Tag Archives: music

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Optimist

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly - OptimistGiven the fact that Ed Sheeran has recently almost filled the entire ‘singles’ top ten with songs from his latest album it’s hard to escape the fact that when Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (aka Sam Duckworth) released his debut album The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager back in 2006 he was more than slightly ahead of his time.

Following further albums (including Maps which I reviewed a few years back) Get Cape called it a day to be replaced by solo albums from Duckworth and, more recently, the Recreations EP and album. But now he has returned to the original moniker and sound with two-track single Optimist, in a way that not only feels current with the content of the charts but also timed expertly to go with what’s going on in the UK’s political sphere.

While the Get Cape sound evolved over the years it’s clear from the start that Optimist is firmly heading back into classic territory with Sam’s acoustic guitar and voice leading the charge backed by an array of beats, samples and brass.

The title track continues in Get Cape’s ever-present vein of people politics, focusing on the individual, generally in a way that feels autobiographical, but lacing it through with a message that can be taken into a wider context.

Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Meanwhile the B-side, National Health, is more obviously pointedly political but presents this in a double meaning manner that helps make its point all the stronger. Given the title and Sam’s famous political leanings I don’t think I need go into too much detail.

As with all ‘protest music’ (for wont of a better description) all the messages would be for nought if the tunes weren’t there too and I’m very pleased to report that, while not as exciting and new as this was a decade or so ago, Get Cape has lost nothing in his musicality leading to a pair of tracks that certainly come with a purpose but are also highly listenable and, given their beats and rhythms, danceable in an indie disco kind of way.

Welcome back Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. I hope this is the start of a new chapter as it certainly feels like the pop music world really needs a firebrand actually saying something important at the moment.

While there’s not a video for either of the tracks from the single since their release Get Cape has posted another new track, Alibi, to his YouTube channel, so I’ll put that as the video for this post…

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Rancid – Trouble Maker

Rancid - Trouble Maker album coverThe better part of three decades into their career it’s fair to say Rancid have slipped into the territory of being, at least to a degree, elder statesmen of the Californian punk scene and the wider global punk scene with it, possibly even more so than relative contemporaries like Green Day (another band to release a new album in the last 12 months) due to their previous lives in other bands and generally maintained credibility throughout.

Now, with Trouble Maker, their ninth studio album, they continue a trend that began after 2003’s Indestructible of creating something enjoyable and generally satisfying but hard to remove from something of a ‘by the numbers’ feel.

Within that though there’s still a lot to like, kicking off in their usual upbeat mode with a short, punchy number, Track Fast, before lead singles Ghost of a Chance and the acoustic tinged Telegraph Avenue, that bears strong hallmarks of Tim ‘Timebomb’ Armstrong’s solo side project.

From there it twists and turns through the usual sounds we’ve come to expect from the dancefloor filling ska of Where I’m Going to the more hardcore influence of All American Neighborhood to the positive pogoing material of Goodbye Lola Blue along with (sort of) title track An Intimate Close Up Of A Street Punk Troublemaker‘s shout along chorus.

Rancid 2017

Rancid (Steineckert, Armstong, Frederiksen and Freeman)

As ever Armstrong’s slurred and intentionally lose delivery is counterpointed by Lars Frekeriksen’s precise and barked vocal and guitar parts while Matt Freeman’s bass playing brings the rock ‘n’ roll and relative newcomer (this is his third album with the band), drummer, Branden Steineckert keeps the punk rock power pounding throughout.

As with Honour Is All We Know as the album goes on there are points where the tracks begin to run together somewhat, but it has to be said that where this happens Rancid’s sound is enough to carry them through, particularly for a fan.

While its far from musically revolutionary what Rancid continue to do with Trouble Maker is something that I think is a strong part of their longevity as, while they don’t sing directly about politics or protest, their portraits of characters and life in and around their original base in the East Bay reflects something larger and more universal in many ways, while also generally being supremely engaging, charismatic and entertaining.

Tim Armstrong - Rancid 2017

Armstrong/Timebomb live circa 2017

With all this in mind there is something of a sense that Rancid may have become a little like the punk rock AC/DC or Motörhead, releasing albums that, while maybe not surprising or ‘classic’ in the way …And Out Come The Wolves was, are involving and enjoyable in just the right ways and remain packed with songs made for the live environment with the potential for singalongs, skanking and pogoing galore.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey live at Arts Sunday – St Peter Port – 04/06/17

The Recks on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

The Recks

With the seafront in St Peter Port thronging with people BBC Introducing in Guernsey added a unique mix of new sounds to Guernsey Arts Commission’s Arts Sunday event for a third year.

