Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Onions, already with albums two and three written remember, play some new songs tonight as part of this Cloud Sounds gig in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. One (‘Carried Away’?) switches from Dick Dale surf antics to Jamaican rocksteady and back again without the blink of an eye. If you’ve heard this year’s debut album “Pleasure Blast” with its frequent tempo and stylistic changes this won’t be a surprise. The trio may start off a little coolly this evening – as tentative as the early doors crowd finding their spot in the loft space room – but once motoring Onions give an impressive indication of what The Shins would sound like if after “Chutes Too Narrow” they relocated to the industrial North of England for factory shift work and pints of ale with a frothy head. Muscular twee?

Sweet Baboo tonight is the band version not the solo performer. However it is not the full full band due to the bass player having a run in with Arriva Trains. So the trio – Steve Black on guitar/vocals, Avvon Chambers on drums and Rob Jones switching from guitar to bass – cover the duties of the four-piece set-up ably even with a missing effects pedal as well as absent bassist. And this is a very muscular (that word again) version of Sweet Baboo. Opening song (and moment of inutterable genius) ‘Morse Code For Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep’ is belted out with foot-popping dance moves; the heartbreaking ‘If I Died Would You Remember That You Loved Me’ is turned into a swinging Modern Lovers-style up-tempo run-through. There are some slower ballads amongst the new songs from forthcoming album “Ships” but I’ll remember this more for the edge, oomph and characteristic wit. As Steve Black himself said “that sounded... pretty swish”.

The Sweet Baboo Set List:
Morse Code For Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep / I’m A Dancer / If I Died Would You Remember That You Loved Me / Swimmingly Wildly / Balloon Ride To Rome / 8 Bit Monsters / 12 Carrots Of Love / Come On Let’s Mosh

In 2008 when I first saw Rob ‘The Voluntary Butler Scheme’ Jones he sold me a brown paper bag, decorated with kindergarten paint-shapes and containing a four-track CDR. This year he released his new single ‘Brainfreeze’ as an app. Such bold technological advancement does not necessarily match the musical trajectory of The Voluntary Butler Scheme which has followed its own charmingly idiosyncratic flight-path. Tonight’s gig is performed as the five-piece band version of The Voluntary Butler Scheme (only their second live outing apparently. Or is that this tour?) rather than the inventive one-man-band version of old. And after the cut-up chip-core experimentation found on second album “The Grandad Galaxy” most of tonight’s brief nine song set feels closer to the winning first album formula of Tamla Motown spliced with DIY bedroom pop from Dudley. This could be the ‘limitations’ of a band and playing to the strengths of having five musicians (twin trumpet voluntary, saxophone solos, Jackson Five guitar licks etc) rather than loop station playfulness.

So that new record could yield some further surprises yet (although I doubt it will be in a brown paper bag) but for tonight this was a great demonstration of the joyful party-popper detonation of melody and pop hooks found in both new and older songs. As with Sweet Baboo, there’s a lyrically askance even surreal take on reality which is slightly at odds at the blokey jeans-and-T-shirt normality of the performers but the music is truly transporting: euphoric yet grounded. A great (and great value) evening of pop nous and charm.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme Playlist:
Multiplayer / Brainfreeze / New song / Tabasco Sole / A Million Ways / Don’t Fight It, Feel It / So Tired / Smoke Alarms / Trading Things In

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Golden Fable, the off-shoot of Tim And Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band With Tim And Sam, didn’t unreservedly blaze a trail into this world last year. There was no declaration that Tim and Sam was no more and Golden Fable was described as a “new challenge” rather than a permanent fixture. Early songs were presented under the Tim and Sam Twitter account (now renamed) and their first single ‘The Chill Pt.2’ with just three repeated choruses felt largely instrumental as though the duo of Tim McIver and Rebecca Palin were trying to stress the link with their previous band. However the full debut album from Golden Fable, “Star Map” which came out last month a year on from that first single, is far from tentative. It’s a fully formed and highly accomplished realisation of the promise of those cautious beginnings.

