Wednesday, 30 September 2009

End of the Road Festival 2009 - Sunday


Trips to the nettles and the CD shop successfully negotiated, it was time for more fun in the sun. We woke up to find that Craig had packed and left. I don’t think we had upset or insulted him; it was more that he had to go to work (though I did tell the couple camped next to us that we had sent him away because they had complained about his snoring).

A lazy morning spent reading the Sunday papers and then kicked up a gear when Judith decided to set the pace by being first to start drinking (the rest of us had decided that we would have a quieter day). Craig wanted to know about Whispertown 2000, so Judith and I went to check them out. Bit shouty with a girl singer/guitarist and girl bassist who were doing their best, bless them, was my verdict. Next up in the Big Top was Joe Gideon & The Shark (think: Johnny Cash meets The White Stripes, with the girl from Bat For Lashes on drums – she looked a bit mad to me). This lot were a big surprise, making a fearsome Old Testament-y racket. Though I must say that they did polarise opinion: Me and Chris thinking it to be one of the highlights of the festival, but the girls thinking it interesting, but no more.

So, via the CD shop we went to see another band marked on my card, Magnolia Electric Co. (think: Neil Young meets Fleetwood Mac…but, as I was to find out, without the tunes of either). As somebody (Rosie?) put it so eloquently in a comment to Paul’s Arctic Monkey’s review: Dull, dull, dull.

Having sat down and started to fall asleep, it was necessary to avert potential disaster and up the drinking pace. Once back at a safe altitude, it was time to check out a bit of Steve Earle (the man is a legend)

Unfortunately, Steve had also embraced the idea that he could just wing it with an acoustic guitar, and was making the girls restless. I had also mentioned that in his early days, he was considered something of a looker. The girls weren’t buying this, so it was off to the CD shop to look at the back of CD covers.

Having failed to convince the girls, it was off to The Local to see Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards (think: the deepest voice you have ever heard, go two octaves lower, and then imagine it has just got out of bed and needs the first of the days cigarettes. And a band that is a bit Nick Cave, and a bit Tom Waits). I had not originally been too impressed with the album, but it proved to be a grower. Live, I had been expecting some old bloke, but Dan Michaelson turned out to be some young surf-type dude. They were good.

Time for tea; a quick visit to the CD shop (and a meeting with The Hold Steady, who were doing a meet and greet there – so an opportunity to request songs…which were immediately dismissed), more beer, and then back to the main stage for the rest of the night. We arrived mid-way through Neko Case’s set (think: Stevie Nicks meets Fleetwood Mac…or at least the songs that Stevie Nicks sings in Fleetwood Mac) to find her in fine hollering form. Also a good line in stage banter between her and the Susan Boyle-type backing singer. We enjoyed them.

One final beer and it was time to set up stall for The Hold Steady (think: Springsteen’s E-Street Band meets The Replacements). Having sensibly ignored my requests (though they would have had to pay attention to me if they had been playing musical statues!), the band tore through 100 minutes of all their fastest, jumpiest, singalongiest songs. No let up for slow songs, they stuck in 3 or 4 uptempo newies, didn’t bother pausing for an encore and wrapped up the festival in grand style.

The girls were off to bed at this point, but something about The Hold Steady encourages the drinking of large amounts of alcohol. So, for me and Chris, the night was still young. Archie Bronson Outfit (think: Kings of Leon meets Metallica) were laying waste to the Big Top and making a fine racket. A nice change after all of the weekends pedal steel guitars. We watched half the set and then it was off to the Tipi to watch a “surprise” set by The Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay (think: Super Mario meets the keyboardist in the E-Street band meets Groucho Marx). We’d learnt our lesson with the Tipi the previous day so, armed with more beer, it’s straight down the front and into the Northern Soul melee to strut our stuff. Franz turns up presently and entertains us with songs from his new solo album, plus tales of his days in the Circus. He makes us laugh and he has a fair bit of banter with the crowd. In contrast to a discussion we had recently on these very pages, he thinks bands reforming is generally a good idea…though he agrees that maybe not in the case of Van Halen.

So, one last trip to the CD shop completed. We realise that ten pints have again somehow slipped themselves down are necks and we bid the festival goodnight.

Top weekend 10/11

And here’s a short film that somebody has put together of the weekend. It gives you a good flavour of the festival and has some nice music.

