Glastonbury Festival 2011

With its 40th Birthday celebrations in 2010 received as an undisputed success, the challenge for Michael and Emily Eavis this year was deliver something equally diverse and memorable, without the grand sense of occasion to fall back on.

Friday 24th

After arriving to a downpour on Wednesday and with the mud firmly bedded in for the weekend, by the time Friday came, I suspect I wasn’t the only one more than ready for the bands. Despite a gloomy start, Chipmunk provided some unlikely relief on the Other Stage, his playful R’n’B supplemented perfectly with some of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’. Metronomy then keep the grooves coming with their jilted electro rock on the Pyramid, before Mona blew away the John Peel tent, complete with standard stage climbing antics.

As the rain started to make an unwelcome return I found refuge in the brightly coloured West Oxylers Dance tent, complete with inflatable space invaders. First on Emmy The Great soothed with gentle melodies and a superb cover of Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind ‘ with Ash frontman Tim Wheeler, followed by Guillemots, who despite their best efforts, still feel like a band who have lost their way.

Fittingly just as Bright Eyes emerged on the Other Stage, the rain really started pour down. However, sporting his very own poncho, a seemingly intoxicated Conor Oberst was determined not to let the weather dampen spirits. Racing through tracks old and new, and dashes of non-chalant humour, for an hour I forgot it was raining. In contrast, Radiohead’s surprise set up at The Park was seen as a disappointment by most – the band announcing they would only be playing material from the recent ‘King Of Limbs’ and previous ‘In Rainbows’. With two surprise sets in as many years, you can’t help but feel their next proper headline outing is not too far away.

After pulling out at the last minute last year, back injury or not, U2 had it all to prove on the Pyramid. Opening with five tracks from Áchtung Baby’ was a bold start, before the inevitable onslaught of hits. They even found time to play the god awful ‘Get On Your Boots’ amongt the classics; ‘One’, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘With Or Without You’ etc etc.  Despite overcoming the torrential downpour, and trying just about everything to create a legendary moment – including covering ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Yellow’ and a superb video message from the International Space Station during the middle of ‘Beautiful Day’, U2 delivered only just about enough to deem their performance a success. At times euphoric, but ultimately predictable, they just can’t hide those ever increasing signs that they have passed their best.

Saturday 25th

Hotly tipped for big things in 2011 Yuck couldn’t quite deliver on the John Peel Stage. Maybe it was the sludgy treck into the tent, or perhaps the band’s lack on engagement with the crowd, but you can’t help feel it was a missed opportunity for those not already familiar with their superb revival of 90s alt grunge. The sun finally appeared in time for The Gaslight Anthem who fittingly emerged on the Pyramid to the saxophone solo of ‘Jungleland’ in tribute to the late E-street band legend Clarence Clemmons. Whilst there was never any way the band would top their 2009 outing, which featured a guest appearance from Springsteen himself, a generous hour of material from all their three albums and one EP was lapped up by an adoring crowd.

A quick nip to West Oxylers see Pulled Apart By Horses give the festival a sharper edge with their glorious onslaught of noise and onstage vomiting, before Jessie J, The Kills  and  Jimmy Eat World  all deliver exactly what you’d want a sunny Saturday afternoon. For the pop diva that’s plenty of family friendly singalongs, for The Kills it’s razor sharp grooves – Alison Mosshart is equally alluring and terrifying with a siren like presence, where as for Jimmy Eat World it’s their own brand of American soft rock that has been consistently amazing for a now whopping seven albums.

It may have been the worst kept secret in Glastonbury history, but Pulp special guest slot at the Park was nethertheless glorious. Unlike Radiohead they instead opted to play everything you’d want to hear; from the inevitable climaxes of ‘Disco 2000’ and ‘Common People’, to ‘Something Changed’ and ‘Razzamatazz’, all superbly supplemented with Jarvis trademark northern wit. The only disappointment was their set came at the cost of Elbow’s return to the Pyramid.