Rather than trying to recreate pared down versions of the lush pastoral, post-folk instrumentals of their earlier elaborately named band, McIver and Palin have taken a bold sideways step. Their new venture combines electronic textures and sounds with acoustic instrumentation; and on this ten track album there’s only one instrumental (the tremulous ‘Lament’) with vocals duties split between the pair, Palin leading two songs for every one that McIver sings. Traces of their former musical venture are evident and there’s some cello, piano and classical-styled acoustic guitar bedding to the songs but it’s the electronica and the voices that draws the attention. Now processed beats even of the most amiable variety (the impatient, disco-friendly pulse of ‘Be Alive’ or the intricate shuffle of ‘The Chill Pt.2’) and washes of cool synthesizer may sound mechanically utilitarian plus there is a slightly aloof froideur on first encounter, but “Star Map” turns out to be a warm-hearted, soulful listen. The cathedral chorister-meets- Liz Fraser tones of Rebeca Palin on ‘Sugarloaf’ or ‘Always Golden’ are bewitching as she glacially glides from word to word. And the cautious frailty of Tim McIver’s vocals on opener ‘Guiding Light’ fills out to a resonant and reassuring pledge of constancy.

Most songs follow this template of soft, gradual starts before cresting to a life-affirming multi-instrument finale over a four-minute arc. The main exception is ‘Reconsider King’ which is exceptional in other ways. With a slower tempo and much sparser arrangement, it foregrounds just Palin’s vocals and acoustic guitar; it is poignantly lean and almost spiritual in its humbling exquisiteness. There are more in this a vein with the nine bonus acoustic songs that come with the deluxe hand-sewn edition of the album; an essential companion to “Star Map”.

The only Tim and Sam full-length album, the excellent “Lifestream”, felt more overtly centred on the natural world. “Star Map” appears more human, about hope and compassion, co-dependence and companionship. So Tim and Sam is no more, a victim of geographical dispersion of its members. A shame but out of circumstance and isolation, McIver and Palin have created a new kind of musical life for themselves and a beautifully realised and compelling one at that. As the final song title suggests ‘Restless Souls’ indeed. And we are richer for it.

Golden Fable Star Map [BUY]

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I came across Lynx Africa in the run up to A Carefully Planned Festival as I scoured the list of 100 bands playing the two day event. They stood out because, well, what a dreadful – and unsearchable – way to name your band; after a deodorant with some appalling and juvenile sexist advertising (“our most popular fragrance for over a decade – and its pulling power is as effective today as it’s ever been”). However I put aside issues with the name once I’d heard their self-proclaimed “enthusiastic twee-mo woe-fi” on this short EP collection – only one song out of five is longer than two minutes. But even with such brevity the trio of performers – Grace from The Middle Ones, Mat Riviere and Jam On Bread - pack a powerful punch, simultaneously abrasive and melodic.

Lynx Africa cleverly combine Young Marble Giants rickety minimalism and angular rhythms with over-amped noisy art-punk outbursts, with vocal duties shared between all three musicians. Despite the lo-fi hiss, ‘Comfortable’ is all child-like sweet melodies and drumstick clatter before sliding into the fuzzy crunch of ‘Break Your Own Back’. ‘Holly’ begins with echoes of the Dictaphone experimentation of Tune-Yards "Bird-Brains"- shrill plucked ukulele and pulsing melodica - before bringing in stern, male intoning about “Holly was sick in the garden”. Whilst still trying to work out if Holly is suffering from happy pregnancy or sad party-excess (or some combination of said moods and states), the song’s crypticism explodes into an intense three-way shouting match. ‘Corners’ has a woozy pump-organ lurch and sparse sleigh-bell beat over which the repeated refrain “do you shut your eyes to walk around the corners sometimes?” becomes bleak existential questioning. ‘Excessive Reggae’ isn’t. Instead it is a wayward love song with the insistent faux-naif angst of a Jad Fair as it chants “I don’t want to go home with anyone else”.

It’s over too quickly and some may blanch at the rudimentary, home demo quality of these initial recordings but the compelling power of the songs is apparent. “Better” recordings are promised – as well I hope as more recordings. I can’t wait - and look forward to when searching for Lynx Africa the band, displaces Lynx Africa the tawdry deodorant.

Lynx Africa Party Barge [BUY]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

STRAY LIGHT Bearing Feathers

In and around” Manchester-based Stray Light formed in 1997 but until last month I hadn't come across the quartet - David Bennett and Kat Moor on guitars, Ellen Poliakoff on violin and bass and Dan Chadderton on drums - let alone heard any music. That's now changed with fourth album "Bearing Feathers" (self-) released on Doubtful Sound records. The band play a largely instrumental form of post-rock as support slots for Do Make Say Think, Bardo Pond and Stars Of The Lid all suggest. And to add to that list, as musical reference points for this record I’d throw in Picastro and A Hawk And A Hacksaw.