Short film about EOTR

End of the Road Festival 2009 - Saturday


We awoke after 9 hours uninterrupted sleep (minus visit to the nettles) to another sunny day. Feeling surprisingly chipper, and with little lasting effect from the paint-stripper. After a trip to the CD shop, it was time to while away the morning generally talking crap and to perfectly time a visit to a Turdis. Judith was off to visit relatives for the day and, once he was full of bottomless pocket Cider and paint-stripper, Craig had rashly let slip that he had the Beatles Mono box set in his car and once plied with even more paint-stripper had offered to lend it to me. With trip to the car park duly taken, we were rapidly approaching the magical midday bar opening. So, with backpack and magical pockets replenished, we were up and running.

First up was a visit to the Leisure Society. Craig had these on his radar, as they, like many of the smaller EOTR artists, tend to play his local workingman’s club. We arrived mid set and enjoyed some pleasant Americana type music. They did however finish with a first rate cover of The Beatles’s Something. I always believe it takes a certain amount of confidence – or stupidity – to tackle a highly recognisable Beatles song, and they pulled it off.

Unfortunately we missed Bob Log III, which is a shame as he looks interesting

After a visit to the CD shop it was time for one of my must-sees of the weekend The Low Anthem (think: Tom Waits meets Neil Young). Band consists of a singer with a headband (edgy!), a girl looking somewhat confused – though Craig thought she was just a bit sulky – and another bloke. They all kept switching around instruments and played some truly beautiful music. One of the highlights.

Next up on the garden stage was Broken Family Band (think: Squeeze meets Libertines meets C&W band, but this is what they have to say about themselves: We all have different tastes, but we all love Mr. Blue Sky by ELO and Stop The Bleeding by The Bronx. Steven thinks he's Mister Eclectic, with his newly-downloaded Nigerian pop compilation and his adolescent Black Flag fetish, but really it's bad taste masquerading as fashion sense. No-one's impressed by a man with one token Marvin Gaye album. Jay is stuck in the 80s and hopelessly lost to Joe Satriani, Van Halen and all those florid men with shiny guitars. The only saving grace for this 'dude' is his passion for AC/DC and Stephen Malkmus b-sides. Micky has never made a secret of the fact that he likes Oasis. He goes nuts for sappy stuff like Band Of Horses, Howling Bells and even Coldplay, but he's the guy sending those youtube clips of Travis from Blink 182 playing drums in the noddy. Gavin is like a quiet horse, gently grazing forever in a field of 1970s "Soul Reggae", but he’s not fooling anyone – turn your back and there's some cruddy early 90s pop punk leaking out of his stereo. Jets To Brazil? Really? Three of us still like Rival Schools for christ's sake. Early on we were aiming for a country/folksy take on pop music, and we've gradually developed 'our own thing', which is perhaps a bit noisier).

The band had recently announced that they would be splitting up after this and a few other dates and, not really bothered to promote their new album, they played songs to make us laugh. Nice line in self-deprecating humour too, as in “to keep thing simple, the next song is in the same key and with most of the same chords as the last one”. Their set was very well attended and they went down a storm, though they did cause some distress at the end when they announced that they were off to spit-roast a peacock.

After two highlights in a row, it was back to the tents to drink beer and sit on the chairs we had been carrying around for the last few hours. This also neatly coincided with the arrival of Sue and her stock of ice-cold Stella and (no doubt) fresh raspberries. Suitably refreshed, it was time for the evening.

Next on my list was a visit to see J. Tillman at the Tipi tent. Unfortunately, it was too full and we ended up sat outside in the sunshine. Although perhaps not so unfortunate, as he was one of these artists who couldn’t be bothered bringing along a band, so was just strumming away on acoustic. As Judith was now back with us, we queued again to get in for Blitzen Trapper (think: Wilco meets the Beatles). This lot were on my must see list, but the tent was so full and stupidly designed, we couldn’t see anything. So it was off to the garden stage via the CD shop.

Next up were perhaps the highlight of the weekend, Okkervil River (think: Morrissey meets Springsteen). This band were simply fantastic, with each song something of a stirring anthem. Big thumbs up from Craig and Judith, though by the end of the set Craig was starting to flag and do the fall asleep stood-up routine he learnt of Copey. Off to the bar, a quick trip to the CD shop and then some food.

