Friday, 30 October 2009

Johnny Foreigner - Grace And The Bigger Picture

Released October 25 through Best Before Records

After a summer of success on the festival circuit and revelling in their overnight triumph of 2008, Johnny Foreigner, much to their credit, are back just one year later with follow up ‘Grace And The Bigger Picture.’

This is a band that are sticking to their guns, they haven’t progressed too much from their first long player, if anything only making their rambunctious rally of unruly rock shorter and more to the point.

They spin tales of life on the road (‘I Woke Up On A Beach In Aberystwyth’) but soon become repetitive on their one dimensional, nonstop ride of noise.

They shine through in ‘I’ll Choose My Side And Shut Up, Alright’ showing that they can actually play their instruments and sing in tune, they just choose not to, much to their own long-term detriment.

Johnny Foreigner are a band that will go out of fashion as fast as their hair cuts leaving blurry visions of the Welsh coast and their challenging yet un-authoritative back catalogue a mere memory.

On the Stereo

1. Pencil Full Of Lead - Paolo Nutini -

2. Diddley Bo - Seasick Steve -

3. Everythang Is Everythang - Black Diamond Heavies -

4. Romeo Is Bleeding - Tom Waits -

5. Bad Things - Jace Everett -

Top tunes x

Nine Black Alps - Sheffield Leadmill - 27/10/9

It has been four years since Nine Black Alps released their debut ‘Everything Is’ and since then they haven’t moved far. They’ve reached album number three and ‘Locked Out From The Inside’ has failed to duplicate, let alone stretch what they originally presented to the world back in 2005.

Tonight they hit Sheffield’s Leadmill, demoted to the smaller ‘Steel Stage’, to entertain with their riff heavy, growled out take on rock and its plain to see Nine Black Alps have work to do.

With a crowd around 150 strong starting the night with them, they finish to more like 100, fail to impress with their newer songs and for the majority of this gig, sound like an unsigned band. Not necessarily a bad thing you may think but for a band that has been on the block for nearly half a decade there is little to show they’ve been doing their homework.

They show flashes of brilliance with the infectious, raw rockin' ‘Unsatisfied’ and ‘Not Everyone’ but their latest offerings, particularly the opener (‘Vampire In The Sun') from this month’s release seem watered down and the crowd has to wait for finisher ‘Shot Down’ to be riled out of their slumber.

It’s a shame to see a band slowly fall out of favour and appear to have fallen out of love with what they’re doing. They’ve not moved an inch since their debut, apart from a couple of steps backwards and unless their direction and song writing is re-assessed they will continue to play to an ever waning audience.

The Dead Weather - Leeds Academy - 23/10/9

The leather is out and the gloves are off. The Dead Weather are in town on their stint of the UK and the good people of Leeds are tingling all the way down to their loins with the anticipation of tonight’s show.

There’s enough tension in the air to cut with the bluntest of instruments and they begin ‘60ft Tall’ with the haunting whisper of Alison Mosshart leaving a stamp of how they mean to go on, with serious intent.

They move straight into ‘Hang You Up From The Heavens’ without so much as a word and Mosshart is already in full flow, slinging herself between monitor tops with a look on her face that shows she means it, who knows what it actually is, but she’s being driven on a journey that is pleasuring and torturing in equal measure.

As the rest of the band follow Mosshart’s lead, they’re in full flow and it’s inexplicable that Dean Fertita’s fingers aren’t bleeding down to the bone as the Queens Of The Stone Age’s guitarist shreds his axe with monstrous riffs and when the time calls he slips off to his organ on the side of the stage when the appropriate moment arises while Jack White starts to lay down the law with his stripped back drum kit and Jack Lawrence rocks out like a 70s dad.

As White meanders his way to the front of the stage the crowd are lifted to the next level and his wailing guitars remind you exactly why this guy is at the top of his game. He fits in anywhere on a stage and in any band he graces, a man who will surely go down in rock folklore as one of the, if not the greatest musician of our era.