Here, rather than the tight clinical precision you might expect given the post-rock tag, there is a loose, quivering feel more akin to a live single-take recording and possibly betraying each song’s improvised origins. Many of the instrumentals spar twin twitching guitars with funereal violin – see the dipping, fiery chimes of ‘Split The Lark’ or the quick march of ‘Viper’s Buglos’. ‘Left-Handed Hummingbird’ and ‘Avoiding The Pipistrelle’ are constructed more like understated math-rock that slowly builds in layered intensity. Where there are vocals they are subdued, detached and almost out of ear-shot – the cryptic deathly sighing of ‘Sirens’ or the more ominous intoning of ‘The Continuity Of Parks’ which comes across as the dark freak-folk of a Current 93 project.

This twelve track album also includes snatches of radio, spoken lists, Eastern European folk motifs and in ‘Thought Experiment’ a sway and pulse that is almost jazz-like in its ebb and flow. Given the recorded-live-in-one-take feel, such variety takes a few listens to appreciate in its 54 minute, slowly winding journeying. The looser, improvised feel also leads to expectation of unadulterated, full wig-out or of sudden left-turns but Stray Light play a long game with each song slowly uncoiling rather than unleashing surprises. “Bearing Feathers” engages rather than re-arranges the cerebral cortex. I haven’t followed the path Stray Light have taken to get here but they don’t feel like they are tiring yet, rather a band patiently plying their craft. The hand-made gatefold CD sleeve is also worthy of mention: vintage biological illustrations and ink-stamped type on thick brown card.

Stray Light Bearing Feathers [BUY]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Juffage is a one man multi-tasker: playing guitar AND hitting a floor tom for one song, sitting at a drum-kit AND playing a keyboard the next. There's looping of sounds, passages of crackling feedback and walking amongst the audience too. Keeping experimental sounds playfully rickety and on the move: a great start to Sunday at A Carefully Planned Festival.

Ten years in, I finally get to see Norwich pop-shriekers Bearsuit live. Promising lots of their new songs their set is disrupted by sound problems ("It's like you've come to our bedroom...") and re-worked due to a faulty keyboard: "just the hits then". Despite the interrupted flow and the frequent apologies, when playing the quintet were impressively forceful. By the last two songs they sounded like an unstoppable art-punk force of nature. Unapologetically ace but sadly over too soon.

Lynx Africa, the trio formed by Mat Riviere, Jam On Bread and Grace from The Middle Ones, update Young Marble Giants and Velvet Underground & Nico minimalism with an over-amped, ramshackle noise. There’s a fierce concentration from the three as they move between ukulele, floor tom and keyboard (perched on stackable metal-frame chair) but then a glorious abandon to the insistent rhythms and repeated patterns of each frazzled song. Excellent stuff.

Temple Songs have come a fair old way since I encountered them on debut self-released long-player "15 Bygones". The melodic 60s pop clatter is still intact but live as a four-piece there’s less fuzzy abstraction and a harder lofi edge. And Jolan Lewis remains ridiculously prolific – I’m not sure I recognised a single song from that 14 track album - which isn’t even nine months old – in this 30 minute set.

Dad Rocks! is dedicating songs to everyone at Kraak: ‘Battle Hymn Of The Fox Father’ to the parents of touring partners Tall Ships “for doing such a good job in raising them”, ‘Major Labels’ to the Manchester duo who made a fan-video version of the song, and ‘Pants’ to his son "who I miss terribly". Snævar Njáll Albertsson: surely one of the nicest guys in music but also a genius song-writer. He manages to find humour and poignancy in the hum-drum and domestic and turn it into life-affirming beauty. Dad Rocks! claims the band are all full of colds and on their last legs, the music tells a different, healthier story: a sublime performance with trumpet, violin and double-bass accompaniment.

The Dad Rocks! Set List: Weapons / Downaging / Funemployment / Take Care / Major Labels / Battle Hymn Of The Fox Father / Nothing Keeps Up / Pants

I’d had the briefest listens to O Messy Life’s “The Quarter Life Crisis Of Conan” before today. It reminded me of a mellow Wolf Parade with all the kinks taken out or the more countrified moments of Bright Eyes with less angst. Live the Newcastle-based five-piece shed the country-rock leanings for something more emphatic and darker... “this one’s about suicide pacts”. Time now to check out their other releases.

Alasdair Roberts is performing solo at 2022NQ to a rapt, seated audience. It is almost like a huddle of acolytes before the master folklorist taking the faithful through an unearthing and re-working of historic Scots music. Sadly not everyone in the room is captivated, with the sound of noisy talking from the bar and back of the room invading the space. Well the chattering asses missed out, these songs ancient and modern (including some from his new album due in January 2013) were worthy of patient attention.

