Tramlines 2013

Across Sheffield, Friday 19th – Sunday 21st July

It seems barely five minutes ago when Tramlines; Sheffield’s very own metropolitan festival, launched back in 2009. Bringing together a diverse mix of local & national acts across some of the city’s most popular and cherished venues, it quickly became a welcome addition to the calendar.

Five years on, and like any growing child, it’s fair to say there having been a few teething problems along the way. With the loss of Nokia as a major sponsor, and with Sheffield Council’s decision to pull their funding, this fifth anniversary has seen the festival have to adapt or die; controversially bringing in day & weekend wristband charges for the more established venues, for what was once dubbed the ‘Free For All’ festival.

Friday 19th

Friday got off to the best possible start, with a cracking set from Counting Coins at The Bowery. Having stumbled across them by sheer luck, drawn in by the programme listing of “Skanking: Ska, Punk, Gypsy, Hip Hop”, their sweltering half hour set did not disappoint, combining high tempo rhythms, offbeat guitars, and lots of pogo-ing.

Down to the Library Theatre for something completely different. It feels like David Ford has spent an eternity traipsing up & down the country; the accomplished songwriter and multi talented musician seemingly forever on the verge of a breakthrough. And yet there was no sign of fatigue or any lack of passion creeping in just yet. With old favourites ‘State of the Union’ and ‘Go To Hell’ seamlessly mixed with material from recent effort ‘Charge’, Ford came across as sincere and driven as always, with the theatre’s intimate surroundings proving the perfect setting. A tease of The Smiths’ ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ before the encore certainly left me desperate for more.

It’s fitting that it fell to Hey Sholay to bring the evening to a close with their headline set in the Cathedral – the iconic building packed full for a band that have been tried & tested favourites of the festival over recent years. Wonderfully unique, the cathedral setting added that extra special to feel to their delightful pop hooks.

Saturday 20th

After a fortnight of relentless sunshine it was somewhat of an inevitability that Saturday got off to an overcast start. Determined not to the let gloomy weather dampen spirits, The Everley Pregnant Brothers brought much needed cheer with their set from roof of the Fat Cat. There must have easily been a few thousand or so spectators crammed into the car park for their ukulele enthused parody covers, with ‘Pork Pie’ (Parklife) and ‘Common People’ getting the biggest laughs.  

Back in the City Centre, and Sky Larkin looked completely at home with their mid afternoon slot on Stage 2 in the O2 Academy. Whilst world domination may have not quite happened for the once hotly tipped Leeds trio just yet, they still packed an almighty punch – tracks such as ‘Fossil, I’ soaring to as dizzy heights as ever.

With a name like Gnarwolves, it’s to little surprise the Brighton punk trio’s set at the Corporation was every bit a raw and energetic as their moniker would suggest – their blend of hardcore lapped up by all in attendance.  A brisk walk across to the The Plug and there was just time to catch Hot Soles’ headline slot. Well known throughout city, the duo clearly relished the home crowd reception, with frontman / guitarist Kieran taking an impromptu mid set stroll across the top of the bar. A blistering end to the second day.

Sunday 21st

As with any festival worth its salt, Sunday morning was a bit of a struggle. Fortunately Dave Woodcock’s early afternoon acoustic set at the Frog & Parrot was the ideal remedy. With Dave currently recording material for a forthcoming new record with The Dead Comedians, the set was a pleasant mix of some old, some new, with a tasty Lach cover thrown in for good measure.

Back down in the O2 Academy, and Wet Nuns showed little mercy to anyone hoping for a quiet Sunday. Their storming set saw the Sheffield / Leeds duo play their trademark blues tinted with heavy rock loud enough to rival that the sound levels of much bigger bands. Drummer Alexis even managed to get himself stuck stood on the top his drum kit, much to the amusement of frontman Rob. I’m not sure the word wild quite cuts it.

My first and only trip of the weekend to the Main Stage on Devonshire Green was a pleasant one for Slow Club’s early evening slot. The majority of the crowd may have been more than content to just sit and nod along, but that didn’t make the duo’s twee pop numbers any less enjoyable.

Upon arriving for one final stop at the Harley, it was bizarre to find audience and bar staff alike mesmerised in a seemingly hypnotic gaze towards the stage, amidst a fuzzy noise of electronics beeps and screeches. This of course could only mean one thing – the ever-inventive Thomas Truax was on stage with his peculiar collection of homemade instruments and mind-bending gadgets.