It’s loud from start to finish and congeals all of the finer things in life (feedback, licks and screams) into one blisteringly flashy and raucous set. This band are a towering spectacle on the live stage with no reservations about where they want to go and with a new album rumoured to already be in the making, they could be onto something very special indeed.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Judge of talent show X Factor and Girls Aloud member, Cheryl Cole, looks set to beat this year's fastest selling single, with her debut, 'Fight For This Love', outselling X Factor Alexandra Burke's 'Bad Boys' on the first Monday of release.

Guitar legend and previous Guns N' Roses member, Slash, has recorded with Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale for his new album, reported to be named 'Slash and Friends.' The Australian singer has joined the likes of Dave Grohl, Ronnie Wood, Jason Bonham and Fergie on the album told BBC Newsbeat: "He is an iconic figure in rock'n'roll history. I thought, 'It's an honour'."

After the release of this year's 'Hombre Lobo', Eels have announced they will release their 8th studio album on January 19 next year. The new long player is titles 'End Times' and was recorded in front man Mark Everett's basment.


'The Beginning'

'Gone Man'
'In My Younger Days'
'Mansions Of Los Feliz'
'A Line In The Dirt'
'End Times'
'Apple Trees'
'Paradise Blues'
'High And Lonesome'
'I Need A Mother'
'Little Bird'
'On My Feet'

Daily Mail writer, Jan Moir,  has been 'disowned' by the Irish Daily Mail following her comments on Boyzone singer Steven Gately's death. Her comments have prompted over 20, 000 complaints worldwide (a significant increase on the chart topping 684 from the Times in 2008.)

Father of singer Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, has claimed: "She has been drug free for a year." .... Alright mate.

Film star Johnny Depp is rumoured to be playing guitar in support of his favourite British band, Babybird, at a London venue on their forthcoming tour.
After the success of Tramlines Festival last year, Sheffield City Council have announced plans they're returning with the festival and looking at the possibility of having a 'Sheffield Music Month.' Leader of the Council, Paul Scriven said told Sheffield Telgraph: "As a vision, this is really exciting."


Monday, 19 October 2009

The Chapman Family - Virgins

Released October 19th through Electric Toaster.

Having being picked in NME’s top ten acts to watch out for in 2009 there have been eyes and ears waiting for something special from Tee side band The Chapman Family.

They boldly declared that they formed their band in 2006 because they were “fed up of hearing bands that sounded like fuck all like anything,” giving themselves the already dutiful task of feeding our ears with something of substance and making us forget the watered down tripe that dominates radio and television.

It’s difficult to get excited about this lot and the saturated paranoia of vocalist Kingsley Chapman’s delivery is no more enticing than a bag of ants (“the more I give, the less you take, the more you give, the less I take away.”)

The dynamic musicianship occasionally glares with promise and the transition from a moody backdrop to something altogether more epic is done smoothly but lacks the shrewdness they seem to believe they deliver.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Tigers That Talked - Artificial Clouds

Released 19/10/9 through Bad Sneakers

There has been much chit chat about Leeds folksters Tigers That Talked, they’re popular with Steve Lamacq and Zane Lowe with various others also giving them the nod and freely play their misery tinged pop whinge.

Taken from their forthcoming debut album, ‘The Merchant’, ‘Artificial Clouds’ looks at love on the other side of the coin, when it delves into the darkness with a power that can kill a person from the inside, or something like that anyway.

This is the kind of music that your dad gets excited about, it’s well executed, clean and easy on the ear but the problem here is that it sits in its own idiosyncratic melancholy feeling sorry for itself and although it grows with each listen it sits in its own desolate gloom: “So I’m falling apart without you, I’ll paint a symphony for you, watch clouds fly, artificial clouds, when death came, I tried to comfort her.”

Don’t believe the hype.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Importance of Mr E

When Mark Oliver Everett released his solo debut, ‘A Man Called E’, way back in 1992 he went almost un-noticed. The man who was born in Virginia in 1963 had witnessed and dabbled in things no ordinary person should have by this age but they were nevertheless the experiences that moulded one of the finest songwriters in the world today.