As folk trio Blue Mountains took to the stage a crowd had already gathered and they weren’t disappointed.

Fresh from recording a new EP (due out in the coming weeks) the band’s set was drawn mostly from this new material and started the day off in fine fashion.

That new EP’s title track, Hummingbird,was again a highlight as was their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl.

Blue Mountains on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Blue Mountains

While the set was darkly soulful in places, as we’ve come to expect, it provided a relaxed start to the day and as the sun shone they held an audience and seemed to attract some new fans as well.

While the name may be similar to his full band, Buffalo Huddleston’s leader Mike Meinke, aka Buff Hudd, brings a very different dynamic with his solo performances.

Playing a more percussive style of acoustic guitar, creating both rhythm and melody he held the audience enraptured even in this busy atmosphere.

Buff Hudd on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Buff Hudd

Despite the attention to detail of the style, his performance remained upbeat and relaxed and was highlighted by a very impressive version of recent single Don’t Worry Yourself delivered in Japanese and the genuinely unique Monolimbtastic, written to be played even if the performer has a broken left wrist.

While the first two acts had been on the more low-key side of things the energy was soon kicked up several gears by Tantale.

Fresh off a UK tour the four-piece seemed more focussed than ever leading to one of the best sets I’ve seen from them. 

With new material mixed in with the old they wrangled their epic psychedelic side in with their driving grunge rock and seemed to grab a crowd largely unfamiliar with their music and keep the engaged throughout.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

Amongst the well-known tracks they also slotted in a few new songs suggesting more of the same great sounds in the follow-up to Just Add Vice.

The energy jumped up again as The Recks took to the stage, newly revived after a string of shows in Guernsey and Jersey including Reasons and Liberation Day, they attracted the biggest crowd of the afternoon.

It was clear some in the audience weren’t familiar with the band but many quickly got into the sounds and discovered a lot to like in the fusion of folk, jazz, indie and psychedelia (and even a little disco) flying from the stage.

The Recks on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

The Recks

New song She’s A Revelator has quickly become a standout track and was again here while the likes of She Wants That Too had people singing along to the chorus as the enigmatic quintet provided a musical highlight of the day.

After a brief shower that did little to dampen the atmosphere along the seafront Thee Jenerators hit the stage with a nonstop blast of their typically erratic and raucous garage rock that began with City At Night and ended 45 minutes or so later with Daddy Bones with barely a breath taken throughout. 

The set was packed with favourites new and old with bandleader Mark Le Gallez a constantly moving bundle of nervous energy driving them onward.

Thee Jenerators on the BBC Introducing stage

Thee Jenerators

While it’s probably true to say a sunny afternoon outside isn’t Thee Jenerators natural habitat, they didn’t seem to let that deter them and, as all the other acts did, held a fair-sized crowd throughout with a mix of longtime fans and those hearing them from the first time.

As the seafront began to clear and the various stalls and stages that lined it and the piers were packed away, there was a sense that both with this stage, and the event as a whole, Arts Sunday had once again created a genuinely celebratory atmosphere with music at the heart of it.

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

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Milk Teeth – Vile Child

Milk Teeth - Vile Child coverLast December I caught Stroud based four-piece Milk Teeth supporting Against Me! as part of their UK tour and was suitably impressed by the young band’s punk rock sound and attitude and their debut album, Vile Child, released earlier in 2016, certainly impresses as well.

Kicking off as it means to continue with the blunt and sudden Brickwork, Milk Teeth set out their stall early with grunge sounds mixing with more current punk rock to create something, that if I didn’t know better, would sound totally American and also entirely current and powerful.

The first half of the record continues this with key touchstones clearly coming out of Seattle, and Nirvana in particular, though bassist Becky Blomfield and (now former) guitarist Josh Bannister’s vocals, that range from the subtle and melodic to the raging, give Milk Teeth their own strong identity.

Milk Teeth 2016

Milk Teeth (early 2016)

A stand out track of the album marks something of a shift in the sound of things. Swear Jar (Again) is unique on the record with a slower tone and was also a standout of their live set last December.

