Liam and Si talk with Liam and Ellie of Tape Runs Out, Cambridge indie-shoegaze-electro-folk outfit.
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Liam and Si talk with Liam and Ellie of Tape Runs Out, Cambridge indie-shoegaze-electro-folk outfit.
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Only the third episode of the series and we’re already screwing with the format… This month’s feature is special in which we travel to the distant lands of Peterborough for Fratricidal Promotion’s Halloween musical spectacular. We interview the attendees, the promoters, and all 6 bands - including catch-ups with 2 previous interviewees. Enjoy.
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Liam & Si chat with Cambridge’s own psychedelic rocker The Prisoner Of Mars.
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Kicking off Season 2, Liam chats with The Centimes.
Review by Jack Gunner.
Like the European currency unit they share a moniker with, Cambridge indie-pop trio The Centimes are both a relic from the past and timelessly current in their sound. The trifecta, formed of drummer and lead vocalist Amy Devine, guitarist Adam Woodsford and bassist and backing vocalist Jasmine Robinson, draw from a variety of influences from shoegaze to indie to Blondie-esque punk, describing themselves as a “far out three-piece-multi-harmonic-sepia-toned-rainbow-boned group”. October 2013 saw the trio release their first single, and the subsequent year has seen them glide into the circle of Cambridge’s most talked about up and coming indie bands.
Panda Hut group selfie FTW.
After 14 months we’ve decided to bring our first series to an end. Here we have a round-up of the best advice to young bands, thoughts on the Cambridge music scene, funniest lightning round answers and, of course, out-takes and bloopers.
We’d like to thank all the bands featured in our first season, without you there wouldn’t be a show. In no particular order, big love to: The Projectionist, Naomi & Tom, Buzzard King, Goldstar, The 3rd Eyebrow, The Varsity, DAFM,The Infernal Sea, Band Of Brothers, Jake Martin, Fred’s House, Motor Tapes, Flux32, and 28 Boulevard. Special mention goes to Blunderbuster who were our first ever SPPresents feature before they took the now familiar form of an audio / visual experience.
We’d also like to thank the writers who brought us the accompanying reviews: Jack Gunner, Jack Hill, Wesley Freeman-Smith
And the following collection of miscellaneous people that made these episodes special in a variety of ways, or demonstrated a large amount of support or usefulness: Aaahh!!! Real Records, Matt Widgery, Tug Phipps, Bradley Stearn, & Paul Green.
We should also take a moment to remember our intern, Giles, who was tragically killed when a sentient robot promoter fell out of the sky and landed on him.
Now, down to the important stuff. Below is the first score board for our now (in)famous lightning round.
So there we have it, congrats to The Varsity! Maybe next season we’ll come up with an easier to track method of scoring… (and maybe Liam won’t just straight up say “You Win” to a band…)
See you in series 2!
Liam & Si
Liam and Si chat with Dean and Geoff of The Infernal Sea, East Anglia’s rising metal stars.
[mixcloud http://www.mixcloud.com/StabbedPanda/stabbed-panda-presents-the-infernal-sea/ width=660 height=208 hide_cover=1 hide_tracklist=1]
This month Liam talks with Geoff and David of Cambridge’s finest Stadium Dance act, Goldstar.
Review by Jack Gunner
Dance fans who have found themselves in the all-too-oft situation of perusing an event line-up and elating at the revelation of ‘GREAT ACT’ only to be brought crashing down to the depths of disappointment with the barely visible subtitle of ‘DJ SET’ will likely find themselves swiftly on board with the ethos of Cambridge’s fastest rising dance group Goldstar. Key word: group. What you hear on record with the four-piece is what you see on stage, not a skinny bloke with his top button done up poking at a laptop and avoiding the gaze of the crowd, but a full-on band, giving the audience the presence and the energy to match the fast pace of the music.
Formed as a trio in December 2012, Goldstar’s rise over the last year and a half is in itself a signal that the uninitiated should take notice. The release of their first mixtape, ‘MixTape 1’ in March swiftly grabbed the attention of critics and fans alike, with BBC Introducing and Cambridge 105fm among the many who gave them their richly deserved airtime. A second release, ‘MixTape 2’ followed in the summer, by which time they were playing headline sets at the Cambridge May Ball and festivals including Strawberry Fair, Green Gathering and Homegrown. After a 2013 which would make any up-and-comers jealous, Goldstar continue their conquest of the fenland (and beyond) dance circuit with, ‘MixTape 3’. And what they might just lack in originality of titling, they make up for with fast-paced, energetic dance that, as claimed, frankly needs to fill stadiums.