It’s certainly a hard act for Coldplay to follow and yet they, as they seem to make a habit of doing at Glastonbury, once again raised the bar. Back with a new lease of life, even slower tracks such as ‘God Put A Smile Upon Your Face’ were given an almost punk makeover – with Will Champion providing to be an absolute beast behind his drum kit.  Given that the band can throw out some of their biggest tracks in ‘Yellow’ and ‘The Scientist’ within the first half hour and not struggle for the big moments later on is testament to their wealthy back catalogue. The set really comes to life with the still astounding ‘Viva La Vida’ and latest single ‘Every Tear Drop Is A Waterfall’ which both perfectly channel the festival spirit, during the latter the Pyramid was illuminated in a wash of colour. Suddenly U2’s effort on Friday felt very pedestrian by comparison.

Sunday 26th

With the sun shining hotter than Saturday, and the mud finally starting to dry up, The Low Anthem got the closing day of a perfect relxing start, before Cold War Kids deliver their bar room blues to a sunkissed Other Stage.

Unfortunately for Paul Simon, despite drawing the crowds in, his legends set on the Pyramid didn’t quite deliver as much as hoped – perhaps a little thwarted to be the now overwhelming mid afternoon heat. Thankfully TV On The Radio brought the grooves, and despite the recent loss of their bassist Gerard Smith played an uptempo set, with ‘Staring At The Sun’, ‘Wolf Like Me’ and ‘Caffeinated Consciousness’ all stunning. There was even time for a somewhat unexpected but awesome cover of Ray Parker Junior’s Ghostbusters theme.

A steady treck up to the Avalon stage was rewarded by a disappointing second set from The Low Anthem. Not that their distinctive vocal harmonies didn’t hit the spot, just playing an almost identical set to their earlier main stage outing felt a missed opportunity to do something different. City and Colour  followed and were in high spirits. Whilst some will have felt Dallas Green’s much loved acoustic sound has become a little overcomplicated with the addition of a full backing, there’s no denying the progress the band have made in a few years. New material was eased in gently, with solo renditions of ‘Body In a Box’ and ‘O’Sister’ shining brightly midset.

Having already missed the first hour of Beyonce and in no rush to catch the second, I’ll admit I’m perhaps not the best person to the review the diva’s headline outing. Of course, there were hits aplenty, eye boggling dance routines and even a surreal Destiny’s Child medley. But for me too many pauses between songs, onstage shenanigans, and covers of Prince, Kings Of Leon and Etta James all felt like an act trying a little too hard to compensate for being too far out of her comfort zone. Fun and different, but dare I say, shouldn’t have been headlining.

With Glastonbury now on hiatus until it returns post Olympics, there’s no denying 2011 gave it a strong send off. Make no mistake work will have already started on a strong comeback for 2013. Only 700 or so days to go!

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The 30 Day Song Challenge

Here’s the second part of my 30 Day Song Challenge I started a few posts back. Keep ’em: peeled for the third and final part which will appear sometime in the next month.

Part 2 – Day 11 – 20

Day 11 – A song from your favourite band – The Gaslight Anthem ‘Drive’

Althought I don’t really have just ONE favourite band, if I were to pick one from the last few years it would have to be Gaslight (with The National and Brand New narrowly missing out). Since first hearing them back in 2008, I found myself going back to them numerous times. ‘Drive’ is by far my favourite track from their debut ‘Sink Or Swim’ – I’ve always loved it’s raw punk rock energy and killer hook.

Day 12 – A song from a band you hate – Pendulum ‘Propane Nightmares’

This was an easy one. Maybe I’m getting a bit too long in the tooth but I really don’t get Pendulum’s Drum n’Bass meets Rock crossover. The Prodigy have been doing that much much better and for a lot longer. With Pendulum it all sounds too cheap and faddy. I tend favour music that has a timeless quality, and offers something more than just a disposable fix. With Pendulum I  guarantee that in a few years people will have grown tired of it and moved on.

Day 13 – A guilty pleasure – The Thrills ‘Big Sur’

Guilty pleasures are always difficult as I don’t think you should ever feel guilty about something you enjoy listening to. I’ll go forThe Thrills here just as over recent years I’ve moved away from generic Indie / guitar rock, but ‘Big Sur’ is a song I’ve always liked – particularly for the chilled out vibe of it’s namesake captured perfectly by this song.