This was my first encounter with Two Wings and I couldn’t make my mind up about them. The Glasgow five-piece had the stiff formality of Trembling Bells in their more trad folk-rock moments but then switched to songs with a more soulful or country-rock feel. I was continually wrong-footed by each turn they took. And then their final song was a basement-roof-raising fury with throat-shaking (literally) intensity and pounding drums.

We Are The Physics are not my usual cup of Red Bell but the Glaswegian punks – skinny jeans, thick glasses, utility wear outfits – were great fun “we’re sorry to interrupt your day...but we promise it will be over QUICKLY”. Rapid-fire riffing interrupted with start-stop jerking movements and poses together with a winning sense of the ridiculous followed at break-neck pace.

We Are The Physics would prove to be the last band I saw at A Carefully Planned Festival but showed one of the delights of this two day event: the size and breadth of the programming meant there was plenty of room for discovery. With minimal links to band pages on their website in advance or no form of programme other than a schedule available (for a £10 weekend ticket that might be asking too much), it created a level-playing field which forced you to try to something new, often based just on the band name or the proximity to the act you'd just seen.

A few years back two Northern Quarter multi-site music festivals ended up competing head-to-head: which was more grassroots, which represented Manchester’s independent Northern Quarter best, which showcased new bands more effectively. It wasn’t very a grown up or dignified spat. And it's questionable whether they had the goods to back up their respective arguments. After Carefully Planned All-Dayers and now in its second year, A Carefully Planned Festival has occupied this role (and the slot left vacant by In The City) quietly, unassumingly and with a adept focus on great, great music. Carefully planned, cleverly executed, effortlessly delivered with care: all in all, an excellent weekend. I’m eager for next year’s event already.

Monday, October 22, 2012


If you’re going to start anywhere for a 100 band two day weekend festival, start big. Scotland’s Second Hand Marching Band today are a thirteen-piece ensemble who make a beautiful, stomping and boisterous noise in the basement of 2022nq. The band sound like a Caledonian collision of Beirut and Woodpigeon with added kick-drum clout. They switch from loud ecstatic unison and massed chanted choruses to just a lonely wandering accordionist and heartbreak. What a marvellous start to A Carefully Planned Festival #2. Send their first EP to someone for free here.

Sitting with one leg crossed over the other in the back room of the Castle Hotel, Tekla Szerszynska played a set of entrancing songs about pitter-patter rain, Jekyll minds and parks. Her chiming harp-like guitar picking and halting vocals were much more grounded than it sounds; a song about “dig your head out of the clouds” summed up her more down-to-earth approach neatly.

After many failed attempts today was the day I finally saw Plank! live. And they did not disappoint – despite viewing from the back of a packed Soup Kitchen. There was a static back projection of the festival poster and no lighting changes so on the face of it ‘not much going on’ but the muscular prog-pop instrumentals rippled and switched direction with a ferocious precision. Final song ‘La Luna’ with swift fingered fretwork was particularly immense.

Then to Kraak to see Anguish Sandwich. What a treat. Lofi slacker rock and surf scuzziness meets Television Personalities in an energetic, shouty embrace with great, pummelling drumming. The Northampton trio were selling their debut EP: “what else is it about?” asked a doleful Chris East. It was immediately bought and carried around for the rest of the day; an inconvenience worth putting up with. It’s ace.

In the Castle Hotel I caught the end of Rubicava from Kidderminster (“we say Birmingham because no-one’s ever heard of Kidderminster”) before seeing late addition to the bill Songs For Walter. Laurie Hulme’s tribute to the lives of his grand-parents, domestic and romantic, was here performed as a three-piece and with four songs not on this year’s “Meet Me At The Empire” EP. The newer ones, including a single released in November ‘Tougher Than A Soldier's Boots’, show his attentions moving away from his grand-parents but retaining their effortless charm.

