1 September 2015

The Quietus Review of Urth By Kagoule

Following on from my review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs, the kind people at The Quietus were nice enough to let me have another opportunity to write for them. Again, I got to review a debut album by one of my favourite bands to come out of Nottingham (or anywhere to be honest), Kagoule. Urth is out now via the legendary Earache Records and my review can be read at the following link: http://thequietus.com/articles/18670-kagoule-urth-review

I also got to sit down with Cai from the band and interview him for a double-page spread in LeftLion. The above image is a photo of the page as it looked in the August issue of the magazine. I think this was the third time that I have interviewed the band. The first was when they played a gig for LeftLion that I put on at Nottingham Contemporary for Record Store Day in 2012. Then later in the same year, I spoke to Cai and Lucy for the band's first feature in the magazine. The online version of my most recent Kagoule interview can be read here: http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/kagoule/id/7623

 Urth by Kagoule can be bought direct from the band's webstore

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29 July 2015

Doggen Interview

This was one of those rare things, an interview that was actually enjoyable and fun to do. Totally worth the five years it took to sort out.

I think due to his long association with Julian Cope I was expecting some kind of acid-fried, speed freak, militant anarchist pagan with hippy tendencies. Instead he was nothing but charming, friendly, and accommodating. At one point he even asked the band he was recording at the time to stay out of the studio for a while longer so he could carry on talking to me.

This is a much longer version of the interview that's in LeftLion Magazine #69.

Doggen is the guitarist in Spirtualized, played with Julian Cope for a long time, (maybe, if Axl is reading) helped to write a few of the songs on Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 with members of Guns N' Roses, and has played on more Top 10 hits than he even cares to remember.

He has so many stories I could have listened to him talk for much longer than the hour and a half I sat down with him for. This was honestly one of my favourite, if not the favourite, thing that I’ve done for the magazine. Definitely worth the wait. 

He's proper Notts too.

Click here to read my extended interview with Doggen for LeftLion 

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14 June 2015

BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast Show (8 June 2015)

BBC Radio Nottingham

I was invited on to the breakfast show on BBC Radio Nottingham last Monday morning in my guise as LeftLion Music Editor to discuss whether popular musical acts should always play their most famous songs live. I was on at around 7.15am and was still wiping the sleet from my eyes. 

Anyway, it's always nice to be asked to do these things and it was a fun, albeit short, discussion. The show can be heard at the following link. I'm on at roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes in: http://bbc.in/1dXsmqn
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1 May 2015

The Quietus Review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs Colossal Downer review for The Quietus

In the middle of last month Grey Hairs released their debut album Colossal Downer. Its 12 tracks of grizzled garage rock that their cues from the American underground of the 80s and early 90s, mixed with copious amounts of cans of Red Stripe and the general disappointment and kind of inert anger you get from working a day job from nine-to-five, Monday to Friday.

It's easily one of my favourite records of the year and I was well chuffed when The Quietus, one of my favourite websites, agreed to publish my review of Colossal Downer. You can read my review at the following URL: http://thequietus.com/articles/17677-grey-hairs-colossal-downer-review

You can listen to and buy Colossal Downer via the Grey Hairs Bandcamp page. 
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19 April 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

Disc Union Shibuya

Last October I wrote a post about my experience of record shopping in Tokyo for the first time. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to to visit Japan at the end of March and in between some work appointments I managed to find a little bit of time to visit a couple of stores one afternoon.

I was in Shibuya on the afternoon that I was free and decided to stay in that area. The first store I visited was the large Recofan, a shop that I went to on my previous visit. I cannot stress enough how large this place is. It’s vast. With racks upon racks containing new and used vinyl, CDs and DVDs. The vinyl section probably accounts for a quarter of the store. I could spend all day going through the rows of records, and as appears to be the case in the record stores that I’ve visited before in Japan, it’s all very well organised. Although they don’t sort their records like they do in the West in an obvious A-Z fashion, once you have got your head around how they do it, it’s becomes pretty easy finding the sections you want.