Day 14 – A song no one would expect you to love – Cee Lo Green ‘Forget You’

Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about Alt / Americana / punk  etc. But I do have a growing appreciation for great pop songs; from the Beach Boys to this contemporary classic, you can’t beat an upbeat tempo and iresistable hook. ‘Forget You’ is arguably the best pop song written in a number of years; with splashes of humour and heartache, masterfully juxtaposed and condensed within a catchy melody.

Day 15 – A song that describes you – Bruce Springsteen ‘No Surrender’

Everything I’ve achieved in my life so far has been through hardwork and giving my all. Having grown up listening to punk, this song perfectly captures that fighting spirit, as well as the raw determination of youth. For all the glorious production on Springsteen’s more famous songs, the simplicity and passion of ‘No Surrender’ blows me away everytime.

Day 16 – A song you used to love but now hate – Manic Street Preachers ‘A Design For Life’

Having listened to the Manics a lot when growing up it’s hard to choose this, the song that introduced me to the band, as a song I now hate. But given that it’s their biggest hit to date and the one song that everyone associates with the Manics, it is frustrating that people make judgements about the band on this one song. In my opinion, the Manics were at their best before Richie Edwards disappeared – when they were more aggressive and political. ‘A Design For Life’ was the comeback single after Richie’s disappearance, and represents a completely different band to the one that I love.


Day 17 – A song you hear often on the radio – Jonathon Jeremiah ‘Heart Of Stone’

When I first did the 30 Day Song challange I picked Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ as I don’t listen to the radio a lot and this is the one song I would hear frequently whilst at the gym. Since then I’ve started listening to Radio 2 a lot more. ‘Heart Of Stone’ is played almost everyday and I really like its old school vibe. An instant classic.

Day 18 – A song you wish you heard on the radio – Neutral Milk Hotel ‘In An Aeroplane Over The Sea’

Neutral Milk Hotel are one of those band I feel never really got the credit they deserve. Sure, they remain one of those cult bands people continue to discover and redicover again and again, but they never got any mainstream recognition. ‘In An Aeroplane…’ is the perfect pop song, short, simple and cheerful. It would certainly brighten up my day if I heard it on the airwaves.

Day 19 – A song from your favourite album – Brand New ‘Limousine’

If there is one album I would choose as my favourite it would have to be Brand New’s ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me’. Not only is it phenomenal album, that I never tire of, it also reminds of just starting University. Like all good albums, my favourite tracks is always changing but Limousine is one that has always stood out – particularly due to the emotional intensity given the subject matter it is based on.

Day 20 – A song that you listen to when you’re angry – Manchester Orchestra ‘Shake It Out’

The beauty of Manchester Orchestra has always been the extreme contrast of their sound. They can switch from moments of overwhleming power to the most delicate of vocals in an instant. ‘Shake It Out’ really captures this, and is the perfect choice for angry song – with a slow building rage, until the inevitable explosion, followed by a calm comedown afterwards.

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Villagers @ Sound Control Manchester 24/05/11

It’s not even six months since I last caught Villagers at  Leeds Cockpit. Despite having just missed out on the Mercury Prize to The XX only a few weeks or so before the event, Conor O’Brien and co still delivered a breathtaking set.

They now return with Ivor Novello songwriting award to their name, as well as having just completed a very respectable stint supporting Elbow on their recent arena tour. 2011 is certainly proving to be their year. However with no new material in sight, my concern was this outing may offer little more than a rehash of the last show for the benefit of those still playing catchup.

Surprisingly not, as not only was the set substantially reworked – pretty much reversed in order; but admirably a lot of the songs were reimagined. With the backing of a full band tracks such as ‘Pieces’ and ‘Home’ were delivered more uptempo than on record, with a heavier vibe than their usual, more subtle tones.

New songs ‘The Bell’ and ‘Grateful Song’ did add some variety, although their lack of familiarly meant they washed over the majority of the crowd. There was added excitment towards the end of their mammoth hour and half set when rumours that Elbow were at the gig; later confirmed by O’Brien teasing ‘Thank you to Elbow, wherever you are’, and post gig reports of incident the band had with the also present Everything, Everything.

