Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


Booze Books: My drunken writing experiment

April 9, 2013

“WhyIoughtta wiipe zat smile offa yeur face, yer smarrrmy lill weaaazzl,” he slurred, lurching forward, empty Advocat bottle in hand.

This fictional man is fictionally drunk in a fictional price of writing. I intend to turn this scenario on its head.

Inspired by the work of MyHarto in her Youtube series, My Drunk Kitchen, where she gets boozed then tries to cook, I am going to get sloshed/sozzled/binned/battered/muntered and try to write.



Gone are the days where journalists could get Geoff Hooned at lunch and return to the newsroom to finish the splash half-cut, so my experience of drunken writing is minimal. In fact, I actively try to avoid it. If I’ve had anything more than two pints, writing tends to be off the cards for I know it will end up aimless drivel (unlike most of my work, which is bang-on-the-money brilliant, yeh). So, this could be interesting.

This Saturday I have a few plans in the pipeline. Y’know, socially. And will have a few bevvies, like. After these bevvies, I will return to my flat in the dead of night and begin to write. Exactly how, who knows? Exactly what, I’m not sure. I’m not setting myself any guidelines or boundaries and will only consider the content when I plonk myself on my bedroom floor, laptop on knee, salt beef bagel in hand, and begin to write. Or pass out.

Anecdotally, musicians/artists/masseuses find their true creative soul under the influence of drink/drugs so maybe this drunk writing could be the key to success. Maybe. Just maybe. This will be my moment. My big break. I will find myself. I will become one with my writing. It will be like a big, literary, slightly squiffy, sexgasm.

Or. More than likely. It will be a misguided fumble in the dark with the ever-present risk of hurling.




Biffy Clyro at iTunes Festival: Needs more discovery and invention

October 7, 2012

The Roundhouse shakes while 4,000 people inside shiver with goosebumps when Biffy Clyro are at their best at the iTunes Festival. In between these peaks of rock supremacy is the occasional moment of boredom and mediocrity. It’s no secret the Scottish rockers, as their pseudonym has become, abandoned the sound that made them great two albums ago, but that’s not to say they don’t still make great songs.

Openers Frightened Rabbit do a respectable job warming up the crowd with a perfect representation of Scottish indie rock in its prime but they’re not the band the masses are here to see. Biffy arrive on stage to a bizarre soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel before launching into a strobe-lit intro.

There are more bland ballads now than ballistic aural assaults, but tracks like The Captain and That Golden Rule still produce some of the best reactions of the night. Bubbles, complete with an impressive bubble machine, is one of the most best-executed pieces of live music this reviewer has ever seen. On top of the two additional live musicians, the bare-chested Biffy trio command a huge stage presence. Their energy is barely rivalled and their technical ability remarkable. They are widely regarded as one of the best live bands about – and with good reason.

But at the Roundhouse on Saturday, they try out too many new songs. So much so that even the faithful ‘Mon the Biff crowd lose interest. Songs such as Folding Stars and Many of Horror, so far removed from the frantic brilliance of their first three albums, rouse the crowd – but for the wrong reasons. Everyone loves a good sing-along. But people also like singing along to Wonderwall at 4am stumbling home from the city centre. Objectively, these songs do a gig no favours.

Strung To Your Ribcage and 27 were the only pre-Puzzle tracks on display, and herein lies the greatest weakness of the show. Biffy Clyro have a rich and varied back catalogue which could lay waste to any venue in 90 minutes, and though they perfectly demonstrate this strength with choice cuts, overall they disappoint by allowing weaker songs into their set. Any music fan should see Biffy before death, but do it quickly because album by album, the quality of an ever-diluted setlist is slowly waning.


Three years since Daisy: Why we’re prepared to wait for Brand New

September 22, 2012

Today a grim anniversary passes. It’s unlikely there will be many ceremonies, no minute of silence, no flags at half mast. There may be some tears, a hand held tight by a loved one, a melancholy head held in trembling hands – but these will be behind closed doors. Even those who do mark the day, uttering a quiet prayer to the heavens, will not wallow. They will pause, then move on.

September 22 marks three years to the day Brand New released their last album, Daisy. Scoff at my calender crossing if you like but worse bands have gone shorter periods of time without new material and had to suffer baying fans whining for more. And Brand New aren’t just any Tom, Dick or Harry, they’re the alternative music’s Lady Gaga. They too seemed to have developed a die-hard group of followers, a mature, music-savvy, discerning band of Monsters. Or Beliebers? No.