Recofan, Shibuya

Recofan Shibuya
As in all of the Japanese record stores that I have been to even though language may be a barrier the staff are always friendly and very helpful. Staff members have gone out their way to try and find a particular record or artist for me, and this time around in Recofan the assistant behind the till even threw in some plastic record sleeve protectors free of charge with my purchases. The stores also ask you if you want to check the condition of the vinyl before you buy, which is a nice little touch. But as with all of the records I’ve bought in Japan the vinyl is always in very good condition if not almost mint if we are going to use record collector lingo. They appear to know how to look after their records. Recofan has quickly become one of my all-time favourite record stores. 

I headed straight to the Takeshi Terauchi section and picked up the following. Note another purchase of Let's Go - Eleki Bushi, which seems to have had about three separate releases. Thanks to my friend Stephen for assisting in translating the following album titles. 

Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar
Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar (1975)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs (1969)
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert (1968)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi (re-release, 1978)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow (1977)
Disk Union, Shibuya
Disck Union Shibuya
Just down the road from Recofan in Shibuya is Disk Union. Disk Union is a large chain of record stores in Tokyo, possibly the largest, with various stores specialising in a particular style or genre of music; you get stores specialising in rock and pop, metal, jazz, classic, vinyl and so on.

The store in Shibuya was split over multiple floors with each floor focusing on a different style of music. I headed for the top floor which is where the rock and pop vinyl was stocked. Much like their store in Shinjuku that I visited previously, the selection here was much smaller than in Recofan and the majority of the stock appeared to be made up of Western music, both Japanese and US / European versions, rather than Japanese music, which Recofan had much more of. I didn’t see any new vinyl either, just second hand stuff, but that’s not to say that they don’t do new vinyl, I just didn’t come across any in the section of the store that I was in. Compared to their Shinjuku branch I much preferred this particular store.

After having a good rummage around and not really seeing much that caught my eye, I eventually stumbled across an amazing picture disc of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s recent album Pika Pika Fantajin. I’m a big fan of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and have written about her before on this blog. In fact, this visit to Japan was almost exactly a year to the day I visited in March 2014 when I was first introduced to her music. I liked that coincidence and took it as a sign that I should buy the album - even though I previously bought the CD version from Tower Records. I’m not a huge fan of picture discs but I enjoy the grotesque humour in this one and I think the image nicely sums of the oft-overlooked satirical nature in Kyary’s music. 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc (2014)
What always surprises me is how cheap the Takeshi Terauchi records are. They all ranged in price between £4 to £10 at the most. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I bought on this visit cost the the same price in total as just that one Kyary Pamyu Pamyu picture disc, roughly £18. It could be that no one knows who he is and there isn’t a demand for his records or perhaps in Japan there is just an abundance of them. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I am interested in buying are his 1960s to mid 70s records - from what I’ve heard the later one’s lack the excitement of those early records and suffer from rather ropey ‘period’ production like horrible synths. Despite there being numerous records of his, Rashomon still remains elusive.

It’s a shame that I didn’t have much time to visit other stores or to spend longer in the two that I did visit, but I am happy with my purchases. Also, if I had more time I probably would’ve bought more and my suitcase would have been dangerously overweight - it’s easy to forget how heavy vinyl records are. 

Tokyo really is a vinyl lovers paradise - the wealth of shops is overwhelming, not to mention the vast amount of records available. I would love to have had more time to really explore the city's multiple record stores.

Bonus Track:

Tower Records, Namba, Osaka
I also visited Osaka for the first time during this particular trip to Japan. I was only there for two very busy days and didn't have any free time at all. There was however a Tower Records very close to my hotel and even though I didn't have any intention of buying any records while in Osaka, I thought that it would have been rude to pass it without at least popping it. I had a wander around, and much like the one in Shibuya, Tokyo, it was huge, spread over multiple floors each dedicated to a particular style of music. Below is a photo I took of their Taylor Swift display on one of the aisles. 

Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka
Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka, March 2015
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26 February 2015

Ryan Adams - De Montfort Hall, Leicester (21 February 2015)

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

The reason why I reactivated this blog last summer was to give myself a place to practice writing and force myself to be disciplined enough to make myself write something on a semi-regular basis. So far this year I have been in a start-of-the-year fug and haven’t felt very inspired or motivated to do much writing, either here or for LeftLion. I didn’t want a month to go by where I hadn’t written anything on this blog, as I have managed at least one post a month since last June, therefore I thought I would pen a few words about the Ryan Adams gig that I went to last Saturday night. 