Opener, ‘Darken Day’ is a more ‘typical’ dance track to kick off with, with shades of the Rudimental and Pendulum floor-fillers that inspired the trio. Vocalist, Lee Morris, demonstrates powerful verve here, from the laid-back opening, through the defiant, punchy chorus, to the chaotic vocal breakdowns, backed by blasting synths that make this number a definite potential mainstay for the dance festivals of Summers-yet-to-be.
‘I Need’ opens like a Rihanna-esque soul-pop ballad – for a minute or so, before the drums quicken and the track opens up beneath itself, teeming with what some of my Leeds-era flatmates would have referred to as, ‘bare grimy beats’, (something you resolutely cannot pull off saying if you have a Cambridge accent) Dual vocals, and a sharp contrast between the quiet moments and the intense, dub-heavy elements make this another rousing anthemic number.
Finally, ‘Yesterday’ brings the album to a stylish close. Xylophones and soft, breathy vocals give way to a frantic, hypnotic soaring marriage of synth and bass which manages to keep up the tempo while retaining an easy charm that can get often get lost in hectic dance numbers. It’s the perfect five-in-the-morning song.
For a simple three-track, Goldstar’s third release is a searing, powerfully veracious eleven minutes of sound, which while it might not break down barriers, certainly has the cojones to catapult the foursome into the national dance circuit, and stands as a shining sample of how there is more to good Cambridgeshire music than just the acoustic folk that people know. Even those who usually disdain popular dance should give it a go – stadiums need filling, and Goldstar should be the ones to fill them.
8/10 - Jack Gunner
Si chats with Naomi Randall and Tom Gaskell.
There’s no mistaking the earthy, folky vibe from Naomi Randall and Tom Gaskell’s collaborative debut – with a description which advises the listener that the music is “best heard through brambles in the company of small birds”, a web-page with a backdrop of golden sunflowers, and an album cover which appears to suggest the duo were borne from the grass itself – or failing that, are a representation of Rapunzel as a Siamese twin. The problem is, of course, that the word “folk” has become over-used in recent times, blithely thrown at any Joe with an acoustic guitar and a daisy in their locks, and associated more amongst younger crowds with the sounds of the Ben Howard’s and Marcus Mumford’s.
Randall (who has toured as the vocalist of Cambridge crew Somewhen) and Gaskell (a producer and technician as well as a singer-songwriter) have collaborated in a project that is something different entirely. Recorded over a three-year period at Gaskell’s own Big G Studéos, the result is similar in concept – though not in style – to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s excellent 2012 comeback album ‘Americana’, which collected and re-imagined some of America’s most beloved folk numbers, this effort sees the duo take on a selection of European folk songs and poems with outstanding aplomb.
Opener La Pernette (English translation, “The Lost One”) is an ethereal number – more a ‘ballad’ in the traditional sense of the word than the modern. Drawing influence from the medieval French chanson de toile, the narrative concerns a weeping young girl who begs to be hanged alongside her true love Pierre who has been sentenced to the gallows for reasons untold, rather than face betrothal to another rich lord. Somewhat disturbingly, this is apparently sometimes sung by French schoolchildren. While not a happy number to open with for sure, the musicianship keeps the tragedy in the tone without allowing it to set the album off with a mournful dirge – it’s like listening to the siren sounds of a band of renaissance bards.
The duo return to the other side of the Channel for the next track, a straightforward yet intricate rendition of Appalachian favourite Nottamum Town , another medieval number, previously covered by the likes of Jean Ritchie and Bob Dylan, with cryptic lyrics that have given rise to many an interpretation – the title is thought to be a corruption of Nottingham – which involve a naked drummer and a horse - some say its about the English Civil War, and the place where Charles I began to raise soldiers. In any case, the gently stirring acoustic backdrop and soft, lilting vocals make it so listenable that fans will be making up their own theories as to the meaning.
Sleepy Laddie Door, a Gaelic-sounding lullaby sees the album at its most relaxed – with a gentle blend of the two vocals over an acoustic meadow, producing an effect a little like musical Valium, before Bluesy number, The Granta, brings up the pace a little, mixing quintessentially ‘folky’ lyrics with some of the albums best guitar and harp playing.