Everett, better known as E, moved to Hollywood to try and make it as a singer, his debut album was rewarded with a tour support for Tori Amos and was followed up by ‘Broken Toy Shop’ before he formed his full band, Eels, who then released the 1996 album,’ Beautiful Freak’.

The album itself was an extraordinary bucket of charm, sadness and torment which produced the hit single, ‘Novocaine For The Soul,’ an immensely intense piece of work that had a slow burning melancholic feel full of balladry anguish. Anguish and torment is a recurring them in Eels’ music and this is not without reason.

“My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me.”

E explains his relationship with his father, Hugh Everett III, in ‘Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives’.

E has led a tragic life, including finding the corpse of his father at the age of 18, his sister committing suicide followed two years later by his mother losing a long and painful struggle to lung cancer. The singer/songwriter has also dealt with the untimely demise one of his cousins, an air hostess working with her husband on the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

Not a particularly happy decade for Mr E then but after the deaths of his mother and sister he wrote and released ‘Electro-Shock Blues’, a widely acclaimed effort with dark themes and sounds, thought to reflect the songwriters grief. ‘Cancer For The Cure’ is considered to be the remembrance of his late mother, as with many others on this album, including ‘Hospital Food.’ Everett delves into the world of his song writing and sorrow with his heavily acclaimed autobiography, ‘Things The Grandchildren Should Know’. Here is explains how and why songs were written, what life was like for him as a child and why he thinks John Legend is a twat.

E has remained open to projects outside of his musical career, his autobiography in particular being a fine example of that, but he also played a heavy part in the making of the BBC documentary ‘Parallel World, Parallel Lives’, a film about his estranged quantum physicist father, Hugh Everett III. The making of the film was a trip down memory lane for Everett and not an entirely happy one and said of his father:

“My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me. He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night.”

Despite the experimenting outside of his song writing, E’s full attention has always been his music and is known for his varying approach, both live and in the studio. To follow up the release of double album ‘Blinking Lights And Other Revelations’ Eels toured as a full band, playing old and new but mostly in a way his fans had never seen before. They brought in metal sheets to bend and create string effects, trash cans as drums and made the entire set look like an old man’s front room which E made his own by wandering between instruments with a cane (for nothing more than show), a tumbler of whisky and a large cigar.

“I didn't want to write a bunch of blatantly autobiographical songs about a lonely old indie rocker.”

E on ‘Hombre Lobo’

Since then, E has moved on and returned with this year’s ‘Hombre Lobo’, the return of the ‘Dog Faced Boy’ we met in 2001 when ‘Souljacker’ was released:

"I didn't want to write a bunch of blatantly autobiographical songs about a lonely old indie rocker, so I thought it would be more interesting if it came from this character," E said in a statement before the release of the band’s seventh studio album.

The album is packed electric guitars and blues motifs with titles such as ‘The Look You Give That Guy’, ‘The Longing’ and ‘What’s A Fella Gotta Do’, it showed that E has replaced his lonely longings with pangs of desire.

Despite the seven albums, a best of and live albums, Eel’s most famous songs are probably the first ‘band single’ ‘Novocaine For The Soul’, ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ (from the film, ‘Road Trip’) and ‘My Beloved Monster’ which featured on the DreamWorks smash, ‘Shrek’.

The reason this man is so important is because he champions whatever he wants to do, he’ll rhyme as and when he wants and will trial new sounds and vibes. Outside of music he is admirable in ways that most will never have to be, with a life full of loss he has turned it all to his gain and will forever be the American Werewolf.


Slow Club

Folk wasn’t really a word that the ‘New Yorkshire Revolution’ dealt with when a splurge bands engulfed charts, clubs and parties a few short years ago. Monkeys went mental and Kaisers were (unfortunately) crowned but Sheffield’s Slow Club maybe slipped under the radar despite their loveable rockabilly ideals. After forming from their previous band, The Lonely Hearts, back in 2006 they’ve moved into their own loveable scatty street folk pop. The currently touring duo made up of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor took some time out before their show at Sheffield’s Plug to tell us more.