Being a long-time Ryan Adams fan and having caught him on every UK tour since 2006, in London or in Nottingham, I know what to expect when it comes to him as a performer. Sometimes he can be amazing and other times really frustrating. Tonight was the later. 

I don’t know if something happens when he plays in a band, but  I’ve seen him both solo and as part of a band (The Cardinals), and the truly outstanding performances have been those where it has just been him along on stage playing guitar and piano. When I’ve seen him with The Cardinals his music often felt bogged down and stodgy with no room to breathe. He was playing with a band at this show, so the signs weren’t good. 

A prolific singer-songwriter with so many released and un-released albums under his belt, I’ve always thought as Ryan Adams as a modern day Neil Young. Someone doing his own thing and releasing musically that veers wildly between extraordinary and downright awful, and with such an extensive back catalogue, when you go and see him play live there is no guarantee that he’ll play everything that you want. 

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

It was a gig of two halves. It started off really promising, opening with the reverb-saturated Tom Petty 80s rock of Gimmie Something Good, the show mined the more countrified-rock aspect of Ryan’s musical personality, with a rolling version of Let It Ride following. There was also room for a sumptuous Dirty Rain from Ashes & Fire, while the bar-band take on This House Is Not For Sale really lifted the Love Is Hell song. Wrecking Ball, from his new eponymously titled new LP, sounded like classic Ryan Adams. While the run of Magnolia Mountain, New York, New York, Dear Chicago and When The Stars Go Blue was unbeatable. The first half finished with a brand new and (so-far) unreleased song titled Blue Light that jangled like The Smiths attempting to cover Ryan’s beloved The Replacements. 

Next-up was a cover of the support act Natalie Prass. Although I’m sure it was well intended it was also the moment where the show lost momentum and took a nose-dive from which it never really recovered. After this it felt like the show meandered along and needed an injection of pace. There was some stand out moments with My Winding Wheel, Oh My Sweet Carolina, La Cienga Just Smiled. But these were interspersed with drudgery like a lengthy Peacefull Valley and the dreary Everybody Knows. 

I See Monsters is always something special, and in fact much of Love Is Hell often seem overlooked by Ryan Adams when I’ve seen him live. The song eventually descended in to a wall of guitars that must surely be a nod to Oasis, a band Ryan is a vocal fan of. There wasn’t any encore and Natalie Prass joined Ryan and the rest of the band onstage for the closing Come Pick Me Up. 

Gimme Something Good 
Let It Ride 
Stay With Me 
Dirty Rain 
This House Is Not For Sale 
My Wrecking Ball 
Magnolia Mountain 
New York, New York 
Dear Chicago 
When the Stars Go Blue 
Blue Light 
Your Fool (Natalie Prass cover)
Everybody Knows 
My Winding Wheel 
Peaceful Valley 
Oh My Sweet Carolina (with Natalie Prass)
La Cienega Just Smiled 
I See Monsters 
Come Pick Me Up (with Natalie Prass)

Ryan Adams website
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27 January 2015

Alvvays - The Bodega, Nottingham (26 January 2015)

I was late coming to the Alvvays album, only really listening to it at the back end of 2014, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's an album packed full of natural sounding songwriting that's awash with jangly guitars, love-lorn lyrics and saturated in a hazy reverb that makes the whole record feel like one of those late summer evenings which are heavy with some kind of intangible sadness hanging heavy in the air. 

The band from Toronto have been slowly winning plaudits since the album's release last summer, with the song Archie, Marry Me becoming a 6 Music fave, getting named 'Track of the Year' by Drowned In Sound  and even being covered by Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard. All this is testament to the quality of the band's songs. 

Reaching Nottingham in the middle of their first headline tour of the UK, what was refreshing to see and pleasing for a band currently generating something of a 'buzz' is how pleasant and genuinely excited they appeared to be playing their songs for the sold out Bodega crowd. There was lots of talk from lead singer Milly Rankin including the best UK chocolate bars and how the band were looking forward to having a pint in the "UK oldest pub" The Trip To Jerusalem after the show. 