Brand New’s fans are not just people who like their music, but a cult. A flippin’ cult. Sort of. A cult that talks in lyrics and cuts its hair in time with Jesse. And these members of the cult have had three years of radio silence as far as tracklistings, artwork or studio time goes. But, while they might shed a tear or have a little sing-along to Bought A Bride, they would not dream of forcing Brand New’s hand prematurely.

This is not because they do not want more. God no, they want more. It’s because these fans (myself included, so, really it’s we)… It’s because WE are respectful enough of Jesse (Lacey, that is) and co and understand how delicate and intricate their musical progression has been from debut Your Favourite Weapon in 2001 to the present day that we would not dare ask for more than they have given us already. We are so smitten and feel so lucky to have been given a single album, a single song, a single note, of theirs that anything else is an invaluable bonus. Had Jesse (we are as close as we sound, sort of) decided to end YFW after seven minutes, we would have solemnly accepted his decision without protest.

But, with love comes fear. After 2006’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, an operatic tour de force, we were anxious for Daisy. Now, after Daisy, we’re cautious. We, the fans and the band, are at a crossroad. All thousands and millions of us are huddled together at this junction of musical life waiting with baited breath for someone in the band to pipe up and say, “I think it’s this way.” We will move as one.

The passion of Brand New fans might look bizarre and pathetic, and silly, and a little over the top, to outsiders, but it is warranted. Though the Long Island band’s incredible musical progression is widely recognised – from basement punk rock to introspective geniuscore – and emotional attachment to lyrics and themes is not unusual in such a genre, it is Jesse’s sincerity and authenticity in anything the band puts its mind to which has kept fans enthralled. I could reel off the clichés about pouring his heart and soul into the music and all that jazz, but it’s true. When the Devil and God demos leaked, Jesse and the band were so upset they scrapped eight of ten of the tracks and started afresh. Little sneaky extra album there for us. Shhh.

This might sound like the transcript of a drunken 4am monologue, so let’s try and conclude. When Brand New decide their route, we will follow. But until Brand New have picked up the pieces left strewn across the musical landscape by the self destruction of Daisy, we can have little clue what direction it will be. So ferocious was Daisy, so unsure of footing, so raw and scared, it is impossible to say what the next step in this musical journey will be. It is this uncertainty, which makes us willing to wait.

In Daisy’s title track, Jesse sings “if the sky opened up and started pouring rain, like He knew it was time to start things over again”. Daisy was a biblical flood, drowning everything that came before. The band have now been rinsed clean. And though it has taken time, and it will take more, I, we, Brand New’s Monsters, are confident their next step will be devastatingly brilliant.


Wha’ gwaaan?

March 28, 2010

End of an era? I’ve just finished my second term at Cardiff School of Journalism and it’s been pretty tough. That’s why the posts on here have been few and far between. Anyway, enough excuses, and enough low-quality news gathering.

What is floating my boat at the moment? Wha gwaaan? Well, I’ve been getting into the bridge that is beginning to connect techno and dubstep. Call it what you will, but the likes of Joy Orbison, Untold, James Blake, Scuba… the list goes on, have been creating subtle, progressive 2-step… and I like it.

I’ve been indulging more and in dubstep of late and finding much of the more popular stuff a bit grating. The likes of Rusko, and Caspa to a degree, do not have the delicate creativity in their music that many other dubstep producers do. Even big names like Joker and Nero are producing some good stuff. In fact, one of my favourites of the last few weeks has been Nero’s remix of MJ Cole’s seminal garage hit Sincere.

As tech-house comes to the end of its tribal-infused fun trip, the likes of L-vis 1990 and Bok Bok need to find a new angle. That sound is growing almost as tired as the screeching synth championed by Major Lazer and Sydney Samson. At the same time, the 2-step, garage-rooted scene that, arguably, has had big players in it for a while like Modeselektor and Four Tet, is really coming alive.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes and what happens next, but at the moment, the discordant, often erratic, techy dubstep is the next big thing.



March 1, 2010

I’ve gone and recorded a mix. It was off the top of my head and unplanned, consequently, there are a few errors, but it is still alarmingly good fun. Give it a bell. (See that Ellen Allien track down there? That ain’t being released for months. Exciting stuff.)