“Everyone stopped wanting to be in the band and we [just the two of them] were playing little nights that we enjoyed more. We started doing covers and then we wrote songs together and it kind of went from there.”

There is an unassailable union between the two which translates across in their harmony infected heartbreak folk, they finish each other’s sentences and have identical ideas which seems almost telepathic.

The intense relationship between the only two members of this band, who spend most of their time singing together, brings to light many questions about their relationship and whether it has passed into something more than a musical affiliation: “Absolutely not, never. We’re best friends but that’s it. Everywhere we go people think that but it’s not true, maybe that’s why guys never come near me, because they think I’m with Charles,” says Rebecca, the duo’s drummer/vocalist, quick off the mark to quash any wonderings.

The twosome is something that they like though, despite the speculation what lies between the two as guitarist/vocalist Charles interjects: “It’s great that this is a band, there are only two of us but we both write  and sing the songs. There are so many bands that are almost run by one person, like the Shins, I really like them but it’s all about James Mercer who writes and arranges, that’s fine for some people but this works for us.”

Tonight Slow Club are back in their home town and it’s been a while: “It’s the first time we’ve been back in Sheffield since we moved to London and it’s a bit mad, my phone won’t stop going, we’ve got a lot of friends up here,” says Rebecca,

The madness isn’t something that’s always appreciated as she continues to explain: “I’ve really been getting into Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ recently and sometimes I would just rather go home and play it over and over again,” before she adds with a slight snigger: “Maybe I’m just sad.”

Certainly not, but there is an underlying theme of sadness and heartbreak with this band that sits between their quirky folk n’ roll. Their debut album, ‘Yeah, So’, aptly demonstrates this despite the fact it was a long time coming, having only been released in July this year:

“We wanted to make sure we liked it,” explains Charles, who is the more focused and intense of the two, he’s calm and measured about what he says: “We went into the studio and put songs down but after a couple of weeks of listening to them we weren’t so sure. It was important that we liked the songs so we wrote some more and went back to record the album. Our record label [Moshi Moshi] are really great, they’re really supportive, and we’ve not even had to sign anything with them.”

"It's great that this is a band, there are only two of us but we both write and sing the songs."

The band also have plans for a Christmas EP which Charles tells us more about: “We’re looking forward to it, there are going to be four songs, all Christmas songs, including [previous single] Christmas TV, I think we’re going to do a couple of gigs around then too, one in London and maybe one in Sheffield.”

Tonight may be their last gig in the place where everything started for them until the Christmas festivities are upon us and as they open tonight in Plug they’ve gone against the grind. They appear unplugged in the middle of an already encapsulated audience which goes deathly silent so you can hear every well executed note from the two singers and their acoustic guitars.

Slow Club have a rapt and attentive crowd tonight and it remains loveably haphazard and shambolic throughout, they’re raw and fun loving, if they make a mistake then they start again and Rebecca persists in asking for the red hot lights to be turned down, leaving the show in almost total darkness apart from the soft glow of a red bulb, radiating the intimacy and energy of this band.

Haphazard and shambolic is in no way a bad thing for Slow Club, its part of their charm and when they reach ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful’ they’re in full flow and ramble: “So let me tell you, tell you, a thing or two about how to survive when there’s a me and a you, it’s awful it’s gruesome, it’s something, it’s cruel. Forever you will ask out how this happened to you,” with their immaculate harmonies carrying them through in their own slapdash style.

They finish the evening outside in the smoking area on top of a bench surrounded by hundreds singing ‘Christmas TV’ at the top of their lungs. Never before have I witnessed a more fitting encore, or one that befits a band and it leaves this crowd thankful that they’ve played their own cameo role in Slow Club’s continuing folk fairytale.