If some of the album can feel a little affected in its attempts to ape the lo-fi C86 sound of the late 80s, live, the songs stripped of the studio production, feel re-invigorated and get the chance breath. With only one 32 minute album to their name tonight's set was always going to be pretty short. All of the album tracks are enthusiastically received by the crowd, while the band pad out the show with a couple of covers - Nosebleed by Deerhunter and The Primitives' Out Of Reach - that are clear touchstones for the type of thoughtful indie-pop that Alvvays are striving to produce. 

Their set ended with a new song called Haircut - a melodic and fuzzy slice of power-pop that, fingers-crossed, points towards a second album that builds upon the promise of their debut and shows that the band are here for the long run. 

Alvvays website

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31 December 2014

Albums Of The Year: 2014

Taylor Swift 1989 2014 Albums of the year

It's the last day of the year and everywhere I turn people are doing end of year lists, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and use this as an opportunity to list my top 10 albums of 2014.

This year as been a strange one in terms of buying new music. Most of it has been spent saving what money I could for a house move, meaning I had to ban myself from buying as much records as I usually would. It was tough. Even so, I still picked up bits and pieces here and there, just not as much as I would have done previously. Although there are still many records from this year that I still need to check out or spend a bit more time with.

In alphabetical order these are the albums of 2014 that have brought the most joy and comfort to my tired ears:

Alvvays - Alvvays
Strong melodies, twanging, breezy reverb-saturated guitars. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed an indie-rock record as much as this. Just an utter pleasure from start to finish including a couple of stone-cold belters including Archie, Marry Me.

Beck - Morning Phase
I've always preferred the more downbeat, mellow Beck to the funky wannabe-Prince version and this album delivered that by the bucketful. With his Dad providing string arrangements and the Seachange-era band backing him, Beck put together an album that sounded hopeful while still shaded by a nagging sense of melancholy. Beautiful and my go to Sunday morning record. 

Camera - Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide
Their first album has been one of my favourite records of recent years and even though this follow-up is slightly more 'out there' and experimental than that first LP and doesn't quite match their debut, Camera are still one of the better modern-day Kratrock bands, and Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide still had enough going on to warrant repeated listens.

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever
Gentle, home-brewed electronica that mixed both instrumental tracks and songs with vocals and felt like being wrapped up in bed under a warm duvet on a cold winter's morning.

Ex-Easter Island Head - Large Electric Ensemble
The beginning of 2014 went by in a blur due to a lot of work-based travelling that saw me taking long-haul flights to Japan (twice), South Korea and Hong Kong for the first three months of the year. It was exhausting and made me a bit ill and spaced-out, but during that time I had this record on my iPod and it felt like much-needed nourishment for my soul every time I put it on. 

Future Islands - Singles
Yes, it was that Letterman performance that brought them to my attention. I didn't initially feel what this album was about, but after spending sometime with it, most notably on airplanes and in various departure lounges (this year's theme), something about being in those transient situations finally made this record click with me. There's much to explore within the emotional depths that this record reaches.

Hookworms - The Hum
I've seen this band graduate from the UK's underground music scene and start to make a noise on a wider national scale over the past four years, and their second album cemented their reputation as one of the country's greatest guitar bands.

Kogumaza - Kолокол LP
Another great UK guitar band and every time I listen to them I discover something else hidden in their music, a new texture or sound, like their songs are living, evolving organic entities. This album mixed speaker shuddering riffs, atmosphere, and volume to startling effect.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin
Not a J-Pop fan really but I was introduced to the strange, twisted world of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu on a work visit earlier in the year and haven't stopped listening to her or watching her gloriously oddball music videos - a place where she thrives. This album is unlike anything else I've heard this year, a full-on assault of pop that's slickly crafted and exists in its own world. 

Mark Kozelek - Sings Christmas Carols

Sun Kil Moon's Benji has been winning the plaudits this year, but this is the Mark Kozelek record that I've enjoyed the most. It shouldn't work, but his straight-faced, stripped back covers of well known Christmas hits and standards is perfect festive listening. Will become a festive go-to album for years to come. 