The listener is treated to another quality acoustic interlude, entitled Nick’s Song before launching into Lord Gregory, another tragic ballad This time an excerpt from the renowned Child Ballads collected towards the end of the 19th century – this one concerns an ill-fated young Scottish mother, whose futile attempts to find her babe’s father see her “drowned in the deep”. Opening, as the other tracks have by placing Randall’s atmospheric narrative over a simple acoustic backdrop, the song takes an unexpected and utterly spine-chilling turn at the two minute mark, into a darker, slightly disjointed second act as the spurned protagonist addresses her former paramour in a ghostly whispered verse teeming with subtle menace, “deep it is you’ll find me in a deep and silent grave…”, before finishing the track with another simple verse – practically flawless and the stand-out on an excellent disc.
Fox’s Sunday Best provides a fast-paced, tap-along interlude which makes for a jolt in tone when placed before the album’s penultimate track, Bonnie Bunch of Roses, an old Irish pro-Napoleonic ditty. Randall’s weightless vocals almost single-handedly carry the track throughout, with only a very subtle, ominous backing on a few occasions, rendering the finished piece like a sung monologue, high in restrained emotion yet remarkably relaxed, especially for a song with a heavy measure of vengeance and regret.
The closer, St Johns Raga, is a final instrumental number, finishing the album with a final dose of acid-folk that’s closer to pure 60’s psychedelic than the more traditional numbers, but no less proficient.
Randall and Gaskell’s effort is a truly rare find. Combining a wide range of instruments with a fascinating selection of source material and vocals like molten silk, the slow-burn production process was worth every second. Offered as digital download and CD for only £5 and £7 respectively (though those are only a suggested bottom line, the album is worth a lot more), those looking for either an album to share with friends over a cup of strawberry wine and a herbal cigarette, a soundtrack to their forays into medieval literature or simply something to fall asleep to will find much to appreciate here.
Liam chats with Anglo-French indie-rockers Band Of Brothers.
E.P. Review by Jack Gunner
While the first association for some of the term, "Band of Brothers", will be the grimy khaki of the Emmy winning, Spielberg helmed World War II mini-series of 2001, Shakespeare nerds will know it from its original context – the ending of the renowned St Crispin’s Day Speech from the Bards Henry V, as the warrior king with the dismal bowl-cut rallies his soldiers for one final push at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Opener Blades of Glory is a 90’s-Britpoppy – there’s notes of Albarn to the vocals - anthemic number with a bouncy intro that’s part Holloways, part Levellers which leads into a more subdued verse and a power-house, feel-good, chorus that kicks the EP off in great style.
Bluesy Steeve takes the journey in indie time-travel back a little further, hinged on a subtle, constant bass line interspersed with some Hendrix style guitar riffs and moments of a Clash-esque sound in the chorus, it’s a real indie-disco song, that will undoubtedly form a cornerstone of the boy’s live shows.
September Sun is a very short-and-sweet acoustic number which provides a head-turning change in tone from the other tracks, but that is rarely a bad thing. The lyrics, somewhat sentimental and poetic, might come across as borderline schmaltzy to some, but the simplicity and the repetition of lines such as, ‘long are the winter nights’ manage to hit the right notes, reminiscent even of some of the Frost poems about nature. That’s the last literary reference in this review of a rock album. I swear.
What’s the Game? brings the listener back to speed with an ever-so-slightly Libertines-esque, punk-lite track that, unlike the others on the disc runs on for a bit, allowing the musicianship to breathe a bit – the drums are at their best here, starting with a simple rhythmic build-up before exploding in pop-punk flurries, while Lawrence, (vocals), unveils his inner Billie Joe Armstrong on the rousing, emotive chorus.
Young Wings closes off the disc with a folk-y, summer-y guitar backdrop that shows off another side to the bands tempo – it’s the kind of song that would feel right at home at a summer festival played to an evening daisy chain crowd, and it’s a decent listen and adequate disc-closer even here in rainy Yorkshire, though let down ever so slightly by a bland chorus.
Band of Brothers, like the comrades of their namesake, are old-school in their sound and their vibe, sounding less like a band of the current nerd-rock-fused-with-dance scene that dominates modern indie, and more like a fun, drink-and-dance-along pop-rock act, which carves them out a great space in the market. With a decent range for a five-track that shows talented craftsmanship, good energy and the potential for expansion, both sides of the Channel could do with standing up and taking note of them.
