Friday, 27 April 2012

Of Montreal, Irish Centre, Leeds

Having not heard anything by tonight's headliners, I ventured out on a wet Monday evening giddy with anticipation for hearing some new music. However, when only five songs into Of Montreal's set, my friend turned round and muttered 'they're like a poor man's Scissor Sisters' my giddy mood quickly waned. Fortunately, the support bands made the drive across a windswept M62 worth the effort. Opening band, whose name I missed, very quickly picked out a nice groove that was only tainted by the flat vocal style of their lead singer. At their best, they reminded me of Hot Chip, but a Hot Chip who had spent their formative years sitting in graveyards reciting the lyrics of Morrissey to each other rather than fruggin' the night away in a techno bunker on the outskirts of Berlin. They were also held together by a drummer who seemed to have modelled himself on Keith Moon, such was his flailing behind his kit.

When second act Yip Deceiver kicked-off their set by bouncing around the stage like Jedward, I started to wish that I had never given up smoking. However, by the time they reached the chorus of their opening number I was a fully fledged convert to the cause. Davey Pierce and Nick Dobbratz (who will later take to the stage with their day job band and headliners, Of Montreal) kick out half a dozen catchy pop songs that wouldn't sound out of place on a John Hughes movie soundtrack. From the Erasure-esque Get Strict to Sadie Hawkins Day a song that if there was any justice in the world would be filling indie dancefloors up and down the country, the duo play an absolute blinder which left the crowd whooping and hollering for more by the end of the set. Both Pierce and Dobbratz (who from a distance looks a little like Mika - not a good look) take it in turns to deliver the lead vocals, and it is their voices that will pick this duo out when they are inevitably compared to pop twosomes such as The Ting Tings. My only one disappointment was that by the time I got to the merchandise stall to purchase their debut e.p, it had understandably sold out. A fact I should have been well aware of, as throughout the set, Pierce regularly checked in with the merchandise guy to see how well the record was selling 'that was a track from our new e.p. which we have only.....three left at the merch table!'. Just a word of advice, if you get the chance to see this band play, make sure you checkout the merchandise stall before rather than after their set. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Visually, Of Montreal have it going on. The decent sized stage at the Irish Centre struggled to fit all eight band members, who showed off their musical dexterity by playing a range of instruments during the set. With lead guitarist Bryan Poole dressed as an Austin Power's version of a 60's popstar, and regular stage invasions by ghouls and dancers wearing fake breasts, there was a real sense of theatre to tonight's performance. Musically, however, the band left me cold. The material from new album Paralytic Stalks felt a little unbalanced and out of place amongst the bright projections of the stage set, while older songs such as Suffer for Fashion lead to the comparison with Jake Shear's disco posers. By the end, I felt as if I were attending a poorly executed art and drama degree show, and believe you and me, I have been to a few of those and this is not a good thing. 


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Piledriver Waltz - Caitlin Rose

So here's a little confession. When it comes to guilty pleasures, there is nothing we like better here at VO Towers than to kick back and listen to a little country music. From Merle to Johnny, Loretta to Emmy-Lou, we ain't afraid to admit that we're suckers for the three chords and the truth. So there's no denying we were a little excited when new material from Caitlin Rose pinged into our inbox last week. Released as part of the recent Record Store Day celebrations, this cover of Alex Turner's Piledriver Waltz reminds us why we fell in love with Rose in the first place.  

Friday, 20 April 2012

Stare, Norwich Waterfront

In 1992 I was eight years old and into Lego and Mortal Kombat. Crazy times. Cast your mind back to a time when no English football team had ever won in Bayern Munich. Imagine such a world?

Keeping it local, the Barlights kick off the night to many appreciative hoots from the Owls present. I overhear comparisons being made with Grandaddy, Interpol, Gene and Ben Folds Five which (if a little flattering) all seem fair enough as the Barlights seem to have moved on from the 'Norwich Union' rock I remember them trudging out the last time I saw them.