And here’s a clip of Okkervil River playing in the afternoon at the piano in the woods (it takes a while to get going, all you impatient instant gratification seekers)

Okkervil River at the piano in the woods

Headliners for the garden stage tonight were Fleet Foxes (think: Crosby, Stills & Nash meets The Byrds). Everybody raves about this band and I’ve tried really hard to like them, but I just can’t see what the fuss is about. The songs I like most seem to have Pan Pipes in them and inexplicably remind me of Fernando by Abba. Anyway, we tried, but all the messing around for two or three minutes between each song really does detract. So, to the strains of Fernando, we bade farewell and went to play in the woods.

First stop, the piano: some people doing Bohemian Rhapsody and then I tried to get them to do the 118 247 advert. They gave me short shrift, so, undaunted; it was off to the disco floor. Eye Of The Tiger, Livin’ On A Prayer. Come on! The classics! So we did our “guess who this is” dancing game (I won, naturally). There was also a game of musical statues, which I decided needed judging, but after a while Judith told me to stop as I was scaring and intimidating girls. And I’ve just remembered that we had lost Craig by this point. Where did you go, mate?

Tired and emotional, Judith and I headed off to bed. However Chris and Sue were having none of it and were off to watch Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley DJ. By all accounts a bit of a fiasco as (a) they had no idea what to do and (b) they were pissed. Jarvis apparently went all Professorial and started to dismantle everything, whilst Richard Hawley stood back and took the piss (much as Paul does, if you are struggling to put away your tent).

Monday, 28 September 2009

End of the Road Festival 2009 - Friday

This festival really is my idea of heaven: 3 days, 5000 people, loads of space to camp, 4 stages spread over Victorian landscaped gardens, real ales, great food, a piano in the woods, a disco floor in the woods, and lots of Americana type bands (though also many that wouldn’t want to be tarred with that particular brush).

Paul dragged me along last year, but cried off this year in favour of convincing his friends and loved ones to take a leisurely stroll up a really big mountain. So it was left to me, Judith, Chris, Sue and Craig to bow down to the might of the pedal steel and the Saw. The highlights as I can recollect them:


After managing to get past every traffic cone in the country and set up camp with huuuge tents we found ourselves past midday and thus at the perfect time to crack open the first of many cans. The highlights of the day:

Having given a polite five minutes to Charlie Parr (think: old bloke trying to cash in on Seasick Steve’s audience) we fetched up at Spokes (think: Mogwai meets Pink Floyd, and certainly one for Rich to keep an eye on). Lots of lyrical guitar work followed by loud thrashing, but also a few with vocals. I didn't know much about them but had been doing my homework on Spotify and had them down as a possible. It’s worth copying the CD that Chris bought.

From here it was quick swerve around The Duke & The King (album is being raved about, but I just don’t get it) and over to the Garden Stage to see Shearwater (think: late Talk Talk meets Wilco).

This band were spectacular. All members kept switching instruments (which in my book proves that they are REAL MUSICIANS) playing absolutely fantastic music, but the best of the bunch was the drummer who looked like he was deputising from Motley Crue or Poison – lots of big blond metal hair and tight silver waistcoat. The illusion was however shattered when he came to the front of the stage to play the clarinet or the xylophone. And no devil horn signs. I looked up the band and, even more spectacularly, the drummer’s real name is Thor! How rock is that!

Conveniently coinciding with the end of the set was the phone call to say Craig had arrived. We took along some Cider to help him catch up, but it wasn;t really needed as he had his magical coat on, with the pockets filled with a bottomless supply of Strongbow cans. With Craig unpacked it was off to seeDirty Projectors (think: too clever by half…so sort of like Vampire Weekend, but without really sounding anything like them. Or late period Talking Heads (they have recorded a duet with David Byrne, so that’s close enough)…see the trouble I get myself into by trying to compare bands?). This band was worthy but kind of dull. Most songs sounded like they were four songs stuck together and some of the songs sounded like it was four different songs played at once. We left to find the bar (which was easy – it’s at the back of the stage!).

Headliners were Explosions In The Sky (think Godspeed You Black Emperor meets every post rock band that Rich loves).

Lots of long, instrumental, guitar driven music with lulls and crescendo’s. Craig and me were quite taken with this, but Judith found it dull (no choruses) and demanded we all go and play.

So off to the piano in the woods and then over to the Cider bus where they refused to let Craig buy the Cider Brandy at £7 a shot for us all and would only let him buy the £1 a shot paint-stripper. Then on to the Tipi tent to see which unannounced bands were going to play. Stayed to see The Duke & The King faffing around for a bit, whilst all of our party fell asleep one by one, then it was off to bed.