Neil Young - A Letter Home

Another album that on paper shouldn't work, yet it somehow transcends its basic ingredients. Recorded at Jack White's Third Man Studios direct to vinyl in an antique recording booth, the sound may be shaky and lo-fi, but the well-chosen covers and dedications to his mum make this a sentimental journey that isn't sickly and sweet, but full of romance and charm.

Sleaford Mods - Divide And Exit
An old fashioned tale of a band working hard for year before finally getting the break they deserve. A resolutely DIY outfit, from the record label through to recording and touring, Jason Williamson's barbed, spiked lyrics have clearly hit and nerve with a public desperate for someone to speak up and tell it how it is. Divide and Exit's gritty realism was just that.

Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments To An Elegy
The Smashing Pumpkins reunion has been patchy to say the least and even if it doesn't compare to past glories, Billy Corgan can still write a tune when he buckles down. Monuments To An Elegy is packed full of tunes that it came as a bit of a shock after the proggy, meandering Oceania. For Pumpkins standards, the 9 song MTAE was a concise, short shock of modern alt rock that tipped a hat to new wave of the early 80s. The tunes were back too.

Taylor Swift - 1989
It's easy to be sniffy about pop music, especially when the charts and radio stations are pumped full of flim-flam, but once in a while an album and artist will come along that transcends genres and becomes part of the cultural furniture. Think Madonna and Michael Jackson at their peak. Taylor Swift became a cultural icon with 1989, an album packed full of super smart songwriting, hooks and beats that even though it was released in 2014 it will be the sound of 2015 and beyond. 

Ty Segal - Manipulator
A double LP of garage rock that struck the right balance between fuzzed-out guitars and melody showing that Ty Segal is a modern day songwriter of some magnitude.

The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
I loved Slave Ambient so much that I was scared of listening to this new War On Drugs record in-case it ruined my opinion of the band. Fortunately, it built upon the sound of that last album and took the band even further down the spaced-out Tom Petty vibe road. A faultless mix of shimmering guitars and Americana.

While we are on the subject of end-of-year round ups, I put together this article for LeftLion called Top of the Notts 2014 - a run through 20 favourite Nottingham-related releases of the year.
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26 December 2014

The Cure - Hammersmith Apollo (21 December 2014)

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

The merchandise adorned with an image of a spinning top should have given it away, but even that couldn’t prepare us for what a special night The Cure’s first of a three night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo would be.

Seeing The Cure in relatively ‘intimate’ surroundings was a refreshing change from the larger shows that they most often find themselves playing. I’ve seen them at outdoor festivals, the Royal Albert Hall, and at Wembley Arena - they were all great shows and spectacles, but nothing quite like tonight’s performance. Playing in this theatre to a majority hardcore Cure fan contingent really seemed to focus the band’s sound and they look and felt energised – Robert was playful, Simon was throwing shapes, and the whole band looked more relaxed than I’ve ever seen them before and it made for a stunning show. For all of the image of The Cure – big hair, eyeliner, black clothes – you can easily forget that lurking behind all that is a powerful rock band who have been harnessing their sound for over 35 years.

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

If tonight The Cure sounded invigorated, so was their setlist. Away from festival headline slots, the band took the opportunity at this ‘Christmas show’ to dig deep and reunite themselves and their audience with some long forgotten treasures. Over a mammoth 40 song set what what we were essentially treated to was a 30th Anniversary Show for The Top.

Throughout the three hour long show, starting with the claustrophobic swirl of Shake Dog Shake, the band played all of 1984’s The Top, not in order but with tracks from the album scattered throughout the set, something the band probably hasn’t done since the album was released. Robert Smith had promised surprises during this run of shows, but I don’t think the sold out Hammersmith Apollo crowd has been expecting something quite like this.

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

The songs from The Top sounded mighty as well, you would never have thought that many of the songs hadn’t been regularly performed. The album is an under-appreciated, and due to being largely ignored by the band in recent years, largely long-forgotten part of The Cure’s back catalogue. But the band did it justice, and in this setting it sounded full blooded, striking the right balance between the murky psychedelia, oddball weirdness and oppressive playfulness that runs throughout the songs. All in all the vibe was the right kind of heavy.