So onto Stare; a Blue Peter time capsule moment, quite literally put on pause since their label decided to drop them and shatter their hopes of reaching the big times they were so close to. To mark the 20th anniversary of their Radio 1 Sound City concert at the Waterfront they are back and with the never released album to boot, having eventually been freed from the clutches of the record label. A rock fairytale or another sentimental reunion? One things for sure, at £4 a ticket they certainly aren't doing it for the money...

So they dramatically emerge through the smoke. The singer looks like a cross between Rod Stewart and Gordon Ramsey, sporting the most garish Tour-de-France style jersey worn by anyone since Jeremy Goss donned the infamous Bayern Munich-crushing ‘omelete’ top.

Anyhow enough about the Canaries of the early nineties, what is that I hear? The Boo Radleys? Carter USM? The Mock Turtles? Yes its true, Stare are as 1992 as watching Wayne’s World at a Freddie Mercury tribute concert (oh yeah, Wiki). The audience have aged a bit since last time (I guess?) but there is a nice buzz around the venue, which I suppose could be expected from this sort of (one-off?) homecoming gig. Their short, brisk tunes (JUST THINK ABOUT 1992 STUFF) are full of the elements good pop songs need. The guitarist, who looks like he borrowed his paisley shirt from Bonehead or Guigsy, brings these two decade old riffs and licks back to life with a genuine exciting energy. Themes revolve around the usual hopes and dreams of a ‘young’ band, now played out by a ‘not-so-young’ band but now with renewed hopes and dreams of a ‘young’ band. This is getting complicated. Like Peter Pan force-feeding Benjamin Button acid over the bonnet of the Back to the Future Delorean; we truly are time traveling, man.

Mood is a great piece of dream pop and Work which is partly played over a Margaret Thatcher speech, sees them addressing the unemployment issues of the day which don’t seem particularly unfamiliar twenty years later. Its difficult to work out what the future could possibly hold for Stare as they are so rooted, both in back story and sound, in a time past (1992 INCASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED). Nonetheless, for the band and the crowd alike, the future is irrelevant as it’s only about the past and tonights unlikely opportunity to re-live that. So naturally their sound is well received and put simply is really good fun.

Sure, some of the between song banter is a bit cringe worthy and localized, but I don’t begrudge the frontman his anecdotal musings, after all he’s been waiting twenty fucking years to have a go at playing ‘Jarvis Cocker’. Besides anyone who can wear that jumper and haircut deserves his moment. Towards the end there are points when some of the tunes lose their punch (the Prince of Wales Road track must surely have been a B-side) but a unique concert that transported me to an era that I never experienced first hand, but my record collection owes so much to. Escapism is surely as good a reason as any for a night out. Now to dig out that Mega Drive...

Sammy @sickbookies

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week (2)

'Lazuli' - Beach House 

We appreciate it's only April, but we're going to stick our feathered neck on the block here and say that 'Bloom' the new album from Beach House will be topping a number of Best Album of the Year polls come December. New single 'Lazuli' will be available to purchase for anyone supporting their local independent record shop this Saturday as part of Record Store Day 2012.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Hey Jane - Spiritualized 

The best thing Spiritualized have done in an age.  And the video is like a scene cut from The Wire. Don't watch if you're turned off by a little violence. 

2:54, The Cockpit, Leeds

The best/worst band name debate is something that has raged since the birth of rock and roll. With each passing decade, more band names are added to the columns marked 'sublime', 'ridiculous' or 'indifferent' and music lovers make adjustments to their personal favourite/hate lists so that they are armed and ready to state their case should the topic ever come up. If, when forming a band, you dream of fame and fortune and travelling the globe playing to adoring fans, then surely it's worth investing a little bit of time to consider the name that will adorn your album covers and be splayed across merchandise the world over. Some of our greatest bands, revered from continent to continent, selling millions of records and who regularly find themselves featured in top ten lists for best band/album/live act have done so under monikers that most of us wouldn't even consider calling our budgie.  The two main culprits here have to be The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Two of the biggest and most influential bands in the history of popular music. Two bands who wrote the blueprint for anyone who has picked up a guitar and dreamed of a life in rock and roll. I mean, come on! Here are two bands whose creative juices seeped out of every orifice, yet these are the best names they could come up with? 

