Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Seen It>>ATP I'll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace - 27.05.2012

Halfway through the final day of the I’ll Be Your Mirror weekend, was recently reunited indie punks Archers of Loaf. The North Carolina-based quartet reformed early last year after disbanding in 1998, and had played the ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas event last December, which was curated by Les Savy Fav. They were famous for their energetic shows and, even older and balder as they were, they still showed they could still rock as hard, with bassist Matt Gentling energetically leaping around the stage like an excited child on Christmas morning. Playing the first and, so far, only show of their “tour of Palaces”, they drew a small but passionate and vocal audience, who bellow out the words to “Audiowhore,” “Plumbline” and “You and Me,” as if they had never been away. The final two songs of the set, “Web in Front” and “Nostalgia”, draw frantic bouncing and moshing from the crowd, to signal an energetic show that was highly enjoyable.

The locally-based 90s revivalists, Yuck, were at home on a bill that include three reunited bands, whose heydays were all in that decade. On opener “Chew”, with its wall-of-sound guitars, you get a feel of their My Bloody Valentine influences, whilst the ensuing boisterous “Holing Out”, is more from the Dinosaur Jr textbook and it gets the crowd bopping along. They seem to feel very nervous on stage, showing a lack of stage presence, with frontman Daniel Blumberg shyly thanking ATP for having them on their bill. The distortion-powered “Get Away” draws the loudest cheers from the crowd, before they end on the 9-minute long “Rubber”, a long lo-fi stretch of reverb and distortion. Overall, it was a decent set, but nothing special.

The Make Up, having recently reformed for I’ll Be Your Mirror following a twelve year hiatus, were greeted by a large audience. Their sound was a mixture of post-punk atmosphere, with gospel keyboards and garage rock guitars, a complete contrast to the other day’s bands. The madcap frontman, Ian Svenonious, who was previously with the Nation of Ulysses, was almost as excitable as the audience, with his high-flying scissor kicks greeting his every highly-charged word. Think Mick Jagger fronting The Strokes and you’ll get a brief image of his on stage behaviour. He spent a significant amount of time in the audience, climbing on top of audience members, in order to get closer to the crowd and spread his word like the rock preacher he so naturally is. Before long, he returns to the stage, confidently serenading the audience with the funky “We‘re Having a Baby” and “Every Baby Cries the Same”. The most eclectic band on the bill, showed why there were in a league of their own, providing the perfect spiritual rejuvenation  for a tired audience, and granting the perfect warm up. Although they were the penultimate band of the weekend, they could have easily topped the bill, which would have still left the crowd going home happy.

With sweltering temperatures both outside and inside, The Afghan Whigs turned up the heat, with a blistering set that brought the house down and the event to a emotionally drained climax. After thirteen years away and a couple of prior shows, including Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, Hollywood and New York comeback shows and the Pinkpop festival, the Ohio band were back and were in scintillating form. Whilst not as big as most of their Sub Pop contemporaries in the early 90s, they made up for it in critical acclaim and cult status. Greg Dulli’s smouldering soulful rock chargers opened up with the noir-esque “Crime Scene Part I”, before launching into the highly-powered “I’m Her Slave.” But it wasn’t until the likes of “What Jail is Like” and “Gentlemen”, that the roof threatened to blow off and Dulli’s vocals were drowned out by the bellowing screams of the intoxicated, passionate audience, who seemingly had waited many years for the chance to sing these anthems again and even with the Whigs being the final band of the weekend, the energy inside wasn’t sapped. Dulli told the audience to keep dehydrated due to the baking conditions, before deciding on the draining “66” and “Debonair”, that had the entire audience bouncing for one last time. “Faded”, over 8 minutes long, gave the audience a chance to get their energy back in time for the encore. They returned to rapturous applause, delivering a four song encore. The final part, “Miles iz Ded”, proved to be the perfect parting gift, with a large congregation of singing along to ‘Don’t forget the alcohol…ooh baby’, to many a raised pint glass. Even after well over a decade away, The Afghan Whigs prove to be more in demand and as powerful as ever, leaving many middle-aged men dewy-eyed after a riveting and mesmerising show.

Overall it was a great day of music, but the show did certainly belong to The Afghan Whigs.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Incoming>>JEFF The Brotherhood - "Sixpack"

Tennessee's brotherly duo, JEFF The Brotherhood, have enlisted the help of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for their upcoming EP, Hypnotic Knights. The first track to be taken from it, "Sixpack", is a chilled-out departure from their usual wild, prog-punk rock; it's a Pinkerton-esque fuzzy guitar ode to getting hammered. Hypnotic Knights will be released on May 22.

Incoming>>Fang Island - "Asunder"

Brooklyn-based indie trio Fang Island have unveiled the first track to be taken from their sophomore album, Major, due out July 24 via Sargent House.  It continues from where they left off on their eponymous debut album in 2010, with more energetic power-pop metal riffs which come with accompanying headbanging and handclaps. They have previously described their sound as "everyone high-fiving everyone".

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Reviews>>Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods (Dangerbird)

After the mass success of their sophomore album Swoon in 2009, which reached number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart, you wouldn’t be surprised if Silversun Pickups decided to stick with what they already had on their new release, Neck of the Woods. However, that couldn’t be more opposite of this album’s intention. Enlisting the help of U2 and R.E.M. producer Jacknife Lee, Silversun Pickups go for a louder and bolder sound on their third LP, which sees them dropping the distortion and fuzz-Pumpkin riffs, progressing onto a darker and brooding atmosphere, which frontman Brian Aubert previously described as sounding “like a horror movie.”

Lead off single “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” may carry the name of a teenage horror movie urban legend, but its melodic synths and cinematic dream pop gives it that scary and unsettling feel, whilst the industrial “Make Believe” shows a different side to their sound. “Here We Are (Chancer)” carries Aubert’s mysterious, ghostly vocals over a mellow drum-machine beat. “Simmer“ is the album’s seven minute prog epic, “The Pit” has 80s synth-pop in the style of Depeche Mode and haunting basslines from Nikki Monninger, “Gun Shy Sunshine” generates jangly riffs and reverb, whilst “Busy Bees” is Ok Computer territory Radiohead. The gothic “Mean Spirits” is their most Pumpkin-esque track on the album, an amalgam of arena-heavy wall of sound guitars and powerful drumming courtesy of Christopher Guanlao. Final track “Out of Breath” is pretty much usual Pickups territory with its driving atmospheric guitars and robotic drum work.

If Silversun Pickups have long been compared to 90s alt-rock legends My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins, then Neck of the Woods shows that they have moved into a new direction, following M83 into incorporating electronica into their sound. It is a beautiful flow of trancelike electronica, that shows the quartet are unafraid of trying something new with their sound and are able to tackle a variety of styles successfully.