The Cure have mentioned doing a third set of Trilogy shows involving The Top, Head on the Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. These not-yet-announced trilogy shows must be in the back of the band’s mind as they play these Hammersmith Apollo dates. While we were treated to The Top in its entirety, the band also dusted off a couple of Head On The Door-era gems in the shape of Kyoto Song and the B-side A Man Inside My Mouth, with the Kiss Me… pick being a dusting-off of Like Cockatoos, which fitted in perfectly alongside the strangeness of The Top tracks.

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

Keeping in mind that not everyone in attendance will be a hardcore Cure fan, the remainder of the main set tread a familiar path of hits, although played with renewed vigour; while the inclusion of Before Three was a personal highlight – a gorgeous song from the 2004 Ross Robinson produced The Cure LP.

After playing for two hours the band left the stage to return for four sets of encores that lasted well over an hour and felt like another show. The encores mainly focussed on The Cure’s early post-punk / pre-Pornography output. Charlotte Sometimes and M were pleasing inclusions, while the remaining The Top songs that featured were the first performance of The Empty World since 1984, Dressing Up, and Piggy In The Mirror (not played since ’97). The final set of encores made sure the night ended on an upbeat note as the band ran through some of their more poppy numbers ending on a blazing Hey You with its apt refrain of “Your the one that looks like Christmas”.

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on
As ever, Chain Of Flowers has a decent roundup of the show.

Setlist: The Cure, Eventim Apollo, London, UK, 12/21/14

1. “Shake Dog Shake”

2. “Kyoto Song”

3. “A Night Like This”

4. “alt.end”

5. “Wailing Wall” (First time since 1984)

6. “Bananafishbones”

7. “The Caterpillar”

8. “The Walk”

9. “A Man Inside My Mouth” (Live debut)

10. Close to Me”

11. Lullaby”

12. “High”

13. “Birdmad Girl”

14. “Just Like Heaven”

15. “Pictures of You”

16. “Before Three”

17. “Lovesong”

18. “Like Cockatoos” (First time since 2004)

19. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”

20. “Want”

21. “The Hungry Ghost”

22. “One Hundred Years”

23. “Give Me It”

24. “The Empty World” (First time since 1984)

25. “Charlotte Sometimes”

26. “Primary”

27. “The Top”
Encore 2:

28. “Dressing Up”

29. “Piggy in the Mirror” (First time since 1997)

30. “Never Enough”

31. “Wrong Number”
Encore 3:

32. “Three Imaginary Boys”

33. “M”

34. “Play for Today”

35. “A Forest”
Encore 4:

36. “The Lovecats”

37. “Let’s Go to Bed”

38. “Why Can’t I Be You?”

39. “Boys Don’t Cry”

40. “Hey You!” (First time since 2004)
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17 December 2014

Grey Hairs - The Nottingham Christmas Covers Party 2014 (Full Performance)

Grey Hairs' set at The 13th Annual Nottingham Christmas Covers Party at The Bodega on Saturday 13 December 2014. 

They played: 
Dr Feelgood - She Does It Right
The Nerves - Hanging On The Telephone
Public Image Ltd - Public Image
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - Roadrunner

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7 December 2014

LeftLion Update

It's been a couple of months since my last update concerning LeftLion, so I thought that it was about time for another. I also want to keep this blog semi-regularly updated, even if it's with small updates like this while I think of something more interesting and worthwhile to post about. 

LeftLion Magazine Issue #61 Front Cover
The biggest news concerning LeftLion since my previous post is that following a successful Kickstarter campaign the magazine has now gone monthly. 

The first of the monthly magazines was issue #61. One of the best things about working on LeftLion is the opportunity to work with people I really admire and respect and this was the case when I asked Kagoule to take part in our 'photo interview' feature In Focus. This issue also included one of my favourite interviews that I've done for a long time. I often find interviews to be a frustrating experience, because if I haven't met the subject before it can take a while to warm-up and get a rapport going, which is when both parties relax and the conversation really starts flowing. Although in the limited time you often have to sit down and chat this doesn't always happen, meaning answers can be stunted and the person doesn't necessarily give you as good a response as you hoped or know you can get from them. This definitely wasn't the case when I met up with Nightbreed's Trevor Bamford in a pub on Mansfied Road. He spoke with the clarity and intelligence of someone who is passionate about the goth scene. I'm pleased with how my feature with him came out. We changed-up the music reviews section by trimming down the number of reviews to 8 from the previous number of 12 and introducing a longer 'featured' review, which in this issue was No Romeo by Indiana. I reviewed The Boot EP by Cappo, one of the best Notts hip hop releases for a long time. 