(8.5/10) Jack Gunner
In our first ever video interview, Liam chats with local good-times indie-rock legends, The Varsity.
Review of “Get Down, Get Loud!” by Jack Gunner
Its hard to know what to expect from Cambridge alt-rock up and comers The Varsity. Claiming a vast array of influences, their early work has a melting-pot feel that could easily have sounded like a musical power-tussle, but instead carves them out as one of the city’s most intriguing unsigned acts.
The four-piece, consisting of vocalist Nigel Mpakti , guitarist Oscar Corney, bassist Matt Barkway and drummer Sean Clayton have spent the last few years spreading their fun-driven sound around the loosely-worn Cambridge circuit, with sets at venues including the Portland Arms (A great venue, by the by, that doesn’t seem to get enough support), and the Cambridge 105 tent at the Strawberry Fair, before February saw the release of their debut EP, ‘Get Down, Get Loud’.
The album kicks off with, Tomorrow Never Comes, an infectiously catchy anthem of vitality that thankfully sounds nothing like the Garth Brooks dirge it shares its title with. With a great bass lick intro from Barkway, elements of Arctic Monkeys to the vocals, and some memorably off-the-wall lines, such as - “I’ll do some crazy shit/I’ll set my hair on fire just to prove a point” – something which you hope for health and safety reasons isn’t a regular feature of their gigs. Fire safety is, after all, what rock is all about.
Jake’s Song keeps up the tempo nicely, blending a nicely shoegazy indie-rock backdrop with a hint of melodic hardcore vocals and a short, slightly prog-esque guitar solo. It would be comparable to some of the mid-era Lostprophets numbers if recent events hadn’t made that just about the worst comparison a music journalist could make. Nonetheless, it’s an instant repeat-track, and unquestionably the highlight of the EP.
Red Light sees the discs emotive core, the lyrics turn a little angsty,but they’re matched with an upbeat rapid-fire verse which melts slickly into a more melodic chorus, before an effectively layered ending act.
Titular number, Get Down, is a left-fielder, pairing the hazy indie backdrop with unexpected rap vocals and a slight ska-feel to the chorus. If there’s a criticism to be made, its that the sound quality seems to waver a little on this track, the punchy style maybe requires a little more volume and clarity – but this is something that can easily be ironed out in recording or concert.
Righteous Eyes brings the disc to a satisfying close with a more Britpop style, adopting an ever-so-slightly Albarn-esque spoken word pentameter in the early portion before sliding into a more organic chorus, bringing back the light-hearted vibe as the listener is given a catchy first-person narrative of an unconvincingly repentant love-rat.
As the festive season draws to a close, anyone feeling like they may claw their eardrums out if they hear, Driving Home for Christmas one more time could find some nice appeasement with The Varisty – their début shows an outstanding diversity in sound for a five-track – and with their sideline in acoustic numbers, a full length will likely have even more reach - and a real commitment to fun and energy in the performance style.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and keep supporting Cambridge music!
Si chats with Dave and Mike from Cambridge’s finest jazz-funk-fusion quartet, The 3rd Eyebrow (Of The Wretched Poisson).
The quartet consists of David Mitchell Jones, Michael Roca-Terry, Ian Griffith and Tom O’Grady, who formed back in 2010, and have spent the last three years refining and experimenting with their sound, finally releasing their first album, The 3rd Eyebrow of the Wretched Poisson earlier this month. "Wretched Poisson" refers, presumably, to the three-eyed fish that adorns their logo and album cover. There appears to be – according to their bio - some kind of over-riding sea concept to the bands journey, (listen to the full story on the embedded player above)
Opening number, Eric Spental kicks off the nautical theme with lapping waves and ships horns before laying out a number which exemplifies the bands proclamation of musical dedication. Swirling horns and guitars abound, occasionally folding over to allow perfectly timed bass licks.
The Monkey Strut is probably the highlight of the disc, with war-like opening drums leading up to a mellow, confident, hum-a-long beat - maybe its musical inception at its bluntest, but this bouncy, lively number exquisitely conjures up a mental image of a velvet-tuxedoed gibbon strutting the jungle boulevards. Imagine a simian Miami Vice, if you will. With bananas instead of cocaine. Or scrap my overly literal interpretation, and accept it as a pretty damn good funk track.