Once the Truax spell was eventually broken, the task of closing the weekend fell to recent Futuresound runners up Witch Hunt. Coming off the back of the hype surrounding their forthcoming Leeds Festival appearance, and a recent team up with Gorilla Perfume who scented one of their tracks, it’s no surprise the Leeds duo drew a big crowd. A few songs in & it was very hard not to start throwing comparison with the The Kills around – frontwoman / guitarist / percussionist / banshee Louisa Osborn having that same siren like draw as a young Alison Mosshart, whilst guitarist Chris Mulligan going for the more brooding guitarist act that has served Jamie Hince so well. Musically, that is where the similarities end, with Witch Hunt peddling a much darker, less polished sound – that only adds to their mystique, aptly captured their recent haunting effort ‘Crawl’.

And so that was Tramlines for another year. Despite facing its biggest challenges and controversy to date, it somehow delivered one of its best years. As the saying goes, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”.

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The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican – ‘Sat’day Neet Fever’

BSVD coverYou have to wonder just how they do it. Less than a year since their last release ‘Ey Up! Let’s Go!’ and following a long run of local shows and festival outings, the Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican are back with their unique blend of humour interwoven into superb covers.

As we’ve come to expect, the Doonicans have not shied away from reinterpreting classics ranging from the Bee Gees and Abba, to The Clash, and The Commodores. No one is safe. A quick glance at the tracklisting; ‘Pint Fever’, ‘Portaloo’, ‘I Fought The Lawn’ and ‘Queasy’, should be enough to tell you there’s laughs aplenty here, regardless of your feelings towards the originals.

But the laughs are only half the story, and would quickly fall flat if it wasn’t for the wonderful musicianship – recreating such well-known hits with apparent ease, complete with extra helpings of ukulele and accordion.

The only criticism? You could argue the ideas on offer here are no different from the band’s previous efforts – just another dozen songs given the Doonicans treatment. But it’s tracks such as ‘The Lady In Greggs’ and ‘Stalking On Facebook’ that challenge this. The Chris De Burgh and Katrina & The Waves hits have been transformed from the shallowest of shallow pop songs into comedy masterpieces: that not only tickle the funny bone, but also capture the zeitgeist of contemporary Britain.

And like all good comedians, the Doonicans have perfected the art of knowing when to quit before the joke starts to wear thin. With no shortage of laughter from start to finish, there’s clearly plenty of mileage still left in this routine.

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My Top Five Albums Of 2012

5/ Richard Hawley ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’

hawleySkiesIt would have been easy for Richard Hawley to follow the highly acclaimed ‘Cole’s Corner’ and ‘Lady’s Bridge’ with more of the same. After all, his warm & classic sound has certainly earned him a devoted following in his post-Pulp years. However, from openers ‘She Brings The Sunlight’ & ‘Down In The Woods’ it becomes immediately clear that this is an entirely different record. Surprisingly heavy and with a strong pyschedelic influence, the album is as bold as it is excellently produced throughout. Perhaps lacking any obvious single choices (apart from ‘Seek It’ – which bordered too close to whimsical for my liking) Sky’s Edge is the rarest of finds in this day and age – an album that works best as collective body of work rather than just as a grouping of radio friendly singles.

4/ Alt J – An Awesome Wave

alt jA worthy winner of this year’s Mercury Prize, over the last six months Alt J have seemingly come from no where (a.k.a. Leeds) and conquered the radio masses & hipster scene alike. Of course there are lazy comparisons to be made with the likes of Radiohead and Wild Beasts, but with Alt J there feels little pretension (or certainly less than of that associated with the former); the band somehow managing to keep their feet on the ground amidst all the hype and multi-layer harmonies. Breakthrough track ‘Breezeblocks’ will be familiar to most, but it’s the real gems such as ‘Tessellate’, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Something Good’ that suggest a long bright future.

3/ Bruce Springsteen ‘Wrecking Ball’

springsteen wreckingThey say the best art comes out of adversity. And Springsteen; still riding the wave of a late noughties comeback, is no stranger to hardship. Now facing the backdrop of economic burden and financial crisis ‘Wrecking Ball’ delivers both a scathing attack on those who have caused so much misery, and a rallying call for everyone still living with the fallout. ‘We Take Of Our Own’ sits comfortably alongside The Boss’ vast back catalogue of stadium sized anthems, whilst tracks such as ‘Jack Of All Trades’ & ‘Rocky Ground’ paint a much more sombre picture of an America trying to slowly piece itself back together. The album’s highlight comes from ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams’ – a rousing outburst of emotion that so few manage to channel anywhere near as well.