Issue #62 was the first monthly monthly magazine and for personal reasons - moving house and being overseas with work - I didn't do much writing for this issue although I was still involved with the usual admin and sorting things, but definitely not as active as I usually would be. Despite that I still had time to pitch in with the music reviews and gave my thoughts on the recent release by Trekkah

Away from the magazine, on the website I reviewed the first of two nights Sleaford Mods did at Spanky Van Dykes. I hadn't written many gig reviews recently before doing this one because I was getting tired of doing them and felt that I was repeating myself. I think the break did me some good as I approached this one with a clean slate and felt like I captured the spirit of the night and the band well, and it helped me re-think how to approach covering live shows. It's not often I can say this, but I feel pretty pleased with how it came out. I saw Owls and Fists at The Maze. Did a Q&A with the Berlin-based band Camera to help promote a show of theirs I was putting on at The Chameleon. The Sound of the Lion #30 podcast features tracks from the music reviewed in issue #61. Website Q&As are a good opportunity to cover an artist who may not seem 'typical' LeftLion material or isn't quite suitable for the magazine, which is why I enjoyed putting some questions to pop starlet Bianca and Seckou Keita. After a four year break the multi-venue charity music festival Hockley Hustle returned at the end of October and I was on hand to cover it. To accompany my Nightbreed article I collaborated with them to put together a Sound of the Lion: Goth Special that features songs from the Nottingham goth scene past and present. Natalie Duncan is an exceptional talent so it was a pleasure to ask her some questions and then go to Nottingham Contemporary to cover her epic night of collaboration with various Nottingham artists. One of my favourite new-ish acts in the city is Keto who, even though she has been performing around the city for a couple of years now, I have only shamefully been aware of, but I started to make amends by featuring her on the website. Finally, Sound of the Lion #31 has a song from each of the releases reviewed in issue #62. 
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16 November 2014

This Ain't A Hate Thing, It's A Love Thing

Lords - This Ain't A Hate Thing, It's A Love Thing

Early last week the band Lords put their entire back catalogue with the addition of loads of unreleased tracks and an entire live album up on Bandcamp. I started to compose this post on my birthday, and I'm not sure if this has caused me to get a bit nostalgic, but I it has compelled me to write about a particular gig of theirs that I attended.

2004 and 2005 was a pretty weird time for me. Like a lot of people of my generation and younger I graduated from university and stumbled in to some sort of vacuum where I didn't really know what I wanted to do with myself. Up to that point my life had been dictated by education, moving from one school to the other and then eventually to university without much of a plan for when I would do when it would end. Then in June 2004 it did end. I was now expected to think and fend for myself. What school and university don't prepare you for is the overwhelming sense of despair and misery that you will experience upon graduating.

I returned to Nottingham and moved three times between July 2004 and March 2005, and with the nagging emptiness I was feeling since finishing uni, it was a pretty strange time of my life. I was feeling anchorless and not really knowing what I wanted to do with myself. It was a period of transition and I was in a state of flux, neither here nor there.

My first priority was getting some money. So I did a series of temp jobs within various Nottingham City Council departments where I soon realised the much of the council is run by people who don't really know what they are doing and I was able to piss away most of the day posting on a Smashing Pumpkins forum and doing crosswords in the paper.

It was during one of these temp positions where I became friends with someone in the department I was working in. I can't remember how we first got talking, but I used to buy the NME every Wednesday and bring it in to the office, so we probably got talking about music over that. It transpired that we were in to a lot of the same things, and him being a bit older than me, he would also recommend bands and albums to me and was even able to score me a discount at Selectadisc. 