We’ve a 12 year old drummer normally but he’s in Paris”. Kiran Leonard’s band is frighteningly young – he’s a teenager himself – even without this revelation. A lack of years is no boundary to exploration though as his four-piece backing band and the twitchy Mr Leonard navigate an agitated set that makes Frank Zappa, Of Montreal and The Mars Volta look wanting in ideas. It includes a silk-wrapped saxophonist, kitchen utensil percussion, medal-giving and a dance performance that brings the audience to their knees. Insanely off-the-hook but with songs like ‘Port-Aine’ and ‘A Purpose’ the hyper-restless Kiran Leonard shows he can be emotionally devastating too. I filmed his solo rendition of ‘A Purpose’ but it was in near darkness. Instead go and listen to the version of his album “Bowler Hat Soup” performed on an 1898 American reed organ. Stunning. And Kiran Leonard is now working on a 25 minute song called ‘End Of Times’ about the apocalypse. Expect it before Christmas.

I caught a few songs from Leeds band Just Handshakes We’re British at Soup Kitchen: pleasing indie-pop songs but on this brief encounter they have not matured as much as I hoped since seeing them last January supporting Allo Darlin’. Maybe I need to listen some more - they went down very well with the dancing crowd.

Then to The Castle for Easter. Here bass-player Gavin joins Thomas Long on guitars with a new bass-player taking his place and ”we still have the same drummer Andrew”. Whatever the adjusted line-up, Easter are still fiercely loud and fiercely exciting. Such an intimate – and packed to the gills - venue adds to the intensity but that’s to take nothing away from the band – energetic holding-nothing-back playing from all concerned. Another highlight of the day.

Then to Free Swim’s debut North of England gig in the upstairs room of Gullivers. The band are on-stage and eager to start but soundman Dennis (how apt) is absent. The band’s foot-on-the-accelerator impatience is palpable and once out of the traps, on Dennis’s return, they are unstoppable. Heavy riffing for opener ‘The Eureka Moment’, foot on monitor theatrics, bass solos played by a giant panda and pumped-up playing by the freshly inked four-piece. The crowd has a who-are-they moment before embracing the Surrey band (“any Southerners in?”) whole-heartedly. At the end Free Swim are not allowed to leave without an encore (at a festival?!) – a cover of Lit’s ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ – and then finish with an ecstatic queue on stage of women wanting to have their photograph taken with Yolanda the Panda. Wild times.

Free Swim set list: The Eureka Moment / Croydon Fernandes / The Smell Of Pregnancy / I Want To Be A Mountaineer / Swooping Swoopily Like A Swooping Swooper / Scoring Bamboo Shoots / Rubix Rue / My Own Worst Enemy

Walton Hesse are a more subdued proposition after this noisy excitement but are no less engaging. How the Manchester-based six-piece are not signed to Loose Records or a similar Americana-friendly label is beyond me. Their restrained country-rock oozes quality. A great finish to an exceptional day.

I would have paid a tenner to see pretty much any of these bands. As it was, I paid £10 (early bird weekend price) for two whole days. Astonishing carefully planned value that beggars belief. Day two to follow.

Friday, October 19, 2012

TEAM GENIUS Pop Songs, Loud Songs, Whiskey Songs

I like Team Genius before even hearing a note of music. First there’s the Brooklyn band’s name: us-against-the-world solidarity allied with supreme confidence. Then there’s the three EPs worth of themed songs released this month as a prelude to their sophomore long-player "New York Songs" in November. Confident AND prolific. Although coming from Brooklyn, that hot-bed of zeitgeist-shaping new grooves, the six-piece cheerily ransack 80s and 90s alt-pop over the chronological arc of these three simultaneous releases.

“Pop Songs”, about moving to New York and “young things on the loose with big plans, sly smiles and a good buzz”, is all jittery and clipped, like the moment when new wave tipped into radio-friendly pop: The Cars-like choppy guitar riffs and drum machine of ‘Making Myths’ and the partying-meets-politics filibuster of ‘Ronald Reagan’s Cousin’ fading into the more elegiac regret of ‘Love And Love Songs’.

“Loud Songs” is “the noisy peak” where more partying is the order to the day (or night?) and where a female-sung, straight-ahead pogoing cover of ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ fits in perfectly. The mood here is all yee-haw with a dose of paranoia: the Bloodshot Records cowpunk of ‘Everything’s Alright’ or the gleeful alt-rock chant of ‘This Is Stupendous’. And then finally “Whiskey Songs” is the hangover. Call me a maudlin old sot but I think this is my favourite of the three EPs. It still has the alt-pop choruses and swing of the other two collections but now with a darker world-view steeped in the bitterness of experience and drink-soaked wisdom. ‘Seven Years’ uses drawn-out organ chords and ‘Chase You Down’ rich trumpet volleys to deepen the sense of come-down before the defiant, ultimate not-regretting it song ‘I Wouldn’t Change A Thing’ closes the journey with a repeated refrain of the title that becomes louder, more intense and angrier over whining guitars. Sobering.