However the biggest shock of the night was in what was not played – with the unexpected ommission of THAT Ivor Norvello winning song ‘The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)’. Maybe it’s the first hint of artistic pretension creeping in , maybe they ran out of time or maybe they just didnt feel like it. Either way, for as far as this band have already come, there’s still a much bigger future ahead of them.

View the setlist  here

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Vibrations Reviews May 2011 Issue 18

Mondo Cane – Do It (Demo)

When you list Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr as your influences you are setting the bar very high. Fortunately for Mondo Cane, such comparisons are indeed justified. Both ‘Do It’ and ‘Popular View’ perfectly capture the feeling of youthful disillusionment, controlled in short bursts of fury. Crank it up.

Resonance (Demo)

It’s rare that a band chooses a name that simultaneously describes their best and worst quality.  ‘Shapes’, ‘Shaman’ and ‘Addictions’ all offer reflections of 70s classic rock; not necessarily a bad thing, but only if you can get past that it’s all been done before.  Harmless nostalgia, but too safe for some

Jamie Evans (Demo)

Not an album apparently, instead a selection of songs from his 50 strong repertoire. Potato / potatoe. Pretension aside, a superb offering.  First track ‘Walk Away’ is particularly memorable, with shades of U2, whilst ‘Butterflies’ is a stirring finale. Does plod along a bit too slowly midway though.

Roger Davies – Live In Concert, Volume 1 (Album)

I’ll be honest, upon approaching this “selection of songs inspired by his enduring affection for his native Yorkshire” I was expecting the worse.  Not because of the subject matter; myself having lived in Yorkshire my entire life, but for fear of limited ambition. Dubbed ‘The Yorkshire Songwriter’, I could feel my muscles cringe as I nervously pressed play.

To my surprise, what I found instead was an equally sincere and entertaining tribute to everything from ‘Brighouse On A Saturday Night’ to ‘Huddersfield Town’. Think a less wacky Mik Artistik, accompanied with simple acoustic rhythms and a lot less straws.

Whilst the aforementioned tracks will naturally bring a smile to those familiar with the areas, efforts such as ‘Northern Trash’ and ‘Nightclubbin’ go a step further – with oberservations on popular culture that surpass regional boundaries.

However, as I’d feared Davies’ charm does start to wear thin by the end of this 11 track offering. There’s no denying his Yorkshire accent can carry many a pleasant melody, but once you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard them all. The cover of ‘This Land Is Your Land’ feels particularly weak, even if judging by the audience’s response it is a crowd pleaser on the live circuit.

Davies may not be West Yorkshire’s answer to Richard Hawley, Billy Bragg or even Frank Turner just yet; lacking the subtlety and musicianship of the former, political awareness of Bragg, and sheer charisma of the latter, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. I just won’t be eagerly anticipating Volume 2.

Watch Northern Trash

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Thursday @ Manchester Academy 3 20/04/11

Ahead of two performances at the 20th Anniversary Groezrock Festival in Belgium, Thursday found the time to celebrate their own anniversary; 10 years since the release of their seminal second album ‘Full Collapse’.

The prospect of hearing the album in its entirety was a guarantee draw to those who have followed the band for a number of years; even if the tiny Academy 3 wasn’t quite soldout. Regardless, the intimacy of Academy 3 -a venue the band last graced back when they were first touring the album, promised to offer an occassion to good to miss. The only danger? That such an event wouldn’t live up to such high expectations.

Starting with a run of material from recent offering ‘No Devloucion’ created an inescapable feeling that whilst songs such as ‘Fast To End’, ‘No Answers’ and ‘Past and Future Ruins’ were well received, both band and crowd seem more excited for the inevitable.

Full credit to Thursday, who tore through ‘Full Collapse’ with as much enthusiasm and vigour as when it was first released, despite having performed these songs endless times over the last decade. From the soaring start of ‘Únderstanding In A Car Crash’, to the more cautious build of ‘A Hole In The World’ ,as on record, live, the album offers the perfect balance of highs and lows, and the juxtaposition of loud and soft. Predictability the back to back hits of ‘Çross Out The Eyes’ and ‘Paris In Flame’ were the showstealers – although the closing surge of a supercharged ‘How Long Is The Night’ brought a perfect finale.

