Monday, 30 March 2009

The Inner State Circus EP

Lost somewhere in Sheffield’s ‘Ice Palace’ rest a band suckled with summer sun, toasted funk blues and melodies you can twist around your little finger.

The Inner State Circus combine styles to melt your heart, it’s raucous and warm, if a little patchy and over indulgent in parts.

It’s forgivable at times in this montage but 'Identity Unknown' loses itself amongst shoddy recording, long build ups and has little to keep your ear interested which is stark in contrast to 'Certainty' which floats in a summer breeze of acoustic Spanish guitar, low key drumming and sweet melodies.

'Sorry For Interrupting Your Love Making' is a schizophrenic affair chopping between fast and slow and starts in a dramatic attack of piano followed by an excellent chant for which all the band take lead.

The song soon ebbs away, then grows, then ebbs and never returns to the same point, there is nothing to grasp throughout the song until it finally returns to opening chant and even then they don’t just leave it alone, they go on for another minute until the track fades into silence.

The Inner State Circus are at their best when the music goes quieter, the acoustics come out and the piano plays. Devon Francis’s vocals lift the songs to a whole new level at times in 'Certainty' and 'Keeping the Pain Alive', if accentuated more the outcome could be rather beautiful.

Maybe you’ll get a better grasp by watching it live, good luck though, they just played their last gig.

Taka Pow EP

Sheffield Uni quartet, Taka Pow, play guilt edged synth pop which threatens to be great in many places. They’ve got that electro sound that captures the spirit of the time but wouldn’t sound out of place in the late 80s.
They’re a perky and pretty sounding band who wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, not really worrying about whose toes they’re treading on while doing so. The vocals are stop start and they stutter throughout, to be quite frank you have a better chance of understanding Morse code amongst the choppy synth and fresh guitar sounds.
They don’t rally a resistance and fail to reach any kind of height, it’s always stuck on cruise control with the buttons broken, it’s sweet but there is no sucker punch. They’ve put together a professional and polished EP but Taka Pow fail to duplicate the substance of song that their sound demands.
It isn’t all bad though, there is something there beneath the generic facade, anyone remember the story of the ugly duckling?

The Magdelaine Cays @ The Nottingham House 21/2/9

Signed recently for a single deal to independent label Diffusion, the Magdelaine Cays have been picking up admiring glances from the north and the south. They play a brand of rock which definitely maybe belongs in 1994 but they do it with an edge that grips you right away and shreds your own larynx as much as front man Mr Mark Booths’.
Tonight seems to be a showcase of everything the Magdelaine Cays have to offer, well, for the time being anyway. Their long song set is delivered with conviction, sheer determination and they’re clearly having a ball.
We’re introduced to their new single Tricolore along with other tunes such as Too Skint to Breath and Guns of Navarone where Booth screams ‘I’m gonna shoot you down yeah yeah yeah’ which might have more right to be dominating charts than chubby chappies in suits wishing for double 0 status or angst ridden emos in skinny jeans who are more worried about their guy liner than their g string.
There are sing-along moments in Girl With the Two Tone Hair which is greeted with a loud reception from a large and fairly rowdy Notty House crowd who are dancing, singing and drinking in large proportions.
As they bring their set to a rip roaring end they announce they’ll be back before long, they weren’t lying and return to the stage to further entertain the revellers with their acoustic guitars showcasing new songs and a variety of covers.
The future seems bright for yet another Sheffield band, the Magdelaine Cays are full of riffs, licks and kicking drums but haven’t necessarily re invented the cycle, they’ve merely given a good swing in the right direction.

Mongrel @ Sheffield Plug 14/2/9

This is clearly a night that has been highlighted in diaries for many this year. This isn’t just because cupid is coming to town. Mongrel are at Plug tonight, one of the first chances to see this new concoction of genres which includes a welcome return for ex-Monkey Andy Nicholson.
Sampletastic and not quite as interesting as their name suggests, Playground Mafia kick the night off in turbulent style without much of a crowd but they manage to ignore this and fly through a gruelling set of big, dirty noises .
They’re followed Mongrel member, MPOH. The crowd grows with her confidence through the set as she shakes along with her Gok Wan lookalike stage mate, DJ Beware. She’s fierce, has a great voice and mixes the set with recognisable tunes such as Salt n Pepa’s ‘Push It’. MPOH returns to Sheffield in March and I for one will be returning.
A sense of awe consumes the Plug as the ‘coalition of the willing’ super group Mongrel take to the stage, albeit late and without guitarist Drew McConnell, delayed because of objects on the train track delivering him to the north.
When he does show up Mongrel suddenly kick into life. It’s like one big party, one very organised party where everyone waits their turn to play the finest game. It’s politically minded with references to 9/11 in highlight ‘the Menace’ which floats brilliantly between indie pop and hip hop.
The Reverend is as entertaining as ever, doing his best impression of a gorilla doing his best impression of Flat Eric. The loved up Valentines (aged from about seven to seventy) are clearly in wonder of this band and when Low Key adds his Impromptu Alphabet session everything stops and mouths are open for a completely different reason.
They’re a refreshing band with a raw passion for what is going on around them and with no other agenda; they’re doing it for the right reason.
‘In the future, all music will sound like this so get used to it.’ Maybe isn’t McClure’s most profound statement all night but it is a statement of intent, probably indicating that he isn’t done with his music just yet.

Kings of Leon @ Nottingham Trent Arena 2/12/8

Having first come onto the scene in 2002 as country punksters loaded with raw boppers Kings of Leon have fraternised with greatness, the stars, crabs and turned into one of the most respected bands around. Arguably stumbling on their latest release, 'Only By the Night', they've still produced one of the best albums of the year with tracks like 'Sex on Fire' turning into mega hits. Apparently selling out this tour in three minutes there's a lot more expectation on their shoulders now, they're no longer the aspiring but the aspired.
Opening with the moody icebreaker from 'OBTN', 'Closer' they immediately follow with the monumental 'Crawl', propelling the revellers at the front into a frenzy. They're raunchy and tight and belong on the bigger stage. After five songs we finally get a word from Caleb; 'We're Kings of Leon'. Thanks. It doesn't matter though because you're utterly transfixed despite being on row fucking Z at the back of the bastard room that they could tell us how shit we are and it wouldn't matter. Caleb then tells us that they were drinking before the show and decided to play their longest ever set; 'Hope you aren't getting fed up of us yet.' Despite screaming and dancing the Kings remain modest and it translates into their music, they're relaxed yet fired up as they storm through the rest of a set that sends tingles up the spine. They finish with their trademark pre-encore pleaser 'Trani' in raucous fashion and start to show signs of fatigue; Caleb's voice cracks more beautifully than anybodies has ever before. They're still ready for a four-song encore and reach new heights with 'Knocked Up' before 'Charmer' is unleashed on a not so unsuspecting crowd and they wrap the night up with 'Black Thumbnail'.
Kings of Leon are perhaps within touching distance of greatness, one more album off rock royalty. They capture the times well and you still want more, you feel they're only going to get better. It's fine, remember, patience is a virtue and even though they were spot on this evening, you know you'll be taking a spare pair next time, because with the Kings, there will always be a next time.