2/ The Gaslight Anthem ‘Handwritten’

gaslight handwritten“If I wanted to, I could start over again”, sings frontman Brian Fallon on standout single ‘Here Comes My Man’. And that’s exactly what Gaslight have done on this, their fourth full length to date. Shedding the weight of expectation placed upon them ever since their breakthrough second offering (2008’s ‘The ’59 Sound’), Gaslight have returned with a more commercial, and slightly grungier sound than their previous punkier offerings. Whilst lead single ’45’ is Gaslight by numbers, the likes of ‘Mullholland Drive’ & the aforementioned ‘Here Comes My Man’ are both balsy moves into a new direction. Throw into the mix the pure two minute joy of ‘Howl’, and Gaslight have once again delivered an album that sounds wonderfully unique. The two superb covers ( of Tom Petty’s ‘You Got Lucky’ & Nirvana’s ‘Silver’ – both available on the deluxe version) certainly match, if not surpass the originals. It pains me to say it, but Gaslight are surely only one more hit away from becoming fully-fledged arena fillers.

1/ The Menzingers ‘On The Impossible Past’

menzingersI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The best albums are the ones you go back to time & time again, with your favourite track consistently shifting until you end up back where you started. This third offering from The Menzingers had me from the simple yet so addictive hook of ‘Sun Hotel’. But with repeated listens I’ve moved onto the more delicate symphony of ‘Gates’, to the all out passion of ‘Casey’, right through to the glorious finale of ‘Freedom Bridge’. Every song offers something different, and yet the album flows seamlessly, with no single track feeling out of place. The perfect contemporary punk album; schizophrenically shifting between harmonic verses to gutsy choruses, with understated melodies coming up to boil nicely under the driving guitars and drums. An instant classic.

Best Of The Rest

Say Anything ‘Anarchy, My Dear’,  The Maccabees ‘Given To The Wild’, Lana Del Rey ‘Born To Die’, The Vaccines ‘Come Of Age’, No Doubt ‘Push And Shove’, Mumford & Sons ‘Babel’, The XX ‘Co-exist’, The Killers ‘Battle Born’, Fun. ‘Some Nights’, Band Of Horses ‘Mirage Rock’, Deftones ‘Koi No Yokan’, Craig Finn ‘Clear Heart Full Eyes’, The Smashing Pumpkins ‘Oceania’, Crystal Castles ‘III’, The Cribs ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’, Benjamin Gibbard ‘Former Lives’, ‘ The Swellers ‘Running Out Of Places To Go’ (EP), Alexisonfire ‘Death Letter’ (EP)

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Tramlines 2012

Tramlines 2012 @ Across Sheffield 20th – 22nd July 2012

They grow up so quick. It seems like only yesterday I attended the first ever Tramlines back in 2009. Now with three successful years under its belt, Sheffield’s fun filled free weekender is back, and as usual promises to bigger and better than ever before.

Friday 20th

Somewhat inevitably my weekend begins with a queue. But I don’t mind, as the hour long wait to get into The Bowery is well worth the wait. But before we get onto the night’s main attraction, Mancunian duo Great Waves get the evening off to a great start. Whilst their post rock drone took a while to get fully going, a few songs in and there was no denying the abundant potential of the band.

Despite being stood in a now fully packed Bowery I still cannot quite believe what I am about to witness. In the last few months (that’s Alt J to you and me) have emerged from seemingly nowhere to become one of 2012’s most hotly tipped acts. My only worry? That they won’t be able to recreate their truly unique recorded sound. Thankfully my doubts are completely misfounded, the band delivering favourites from their debut An Awesome Wave note perfectly including‘Tessellate’, ‘Matilda’ and breakthrough ‘Breezeblocks’. Just like when The XX played The Harley in 2009, this will go down in Tramlines folklore.

Of course the beauty of Tramlines is sometimes what you stumble upon rather than what you had planned to see. After hearing the Frog and Parrott had a secret headliner lined up, my curiosity is rewarded with a furious outing from Johnny Foreigner. The midlands quartet race through a set of their high tempo noise, bringing my Friday to a glorious finale.

Saturday 21st

After the incredible night before, it feels only right to start Saturday more gradually and ease into proceedings. Dave Woodcock’s acoustic set in the Ballroom of Sheffield City Hall provides just that. Dave, who usually is accompanied by his band of Dead Comedians, instead offers a stripped back set of material from his most recent effort Poisoned Nights And Ballroom Lights, as well as a wonderfully appropriate cover of the Springsteen classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’.