Whilst most gigs usually hinge on the unexpected, Thursday, despite delivering exactly what was expected, still continue to impress. Here’s hoping for some ‘War All The Time’ 10 year anniversary shows in 2013.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge

So I recently completed the 30 Day Song Challenge on Facebook, but felt my choices required further explanation. So here’s what made my list.

For those who know me, some of my selections will be obvious, but hopefully with a few surprises in there to keep things fresh. For those of you who don’t, I hope this gives you an insight into which bands and which songs mean the most to me.

I’ll split it into three posts to make it a bit easier to digest.

Part 1 – Days 1 – 10

Day 01 – Your current favorite song – The National ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’

I first heard this about May time last year and loved it from the start. It has since turned me onto the National, who have quickly become one of my favourite bands. And despite their wealthy back catalogue ‘Bloodbuzz…’ is still the song to beat in my books.

Day 02 – Your least favorite song – Dizzee Rascal ‘Bonkers’

Everything about this song makes me cringe. It’s an awful and ridiculous song made all the worse by the fact that everyone other than myself seems to love it. Nothing against you Dizzee, but if I ever hear this again it will be too soon.

Day 03 – A song that makes you happy – The Get Up Kids ‘I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel’

The Get Up Kids, despite their cult status amongst those interested in then American pop punk scene, are one of the most cruelly under-rated and unappreciated acts out there. I love the energy of this song, particularly the guitar led intro, and like all great songs, always seems to be over before you want it to be.

Day 04 – A song that makes you sad – TV on the Radio ‘Family Tree’

I’m not going to be pretend to be a huge TV on the Radio fan. It was breakthrough ‘Dear Science’ that introduced them to me, with ‘Family Tree’ being the one song above all the others that had me going back for more and more. The emotion conveyed can only be described as gloriously melancholic, and whilst the lyrics don’t have any particular meaning to me, this song never fails to stir the emotions.

Day 05 – A song that reminds you of someone – Band of Horses ‘Is There A Ghost’

Simply put, Band of Horses are a phenomenal band. It makes me happy to see after last year’s ‘Infinite Arms’ they’re finally starting to get some well deserved attention. Ironically ‘Is There A Ghost’ is not my favourite song by a longshot, but as it reminds me of my amazing girlfriend that’s more than worthy of it making this list.

Day 06 – A song that reminds you of somewhere – The Get Up Kids – ‘Holiday’

A song that reminds you of somewhere. Holiday. Ahhh I see what you did there. No, ‘Holiday’ doesn’t remind me of past holidays, it reminds me of my youth and many Friday nights spent in Sheffield Corporation with mates, who I’m pleased to say are still mates now. This song will always remind me of there and those nights.

Day 07 – A song that reminds you of a certain event – Bruce Springsteen ‘Born To Run’

‘Born to Run’ was always my favourite Springsteen song. Even before I started listening to Springsteen. And after Glastonbury 2009 (of which I’m convinced no one will ever come close to bettering) and many, many hours spent listening to Springsteen since, it still is. There’s something timeless about it, it always sounds as fresh as the first time you heard it. The very definition of a classic.

Day 08 – A song that you know all the words to – The Gaslight Anthem ‘The ’59 Sound’

Since first taking a punt on Gaslight based on a magazine recommendation back at Leeds Festival 2008 they have become my favourite band of recent years. Whilst ‘The ’59 Sound’ is their most well known offering, it was my first taste of the band that have gone on to become an important part of my life for the last few years. It was also the first song I learnt how to singalong to whilst strumming, hence why I know all the words.

Day 09 – A song that you can dance to –  Foals  ‘Spanish Sahara’

I can’t dance. I can maybe muster an awkward shuffle at best. Or if I’ve had enough to drink I can move around quite choatically. But definately not dance. Either way, ‘Spanish Sahara’ was my favourite single of 2010, and given its epic build up and euphoric climax I could probably brave something more than the standard head nod / toe tap for.

Day 10 – A song that makes you fall asleep –  Jack Johnson ‘Breakdown’

Anything for a quiet life has become somewhat of a motto of mine. I’m quite a relaxed guy and I don’t like fuss or unneccassary hassle. ‘Breakdown’, and Jack Johnson as artist, is perfect for sitting back and just forgetting about everything for a while. I also have very fond memories of being laid back in the sun at the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury 2010 listening to this. Bliss.