Sophistophunk – can be forgiven for its frustrating title, a portmanteau which tries to combine far too many words. It treads the same ground as the last two tracks, but does so in style, with a deep, almost wobbly vibe that, in keeping with the oceanic notes, almost sounds like it was recorded underwater.
The ten-minute interlude, Gentle Mirage, as its name might suggest, provides an oasis of calm amongst the frenzied relentlessness of its fellow tracks. An Egyptian-esque flair runs through the track, twinned with rolling drums and backed up with an almost hypnotic recurring bass line, to create an interlude, that is gentler, but no less impressive than the faster-paced numbers.
Understanding the Lilt – surprisingly not an in-depth seminar on Coca-Cola’s tragically misunderstood tropical soda – but a smooth, gliding number which allows the jazz aspects to flow freely, among a sea of crunches and understated drums. The cohesion of the instrumentalists is evident not just here, but throughout the band’s music, an aspect which is integral to how slick the overall sound is.
Up the Haze finishes off the CD with a steady number with jazz-heavy extended sax interludes and nice fade-outs which builds to a hazy (appropriately enough) middle act, ending on an extended guitar solo and drum blast, leaving the listener with a fresh sense of the technical talent on display.
Finally, the gulls and lapping waves which opened the disc return to usher out the music, and provide an appropriate symmetry to the album.
Funk is what is promised and funk is delivered, in a début which, in only six tracks, marks the quartet out as a potential future mainstay of jazz-funk. The lack of vocals may put off some casual observers, not to mention the track length – none of these run under five minutes - but in truth these factors allow breathing space for these craftsmen to create their musical murals. Special mention should be made of bassist Dave Mitchell Jones, who stands out especially.
Overall, if fenland funk fusion is what you’re after, The 3rd Eyebrow are definitely one to check out – as débuts go, this is a short but satisfying one, and doubtless makes for a great gig as well.
This month’s feature is alt-pop group Motor Tapes, following the release of their new EP Living. In Memory. Liam chats with frontman Paul and bassist Lee.
Despite being a Cambridge local, I had never once heard of Motor Tapes prior to writing this feature. And though I don’t know anything about this alternative rock group or their influences, I have got to say, these boys have potential. What I do know, however, is that these four fellows from Cambridge (Paul, Dom, Seb & Lee) recently released their second E.P., the interestingly titled Living. In Memory, in late August. And it was from this minute collection of but four songs that I first heard the ambitious works of my local unsigned band.
Shore opens the E.P. with a memorable lone guitar riff that dissolves into gentle echoes behind a bouncing baseline and the crash of drums. The sound of this instrumentation is lay-down-on-the-sand relaxing, being almost of a dream-like quality. Vocals soon join in, with lyrics that are sung in a delicate slow fashion; sounding almost like long sighs over the music. This vocal-style reminds me of John Lennon’s performance on the 1974 track #9 Dream, in the way that it is gentle, but slightly haunting. Compelling stuff! The chorus is aptly more upbeat and is accompanied by some terrific backing vocals. Built on captivatingly uplifting guitar work, the main singing here is higher-pitched, and edgier than before. And as much as I prefer the smooth, unconventional style that is sung in the verses, I did still find myself humming the brighter chorus later on! The song also features a hard-sounding miniature guitar solo, which melts into higher notes and soothing backing singing to lead to a tranquil ending. Like the rest of the song, it really takes you back to that comforting feeling of being at the shore of a beach; without a care in the world.
But then Void kicks in with a twanging opening riff that immediately shows off their darker side, and hits at more musical experimentation to come, as well as general awesomeness. Void doesn’t have a typical chorus, and whilst the lyrics seem quite sophisticated, the main focus here appears to be the instrumentation. This Void isn’t your typical space of empty matter; no, it’s rich in psychedelic sounds and fascinating musical melodies that are constantly changing and developing. Motor Tapes take a great mixture of styles and pack them into a four minute track, and it somehow works! The easy listening breakdowns of the song are fascinating, but so are the out of the ordinary noises that accompany the word “Void” and the sometimes heavy guitar work. I can declare without a doubt that this is my favourite track from the E.P.