In-offensive yet uninspiring, the name 2:54 was never going to find itself amongst my own list of great/worst band names of all time (for the record The Smiths, The Stooges and ? and the Mysterians are my top 3 favourites) but how the sisters Hannah and Collette Thurlow came up with the name is certainly far more interesting than the pun-ishing method used by Lennon and McCartney. Apparently, two minutes and fifty four seconds into A History of Bad Men by grunge pioneers The Melvins, is the time the song gets good and the bassline becomes both dreamy and doomy - two terms which could certainly be used to describe the band's sound. Live, the band's infectious and haunting songs are an interesting blend of early PJ Harvey and nineties shoe-gazing darlings Curve and is quite captivating during set highlights You're Early and Creeping.  Unfortunately, the Cockpit is only a third full tonight, and is therefore missing the kind of breathless and claustrophobic atmosphere that I feel these songs and the band would thrive off.  Because of this, the band are a little inconsistent, and at times carry the air of a band suffering from an end of tour hangover. With America calling (the band embark on a US tour in June) maybe it's time to recharge the batteries. As for how the Americans will take to the band name, I don't think they have anything to worry about as this is the country that took Hootie and the Blowfish to their hearts.  


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Olympians/aCivilian/Death Of Death Of Discotheque/The Lost Levels/Eyes- Open Norwich

So a new venue pops up in the fine city appropriately named OPENAccording to their website the club room holds 450 whilst the main venue holds 1550, just short of UEA capacity.  Where will Ocean Colour Scene and the various Zeppelin tribute acts perform now? Who knows? Hopefully in Cambridge. Anyhow tonight we are in the smaller of the two.

The venue looks and sounds great and apart from the poor draught lager selection, which they also ran out of, OPEN promises to add a new dimension to the Norwich live music scene. But booze issues aside five local bands for £4 is surely a good way to go about getting the crowds in on a Saturday night. Anyhow due to over-running prior engagements (pub) I unfortunately missed Eyes and 95% of the Lost Levels set, which is a shame as I have heard good things about Eyes and the Lost Levels sounded like a different (and improved) version of the band I last heard about 3 years ago.

So the Death of Death of Discotheque start it off proper with their frenzied punk-art-nosebleed-rock-pop. The dark synthy bits sound great, the guitar riffs give me the creeps (but in a nice way) and they all look like they live on a ward; business as usual then. Mostly drawing from last years smashing debut album Count Me In, their short set joyously writhes its way through the most kaleidoscopic art-school pop. Their set finisher, a rave-rock instrumental based around some looped spaz keyboard sample, is like a bugle call for any fuck-ups who aren’t already dancing to get on with it. And they do. Put bluntly DODOD really are fucking brilliant and their live show is worth 20 balmy minutes of anyones time.

aCivilian continue to fly the flag for Norwich indie music and do a fine job with a set bursting with influences and ideas. With songs coming from last years debut album Invention most definitely a band to take more notice of in the future. And finally Olympians bring the night to an impressive close with their well constructed melodies and effortless aura. I used to think the Olympians sounded like the Futureheads but they are far more interesting and subtle than that. As close to a model of contemporary pop sound as you could wish for. Set closer Foreign Language with its layered vocal harmonies is surely the best piece of art-pop heard this side of Kings Lynn in ages. So the Norwich indie scene lives to fight another day. Open, indeed.

Sammy @sickbookies

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Jagwar Ma - Come and Save Me

Look. There is no getting away from the fact that summer has been and gone. Tonight and tomorrow a blanket of snow is due to hit our shores which will herald the start of winter. So put away your Birkenstock - or espadrilles if you're fashionably concious - and your baggy combat shorts and take your woollen overcoat from the closet.

To remind us of those heady days of summer (Wednesday 28th March 2012) here's one of our favourite songs that was on constant rotation throughout those glorious few hours and one which will always transport us back to that sunny afternoon. 

Right, where did we put our snoods?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

my life spins at 45 rpm......