Joe and Will Ask? – Christ Martin
Mowgli – London To Paris
DJ Madskillz – Apollo
Lorcan Mak – Brass This Ass
DJ Sneak – You Can’t Hide From Your Bud (Gramophonedzie Remix)
Marco Bailey – Filter Bitch
House Of Stank – Get Up, Yeah (Hijack Remix)
Riva Starr – Black Cat, White Cat
DJ Zinc – Killa Sound (Heavyfeet Remix)
Yiannis Balkizas – Breathing Space
Skitzofrenix – Droppin’ That
Ellen Allien – Pump
Milton Channels – Black is Black
Mike Mind – Resonate (Kebacid Remix)
Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You (Nick Verwey Remix)


The shrew would have cushioned the blow?

February 15, 2010

Everyone agrees about Joy Orbison until they listen to him. “He’s going to big in 2010,” everyone says. It looks like they are probably going to be right. But once those hype-mongers have sat down and listened to the young Londoner’s work, opinion seems to split.

Expecting some sort of four-to-the-floor techno or jackin’ house that normally blows out clubs, they are faced with the anomalies of Peter O’ Grady’s blend of two-step, garage-fused, filter dubstep. Basically, undefinable music. As beautiful as it is complex, some people do not ‘get’ it. His music is not intended to be blasted out on Funktion 1s around the country for neon-clad ravers to skank to – it is much more valuable than that.

Track names that regularly omit vowels or are just completely irrelevant – The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow – add to the hype around Mr O’Grady, but it somehow feels that the track names fit the songs. His work sits nicely alongside Four Tet, and Burial to an extent.

Straight-outta Croydon – where many of the dubstep kids seem to come from, and JLS, of course – Joy’s music is endearingly atmospheric to the point of balearic. The use of vocal samples suggests a likeness with delicate filter house but the erratic step of garage and dark synths give the music a much more, well, Croydon-esque, feel to it. The music feels very British.

Bizarre songs titles, a catchy name, and the music-world’s love of hype and rising stars means that Joy Orbison is a name on many lips, but it takes a lot more time than a fleeting prediction list to really get to grips with what his tracks have to offer.


What if Marilyn Manson died?

February 12, 2010

If there was ever a man as revered as he was feared, as infamous as he was famous, or as alluring as he was revolting, it was Marilyn Manson. Lead-singer of the band of the same name, artist, and the incarnation of every parent’s worst nightmare, Manson, born Brian Warner, was actually an extremely talented performer.

If he was not nervously derided by Middle America, he was conspicuously protested against. Marilyn Manson was to goth-rock what Nirvana was to grunge – revolutionary, epitomising. Often rejected as unintelligent shock music or ignored for satanic symbolism, Manson’s lyrical prowess and provocative stage presence made him a dangerous pioneer in rock music.

Born in 1969, raised by religious parents in Ohio then Florida, he took on the pseudonym Marilyn Manson from idol Marilyn Monroe and murderer Charles Manson and formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids in 1989, shortening to Marilyn Manson in 1992.

After being noticed by Nine Inch Nails front-man, Trent Reznor, the band were set to turn their destructively furious music on a wider audience. Their second full-length studio album, Antichrist Superstar in 1996, sparked a world tour, regularly picketed by religious organisations, and even denounced by American senator, Joseph Lieberman.

Manson took the controversy in his stride focusing on the cults of drugs and celebrities in his next album, Mechanical Animals. Influenced by the glamour of David Bowie, the album gave the band a much more universal appeal leading to album chart clockings and MTV appearances. While touring Mechanical Animals the Columbine school shootings took place. Once it was discovered the boys involved were fans of Manson’s ‘violent’ music, the blame was pinned on him and his corrupting music.

Infamy of such led to a relatively quiet period for Manson. When he reappeared in 2000 with Holy Wood, supposedly the third part of a trilogy, his Guns, God and Government Tour draw huge crowds. Exploring the links between death and fame in American society while forever criticising blind obedience to religion and government, Marilyn Manson became a household name. Though maintaining anarchist values Manson’s exposure led to a certain desensitisation around the world. Failing to deliver on the pioneering sound of his early work and victim to the celebrity he so critiqued – he covered Tainted Love for low-brow teen comedy, Not Another Teen Movie – Manson seemed to have lost his way.

Recent albums, The Golden Age of Grotesque and Eat Me Drink Me, do not capture the mix of raw angst and unadulterated talent that encapsulated his rise to success. Ever experimental in drugs to the point of destruction, it is unsurprising it has been his downfall.

Despite his dip in form to the end of his years, Manson, for his observant, shockingly obscene take on the dichotomies of society and vehement iconoclasm, will always be the Antichrist Superstar.

CAVEAT – Manson is not dead. Rock is dead.