From there the grunge style is developed with something akin to the likes of Reuben and Therapy? being added to the mix giving it a more post-hardcore flavour including some genuinely raging moments that serve to give the album a great sense of dynamic.

While in the hands of some these shifting sounds could make it sound disjointed this all holds together nicely and, while it does in a way, sound like simply a bunch of songs stuck on a disc (there is no immediately evident theme), it does still have a feeling of being a complete piece of work.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth (live late 2016)

This leads to it being one of the stronger debut albums I’ve heard from a band in some time, with a lot of promise of great things to come from this band who more recently seem to have become a favourite of Kerrang! magazine (for what that’s worth in this day and age).

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Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen coverBruce Springsteen, The Boss, Born in the USA and Born To Run, the man who brought the New Jersey blue-collar ethic into the world of the New York rock scene. Certainly he is all of these things, but, in his autobiography, Born To Run, he does a great job tempering a tale of success beyond the realms of almost anyone else, with a personal story that is genuinely emotionally effecting and shows how, even in his position, there can be a darkness that could bring it all crashing down like the most perilous high wire act.

Unlike most of the other autobiographies I’ve read, that of Springsteen is something a little different as I am not as wholly immersed in his work as I have been that in that of Laura Jane Grace or Kurt Cobain, for example.

That said, and somewhat appropriately, the work of Bruce Springsteen falls into a category I’d best describe as ‘my dad’s music’, with the likes of Born in the USA soundtracking many road trips down through France in my youth, so a lot of the music is familiar to me on at least a subconscious level.

For two-thirds or so of the book it is much as you’d expect from any musician’s life story charting his career from first picking up a cheap guitar  all the way to playing shows to tens of thousands in stadia around the world.

Bruce Springsteen in 2016

Springsteen in 2016

As with many such stories for me the most interesting part is in how he first became, The Boss. Growing up in working class New Jersey, playing in various bar bands and then how he translated that into his early commercial success.

Along with that comes, of course, the story of The E Street Band. This is something a little different, as is their career, as Springsteen makes it clear throughout while they are his backing band, they are at the same time more than that. Some are given more time than others with ‘Little Steven’ Van Zandt and ‘The Big Man’ Clarence Clemons particularly featured, but all given at least their moment in the spotlight.

There are points in this, and in the discussions about Springsteen’s other work, where his style of band leading borders on a kind of egocentric arrogance but, through his descriptions at least, it always lands just on the right side of the necessary confidence for his role (though it’s clear not all his band mates have always shared this opinion and he doesn’t hide away from that).

The E Street Band

A late 1970s version The E Street Band

This is all as interesting as one would expect from such a career and as he goes through albums song by song it is a fascinating insight into the themes and thoughts that have created one of the most successful musicians and performer forms of the last 40 years and, while more light is shone on the bigger songs and records, it seems like everything is given an appropriate time and space, no matter the commercial success it received.

The other third of the book though is where Born To Run genuinely becomes something more as Springsteen focuses on his family and, as it goes on, more specifically his father and their shared mental health.

In its early stages it seems as if Springsteen senior is at once a huge presence but a massive emotional absence in young Bruce’s life and as it goes on this has clear emotional resonance on the growing musician. In the second half of the book this shifts as Springsteen explores not only his father’s mental health problems but begins to address his own.

Bruce Springsteen - Asbury Park

Springsteen in Asbury Park

This leads to what are the most interesting parts of the book as Springsteen discusses his own depression in the most frank and lyrical manner I’ve possibly ever heard or read. As well as the more factual side of his conditions he doesn’t shy away from describing the more day-to-day side and the way it makes him feel in relation to his own life, something often skipped in my experience of stories like this.

What this does is make what could have been a perfectly serviceable autobiography into something far more and, crucially, something that could be of huge importance to much of its audience who, traditionally, are the least likely to address mental health issues.

Also of course the other sign that’s it’s done it’s job is that I do now want to more consciously explore Springsteen’s back catalogue with the extra context that it seems is crucial to understanding it all and that makes much of it just as fitting in the current political situation as it was when it was written up to nearly half a century ago.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: May 2017 – Static Alice, Mura Masa and The Recks

Static Alice - BBC Introducing Guernsey

Static Alice

Click here to listen to the show

The May 2017 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey was a little different to usual with no live session but interviews with a range of artists and a look at the upcoming BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage on Arts Sunday.