Another great thing about End Of The Road is that they have a Record Shop. It’s right in the middle and is stocked full of CD’s by the bands playing and also of similar type bands – so basically stuff I love.

If there was ever a mythical cave behind a waterfall full of treasures, then it would probably look like this CD shop…except then they would be free, rather than just competitively priced. So you watch a great band; you then have to walk past the CD shop. You go the bar; you have to walk past the CD shop. You go for a piss; you have to walk past the CD shop. And even better, it seems to be always open!

So we were camped down by the fence and the nettles i.e. the boy’s urinal. This was great during the night, but come morning it starts getting a bit busy with women cooking on the stoves they insisted on bringing along. So the option for a piss is then to take a two-minute walk to one of the blue and grey portaloos (I’ve heard them described as Turdis’s, which I think is clever) or take a four-minute walk to the urinals…and past the CD shop in both directions! How great a start to the day is that?

Anyway, I’m perhaps rambling a touch.

Album - Withered Hand - Good News

Add Image

If this is Good News, then I wouldn't like to see him with a hangover having been told his cats just died. Withered hand is a bloke called Dan from Edinburgh who roped in some mates to play on this his first album.

Not that anyone will remember, but I posted a song off the first ep U R Courageous an age ago, well the full album is here now and it’s fantastic. It’s a bit lo-fi, it’s definitely not all in tune,Dan isn't a great singer and the songs don’t bounce along with a turbo charged umph. What you do get though is something very traditional that has quirky originality, absolutely openness in the lyrics and a bloke singing about where he is in his life.

The songwriting is excellent in a traditional and may early Dylan way, clever funny lyrics, the odd chorus where needed and simple but brilliant music holding it all together. It doesn’t really sound like anything else so you’ll just have to give it a go.

Buy the album direct from the label here, as you'll get a bonus free badge too.

SL Records Shop

I heard the other day, that if you do this then the whole £10 goes to the label/band. If you buy the same album from the Amazon / HMV type route then the band/indie label only get about £2.50. Bloody thieving middlemen eh? Saying all that, the free badge works best for me, I'd still buy comics if they had free flying things on the front cover. I'm also pretty sure Craig would still be chewing Bazooka Jo's if they were still giving away xray specs.

Anyway here is the myspace site

Play ‘religious songs’ listen to the words absorb the music and enjoy. It's one of my favourites so far this year.

9/11 (the first track on the album confuses me)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Album - A Brief History of Love - The Big Pink

Just maybe, if the band had landed in a field at Leeds festival from Mars without so much as a 'hi there' I may have developed a different opinion of this album. It would have been easier finding unbiased and uninformed jurors for the OJ Simpson trial than avoiding web and print opinions on this band for the last two months. I once fell for the next big thing argument in the 1980's and have a Then Jerico album to show for it, be careful out there.

So with the least biased opinion I can muster and giving them leeway as a new band.....they just dont have enough decent songs on the album. I know the shoegazing division on here may disagree, but honestly just having loads of effects pedals and feedback isn't going to work without some tunes.

Yes it's a bit Bunnymen in places but without the luscious McCulloch voice, it's a bit J&M Chain in places too, but without any of the attitude, but more than anything it's OMD with effects pedals. That's not the worst thing in the world but it really isn't next big thing material.

+ +++++++ +

As for the songs, the album starts well enough with Crystal Visions and loads of guitars, Dominos the obvious single follows it and it's already starting to annoy me. Love in Vain is just painful.

I can get along with 'At War with the Sun' and I really like 'Velvet' (OMD heavy?) , the last track Tonight is excellent and I'd guess has either been written by someone else or the medication has worn off. A Brief History is bound to appear in every year end list going, but remember it's very easy to mix up your Then Jerico's with you House of Love's and you wouldn't want a stray Genesis album in your collection.

New Stuff - The Dirty Cuts

New wave disco songs is the bands description for the music, I've just got them down as writing good songs with a great guitar sound. It's so new that the first release from the band isn't until November, that would have 'newer than you' Jo Whiley sitting on the washing machine for a week.

Just for Andy, it's Pete and the Pirates meets Gang of Four with a touch of Human League, so just about everything you'd go eurgh to. However the four songs currently on their myspace are all worth listening to, start at the single to be - Two Page Spread and let it play through.