Despite being a four song collection, Living. In Memory proves to be an exceptionally versatile E.P. with many different sounds, meaning it could appeal to a range of audiences. The next track for instance, Sunshine Moment, came totally out of the blue with a funky electric beat that I was very surprised to hear. With the intriguing lyric, “The sun is dripping on my head”, you can instantaneously guess that this is quite a playful tune. Although I’m not sure what this song is exactly about, I did enjoy the ride! I feel it bears some resemblance to The Cure’s Wrong Number (1997); a similar, but uncharacteristic mix of hypnotic dance music and ecstatic electric guitar. Not always my favourite fusion, but definitely attention-grabbing! The boys certainly prove here that they aren’t a one trick pony, but a very versatile band that is capable of producing songs of many differing styles.
The final song, Better Way, brings together this wide range of musical genres with verses that include the best of their alternative mellow rock sound and a chorus that is lead by fast-paced electric keyboarding and frantic drumming. The finale also encompasses some spectacular orchestral moments that are worthy of note and boasts a greater handling of lyrics, starting with the line “I wanted to say what I only believe to be the Better Way”. The song gradually develops into a climax where electric guitars and keyboard clash together to bring the E.P. to a satisfyingly powerful closure.
After hearing their E.P., I am very impressed by my local band but am left yearning for a full-length Motor Tapes album to see what else they can achieve. Living. In Memory’s four songs feature a great pace, are well layered and are delivered with impressive musical versatility. Yet, I would like to hear the band experiment with more instruments and see them perform songs of a greater length. Regardless, they have noticeably improved since their début E.P.. And as much as I love the original’s ‘Aspirin’ and ‘Better Tomorrows’, I just can’t help but prefer the new E.P. on the whole.
The future certainly looks bright for the Cambridge locals and I can definitely see them finding an audience of fans outside of the Strawberry Fair!
Liam talks with Tim and Michael from Cambridge indie-alt-rockers 28 Boulevard.
We don’t know too much about them at this stage – they purport to be inspired by Biffy Clyro, Muse, Feeder and Bloc Party, love playing music ‘in the studio, on the stage and for their neighbors’ – which is good, as bands who hate playing music tend to suck - and in the true indie style of taking the banal and giving it meaning, plucked their name from a poster hanging in their practice room.
The five-piece is led by Tim Lloyd-Kinnings on vocals and guitar, with his brother Lewis Lloyd-Kinnings (LK) on guitar and keyboards, Cameron Gipp on guitar, Lewis Moon on bass and Michael Smith on drums and backing vocals.
Opening number Logistics is the EP’s lead track, and the bands newest single, with a chair-tastic video for it on YouTube to check out, (LINK!). A solid percussion cold-open with a sudden jolt of fast-paced, urgent sounding guitar leads into an enjoyable track- its here that the Bloc Party influence is clearest - which effectively pairs stripped-back verses, with a powerhouse, sing-a-long chorus. The swirling guitars and keys, combined with the semi-angsty lyrics provide the song an anthemic feel that would make it a great gig-opener.
‘Treat Me Like A Fool’, is the pick of the bunch, a bouncy, straightforward number with some enjoyable lyrics that blend neo-trendy self-deprecation, ‘Everybody here has cigarettes/ I’m the only non-smoker and it makes me feel undressed’ , with a more sinister tone at points, the lines - ‘So I went to town and bought a gun/And pretended to shoot the birds all flying into the sun’ indicate a darker undertone to the typical frustrated-young-protagonist, which would be interesting to see the band develop further. Lloyd-Kinning’s vocals are at their strongest here, reaching the high notes on the chorus without sounding forced in the process. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a hazier British Weezer, with notes of a poppier Libertines.
‘MCE’ brings the disc to a close, with some spacey guitars, and a more pop-punkish vibe, with a simple repetitive structure to the lines. Attempting to analyse the lyrics can be jarring – the protagonist has a letter for a lost love he isn’t sure what to do with (my initial reaction was, ‘Um… post it?’), but, critical pretentiousness aside, the track is a real ear worm - its not hard to imagine skinny-jeaned, small-hatted crowds chanting along to the refrain, ‘I would love you if I had the choice’. Taking an unexpectedly mellow third act, the song fades into a melodic guitar dénouement which brings the EP to a satisfying ending.