A short walk through the carnival that is Division Street – with all its bars crammed even so early on in the afternoon, leads me to The Hop. To my delight, they’ve decided to go with a Blues theme, with an array of artist carefully selected to complement each other and flow seemingly. First up are the John Hanson Band making a welcome to return to Sheffield a mere 35 years since their last visit. They are followed by the equally impressive Mudcats Trio, who bring a more up-tempo variation of the Delta blues.

A quick break for food and then off to see rap legend Roots Manuva on the main stage. Or so I thought. Upon seeing the queue tail round at least two sides of Devonshire Green, I decide my time would much better spent exploring elsewhere.

So onto the Frog and Parrot for Rip Off Britain. Despite initially impressing with loud and fast beats, it soon becomes apparent they are very much a one trick pony. The kind of band you find playing in rock bars on a Saturday evening; perfectly competent, but somewhat lacking originality. And they didn’t even cover ‘Jump’.

Thankfully my deviation from the plan eventually pays off a little further down the street, ending my Saturday in Bungalows and Bears with a superb outing from Abe. Admittedly, their 9pm slot is a far too early for a band which would be better suited much later on in the evening / the early hours of the morning, but their unique combination of electronica, synths and rhythms still worked its charm.

Sunday 22nd

The only problem with an urban festival is that by Sunday the motivation to travel back into the city for a third day is too easily trumped by the prospect of a lie in and lazy afternoon. But as the sun finally comes out early in the evening, I decide to make one final push to catch We Are Scientists’ main stage headline slot.

However I was yet again defeated by the Devonshire Green queues – I really should start queuing much sooner at future events. Instead I head to the New Music Stage outside City Hall, arriving just in time to catch Rolo Tomassi’s outing. There is a hint of irony that is the local math-core quintet’s third consecutive year curating this ‘New Music’ stage, but they are well received regardless. No doubt they’ll back again next year.

It’s always special to catch any 65daysofstatic headline show. And whilst the set delivers exactly what you’d expect to get from the Sheffield post rockers, it doesn’t make it any less fun. A well placed jibe a Nick Clegg and the age old trick of getting everyone to crouch down really low before getting everyone back up again for a euphoric chorus made for a fitting climax to another superb Tramlines.

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Vibrations Magazine – Slam Dunk Festival 2012

Returning for its seventh incarnation, it seems a lifetime ago since I attended the first ever Slam Dunk Festival way back in 2006. And how things have changed.

It’s nice to see that from a single stage out on Millennium square this annual celebration of all things pop punk has now matured into a fully fledged takeover of the numerous venues contained within Leeds University. With temperatures soaring into the 20’s if there’s one thing the day promises to deliver it’ll be sweat. Bucket loads of it.

First up, on the Vans Off The Wall stage (whatever that means) Marmozets seemed to thrive in the mid afternoon heat. Their blend of noise was a welcome distraction from the fact the band appeared barely old enough to leave the house without an accompanying adult. Nethertheless an impressive showing that combined both technical prowess and raw force.

Moving into the Refectory (or the Atticus Jagermeister Stage if you insist) there was just time to catch Lower Than Atlantis give their best Foo Fighters impersonation with a medley of ‘Everlong’, ‘The Pretender’ and ‘All My Life’. An unexpected treat, but one you couldn’t help but feel surpassed, and consequently undermined, the rest of the Watford based quartet’s set of melodic hardcore.

Say Anything followed, and on a rare visit to the UK delivered a well balanced mix of material from their recent effort Anarchy, My Dear, as well as fan favourites such as ‘Woe’, ‘Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too’ and closer ‘Alive With The Glory Of Love’. Frontman Max Bemis was in noticeable high spirits, barely pausing for breath throughout their 45 minute outing. The only disappointment? That they only played 45 minutes.

It came as no surprise that Motion City Soundtrack followed up with a hit filled set, perfectly timed to re-energise those starting to feel the strain. A sample of new material from their forthcoming fifth album Go, was a welcome addition, although the biggest cheers were saved for the likes of ‘Her Words Destroyed My Planet’, ‘The Future Freaks Me Out’ and the inevitable climax of ‘Everything Is Alright’.

A trip down through a labyrinth of corridors saw The Story So Far play an utterly rammed Macbeth Stage (that’s Mine to you and me). The San Francisco based quintet; who are on the verge of a major breakthrough following the success of last year’s effort Under Soil And Dirt and recent tours with The Wonder Years, gave security a run for their money inspiring plenty of stagediving and crowdsurfing antics in and amongst the chaos. Next time they’re back at Slam Dunk you can guarantee they’ll be on a much, much bigger stage.