The Dirty Cuts on Myspace (Rich, play Cult Mother you'll like that one)

Other than that, they from Glasgow and are on 17 Seconds Records who also release stuff for Aberfeldy who have a tune called Come on Claire

No known addictions or near death experiences reported.....yet. And just to appeal to the normal high jump girl standards on here, they have a girl in the band.

And finally I may have an mp3 if you want one but don't tell the big brother people who are hunting me down. Ed if you read this far..... I don't and I won't

9/11 I love pop songs

Album: “Dark Night Of The Soul” by Sparklehorse / Danger Mouse / David Lynch

This is a bit of a curio. Sparklehorse is really Mark Linkous, but he prefers not to use his name for some reason. Sparklehorse is an example of the Americana that I love, with songs alternating between reflective ruminants of love accompanied by pedal steel or violin and then followed by angry songs of hate accompanied by thrashy guitar and end of the world drums.

Latest albums have been a bit of a disappointment, though, as he seems to have found some sort of contentment and has generally dialled down the anger

(As an aside: a number of years ago he was a drug addict and collapsed with his legs trapped underneath him. He was found and straightened out (his body, not his addictions – that came later), but all the toxins that had developed in the legs promptly caused a fatal heart attack. Luckily he survived, but at the expense of spending six months wheelchair bound…and it did make for his albums to be rather angrier for a while. Fact: This is why you have to release a tourniquet every 10 minutes if you ever have massive blood loss from a limb. See, helpful advice as well).

I did once drag Paul along to see him at the Hop and Grape bar and I recall him being impressed with the small woman alternating between violin and then thrashy guitar. Also being impressed that he downed a bottle of Jack Daniels through the course of the set (Sparklehorse, not Paul obviously. It was a school night).

So he got together with the producer Danger Mouse to make essentially the same sort of album, but with lots of guest singers. So you get singer from Flaming Lips, girl from the Cardigans, Iggy Pop (guess which type of song he sings?), Black Francis, Vic Chesnutt, singer from Super Furries, singer from The Strokes, singer from The Shins and others. They then roped in David Lynch (yes, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet David Lynch) to do artwork and sing on one of the tracks. They then presented it to the record company…who refused to release it.

So what to do? Here, luckily, Danger Mouse has form. A number of years ago he did a mash up of The Beatles “White Album” and Jay-Zed’s “Black Album”. The record companies – or just possibly their lawyers - didn’t like the idea of that one little bit and sat on it. So he leaked it to the interweb where it can be downloaded from any number of sites. Possibly remembering this, last month the three of them released a limited edition book of photographs “inspired” by the songs. The book also had a blank CD-R with the message “you know what to do”.

Not being arsed about buying the book, but having a pretty good idea “what to do”, I quickly found the files.

What’s it like? First song “Revenge” is the best of the lot (maybe Paul can find and attach a link?) with the most in tune singing I’ve ever heard from Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips). Sort of “Do You Realise” meets “Glory Box” by Portishead. The rest of the album mines a fairly similar reflective seam, save for the more noisy Iggy stuff (see, you guessed correct). The frequent changes in singer does kind of detract from a coherent whole, but that’s probably a good thing as far as the MP3 generation are concerned.

Why hasn’t the album been released? No idea, but Ricky Pedia says that there is some ongoing dispute with EMI. It’s certainly a good enough album to merit a release, but it doesn’t really matter as, “you know what to do” (if you can be arsed).

Rating 7/11

Monday, 14 September 2009

Gig Review- God is an Astronaut/Caspian/Tides From Nebula, Poznan & Gdynia, Poland

Luton to Poznan courtesy of W!zz Air is one of the less well-trodden airline routes in Europe, I guess (can an airline route be "well-trodden"?- probably not, actually, barring disasters), but my brother Kevin and I enjoyed a lovely, hitch-less ride over to Central Poland for the first night of our Post-Rock double header, in a city famous for once-crack Polish football outfit Lech Poznan, its fairly old cathedral, and err, not a lot else.

We arrived at the plush, 800 capacity Blue Note Jazz Club just as local (as in Polish rather than Poznanian, they are from Warsaw) types Tides From Nebula were firing up one of their splendid I Like Trains-like crescendos, to the delight of a packed crowd, apparently very familiar with the music of their fellow countrymen. Although recently released album "Aura" manages just a 6 out of 11 for me in OTSD scoring terms, any band capable of writing a song as good as "Apricot" will most definitely stay on the radar for future releases, and potential UK gigs. Although I will be relying on Kevin, my Post-Rock afficionado, to keep me informed, as I have 500 other bands to keep an eye on!