Nick was the drummer in a band he was in with his brother Andy called Clambake. I eventually started going to see Clambake play around Nottingham. Some of the nights got very drunk, but I remember watching them at various venues including Junktion 7, supporting Bob Logg III at The Bodega (then still The Social) and playing Drop In The Ocean in Rock City basement. It was my first introduction to a particular music scene in Nottingham, an underground DIY movement, and this was at the time where the indie-rock and garage-rock scenes briefly overlapped.

I soon left the department where Nick worked but we still stayed in touch and would meet up from time to time. He then invited me to a gig that even though I didn't know it at the time looking back would have a big impact on my life. It was one of those nights where things happened unexpectedly that would go on to affect my life much later on. A foreshadowing of some sort perhaps might be the best way to describe it. 

He invited me along to a gig that some of his friends were putting on. It was in an old Scout Hut / Community Centre in Sneinton and Nick also knew the guys in one of the bands that was playing that night called Lords. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were also playing along with a third band who I couldn't for the life of me remember until I took a look on the internet. Turns out it was Red Monkey. 

Ted Leo, Red Monkey, Lords Poster
Poster by @Sumlin
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Red Monkey
Date: Saturday 5 March 2005
Venue: Green's Mill School Hall, Sneinton, Nottingham

I don't really remember that much about the bands if I'm honest. Lords were loud and I seem to recall the bands playing on a stage that had a white sheet hanging as a backdrop. There may or may not have been projections on that sheet. 

This was probably the first gig that I attended that truly exposed me to Nottingham's underground and DIY music scene. It made me realise that there was some sort of scene going on in Nottingham. And there were many people in the that night who would somehow indirectly or directly have some sort of presence and influence on my life, even if at the time I did not know it.

The show was put on by the Damn You! collective who seemed to deal in putting on interesting American indie rock acts and teaming them up with British bands of a similar spirit. Even for me as an outsider it was obvious that this was all motivated by the love of the music and making sure that everyone, both bands and audience, had the best experience possible. After this night if I wanted to go to a gig I would take a look at what Damn You! were organising and try and go along. I was exposed to numerous bands and nights including the legendary Annual Damn You Christmas Covers gigs where local bands would drunkenly wrestle songs by much more famous bands all for charity. It opened a door to a world that both appealed to me and that I felt connected to, I was amongst kindred spirits. I think I made my first foray in to writing gig reviews for LeftLion covering a few of these shows for the website. It definitely broadened my knowledge of what was going on in the local music scene.

At this gig I was introduced to a guy who I thought was going for an early 90s Neil Young look - big sideburns, kind of curtainy hair and plaid shirts. His name was Anton. I would eventually learn that Anton was something of a shit-hot promoter both with his own nights, that I think he was still doing at the time, and with local promotion company and venue owners DHP.

There was a table to the back of the room selling LPs and CDs. Nick showed be his band's album that was for sale that night called Gator In the Pool. It was on a label called Gringo Records. Even though I didn't really know who Gringo Records was, my interest was piqued, and like with Damn You! shows, Gringo Records became known to me as a signifier of music of a particular persuasion. I would check out Gringo Records bands and started to notice that many of them would play Damn You! nights and that this scene was interlinked, related and overlapping.

I went to an afterparty that night and stuck on how to get home one of the guitarists from Lords called Chris let me sleep on his sofa. As time went on and I attended more gigs, got involved with LeftLion, our paths would cross and we became more pally until the point where the other week he was helping me collect a sofa for my new house. There were probably a handful of other people in the room that night who I didn't know then, but now I know in some way. 

This post has been written over a few days and I'm probably not doing the best to explain how important that night was. But it was. Essentially in that room that night were a bunch of people that I would eventually become friends with and who helped influence (whether directly or indirectly) particular life decisions of mine. For one thing I do not think that I would have gotten involved with LeftLion if it wasn't for going along to that show. It's telling that my first piece of writing for LeftLion was only one month later, Quasi at the Rescue Rooms. Another odd coincidence is that the support band that night for Quasi was fronted by the host of the house party I went to after the gig at Green's Mill.   

I'm not really sure what the whole point of this post is except to document this particular moment in my life and to say that it's probably the gigs that you aren't expecting that turn out to be life-changing in some small way the way this show was. Going to watch Lords in a scout hut in Sneinton did change my life. 

Listen to Lords on Bandcamp
Lords Facebook page

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