Before the headliners, there was time to nip across to the Punktastic Acoustic stage (also known as Pulse) to catch Into It. Over It. Offering up some much needed respite, whilst acoustic sets are certainly nothing new it was a pleasure to see Evan Weiss put his own spin on it, introducing each song with a short and often hilarious anecdote.

Back to the Refectory, and despite a thirty minute delay, there was no denying Taking Back Sunday have earned their headline slot, having consistently delivered for over a decade. A career spanning set saw the band draw heavily from their much loved debut Tell All Your Friends;  with ‘You Know How I Do’ and ‘You’re So Last Summer’  met with rapturous applause, alongside material from more recent efforts including ‘El Paso’ and ‘Faith (When I Let You Down)’. Whilst by no means a perfect set – with technical issues causing Adam Lazzara’s mic to frequently cut out, and questions about the frontman’s ability to perform after sustaining a shattered leg back in March, Taking Back Sunday delivered a thrilling and frantic outing. It may not have been quite as polished as some may have been expecting, but it provided a fitting end to a hot, sweaty, but above all fun day. I’m already looking forward to Slam Dunk 2018.

Click here to view on the Vibrations website.

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The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican – ‘Ey Up! Let’s Go!

Cover albums. Always a tricky prospect for even the most accomplished of bands. Do you strive for a painstakingly accurate recreation – only to be accused of missing an opportunity to innovate, or do you risk your own adaptation with potential backlash from those long devoted to the original? The more loved the band, the higher the stakes.

Not afraid of a challenge, Barnsley trio The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican have somehow succeeded on both fronts with latest offering ‘Eye Up! Let’s Go’. Offering musically perfect recreations (complete with added ukulele and accordion) of much loved classics from The Ramones, The Clash and Elton John, to more diverse choices from the Beastie Boys, House Of Pain and Kaiser Chiefs, the band add their own twist reworking lyrics with an abundance of references to their South Yorkshire home.

As you’d expect there’s plenty of humour to be found in the likes of ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Pint (In Barnsley)’, ‘Hi Ho Mr Traffic Warden’, ‘Avon Calling’  and ‘Jump Ararnd’ (not to mention the ‘B.I.S.T.O’ hidden track). And whilst it would be easy to applaud this as mere bit of fun, there’s no denying the album has been put together with a lot of passion and respect. Even the artwork is a superb spoof of the Ramones self-titled.

The album’s most accomplished moment comes from a cover of the Kaiser Chief’s‘I Predict a Riot’ – sampling David Cameron’s (yes, you did read that correctly) speeches from last year’s London riots. A simple yet obvious choice that manages to raise the cover above and beyond the original – adding a feel authenticity that was perhaps lacking on the 2004 hit.

Of course, there will be some that find the album too much of a novelty to take seriously (hence why Hayseed Dixie never quite escaped the club circuit with their similar blend of Rock meets Bluegrass). You also have to question the album’s appeal outside of Yorkshire. However, clocking in just over 30 minutes ‘Ey Up! Let’s Go’ is over long before there’s any hint of outstaying its welcome. A rare accomplishment for any cover album, and one that offers plenty of laughs along the way.

Listen to ‘Ey Up! Let’s Go!

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Chelsea Sack AVB

It’s only a mere 10 months since Chelsea sacked Carlo Ancelotti following defeat to Everton in May 2011. Now in March 2012 his successor Andre Villas Boas has suffered the same fate following this weekend’s 1-0 defeat to West Brom.

As a Chelsea fan there’s no denying this season so far has been a huge disappointment; with too many points dropped in lacklustre draws and a notable lack of goals upfront. Of course, not all the blame can be lumped on AVB – well publicised issues with senior players (who perhaps need to start thinking primarily about the team’s success rather than individual achievement), and a still misfiring Fernando Torres have not helped. Combined with the daunting task of bringing in younger players in, whilst maintaining a challenge in all competitions, the job is always going to prove a difficult balancing act for any manager.

So did AVB deserve the axe? Like Ancelotti before him I have to say yes. As an ambitious club, hoping to challenge in the Premier League and Champions League year in, year out, results are EVERYTHING. With Chelsea currently in fifth and in real danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for next season, whilst it may seem harsh to not to let AVB see out his project to the end of the season, now seems the perfect chance to re-focus the team on achieving fourth position, before a more radical overhaul in the summer.

With former player Roberto Di Matteo appointed as Interim Manager until the end of the season, I hope these closing months will provide the opportunity for the club to reassess the performance of the team, and perhaps give younger talent such as Romelu Lukaku, Oriol Romeu & Ryan Bertrand more prominent opportunities.