High calibre power-pop party songs with a sombre depth behind the painted smile from Team Genius here – it leaves me wondering what they will have to say on "New York Songs" the album that they haven't already said here?

Team Genius Pop Songs / Loud Songs  / Whiskey Songs [BUY]

Monday, October 08, 2012


You love pop songs about love more being in love in the first place" As with their earlier releases and their origins - 'I Don’t Like You (Because You Don’t Like The Pastels)’ and taking their name from a Beat Happening song - This Many Boyfriends are here awash with fan-worship name-checking. Their debut album even threatens to out-do earlier levels of obsession: ‘Tina Weymouth’ as well as referencing “Stop Making Sense” includes a shouted chorus of album titles (“You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever / Come On Feel The Lemonheads / Searching For The Young Soul Rebels / You’re Oh So Silent Jens”).

I was a relative late-comer to This Many Boyfriends, first encountering their live show last February supporting Allo Darlin’ just as single ‘Starling’ was released (as a fanzine of course). The Leeds band, together since 2009, had already released a seven track EP and a three track single and suffered the tragic death of a band member. Such catastrophe could sink any band but particularly a young – and by their admission – relatively untutored one. Or put a deeply morbid spin on their song-writing. But for their debut long-player, the five-piece – Richard on vocals, Tom on bass, Daniel on guitar, Laura on drums and new recruit Ben also on guitar - as well as sticking with first-name only informality, have kept to the spirit of their original ramshackle twee-punk sound and retained their firm adoration of pop music. This ten track long-player brings together re-recordings (or new mixes?) of four earlier singles with six newer songs, all produced by Ryan Jarman. The re-recording tempers the earlier wilful lo-fi nature of This Many Boyfriends but there’s still a gritty reverb-heavy roughness backed by a jangle-and-clatter solidity that feels reassuringly familiar.

The playground crush euphoria of ‘Young Lovers Go Pop!’ and the purist indignation of 'I Don’t Like You (Because You Don’t Like The Pastels) still zip along at a thumping perilous pace; and overall there’s a timeless could-have-come-from-any-decade-since-the-eighties quality to their indiepop songs and references – jumpers, daydreams, school bullies. But it never sounds contrived, backward-looking or like nostalgic pastiche. The Smiths-like doubt and domestic pre-occupations of ‘(I Should Be A) Communist’ or the sweet chiming guitars and knitwear of ‘Number 1’; or the bah-bah-bah harmonies of ‘You Don’t Need To Worry’ have a feisty and fresh immediacy. The band brilliantly capture and distil a youthful delirious excitement, whether their own or inspired by their musical heroes, and make it feel of the here and now. There’s poignancy and sadness and regret too in the lyrics – but the feeling that sticks most, maybe because of those depths, is elation.

There’s a moment of doubt about musical inspiration and vinyl collecting in the opening song “these records they might stay / I might be a better person without them”. This Many Boyfriends should banish such qualms. For once, indebtedness and fan worship is a very good thing here. The referential nature of the songs is great fun but “This Many Boyfriends” (the album) gets its identity and success not from the name-checking, the musical touchstones or from its producer; This Many Boyfriends (the band) sound who are they are because of themselves. A great, heart-felt, noisy indie-pop record to rank alongside Tigercats “Isle Of Dogs“ as one of this year’s best. Out today and accompanied by live gigs in Leeds, NewcastleManchester, Sheffield, Leicester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and York.

This Many Boyfriends This Many Boyfriends [BUY]

Thursday, October 04, 2012

CUDDLY SHARK Body Mass Index

There’s a pacy brevity to this release by Glasgow-based Cuddly Shark: six songs in eleven minutes with only two tracks over two minutes, and one – the dislocated heavy riffing and pained yelps of ‘PolitiCol’ – only just stretching beyond 40 seconds. However there’s no shortness of ideas, snappy fun or lyrical bite here. The trio - Colin Reid on guitar and vocals, Jason Sinclair on drums and Ruth Forsyth on bass – deliver brakes-off melodic pop-punk with transatlantic reference points; from the delirious abandon and sarcastic observations of Art Brut in the title track to the anthemic wordless harmonies and hearts-in-the-right-place churning positivity of Weezer in ‘Skewiff’.