Within 15 minutes, Caspian are on, and what an awesome proposition they are. A 5 piece, from Beverly, Massachusetts, with 3 guitarists, one of whom is a mountainous 6' 8" (I would guess), they tear into their 50 minute set as if their lives depended on it. "The Raven", from new album "Tertia", is my personal favourite, with the 4 standing, excellently hairy members riding the waves of colossal white noise emanating from their heavily effected guitars, whilst the clean-cut, ex-US Navy looking drummer propels the song to a dramatic, thunderous conclusion. Absolutely bloomin' marvellous, and the drum solo at the end of set closer "Sycamore", where the 3 guitarists and bassist grab sticks one by one and join the drummer in a climax that I have already decided all live sets should now end with, is wonderful.

The crowd are well and truly fired up, then, by the time Irish 3 piece God Is An Astronaut take to the stage. Kevin and I have been following this band now for about 3 years (they have been going for 7), and 4 albums in, their music continues to impress everyone we have played it too. Why they are not opening for U2 tonight in their space rig is a discussion for another day, for tonight they are before the 800 of us (798 Poles presumably, and us), and despite suffering what could be described as some "Jazz Club Monitor Syndrome" i.e. the guitar just isn't loud enough, they deliver an hour of the finest, most dramatic instrumental Progressive Rock music we may ever hear. It is fair to say, however, that to these ears, and those of Kevin, they didn't come close enough to their ecstatic, supercharged set we were witness to in Leeds earlier this year. As a result, the score after the first leg had to be GIAA 0 Caspian 1, but with all to play for in Gdynia the following evening.

POZNAN scores
Tides From Nebula 7 out of 11
Caspian 9 out of 11
God Is An Astronaut 8 out of 11

As I am sure all you Basketball fans out there know, last week saw Poland holding "Eurobasket 2009", with 16 teams, including Great Britain, competing for the European Championship. We stayed overnight in Poznan at the Novotel, and as the elevator arrived and slowly opened, my first thought was "Why have they got one of those joke mirrors that you used to get at Seaside piers and pleasure beaches around Britain's coastline, where your reflection is distorted to such an extent that you could be 7 foot tall?" And then I thought "But joke mirrors that I remember didn't used to replace your own, and that of your brother's reflection with that of 5 individuals, give you a tan, and dress you in full Basketball training attire". It was then that I realised- it was in fact the Croatia Basketball team, all of whom were at least 6' 10". At least we thought they were all from Croatia. As we piled into the lift, which proceeded to groan with possibly its greatest load ever, I decided to strike up a conversation with the elongated chap to my far right;

"Who are you playing today?" (in mock Eastern European English accent, perfected whilst ordering copious amounts of Warza lager the previous evening). "Croatia" was the reply. He obviously didn't understand me, and thought that I had asked who he played for. Silly, I thought, 4 of them were wearing Croatia shirts, so he must know that I know that, surely? "No, who are YOU play-ing to-day?" "Cro-atia" was the sarcastic answer. "Oh, forget it". I said, as the lift arrived at Reception.

Kevin pointed out as we checked out that I had picked the single Greek opponent in the lift to ask the question. I could have caused a fight. Blimey, there would have been arms and legs everywhere.

A very jolly 6 hour train ride from Poznan to Gdynia ensues...

With Tides From Nebula again warming things up nicely (although with a little too much metal posturing for my liking- I have decided that this was because they are from Poland and probably grew up on a visual musical diet of Aerosmith and Def Leppard. So far, no spandex, thankfully), it was soon time for Caspian to again fire up their colossal maelstrom, with a second live outing for "The Raven" in consecutive evenings suddenly propelling this beast of a tune into my Top 10 of 2009 so far.

After the slight disappointment of GIAA's set in Poznan last night, Kevin and I were hoping that the volume was going to be turned up this evening. Halfway way through opening track "The End Of The Beginning", when a guitar sounding like what I can only describe as an apocalyptic buzzsaw to the brain kicked in, I think we were both certain that it had been. With a set almost entirely different from the previous evening's, containing a lot of the more uptempo songs from the band's 4 album output, this was a brilliant performance, and far more akin to the explosive set we had seen them deliver earlier this year in the UK. With an accompanying film reel depicting carpet bombing, burning cities and, perversely, TV Evangelists, providing additional visual entertainment, I was, as almost usual, fairly well awestruck, so that when they left the stage 70 minutes later, it was as if they had only just arrived. See this band and buy their music, they are simply majestic.

