD version of the album suffered some issues in the post-production process, a re-mastered edition is set to be released on Bandcamp


Self-titled EP

As well as Those Deadbeats October 2015 saw To The Woods release a self-titled EP.

While released simultaneously, the six-track collection was recorded a year later with the band’s new line up with James Ogier on bass and from the off the development is huge.

T’Otherside kicks things off like a comparative punch to the gut with deeper, thicker instrument tones as well as (for the most part) far more advanced songwriting.

To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

The 2015 line up of To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

Five of the six tracks have become highlights of the band’s live set in recent months with Hit The Switch and Burmuda being two of the band’s strongest songs.

This EP captures much more of their live essence than the album and, while Robert Battle’s unique stage presence and charisma will never be harnessed on record, this is a close second and certainly captures their sound far more suitably.

The songs here all have a more rounded feel to them retaining elements of the grungy, punk-ish sounds of the first album but added to this is a more hard indie aspect. In a recent interview the band said they started out wanting to play music similar to Brit rockers Reuben and what is captured here is certainly closer to that in tone, both in its production and songwriting, albeit in the band’s own style.

To The Woods EP cover art

EP artwork

With all of this the production work from James Le Huray serves the songs far better here with studio effects used well to augment the songs and, in particular, offer definition to Battle’s constantly roaring vocals.

In comparison to Those Deadbeats the EP is a far more satisfying listen and manages to go someway to doing what remains impossible of capturing at least an aspect of the band’s live presence.

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Tantale – Just Add Vice

Tantale - Just Add Vice - coverA little over three years ago ‘alt rock’ four-piece Tantale released The Known Elements, their debut album, with much fanfare, including a packed gig at The Fermain Tavern that was one of the highlight shows of that year following their victory in a local battle of the bands.

Now, at the tail end of 2015, album number two has landed into a very different musical landscape that has seen Tantale almost fall by the wayside as the likes of Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and others have become the island’s highlight bands.

With that in mind Tantale took the interesting step of releasing Just Add Vice in more modest fashion with a series of smaller gigs (as close to a tour as is possible in Guernsey) to promote the album but, on listening to the record, the band have no need of modesty.

Across the 12 tracks Steve, Louis, Matt and Graham come across as far more confident in their music as, rather than trying to fit a particular style, they let their own identity comes across much more strongly, giving a varied sound that ends up being distinctively Tantale. Across the album there are (known?) elements of grunge, indie, prog and vaguely psychedelic notes that combine to make something at once familiar but still interesting and far from derivative.

Tantale

Tantale in their bunker studio

Steve Wickins’ easily recognisable vocals, and occasionally seemingly nonsense but atmospheric lyrics, give the whole thing a cohesive nature, while he and Louis Le Couteur use their guitars to create fuzzy, at times drone-y, reverb drenched soundscapes.

Under this Matt Smart and Graham Duerden create a deeply textured rhythm with Graham’s drums and percussion in particular standing out in their diversity – where else will you hear a device allegedly made from llama’s toenails on record!?

If you want a sample of what Tantale offer here in microcosm you could do far worse than having a listen to the double-header of Go To Get Gone and The Question, Just Add Vice’s second and third tracks, that demonstrate everything the band do well in two rather different ways. Go To Get Gone is a short blasting rocker of a track while The Question offers an expansive aural soundscape that builds from an acoustic opening to fuzz and reverb laden richness and back again.

Tantale at Vale Earth Fair 2014

Tantale at Vale Earth Fair 2014

Along with all of the this Tantale also display their own off beat sense of humour too, at least I assume that’s what it is, on the potential thoughtful but almost Pythonesquely surreal Ode To Swedish and the more obviously funny <You’re An Ass>.

While there are points where I found myself zoning out in the middle of the album, even here the nature of the music made it an excellent soundscape like affair.

As a whole Just Add Vice is as unique an album as you’d expect from a band as diverse in composition as Tantale and shows a real growth and return to form for a band who, for a few years, seemed to have lost their way.

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The Graveltones, SugarSlam, Tadhg Daly and Chloe Le Page – The Fermain Tavern – 13/11/15

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

Friday 13th November 2015 will go down in history as a tragic day, and one that hit home to the international music community, following events at the Bataclan in Paris (and elsewhere around the city).

While that was happening though the music continued, and will continue, in many places and one such was The Fermain Tavern where (an admittedly slightly small) crowd had gathered to catch garage-blues two-piece The Graveltones along with Guernsey’s SugarSlam and Chloe Le Page and Jersey boys Tadhg Daly.

Chloe was first on stage with a set of acoustic pop with a bit of blues, a bit of country and a bit of rock thrown in to give it a nice edge. Following time gigging in the UK in recent months Chloe’s performance here had grown hugely in confidence with a more measured delivery allowing the real feeling to come through in her original songs – particularly Oblivion and Heartbreaker.

Chloe Le Page

Chloe Le Page

With a few covers to end some of her previous nerves clearly came back but she carried an acoustic take on AC/DC’s Highway To Hell well to finish Chloe delivered probably the best performance I’ve seen from her yet that was very well received by the audience.

After a slightly lengthy break (it transpired the frontman had misplaced his capo) Tadhg Daly and his band took to the stage. Being relatively regular visitors to the island each show has seen them develop and build their sound from a relaxed kind of acoustic driven alternative rock to, now, something much more grunge influenced. Within that here they still retained the relaxed and ‘loose’ personality they’ve always had, just with a much louder backing with Tadhg now armed with a Telecaster rather than an acoustic.

Tadhg Daly

Tadhg Daly

During the songs themselves though the band were musically tight and Tadhg displayed some great impassioned delivery of his vocals as well as really working his guitar while both he and guitarist Zach Pygott rode waves of feedback to create a kind of dark summer night grunge pop.