The title – and best - track is the tale of a creepy, predatory male “attractive in the wrong direction” being repeatedly re-buffed by the ladies (“FYI it’s your BMI”). But in a rattling two minutes and five seconds, Cuddly Shark manage to pack in a semi-spoken word intro over walking bass line, pummelling rock ‘n’ roll, comical screeching, personal doubt, desperate pleading plus an angular art-rock bridge - all with sleek, likeable humour. Punchy not paunchy.

It would be easy for a band to stick in this high gear particularly with such truncated tracks. And although ‘Overpriced’ provides more clean-cut power-trio bludgeon - this time with hand-claps - other tracks move up and down the gear box . ‘Losing The Room’ delivers standing-start-to-sixty-miles-per-hour acceleration into screaming straight-edge angst and heaviness like a comic-book Fugazi - in complete contrast to the tender piano and slow tempo acoustic reflections of ‘The Man You Want’.

The band’s name perfectly encapsulates their combination of synthetic soft-toy appeal with cartoon-like brawn and menace. The polished shortness of the songs means their espresso-shot feistiness never outstays its welcome and the melodic hooks, particularly of the title track, last much longer than that initial caffeinated hit. This is-it-an-EP, released next week on Armellodie, is the trailer for the band’s sophomore long-player ‘The Road To Ugly’ due in January next year.

Cuddly Shark Body Mass Index [BUY]

Monday, October 01, 2012


Giving an even deeper pond to fish in for October’s mixtape and re-defining the word ‘bargain’ this month is A Carefully Planned Festival 2: 100 bands across six Northern Quarter venues over two days for just £12.50 (day tickets available too). Elsewhere Tribal Fighters launch their EP the same night as Ghost Outfit and Emperor Zero return with The Human Beast (a “wild & immersive performance [with] stunning sounds”) and three bands on this month’s mixtape all clash the same night: Sunday 14 October. Then there's the Manchester leg of the Unpeeled celebration of John Peel: an all-dayer with twenty bands representing over 80 Peel sessions between then on 27 October.

There’s so much to try and fit in, there’s nothing to show from potential gig of the year: The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Sweet Baboo and Onions all play the "quintessential" Cloud Sounds night at Kraak on 30 October.

As ever a mixtape of bands playing Manchester this month to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one

Manchester Gigs In Music Mixtape: October 2012 [66 mins / 75 MB] - download here.

This Many Boyfriends Young Lovers Go Pop [3.28] (13 Oct The Roadhouse BUY TICKETS)
Mowbird We Sell Maternity Swimwear [5.24] (16 Oct Indigo Bar BUY TICKETS)
Free Swim Dennis [9.18] (20 Oct Gullivers BUY TICKETS)
Dad Rocks! Kids [14.07] (21 Oct Kraak BUY TICKETS)
The Second Hand Marching Band Lies [16.22] (21 October 2022NQ BUY TICKETS)
O’Messy Life Fear & Trembling [20.16] (21 October Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Cold Specks Holland [23.58] (14 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Tribal Fighters Your Beliefs [26.16](12 Oct Kro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Efterklang Apples [30.29] (29 Oct Bridgewater Hall BUY TICKETS)
Dirty Projectors Buckle Up [32.15] (14 Oct Gorilla BUY TICKETS)
Josephine Foster & The Victor Herrero Band Puerto de Santa Maria [38.44] (30 Oct Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Tamaryn Sandstone [43.39] (14 Oct Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
The Tallest Man On Earth 1904 [47.34](28 Oct The Ritz BUY TICKETS)
Howl Griff DNA [52.22] (28 Oct Odd Bar BUY TICKETS)
Public Sector Broadcasting Theme From PSB [57.18] (27 Oct Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Ghost Outfit WASTE [61.24] (12 Oct Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Antlered Man Platoono Of Uno [66.42] (10 Oct Star & Garter BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:

1 Oct Ruarri Joseph The Castle / 1 Oct Silver Apples Soup Kitchen / 1 Oct Man Like Me Deaf Institute / 2 Oct Emmanuel And The Fear Dulcimer / 2 Oct Gideon Conn Kings Arms / 2 Oct Shonen Knife Ruby Lounge / 2 Oct Carina Round Soup Kitchen / 2 Oct Kyla La Grange Deaf Institute / 2 Oct Michael Weston King + Peter Case Cornerhouse / 3 Oct Eleanor McEvoy The Castle / 3 Oct Palma Violets Deaf Institute / 4 Oct Rook And The Ravens + The Moulettes Ruby Lounge / 4 Oct Two Wounded Birds Night & Day / 4 Oct Wet Nuns The Castle / 4 Oct NZCA Lines Soup Kitchen / 4 Oct We Were Evergreen Trof Fallowfield / 5 Oct King DJ Fuel / 5 Oct Smoke Fairies Deaf Institute / 6 Oct Micky and the Mutants Tiger Lounge / 6 Oct The Wooden Sky Ducie Bridge / 6 Oct John Cale The Ritz / 6 Oct Von Haze The Castle / 6 Oct Jim Noir Deaf Institute / 7 Oct Richard Walters The Castle / 7 Oct wintersleep Deaf Institute / 8 Oct Echo Lake The Castle / 9 Oct The 1930s The Castle / 9 Oct Michelle Shocked Band On The Wall / 9 Oct Egyptian Hip Hop Soup Kitchen / 10 Oct Why? Central Methodist Hall / 10 Oct Errors Soup Kitchen / 10 Oct Blind Atlas Dulcimer / 11 Oct We Are Willow Sacred Trinity Church / 11 Oct Indiana The Castle / 11 Oct Balam Acab Soup Kitchen / 12 Oct Emperor Zero Islington Mill / 13 Oct Bastille Night & Day / 13 Oct PINS + September Girls Soup Kitchen / 14 Oct Fossil Collective Deaf Institute / 14 Oct The Orchestra That Fell To Earth Martin Harris Centre / 14 Oct Mama Rosin The Castle / 14 Oct We Were Promised Jetpacks Ruby Lounge / 15 Oct The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart / 15 Oct The Nightingales Night & Day / 15 Oct Rozi Plain The Castle / 15 Oct Glass Ankle Band On The Wall / 15 Oct The Invisible Soup Kitchen / 15 Oct thisquietarmy + Petrels Kraak / 16 Oct Al Lewis The Castle / 16 Oct Dylan Carlson Kraak / 16 Oct Islands Deaf Institute / 17 Oct Bo Ningen Ruby Lounge / 17 Oct Micachu And The Shapes Islington Mill / 17 Oct Azores + Champion Lover Night & Day / 17 Oct King Krule Soup Kitchen / 17 Oct Rod Jones & The Birthday Suit Sound Control / 17 Oct Junzo Suzuki Dulcimer / 18 Oct Holy Mountain Bay Horse / 18 Oct Tokolosh Soup Kitchen / 18 Oct O Children Kraak 18 Oct iLiKETRAiNS Deaf Institute / 18 Oct Grizzly Bear Academy / 19 Oct Nine Black Alps Ruby Lounge / 19 Oct TG Elias Ducie Bridge / 19 Oct Greatwaves Fuhrer Bunker / 19 Oct Paws The Castle / 19 Oct Gabriel Minnikin Cornerhouse / 19 Oct Novella Sound Control / 20 Oct The Twlight Sad Sound Control / 21 Oct Acid Mothers Temple Night & Day / 21 Oct Liars + Haxan Cloak Sound Control / 22 Oct Bat For Lashes Manchester Cathedral / 22 Oct Josephine + Greta Isaac The Castle / 22 Oct Everything Everything Gorilla / 23 Oct Django Django The Ritz / 23 Oct Zombie Zombie Soup Kitchen / 23 Oct Metz Kraak / 24 Oct Last Harbour Islington Mill / 24 Oct Amanda Palmer Manchester Cathedral / 24 Oct Peace Soup Kitchen / 24 Oct The Ghosts The Castle / 24 Oct Wave Machines Deaf Institute / 24 Oct Howler + The Cast Of Cheers + Gross Magic Academy / 25 Oct Lucy Rose Deaf Institute / 25 Oct The Unthanks Songs From The Shipyards Gorilla / 25 Oct Spotlight Kid Trof Fallowfield / 26 Oct Jay Brannan Night & Day / 26 Oct Cantaloupe + Galaxians Fuel / 27 Oct Unpeeled All Dayer Night & Day Gullivers / 27 Oct Japandroids Sound Control / 27 Oct Rolo Tomassi Deaf Institute / 27 Oct Alt-J RNCM / 28 Oct Toy Ruby Lounge / 29 Oct Knifeworld + The Fierce And The Dead + Trojan Horse Ruby Lounge / 30 Oct The Walkmen The Ritz / 30 Oct The Voluntary Butler Scheme + Sweet Baboo + Onions Kraak / 31 Oct Beach House + Holy Other The Ritz / 31 Oct Twin Shadow Sound Control / 31 Oct Clock Opera Deaf Institute


Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: October 2012

Or download mixtape [66 mins / 75 MB] here.