As a sample of what’s to come, the EP offers a lot of promise, although with only a meagre three tracks, its hard to really imagine what a full album might sound like. The ending of the third track alludes to a more chilled style, and they’ve expressed comfort with playing smaller, acoustic gigs, so the slight lack of variation isn’t too concerning at this point. The musicianship is slick and straightforward, with the poppy, quasi-American vocals a strong fit for the background. All in all, while it treads very familiar ground, their sound brims with youthful energy, and indicates it would be fun to check out live, a great starting point for any young band.
In an August where Mallory Knox – professed Facebook friends to the Boulevard boys – are slotted to play the Reading and Leeds main stages, it seems high time for music fans to realise that there’s more to Cambridge than the university, the punts, and the pretty skies. If you’re looking for a catchy new indie band to check out this autumn, you could do a hell of a lot worse than 28 Boulevard.
Today we present to you the good-times funk-rock-psychedelic stylings of DAFM. Si enjoys a beer with vocalist Tom and bassist Sam.
Review by Wesley Freeman-Smith
The somewhat enigmatically named DAFM, (“what does it mean?” I hear you think ferociously), are hardly billing themselves as a ‘serious’ band. If anyone saw Man of Steel recently, and wondered where it’s sense of humour was, it’s possible these guys stole it. Describing themselves as ‘music to barbecue to’, and with a penchant for beer, (including novelty outfits), these guys seem to present themselves as the antithesis of anything too hip, self-serious, or po-faced. They are the anti-Radiohead, the anti-Joy Division. They’ve never even heard of Wild Beasts, and probably don’t know how to make Macs do that hip triangle symbol either.
The fairly self-explanatory ‘Promo EP’ fills it’s 4 tracks with the kind of soulful 70’s homage that in anyone else’s meaty hands would feel regressive and neanderthal. In DAFM, the riffs, solos, the harmonica and the cowbell work as a reminder that music can just be fun, and it doesn’t have to be making some statement bigger than itself. Channelling a range of influences from both older and newer acts, (think the kind of music Mike Patton might still be making if he wasn’t so busy pushing boundaries and making zombie noises), it’s almost impossible to feel down while this is playing. When you can sound this energetic on record it’s a hard to imagine them playing to anything but pubs full of sweaty, dancing people. You’d have to be pure killjoy not to appreciate the energy here.
In terms of songs and musicianship, it’s all fairly solid stuff. Even on first listen, there are enough obvious hooks to trip your brain up head first into the songs. It’s practically overflowing with inventive flamboyance and clever noodling which, true to the press release, boasts a tightness that only comes from playing together for years. ‘Magnify Infinity’ launches with the kind of fast-talking, better-than-a-roomful-synths riffage, driving home a distortion and funk that wouldn’t feel too out of place on a Primus record. ‘Pussyfootin’ is pretty damn soul-funk, again not breaking any new ground but still managing to be tight as hell and insanely competent. Laden with funk bass noodling (and, actually, noodling on all the strings) it’s near impossible to dislike. Contemporaries in the hard rock scene would be people like the Chilli’s, albeit leaning more to the Frusciante side. Despite these American touchstones, there’s something quintessentially English about these songs. It’s a reminder that once upon a time, we had a pop / rock scene that wasn’t afraid to take risks, and music charts that didn’t feel so uniform and homogeneous.
Just four tracks is a fairly concise musical statement, and I suppose from a critical point of view, if this was to work as an album there’d need to be a little variation. The songs are all excitable and eager, and perfectly built for a live stage. There’s a sense all this came out of jamming, out of playing live, and as a flyer for a show it works perfectly. As to where it’s ultimately going, who knows? And frankly, who cares? It’s doubtful it’s going to knock the latest minimalist or miserablist trend off the top of the alternate rock charts, but that doesn’t mean it bloody well shouldn’t. The argument was recently put to me that if it’s not doing something new, why bother? Well, sometimes when you mine the past, you end up sounding like this; that’s why.
This month we interview Chris and Leigh of local hardcore metal band The Projectionist. We discuss their influences, how they formed, and get a sneak-peak at their new EP!
Blunderbuss- noun. An archaic flintlock firearm, most commonly used by gangsters in the near future to execute illegal time travellers. Because in the future, we’re weird.
The other day, I became a proud owner of a shiny new E.P from Stafford based quintet ‘Blunderbuster’. First of all, I shall endeavour to enlighten you about them. Because I’m nice like that.