With a small audience who were largely new to the band, they went down well even if the crowd were largely happy to be curious observers rather than invested interactors, which at points seemed to frustrate Daly. But none the less it was a good set even if the loud sounds did lack a certain edge they seemed to be calling out for.

Following what all accounts suggest was a great return on Halloween, SugarSlam were back and loud here. Though the audience remained fairly low energy the band did their best with the atmosphere in the room with frontman Plumb really putting on a great show regardless as Brett Stewart’s manic drums powered things forward.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With a lot of new material, alongside songs from both their previous albums (Crank was a particular highlight for me), SugarSlam showed they aren’t resting on their previous work and are continually moving forward and appeared determined about that and just as full of piss and vinegar as ever.

Ending their set with Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, dedicated to the late Philthy Animal Taylor, SugarSlam played a set of grungey power pop designed to tear the house down, though they maybe only cracked the walls and smashed the windows tonight.

It was clear as soon as The Graveltones took to the stage that they were who everyone had come out to see as the dancefloor area was soon busy. Having gained a reputation in the Channel Islands following a couple of appearances at Jersey Live this was my first chance to catch them and, from the start, they came across like the bastard offspring of Heave and The Black Keys delivering sweaty, loud, energetic, glitchy, blues driven rock ‘n’ roll.

Both members of the band brought an unorthodox style to their performance. Jimmy O was seemingly one with his guitar as he writhed his body back and forth across the stage and howled into the mic. Meanwhile Mikey Sorbello thundered on the drums with an amazingly deft touch for such a huge sound and all delivered with a contrasting sense of serene contentment.

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

The first half of the set was all loud, over driven, blues rock that really connected with the audience who, though not up for moving around a lot, were clearly really into it, as the songs flowed one into the other like some kind of spiky disjointed yet perfectly formed stream of sonically abused consciousness.

For a time things took on a more boogie rock ‘n’ roll flavour before returning to the blues but, by this point, I have to admit my interest began to wane somewhat. The Graveltones may be the perfect band for a half hour festival set or in a packed and sweaty club, but tonight it just felt like they went on a little too long and as their set past the hour mark I began to wonder if they were nothing more than a fairly standard blues band with a relatively flimsy gimmick…

The Graveltones

Despite that their performance really couldn’t be faulted and in light of other events taking place as they blasted their music forth from guitars and amps and speakers and drums the duo summed up something of the strength, power and vitality of live music that must be celebrated and experienced now more than ever.

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Lifejacket, To The Woods, Paper Saints and Ollie Goddard – The Vault – 12/09/15

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

While Jersey celebrated Pride and the Proms were playing on the Pier the Leo Club of Guernsey put on a show at The Vault in St Peter Port to raise money for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind.

First on stage was Ollie Goddard, frontman of indie rockers Coastal Fire Dept., in acoustic solo mode. Playing a selection of ‘covers’ of the band he fronts, along with a Pixies number or two, he played with a sense of conviction that showed these songs come from a very real place.

While most in The Vault seemed content to treat it as background music, those watching and listening were given a good show – but I couldn’t help thinking the songs would be taken to a new level with a full band behind them.

Things took a turn for the poppy as Paper Saints took to the stage. This was my first time catching the band that evolved from the now defunct Party In Paris and, while the have retained the pop vibe, it now comes with a much more synth heavy flavour.

Paper Saints

Paper Saints

With the music lead primarily by Toby Boucher’s keyboard, and with an electronic drum kit and occasional saxophone, it was like taking a trip to the 80s, but unfortunately without the energy of the like of Depeche Mode, Eurythmics or Yazoo.

While the band, for the most part, all delivered their parts well it was hard to escape the slow pace of the songs that led to whole set feeling a bit on the flat side and failed to show any member in their best light. The distraction of a mid-set raffle announcement didn’t really help matters either.

The music couldn’t have been much more different next with To The Woods firing off on their return to the bars of St Peter Port after their performance at the White Hart earlier in the summer. It seemed frontman Bobby Battle was in confrontational mode, despite most of the crowd actually being on his side this time round, and while their were fireworks in the sky outside he brought his own to his band’s performance.

To The Woods

To The Woods

Despite this the band’s usual, positive energy wasn’t far away as Battle relaxed into the set, including a mid song drinks order over the stage-side bar, while James Ogier was even more animated on stage and Dan Garnham looked more like a barely contained drumming animal behind the venue’s much discussed drum screen.

While the audience drifted somewhat (possibly due to the Proms’ fireworks display outside) most returned by the end and even got a brief mosh pit going to round off another storming set in To The Woods’ journey to their upcoming double album release next month.

After another brief charity raffle announcement post-rockers Lifejacket hit the stage with the more focused approach they showed at the Vale Earth Fair still solidly intact. From the start they blitzed through the set with high-speed and huge energy that has always typified their music.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

While the crowd initially drifted again, possibly due to the tonal change, as the set went on they warmed to it while Lifejacket were at their most engaging with Andy Sauvage’s focused, intense delivery backed up by a loose and relaxed John McCarthy on bass and the powerful drums of Claire Mockett.

A brand new song near the end of the set typified all that has become Lifejacket’s sound, showing a band developing strongly but still keeping their essence intact. Set closer Yacht Shoes brought things to an end with a wall of distorted sound all of which seemed to go down very well with both the crowd and the staff of the bar.

Being a charity show of course one of the main aims, as well as showcasing some great music, was to raise some money and over the course of the evening more than £800 was raised for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind making it a successful night all round and another great example of alternative music getting heard in St Peter Port.

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

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