As for AVB, I genuinely wish him all the best for the future. Last summer I was delighted about his appointment and believed he could be the manager to reinvigorate the squad. Sadly that was not meant to be. But would any other top six Premier League side take such a bold risk in signing such a young (and still) promising manager? I think not.

Between now and the end of the season there will no doubt be endless speculation regarding the next permanent Chelsea manager. Jose Mourinho would be the obvious favourite (who wouldn’t want ‘The Special One’ back?!). I say let’s just concentrate on getting the results we need for fourth.

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My Top Ten Albums Of 2011

10/ Coldplay ‘Mylo Xyloto’

Back in 2008 Coldplay surprised everyone with ‘Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends’ – an album that finally showcased a fresh energy and enthusiam rarely associated with themselves. Thankfully the somewhat oddly titled ‘Mylo Xyloto’ continued in very much in the same vein, with lead single ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Charlie Brown’ all vibrant and distinctive. With a superb headline outing at Glastonbury, and stadiums shows booked for 2012, whilst ‘Mylo Xyloto’ may not be their best effort to date, expect a lot more from the band in 2012.

Key tracks: Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, Charlie Brown, Paradise

09/ Frank Turner ‘England Keep My Bones’

Let’s be honest ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ was not a great Frank Turner album. Despite the ambition to marry together Frank’s always charming lyrics with a full band, something went wrong, meaning the album never quite followed through on the huge success of breakthrough ‘Love, Ire and Song’. ‘England Keep My Bones’ sees Frank revert back to the simplier stripped back sound that has worked so well for him in the past. With tracks such as ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’, ‘I Still Believe’ and the breathtaking ‘I Am Disappeared’, there really seems to be no limits to Turner’s continued success.

Key Tracks: I Am Disappeared, I Still Believe, Peggy Sang The Blues

08/ TV On The Radio ‘Nine Types Of Light’

It’s a great shame that 2011 will always be remembered as a year of sadness and loss for TV On The Radio following the death of their bassist Gerard Smith in April. ‘Nine Types Of Light’ shows a band constantly trying to innovate, from the glorious audio assault of ‘Cafeinatted Conciousness’ to the more subdued ‘Will Do’. Whilst the album may not reach the same dizzy heights of the highly acclaimed ‘Dear Science’, ‘Nine Types Of Light’ is an equally stylish and diverse effort.

Key Tracks: Cafeinatted Conciousness, Will Do, Repetition

07/ City And Colour ‘Little Hell’

If there’s only one positive to take from Alexisonfire’s decision to split this year, it’s that Dallas Green will have more time to concentrate on City And Colour. While this, his third effort, slightly underwhelmed – not of quite as consistant quality as previous efforts ‘Bring Me Your Love’ and ‘Sometimes’, there’s no denying Green is growing in confidence. ‘Little Hell’ saw Green evolve his sound with upbeat and layered offerings including’Fragile Bird’ and ‘Natural Disaster’, as well as the more tender ‘Northern Wind’ and ‘We Found Each Other In The Dark’

Key Tracks: Fragile Bird, Natural Disaster, Northern Wind

06/Yuck ‘Yuck’

20 years since grunge took over the world, who would of thought 2011 would be the year it made a shock revival in the form of Yuck. There’s nothing radically new on offer here, the likes of ‘Get Away’ ‘Holing Out’ and ‘The Wall’ could easily be mistaken for Sonic Youth offcuts . But for those of us too young to remember the alt rock / grunge takeover, Yuck have delivered a perfect slice on early 90’s nostalgia.

Key Tracks: Holing Out, The Wall, Shook Down

05/The Swellers ‘Good For Me’

In 2009 The Swellers broke into the punk rock scene with their superb sophomore effort ‘Ups And Downsizing’. Two years later and on a first listen of ‘Good For Me’ it’s an easy mistake to think the band have regressed. But whilst the the slick production and hardcore breakdowns may have gone, left is a stripped back burst of pure punk rock enegry, combined with catchy hooks and sincere lyrical nods – best showcased in ‘The Best I Ever Had’. Whilst 2011 may be the year Blink 182 have finally outgrown their pop punk roots, it’s reassuring to know The Swellers are around to pick up the torch.