Tides From Nebula 7 out of 11.
Caspian 8 out of 11.
God Is An Astronaut 10 out of 11.

An honourable draw then, 1-1.

And if that wasn't enough excitement for one trip to Poland, we went to Gdynia Aquarium on Wednesday morning and saw some really excellent fish;

Garden Eel 10 out of 11

Album -Slow Club - Yeah So

Slow Club

I really like 9 out of the 12 (or maybe 13 if you count the hidden one) songs on this album. It's not the sort of music I'd normally listen too but would work a treat at The End of the Road Festival.

It's on the far side of the Americana and approaching indie folk but without the doggies on strings.

I’ve had the CD in the car for a good 6 weeks and haven’t become bored with it yet. I think that’s down to the variety within each of the songs which isn’t immediately obvious on first listen. A casual listen will lead to a memorable melody or a hook in a chorus and this album is choc full of chorus’. I think the real beauty of this album though is in the over clunky guitar in the slow song or the misplaced verse or the very odd rhyme (the Rio de Janeiro one is inspired). It’s a neat trick bringing quirkiness without interrupting the flow of the songs.

I've read a few reviews of the album and the theme seems to be 'it's ok, but they are really great live'. The good news is that you can have both and I'll certainly be looking out for them on next years festival circuit or some small venue in Manchester.

mp3 Link removed because of the thought police....the irony is two people have bought the album having heard the track on here.

And the really excellent - go on give it a go

Because We Are Dead - Video

Result 7.8/11

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Product - Insulated Food Container

I’m quite a faddy eater, not so much in terms of what I eat, but in the lack of variation. I tend to find something that I like and then eat it repeatedly until I become sick of it and then I don’t eat it any more. When I was about thirteen I ate a tin of ravioli every evening for my tea. After about a year (and no doubt just after my parents had stocked up on a couple of dozen tins) I decided that I didn’t like tinned ravioi any longer and I switched my allegiance to hot dogs. A year or so later, tired of pigs lips and eyelids, I moved on to date sandwiches. I can measure my childhood by my eating habits in the way that some of us measure our lives by dogs, houses, partners or World Cups.

My current predilection is for cooking my lunch before I go to work. I used to bring sandwiches but I’ve gone off them. When I was a kid, my Mam always made me tinned salmon sandwiches if I was going on a trip anywhere. I probably got a badge in the cubs for being posh because of them. Even now I can’t eat them without wondering why I’m not at Captain Cook’s Monument, Beamish Open Air Museum or Flamingo Land.

However, these days lunch usually involves a couple of chicken breasts or a piece of lamb, accompanied by a tray of what Asda describe as ‘Mediterranean Vegetables’. Nice and easy, I put the two trays in the oven when I get up and half an hour later tip the contents into my lunch box and leave for work. Generally, however, my lunch is cold by lunch time. I’m not one for hanging around the microwave so I thought I’d try and find an insulated container, a bit like a thermos flask, but lunch box shape and size. Not easy, but I managed it as you can see from the above picture. I did look for a picture of a girl in a bikini holding a lunchbox, but the adult content filter at work deemed that to be a bit much.

Anyway, does it work? No, not really. It doesn’t have a very tight seal and so not only does the food cool rapidly, but I’m quite likely to get gravy everywhere if I don’t keep it upright. And so the search goes on, at least until such time as my tastes switch back to the date sandwiches.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Gig- The Undertones - Bingley Festival

When you accidently discover that the Undertones are playing for free on a Friday night less than an hour from home you know things are going well. All you need is one pal who thinks ‘aye go on then’ and you’re on the way to a happy evening. Now Bingley Festival may not get the headlines other more populist festivals get, but for £25 it should get a bloody good value badge. Even better Friday night is free night, no ticket required. Good on the council for sorting the whole thing and obviously having a chap/chappess with a few contacts to get the bands.

Anyone who read the Friday night line up will have spotted the dilemma we were faced with. Get there early enough to get a beer and see the whole Undertones set, but not too early as to be Toploadered out. Fortune was on our side, Craig got delayed on the M1, we missed the train by 2 minutes and had to spend an extra 30 minutes in the bar.

After a very short walk into the park venue and a non existent search we were at the bar, cider paid for and in hand as the band started to play ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’. They didn’t even write the song but it was a jolly lovely sing-along.