Static Alice were my main guests as they release their new EP Warrior and told me about making the new record and their plans for the band.

Following his nomination for an Ivor Novello award and ahead of the release of his debut album we heard from mura masa (aka Guernsey-born producer Alex Crossan).

And as part of a look at the Arts Sunday event we heard from The Recks as well as featuring tracks from Thee JeneratorsTANTALEBuff Hudd and Blue Mountains

You can listen to the show for 30 on the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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Static Alice – Warrior EP

Static Alice - Warrior - coverStatic Alice have spent the last few years carving out their own niche in Guernsey’s music scene including festival headline slots at Chaos and The Gathering as well as countless gigs at most of the island’s venues.

Along with this they have previously released two records, an album The Ghost of Common Sense and EP Beautiful Mystery and now they’ve returned with a new EP, Warrior, that they launched with a show at The Fermain Tavern.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 27th May 2017

Static Alice - Warrior review - 27/05/17

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Static Alice EP launch with Honest Crooks, track not found and Common Room – The Fermain Tavern – 20/05/17

Static Alice

Static Alice

After making their reputation with countless live shows over the last few years Static Alice have also found the time to record and release both a full length album and EP, and now, they’ve marked the releases of their third record, another EP titled Warrior, with what looked set to be a special show at The Fermain Tavern.

Continuing something of a trend they began a while ago two of the support acts were at the newer and younger end of the scene, with acoustic pop trio Common Room on stage first.

With acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocals and a very pop sensibility, Common Room presented something a bit different to many acts over here. Vocalist Olivia Manheim seemed to have all the ingredients to be an excellent an engaging front person, though maybe was a little restrained in the face of a small and distant audience here.

Common Room

Common Room

Common Room were at their best when all three members relaxed into the performance as happened a few times, particularly on an impressive original song and as the set went on, and they definitely made a good impression on the small audience.

Second of the young bands was track not found. While they took a couple of songs to hit their stride once they did their combination of grunge, punk and indie rock sounded as good as ever.

While Grace Tayler leads the band with a singular presence that brings to mind Dresden Doll’s Amanda Palmer run through a noisy rock filter, Emma Thomas (drums) and Maisie Bison (bass and vocals) more than ably fill out the rest of the sound, with both carving their own niche within the band.

track not found

track not found

Once again the band gave it their all with Code Red and Ecstasy being particular highlights of a set that continued to win over new fans.

Like the headliners, Honest Crooks are another band who’d taken a bit for a break from live shows earlier in the year.

After outings at Chaos at the Jam and for the Vale Earth Fair’s Liberation Day show at The Last Post where they added organ and saxophone player Naomi Burton to their line up, they brought this more developed ska sound to The Tav .

Being my first time seeing this version of the band I wasn’t sure what to expect and it did take them a little longer than usual to settle into their normal fun and upbeat vibe but, once they were there, the additional sounds really lifted the music to a new level with the best moments allowing a new sonic dynamic between James Radford’s guitar and the organ and saxophone parts.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a couple of new songs thrown into the mix, along with some old favourites and a couple of well-chosen covers, Honest Crooks drew the most people onto the dancefloor but with still only a small crowd the set didn’t quite live up to their much deserved reputation.

Even though they were launching a new record Static Alice started out in much the way they usually do with a selection of their now fairly well-known and established pop-rockers, in typically tight and energetic fashion.

Unfortunately with most of the audience seemingly more interested in the bar than the band their efforts did little more than elicit some light bopping from the dedicated few who remained on the dancefloor.

A decent mid set run at Audioslave’s Cochise (the set’s only cover), in tribute to the recently departed Chris Cornell, seemed to grab a little more interest but this soon waned which is a real shame as, as I’ve said before, Static Alice have a strong line in hooky, driven, rock that, at its best, can really get a crowd going.

Static Alice

Static Alice

With three of the four tracks from the Warrior EP saved for a final blast and demonstrating a slightly heavier side to the band even these fell flat as the obvious effort being put in from in the stage seemed to be lost in an energy sucking void before it reached the audience.