Key Tracks: The Best I Ever Had, Parkview, Runaways

04/ Manchester Orchestra ‘Simple Math’

Despite being initially disappointed by this, Manchester Orchestra’s third effort, I’ve found myself returning to ‘Simple Math’ again and again. The title track is a pretty standard Manchester Orchestra affair; with soft verses shattered by a thunderous chorus. Elsewhere ‘April Fool’ and ‘Pale Black Eye’ also prove memorable, although without a doubt ‘Pensacola’ steals the show, showing the band at their rowdy best.

Key Tracks: PensacolaSimple Math, April Fool,

03/The Horrible Crowes ‘Elsie’

I’ll be the first to admit I wanted ‘Elsie’ to be a great record. And to my surpise it was a GREAT record. It’s so rare that side projects turn out this well, and yet ‘Elise’, a collaboration between The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon and his guitar technician Ian Perkins, did more than just deliver. Offering enough familiarity to Fallon’s day job, but enough of a new dimesion to feel worthwhile, The Horrible Crowes took a blues heavy direction, with ‘Go Tell Everybody’, ‘Mary Ann’ and ‘Blood Loss’ all instant classics. If it wasn’t for the mid album slump of ‘Crush’ and ‘Ladykillers’ – both of which feel too sloppy and adolescent, ‘Elsie’ would have taken album of the year hands down.

Key Tracks: Behold The Hurricane, Mary Ann, Bloodloss

02/ Arctic Monkeys ‘Suck It And See’

It seems a long time since Arctic Monkeys first emerged as everyone’s favourite cheeky indie outfit from Sheffield. Now onto their fourth effort, ‘Suck It And See’ finally sees the band perfectly balance their tongue in cheeek humour in ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, with Turner’s flawless pop crooning in ‘Love Is Laserquest’ and ‘Reckless Serenade’. By far their best, and most complete effort to date.

Key Tracks: Suck It And See, Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, Reckless Serenade

01/ Bright Eyes ‘The Peoples Key’

Heavily rumoured as their last album, it was hard to know what to expect from Bright Eyes’ seventh studio album. Would it be another contemporary folk masterpiece or perhaps a return to the band’s previous digital wizardry. Well ‘The Peoples Hey’ was neither, instead seeing the band try their hand at electro pop. Packed with songs of simple structure, yet glorious melodies and production Oberst and co have rarely been so much fun. Of course, for those already dedicated, it may have proven to be too bold a leap to live up to former glories. Likewise for a newcomers, Oberst’s spiritual subject matter may be a little off putting. Regardless with tracks such as ‘Shell Games’, ‘Jejune Stars’ and ‘Ladder Song’ Bright Eyes have left us with an album that reveals more with each listen. Equally provocative as it is playful.

Key Tracks: Shell Games, Jejune Stars, Approximate SunlightHalie Salassie, Ladder Song

Honourable Mentions

M83 ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’, Alkaline Trio ‘Damnesia’, Thursday ‘No Devolution’, Bon Iver ‘Bon Iver’, Four Year Strong ‘In Some Way, Shape, Or Form’, New Found Glory ‘Radiosurgery’. Chuck Ragan ‘Covering Ground’, Polar Bear Club ‘ Clash Batttle Guilt Pride’, Thrice ‘Major / Minor’, Taking Back Sunday ‘Taking Back Sunday’, Vincent James McMorrow ‘Early In The Morning’, Blink 182 ‘Neighbourhoods’, The Wonder Years ‘Surburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, Radiohead ‘King Of Limbs’, Fleet Foxes ‘ Helplessnees Blues’, Death Cab For Cutie ‘Codes And Keys’, The Vaccines ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’, The Strokes ‘Angles’

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Vibrations Reviews December 2011 Issue 21

Double Muscle – Tommy (Best Enemies Records)

They may describe themselves as “A trio of scuzz punk ramblers” on paper, but on record, behind their schizophrenic riffs and dynamic rhythms, there’s a slick, well oiled machine at work. ‘Tommy’ gets off to a reluctant start, with mid verse cries of ‘I enjoy myself’ recalling Pixies at their very best. Elsewhere ‘Lungs’ and Minutemen cover ‘Cut’ have a more sudden impact. Distinctive and inventive, prepare to have your mind melted. Available at  http://doublemuscle.bandcamp.com/

Hearts And Souls – We Were All Lost

Fresh faced having only formed at the start of 2011, full credit to this Leeds quartet for a flying start. There’s lots of promise in the strong juxtaposition of soaring guitars and Lucinda Livingstone’s delicate vocals. ‘We Were All Lost’ is pleasant enough, taking obvious influence from American pop rock, whilst ‘ Think Of Me’ is a little too indulgent by comparison. A worthy offering from a band still honing their sound. Available at http://soundcloud.com/heartsandsouls

Great Deeds – Teach Yourself Jazz Punk Volume One EP

Here’s the dilemma; I do like Punk. I DO NOT like Jazz. Interestingly the Great Deeds’ new genre whilst technically excellent, doesn’t quite cut it on both fronts: lacking a driving sense of passion on the punk side, and is far too immature to be considered as authentic jazz. That said, both ‘Numbers’ and ‘Quantum’ are bold efforts, with the band’s jazzier tendencies set loose later on in ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Walls’.  Let’s be honest, how many people like both jazz and punk? Nice idea, if slightly flawed from the start.