When i was 7 I made the big step of buying my first record.I was pondering buying some obscure freakbeat 45 or maybe a super obscure northern soul rarity but in the end opted for the safer bet of buying the current number 1.I was lucky and my first record was blockbuster by Sweet and it now sits alongside a few thousand more and still gets played often.I love it as much today as I did approaching 40 years later.

That one record and that one decision changed my life.I used to sit and watch that record go round and round as it played and I used to drive me Ma mad by leaving the arm of the deck pulled back so it would just repeat each time going through a series of clicks and whirrs before the arm set off again to land on the record.Readers of a certain age will never know this kind of joy.

About a year after that first purchase and with my collection now approaching maybe 4 or 5 records came a day that I will never forget.My Grandma was a cleaner at a local college and it turned out that one of the students had left behind a pile of singles  and rather than them land in the bin she brought them home to me.That pile contained records by the Small Faces , Kinks , Stones , Animals and the like.I was hooked not only on the sounds coming off them but on the discs themselves.

From that day on I bought records.Every bit of pocket money went on more , my paper round money bought more , Christmas and birthdays lists always contained records for people to buy me and so it went.Today I still buy them and still have loads that i want  to buy when those six numbers finally come up.Wherever we go I try and find the charity shops or one of the few remaining record shops in the hope that there will be something  to feed my addiction.I take blind punts on records that 'look right' and are often not and I cherish finding stuff in the wild and online.I took a day out of my honeymoon to sit in one record shop and have been on record finding jaunts to Europe and the States.I get 'em home play them , file them and then it's onto to the next so maybe it's all in the chase?Maybe it's the hunter gatherer coming out in the form of a ludicrous amount of small black discs and I am loathe to get rid of any in case I'm missing something in a record that on first listen is utter cak.I have 45's that are big money that are easily available either on LP or reissue but I have to have the originals.

My kids are desperate to go to Disneyland (thanks to the current advertising blitz) and have even told me that there are the best record shops there so we have to go.And that brings me onto the record collectors connundrum.......what happens to them when I shuffle off this mortal coil?Will my kids love them anywhere near as much as I do?I sort of hope they do and sort of pray they don't!They could sell them and easily net a small fortune but I hope they hang onto at least some of them and not even the rare ones.

So why the 45?

Well when i was growing up pop music was brilliant and vital - I grew through the glam years which was all about the single no concept albums for us Slade fans!Next came punk and every week there would be a great single to buy often released by the bands themselves who probably couldnt afford (or maybe they didnt have enough songs?) to release a full LP.All my favourite bands are referred to as singles bands - Slade , The Jam , Madness , The Kinks and many many more.Perhaps the main reason goes back to that stash of 45's my Grandma brought home in that I love the music of the sixties and in particular the beat stuff and of course northern soul.If ever a scene rotated on 45's it's northern soul and I love it!

So the buying goes on and the collection is ever growing so I had to find a way to rationalise the whole thing other than the DJing which is at best sporadic.For me that comes in the form of doing some mixes up on the old mixcloud page where hopefully some people will hear something they enjoy.So far I've done a northern soul one , an American garage one and now the new one is up taking me back to some of those first singles that thankfully Kathryn Ogden left behind (having written her name on most of them in true 70's fashion).

Have a listen and if you enjoy 'em great if you don't blame Kathryn.......

Into the Groovywoovy

Blog contributer, Phil, has been putting his knowledge of all things freakbeat to good use recently by putting together this excellent mix for our listening pleasure.

Checkout his previous two mixes too, which we posted on the blog earlier this year.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Music For People Who Hate Themselves...

Honestly, how can anyone not be excited by this new Pre-New album? Glam stomping Kraftwerky, Mark E Smith-mumbling rock left over from Earl Brutus; (and no doubt they are still drunken, chain-smoking wretches dressed in stonewash denim like EB).

Having mostly been disappointed by new stuff thus far this year Music For People Who Hate Themselves is fantastic, genuinely enjoyable to listen to and makes me want to down 2 litres of Strongbow and start a band with some other scrotes called Teenage Taliban or something like that. And its only 9:18 am.

Stream it here and hopefully there is a physical release soon.

Sammy @sickbookies