While there are always reasons for low turn outs at shows this one felt particularly hard to reconcile given the effort all four acts put in but it ultimately turned what should have been a celebratory night of high energy music into something disappointingly flat.

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

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Of Empires – See You With The Angels Kid

Of Empires - See You With The Angels Kid cover artAfter a bit of a break making their reputation on the live circuit, Of Empires have released the follow-up to their debut EP Stranger Sensations with See You With The Angels Kid.

Originally formed in Guernsey the four-piece rock ‘n’ roll outfit are now based in Brighton and have supported the likes of Highly Suspect and Adam Ant while also appearing at The Great Escape festival in their now hometown.

My review of See You With The Angels Kid was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th May 2017.

Of Empires - See You With The Angels Kid EP - Guernsey Press 20/05/17

(Note: No intent was meant to imply producer Ian Davenport wrote the songs, to my knowledge the songwriting is all the bands work!)

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Guernsey Literary Festival presents The Recks, Heidi Joubert and Harry Baker – The Fermain Tavern – 13/05/17

The Recks

The Recks

Every year the Guernsey Literary Festival sets aside a night of its week-long event to combine music and poetry in the live environment of The Fermain Tavern. In the past this has welcomed the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnston, Attila The Stockbroker and Ruts DC and this year, in a slight twist, it featured world poetry slam champion Harry Baker, jazz percussion YouTube sensation Heidi Joubert and our own schizophrenic indie folksters, The Recks.

With the venue already busy early on Heidi Joubert took to the stage with her band for a soundcheck that, it transpired, had been delayed by the artists being unable to find the venue during the afternoon (and seemingly the festival organisers unable to give them suitable directions or chaperone them accordingly), so this set things off in an odd way and, seemingly, reduced the length of Baker’s performance as well.

Harry Baker

Harry Baker

This was doubly a shame as, for the five or six poems we were treated to, Baker was excellent. From the surreal flight of fancy Dinosaur Love to a poem about the love between a pair of prime numbers, to his tongue twisting, poetry slam winning, piece of verse centred on the letter P, Baker was one of the most entertaining and engaging performers I’ve witnessed, particularly when you consider he came armed with nothing but his voice and his words.

With a largely subtle performance side setting off his word play, he was a delight and, while I didn’t quite get the parody aspect of his Ed Sheeran reworking, it rounded off his set with a barrage of excellent puns turning a Sheeran love song into something I don’t doubt is far more entertaining and endearing than the original – I just wish there’d been time for more.

After a brief break The Heidi Joubert Trio returned to the stage and proceeded to stumble and dawdle their way through a set of easy listening, Latin style, jazz – interspersed with much talking to the sound man and trying to convince the audience to at once ‘shake it’ and, later on, be quiet!

A little research after the show seems to indicate that much of Joubert’s fame stems from a video of her busking on a train going viral on Facebook and she wasn’t shy in telling us about that during the set either, but what may work in a short online clip failed to remain interesting for the better part of an hour.

Heidi Joubert

Heidi Joubert

Rather than a collection of songs what we experienced felt like a disorganised jam of a set and, while all three were clearly very good players, it didn’t come together to make anything approaching an enjoyable whole and mostly amounted to a lot of other people’s riffs and lyrics forced into jammed out grooves and delivered with a sense of knowing arrogance that was ultimately hugely frustrating.

After that something needed to happen and, thankfully, The Recks delivered.

With something more of an energetic attitude than I have seen from them in a long time they launched into their set (a very similar line up of songs to that heard on Liberation Day) at breakneck pace and never looked back.

All five members of the band seemed intent on making their mark and, while Richey Powers was just the frontman we’ve come to expect, it was Gregory Harrison who really seemed to up his game revealing an intensity previously only hinted at and perfectly fitting his place in the band.

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

With next single In The Garden taking on something of a new spirit and the twisted disco of new song She Ain’t No Revelator providing a couple of highlights the performance reached its climax in three-part encore ending on a genuinely deranged Papa Leworthy that was as heavy and dirgey as this band could ever muster.

It’s just a shame many who’d come along early missed the genuine highlight of the night by leaving early and I’m not sure I can put into words how disappointing it was (not to mention disrespectful) that a majority of the events organisers also seemed to have vanished well before their own event was over, but none-the-less The Recks continued their current run of great shows as they head towards the height of summer festival season.

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

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