As 'Jimmy Jimmy' started up we made our way without to much bother to about 5 yards from the front and spent the next 50 minutes jumping up and down to all our favourite old songs. At one point ‘Jump Boys’ we turned into a 2 man moshpit which was a bit disconcerting for all around who were certainly fearful of a fall.

Big aside to discuss Moshpit culture. Back in the old days it started with more of a pogoing bounce into your nearest audience member and then bounce away again. Pretty soon it developed into more of a shove around, probably populised by The Meteors, ‘they throw pigs blood on the fans’ and their psychobilly mates. I once went to see them and went for a Mosh with their 'Wreckin Crewe'.

mp3 – Wreckin Crew

Next the Goths and The Spear fans got into the act with the granddad coats and the wavy arms. These pits ranged from the fey spinning round smiling Smiths gigs to the 'right who can we fight with later' Spear of Destiny gigs which always came to a head with Liberator.

mp3 - Liberator

So I thought I knew the deal with moshpits, been there done it, happy to watch them at festivals from the back. Until a couple of weeks ago at Leeds festival.

These kids are mental, as a pit opened up next to us I was amazed at the sheer ferocity with which the kids hurl themselves at each other, over and over again. Having got over the initial shock, it soon become obvious that everyone is in fact on the same team. While bodies crashed high and low, there was always some to catch a faller or three people diving to pick up anyone who slipped. As one chap returned from the pit to his mates in front of us he was asked ‘how was it?’ with a smile and wink he replied ‘I won’. The whole communal thing certainly made me smile.

And so The Undertones, better with the less self conscious Paul McLoon on vocals, rather than the limped haired and reputably unfit Fergal Sharkey, played every song you would want to hear. I think about 2000 punters went home at 10pm very happy with them and the council.

At least 2 of us did anyway

This is the last vinyl release by The Undertones I think its from 2006 and its a cracking tune

mp3 – Thrill Me

New Stuff - Calypso

I absolutely love the 4 tracks on their myspace, it's 4 more white boys with guitars from New York but don't be put off by that as they are great tunes.

There is a bit of Wreckless Eric Whole Wide World (That vids got Ian Dury on drums) and a bit Lou Reed too, but with his fantastic drawl of a voice it's brilliant. I should warn you it's addictive after two plays and it'll be stuck in your head.

I tried to buy the one EP release 'Teen Age' but it's restricted to the US at the moment so I've ripped these until I can actually buy it. I'm going to take the links down within a week too as they could probably do with the cash at this stage.

Now I'm not playing next big thing but.....

I know most of you don't have space in your life for new stuff,make an exception and give this a listen...honest its really good.

I'd also be interested to know what any lurkers think who read but don't comment, someone needs to balance out the cynical old gits on here

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Middlesbrough 10k

I did the Middlesbrough 10k Run on Sunday. 

It’s not really my sort of thing these days but a mate of mine was collecting for a good cause so I volunteered to jog around with a bucket. It’s years since I’ve ran further than fifty yards or so. In fact I wasn’t really sure that I could run more that fifty yards, but as it was only ten kilometres I reckoned that I could probably walk it and still be home for Sunday lunch.

Anyway, after being close to deafened by the starting gun I managed almost two kilometres at a jog, pausing only to collect coins from spectators before admitting defeat, handing over my bucket to the Boy Wonder and slowing to a walk. Fortunately a pretty girl took pity on me and we walked the rest of the route together, chatting away whilst people applauded us, in essence, for being crap. It was like being cheered on for popping out for a newspaper. Maybe they knew I was having a barren spell with the ladies and I was being clapped just for getting one to talk to me.

Twenty years ago I used to do half marathons. I was never particularly quick but in big races I could generally finish half way up the field. I entered a run in Barnsley on one occasion though and instead of competing against grannies and pantomine horses I was up against the club running elite of South Yorkshire. Or at least I was for the first couple of miles, they were long gone after that. I did the final eleven miles with an ambulance driving twenty yards behind me like the Grim Reaper. This time we had policemen on motorbikes tailing us, keen to reopen the roads.

One hour and thirty eight minutes after setting off we were done. Paddy had a couple of hundred quid in his buckets and I had blisters from the running shoes I bought ages ago and then consigned to the cupboard. So, as this is a review site, it was a very good event, loads of bands playing in people’s front gardens and some very kind spectators who really should have gone home long before I reached them. I got a tee shirt, a medal and a kitkat. Now that my trainers are broken in, I’m looking to break an hour and a half next time.