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Vibrations Reviews March 2011 Issue 17

Daniel Pearson –  Wishing Well

It would have been very easy for Daniel Pearson to continue down the alt Americana route established by debut ‘Satellites. Instead ‘Wishing Well’ is a bold step forward; notably more electric and urgent, yet will still satisfy those already converted.

With a slightly poppier direction and irresistible hook, this should propel Pearson even further. Elsewhere, the free download of ‘Waves in the Sea’ returns the songwriter to his acoustic and sentimental best.

Watch Waves In The Sea

Monmon – Garage Rock

Labels. Something we writers apparently love. Imagine my delight to find Monmon have helpfully named their debut album ‘Garage Rock.’ Sometimes these reviews really do write themselves.

It’s certainly a bold move. After all, it gives me a vast yardstick of references in which to compare it against. Fortunately for Monmon, whilst this ten track offering might not deliver what you’d initially expect, it conveys a level of authenticity very true to its namesake.

Expecting to be assaulted by a barrage of detuned guitars, relentless drumming and ear bleeding vocals, instead opener ‘Whale’ has a much more patient build, both self-assured yet charismatically laid back. Until just past the three minute thirty mark. When the aforementioned fury is finally unleashed.

The trio of ‘Roofie, ‘Leeds Brig, Sunday Morning’ and ‘Shudder’ follow, all with a much more direct approach; there’s simply no hiding from their big and noisy choruses. It’s only much later on with ‘Knives’ that any fatigue starts to show, the pace slowing before the closing duo of ‘Monkey Fist’ and ‘Ring Out The Bell, Lloyd.

Like all good garage albums, ‘Garage Rock’ is equally ambitious and chaotic. The perfect balance of disciplined songwriting, left beautifully raw around the edges.

Watch Whale

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Vibrations ‘Second Hearing’ – March 2011 Issue 17

You all know the drill by now. Two listens, summed up in twenty wise words. Pretty much like this intro.

Singles

SupaJamma – Madaboutit

Bold mix of rock and reggae. Bit lacking on lyrical content, but forgivable given overall goodtime vibes and mind-melting riffage.

Escort Knights – I Don’t Know Your Name

1/ I Don’t Know Your Name

Slick dance pop production, but feels about ten years too late. Oddly reminiscent of Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’ but far less cool.

2/ Hole In The Heart

Some questionable logic regarding holes in heads and hearts. I’ll stick with neither, thanks. Rather catchy and some great production.

The Finnlys – For Love Nor Money

 1/ For Love Nor Money

Simple and honest Northern songwriting. Slightly stereotypical imagery but done brilliantly. Really effective pacing, building to blistering finish. Highly recommended.

2/ Behind Closed Doors

No, not a Peter Andre cover. Instead something much much better. More upbeat, think Last Shadow Puppets go Spaghetti Western.

Demos / EPs

Big Mister Doom –

1/ Avant

Nowhere near as gloomy as their name suggests. Instead quite hip and ambient electro. Could easily be a videogame soundtrack.

2/ Latinum

More ambience, more electro, until a mid song shift into something much more menacing. Seamlessly executed but a little repetitive.

3/ Seven

Opens with some interesting, if a little obscure, vocal samples. Offers the EP’s most dramatic, tense and thought provoking moments.

Ape District

1/ Abigail

Brash and somewhat short-lived, but direct. Lo-fi approach gives away their punkier roots. Or just a lack of decent equipment.

2/ White Lies

Mediocre in comparison, lacks any bite or venom.  Without that, their lo-fi approach now sounds just too amateurish and messy.

3/ Powder Burn

Bass led and slower paced, but poorly realised. Just ends up dragging on for far too long with unnecessary solos.

Buffalo Bones – Hell to Skeleton

1/ Exploder

Don’t be fooled the title, whilst upbeat in tempo, the chorus doesn’t quite manage to deliver a big anthemic hook.

2/ Silence Is Golden

Totally different and not for the better. More Radio 1 than 6music. Just a bit wet. Should take own advice.