We’ll look at the members to begin with, because it’s best to know who I’m talking about, when I mention them by name later on, sparing you all the shame of your own ignorance. On the back of their professional looking E.P cover, it shows them leaning up against the wall of a brick building, neatly arranged from left to right for your ease, (also pictured below). Starting at the left, we have Hywel Evans, fiddle-master, followed by Loz Shaw who deals with shouts, mandolin, and bass, with Ben Burns, vocalist, electric guitarist and banjo player next in line. Fourth figure along is Sam Johnson, drummer, cajonist and fellow shouter to Mr. Shaw, and finally on our line-up we cannot forget the other vocalist and acoustic guitarist, Jules Davies. So there we are, a rogue’s gallery of a sort.
The band came together (stop laughing), with a much larger collection of musicians, but as typically happens, life has a way of buggering with things whether you want it to or not, knocking out an accordion and tin whistle and changing a couple of members. This sudden absence of folk-instrument based players is one of the main reasons for their much punkier and heavier sound, which, for your interest, is classified by the band as Celtic Punk, though still retains a number of folk elements.
You now know enough to be considered a novice Blunderbuster enthusiast, which means you can engage in small talk with the more hardcore fans at their gigs and not feel like a complete tit. Congratulations.
Now, we can move onto the E.P, which is great, because I’ve been wanting to talk about it since I put the amusing cultural reference at the top of the article.
I’ll begin by saying how much I enjoyed this E.P. It’s rare that I hear music that makes me want to dance at nine in the morning when I wrote this, however, this band, and their delightful E.P did. I didn’t actually dance, because I actually have some dignity (usually runs out around lunchtime though).
It opens the proceedings with ‘Dani’s House Party’, which introduces itself through the medium of acoustic guitar, building up to add the electric, and the fiddle before bursting into what my head is adamant is called ‘piratey jig music’. It’s a fast paced start up to the whole CD, that I suspect would inspire people to shout along to the words, wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care (they should care, however, because they look like fools), and get obnoxiously drunk (which works as the perfect excuse for not caring about how much of a fool you look, waving your hands around above your head).
'Dani's House Party' is followed by the much softer acoustic and fiddle intro to 'Old Macquarie', joined with equally soft vocals before kicking off into a punkier, faster version of itself. Listeners may be tempted to compare this to something by the Dropkick Murphy's, but I wouldn't, because that would be lazy. Wait a minute… Anyway, you'll probably enjoy this as much as I did for it's masterful fiddle-work and melancholy, yet inspiring sound.
Third song on the E.P, ‘Picked up and Fucked up’, starts acoustic, but rapidly descends into a wonderful upbeat ‘jump-around’ track about women and being really drunk (not exactly a very in-depth lyrical break-down, but I am on a word limit here), with powerful foot-stomping drums and sing-along ‘woah’s for the simple folk who can’t be bothered, or are incapable of remembering the words.
'Kick Arse' or it's full title, according to their Facebook page, 'I Play in a Kick Arse Celtic Punk Rock Band' is a brilliant example of Hywel's fiddling skills, accompanied by shout-along lyrics. Listeners may want to learn how to jig, and down a lot of alcohol at the same time to fully appreciate the experience. I know how to do the second, and I'm sure many of you, dear readers do too. Regrettably, I'm sure there are many out there who can already do both, so we've got a lot of catching up to do.
Finally, and with much sorrow, (which can easily be remedied by simply playing the entire E.P on repeat) we come to the last song ‘The Crucible’. I’m sure it has a specific name, but it starts with military-style drums, and a simple electric guitar melody. It’s a much slower song to start than most of the others, but that’s not a down-side- far from it in fact. Once the vocals get going, it picks up the pace, moving from a gentler opening gambit into a faster rhythm, interspersed with slower parts, and much to my delighted surprise, fiddle-lead breakdowns.
I’m normally a little sceptical of folk-based music, but Blunderbuster has conveyed to me that it does have many admirable qualities, and can be blended masterfully with modern styles. It’s a rare thing these days to find something that opens up musical vistas, but I honestly reckon that people who feel the same was as I did about folk and variants thereof, will be thoroughly inspired to give it a go, thanks to Blunderbuster. Check them out, for shows and such on Facebook.com/Blunderbuster
I suppose that’s all from me this time around blessed readers, but before I go: if you want us to keep reviewing awesome underground bands, (which you do), we’d ask you to show your support by liking our Facebook Page. I promise it’s worth it. Peace out.
Reverend Mickey Kink.