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Vibrations Magazine – Passport Control: Fucked Up

Having snuck past our security for a blistering set at The Well back in May, ahead of their Leeds Festival appearance we caught up with those crafty Canadians Fucked Up.  With their hardcore reputation preceding them, our immigration officer Tom Bailey might need more than a badge and dark sunglasses to get answers out of this rowdy bunch.

Name: Mr Jo (Drums)

What is your reason for visit?

As great ambassadors of information

Is that business or pleasure?

The business of pleasure, the pleasure of business.

Have you brought any live animals or meat in your luggage?

The only animal in vicinity is the disgusting side of human beef behind me on the plane who insists on coughing, wheezing, snorting, and generally amplifying the gristle that no doubt hinders his soul. I guess he falls into the meat category too.

We’d hate to judge a band by their name, but should we be prepared for any trouble?

The most trouble you’ll get from us is how to deal with how disarmingly apologetic we are considering you’re staring down the barrel of a band called ‘Fucked Up.’ Smiles for miles from us, expect the right dose of firmness and self-deprecation.

 Have you had any recent brushes with the law enforcement?

There was one summer in which almost every show we played ended in disruption by Toronto Police. For one reason or another we found ourselves on the wrong side of some bi-law, capacity issue, unhinged fan, or scuffle. It seemed like we might have been targeted as something to be stopped. Talk about a feeling of celebrity.

While attending the 2008 Polaris Prize awards, we (and only we) were required to be searched by police upon entering and exiting the building. The suspicion also extended to us being patted down before walking on stage, and being watched by four very large police officers whilst we performed.

Your recent set at The Well caused quite the commotion. Can you explain your actions?

The magnetic north. Always the site of frothing dedicates of Fucked Up and a wild night on the right end of an amplifier. There are actually instructions contained on every Fucked Up record regarding how to behave at a Leeds show. If you play the record backwards you’ll be able to clearly hear the words “Two pints of Timothy Taylor, two Yorkshire puds frum yer [sic] mum, leap around like a maniac, sweat profusely and enjoy yourself.” Words to live by for 45 minutes at a time for sure.

Your latest single is named ‘Ship Of Fools’. Anything foolish you’d wish to own up to?

I bought all-white sneakers ahead of them becoming popular again and I just got mercilessly made fun of. Everyone would say “Tennis anyone?” or “You look like you work in a hospital.” Not even six or seven months later white shoes were totally BACK and I couldn’t enjoy any kind of reward for being ahead of the game or keep wearing white shoes ‘cause I’d look like a total follower.

You’ll be returning to West Yorkshire in August for Leeds Festival. Have you learned anything from this visit you’ll keep in mind for then?

Between the performance itself, the swordfish lunch I chewed on; unwittingly beside Brandon Flowers of the Killers, and the completely unexplainable matching, sequined, mariachi vests we found in our dressing room, our first appearance at Leeds festival was a memorable welcome. If that was any indication of the general social temperature of Yorkshire, then we ought to be prepared for some glamorous, delicious, star studded, out of control fun. Can’t wait to be back.

It’s no secret that Fucked Up harbor strong political opinions. Care to share your thoughts on our current Prime Minister (David Cameron)?

He does seem to represent the current ‘new breed’ of conservative politician – cunning and unreachable, suspect and seemingly removed from the hopefully benevolent reaches of public opinion and the kind of calm humanism which otherwise seems to prevail in popular culture.

‘Progression,’ bracketed by vagueness like the pursuit of “general well being” seems to ring frighteningly hollow when considering one’s own liberties and cultural comforts. Time will tell no doubt. It’s equally as important to be able to see things objectively as it is to be opinionated.

Anything else to declare?

Knaresborough Bridge is very pretty. Get a delicious Bitter in the White Locks. Don’t challenge ‘Fat Bob’ from Hard Skin to a game of ping pong.

 

Thank you. You may now proceed through passport control.

Article available in Vibrations format by clicking here.

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