3/ Fix It With Money

Thankfully back to an edgy and slightly sleazy sound.  Vocals sound like a young Mick Jagger at times. Good recovery.

4/ Left Before I Arrived

Thumping drum and guitar led intro, followed with great chorus and perfect big rock finish. Classic rockers will love it.

Elgazelle

1/ Weekend

Up-tempo rockabilly knees up. Bit of a novelty at first. Will no doubt become very annoying quickly with repeated plays.

2/ Love On The Dole

The novelty has definitely worn off now. The horns do add some ska flavour. Still screaming out gimmicky to me.

3/ Time Out

Why not throw in a little bit of doo wop for good measure?!  Far too happy and pleased with itself.

4/ Rich Kid

The Northern Soul / Motown part of the tour, with added blue- collar lyrics for extra grit. Fun but silly.

5/ Liar Liar

“Liar liar, your pants are on fire’’ should never be used as a chorus line. No excuses. Scraping the barrel.

Luva Gunk – Revolver

1/ Revolver

Better than expected, given the awful band name and the unbelievably trashy artwork. Packed full of tired genre clichés though.

2/ Tease

Not a bad grubby little number, if you like that kind of thing. Unlikely to change the world anytime soon.

3/ If They Fall (Live)

Pretty much the same as previous. Conclusion a) They’re a decent-ish live band or b) They’re an average recorded band.

Area 39 – Stir of Echoes

No tracklisting so therefore limited review. Not a big prog connoisseur, but seems ok. Nothing new but will please some.

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The Hold Steady @ Birmingham Academy 2 06/02/11

What do you get if you cross The Hold Steady and Superbowl Sunday? Massive nights! Pun intended.

On support duty, Canadian quintet Wintersleep offered up an entertaining outing , even if thier blend of alt rock lingered between too many genres for my liking. Whilst they clearly drew a dedicated following in their own right, this being their first visit to UK shores, they sounded like a band still trying to discover to their own sound.

Having seen The Hold Steady twice previously, whilst I may have known exactly what to expect, this by no means ditracted from the fun, the band opening with a seamless run that included ‘Constructive Summer’, ‘Hurricane J’ and ‘Sequested In Memphis’. Moments after, having barely caught his breath, the always energetic frontman Craig Finn was quick to mention to Superbowl, showing his support for (eventual winners) The Green Bay Packers.

Clearly in good spirits, the band proceeded through a mix of material from most recent offering ‘Heaven Is Whenever’, as well as old favourites ‘Stuck Between Stations’ and ‘You Can Make It Him Like You’. However it was perhaps the less predictable outing for the lesser performed ‘Magazines’ that stole the show.

Wrapping up with tracks such as ‘The Weekenders’, before a generous encore that included ‘Stay Positive’, ‘Hornets! Hornets!’ and the now customary ‘Slapped Actress’ finish, the Hold Steady leave safe in the knowledge their once cult, but now sizeable UK following are once again satisfied.

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Band Of Horses @ Leeds Academy 31/01/11

It may only be a matter of months since Band of Horses last ventured to the UK with a handful of dates last summer, plus appearances at the 2010 Leeds and Reading festivals, but make no mistake, on the back of superb third album ‘Infinite Arms’, their return is more than welcome, with a genuine sense of excitement radiating from all in attendence.

Right from the start the set displayed the perfect balance of the band’s varying tempos, with steady opener ‘Ode to the LRC’ stirring the crowd just enough for the more rousing ‘NW Apartment’. Likewise the frenzy of ‘Islands on the Coast’ segmented nicely into the mellow orchestration of ‘Factory’. With a huge video screen behind the band, showing mostly scenic and panoramic views, the show quickly became as much a visual delight, as an audio one. Mid set new song ‘Bats’ received a welcome reception; sounding equally fresh but without being too adventourous, as did older tracks such as ‘Is There A Ghost’ and ‘Weed Party’.

Playing for a generous hour and thirty, unsurprisngly towards the end filler tracks such as ‘Older’ did feel a bit unnecessary. However a breathtaking acoustic duet of ‘Evening Kitchen’ soon re-engerised the encore, before the inevitable, but unmistakable power of the ‘The Funeral’ echoed up to the academy’s high ceilings. No signs of slowing down just yet then.

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