Archive for February, 2017

Image result for live bodega nottingham Kevin Devine

So, this was a night of wonderful acoustic strumming and indie rock head-bobbing at the locally renowned Bodega in Nottingham. I liked all of the artists from this night and loved some of them. It was great that everyone put passion and soul into what they do, and put their own spin on the folk genre. So, there was variety on show here, but perhaps a shared vision and spirit.

First up was local folk/indie kid, George Gadd. I’ll admit two things: firstly, I had never heard of George before, despite this being my hometown, and secondly, I only saw about half of his set. However, what I saw was pretty good indeed. I realise that on his demo, he has recorded with a band, but here, it was just George and a guitar. It worked, what he did. There was a beautiful simplicity to it, highlighting his clear adeptness for songwriting. He reminds me, in parts, of early, raw Frank Turner, without the anger and lust for anarchy that Frank had in those days. The crowd were clearly getting pretty into it and the venue was ¾ packed, despite the early time. I would certainly be up for hearing more from Mr. Gadd!

Next up was another acoustic guy, who calls himself The Lion and The Wolf. He plays high intensity, but low tempo folk-country musings on subjects clearly close to his heart (such as his father being taken to hospital). I generally prefer my acoustic tales to have more energy to them, but it’s hard not to like The Lion and The Wolf when the songwriting is this good. I would put him sonically in the same ball-park as people like John Allen, Sam Russo or Ducking Punches. The brooding atmospherics of Sam Russo particularly come to mind, trading the gravelly vocals for more high-pitched, optimistic ones. The Lion and The Wolf talked about how he had quit his job a couple of years ago for a life strumming his guitar on the road, and that is always fucking cool to hear!

The penultimate act of the night was the wonderful Laura Stevenson. A Don Giovanni favourite, Laura plays folk with such wonderful emotional outpourings that it is difficult not to get completely invested in her songs. I’ve been a fan for a good few years, but go in and out of phases of listening to her records, but this gig certainly instigated a new listening period. I have seen her live once before a few years ago, with her band ‘the cans’, somewhat bizarrely in a theatre in Grenoble, France, supporting an Australian singer-songwriter (of which I forget the name). The Bodega was much more Laura’s forte and crowd. Without The Cans, Laura stuck to her slower, more intense tracks, avoiding the poppy energy of stuff like “Jellyfish”, which worked well in the environment. A good proportion of her set seemed to be from “The Wheel” album, the one I am least familiar with, but that I have now purchased. “The Move”, particularly stood out with its emotional honesty:  “You’re finally finding out that I’m not supposed to get better, but I said I won’t be quite like this forever, coz I’m a liar and a thief”. I’m also super glad that Laura played an oldie in “Nervous Rex” (one of the best croons ever on record: “And I haven’t left the house in about a hundred years”) as well as ending with what she describes herself as the “only happy song” she has ever written, “Barnacles”. Few folk artists have the vocal range and songwriting intensity as Laura, and seeing her live again reinforced this to me!

So, onto the main act of the night: Kevin Devine and his Goddamn band! This was the first artist of the night that played with a band, turning up the volume a few hundred notches, with their crunchy, but melodic take on indie rock. How to describe Kevin Devine? To simplify things, they remind me of a rougher, punkier version of Nada Surf, with intensely personal lyrics to boot. To be honest, I wasn’t too well-acquainted with Kevin’s work and was astounded to hear that he has just released his 9th album. How is this guy not totally huge? The hooks are massive, the live sound is tight as a gnat’s arse and the songwriting is up there with the best. Kevin book-ended the indie rock crunch with passionate, acoustic jamming, when the band went to take a rest in the back. As much as I like the full-band stuff, I think Kevin was at his best, when he was pouring his heart out with only a guitar and raw vocals. This included the fantastic “Ballgame”, “Brother’s Blood” and closer “I Was Alive Back Then”. A simply great set, and one which has properly brought me into Mr. Devine’s world. I’ve got a fair bit of back catalogue to get through…

DB

Interview: Iona, Shit Present

Posted: February 14, 2017 in Small Talk

Image result for Shit Present band

It is my firm belief that Shit Present are probably the most intriguing band to come out of the punk underground in the last couple of years. Both of their two EPs have been nothing short of fantastic. If you were unaware, this is Iona Cairns from Great Cynics new band, where her songwriting and vocal abilities have really come into their own. I caught up with Iona for a quick chat to see what was going on…

DB: Hi Iona! Later this year, you are set to put out your second release Misery and Disaster. How do you think it turned out and how does it align with your previous S/T EP?

Iona: Hi!! I think it turned out pretty well in the end considering we did it pretty loosely, ha. I’d say it’s more of the same as the first EP, savage white woman melodrama.

DB: How was the recording process?

Iona: It was cool! My brother does our recordings cause I’m really nervous about that stuff so I feel real comfortable with him and it’s cool, he’s just doing it for fun.

DB: What’s the artwork for the EP about?

Iona: My grandma was visiting at the time and was talking about how she would like to have the option of getting high without tobacco or a pipe and we suggested an apple. We made her one and got a photo of it. It was while we were recording. I liked the spirit of what she was saying essentially that she’s in her seventies and what if one day she wants to get high using an apple?? Well now she knows!!

DB: As you have been playing as a full band for a while now, do you think that you were more ‘in tune’ in recording Misery and Disaster than the first EP?

Iona: Yes, for sure. We weren’t a band at the time when we made that last EP. Nic didn’t play on it either. It’s been really cool getting better at the songs over time and getting used to playing a new instrument too.

DB: Indeed, you started Shit Present as a solo project. What was the reasoning behind the move to add the rest of the band? And how did that come about?

Iona: It actually started as a two piece with Ben on drums. We did a few shows and made a demo. Specialist subject wanted to put it out and we added bass and second guitar after and formed the band around it I guess! It was cool it coming together through email by Thom and Fitzy adding their guitars.

DB: Please tell me, what is the origin of the band name?!

Iona: The thing about the name yeah, is that it’s a double entendre and I don’t want to talk about it!

DB: What would say are your main lyrical and musical inspirations in Shit Present?

Iona: Osker & Shakira

DB: You recently went on tour with PUP! How did that go?

Iona: I had a really sick time. I think we all did. Really nice bunch of people and really fun sold out shows!

Check out Shit Present here:https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/shit-present

Transgressions are back! At least for a 7”. It’s strange to be so pleased for the return of a band that was barely around for a sustained period of time and didn’t even release a full-length. In 2009 and 2010, Transgressions released about 3 EPs/7”s of fun, but simultaneously grim and gritty pop-punk. ‘Fucked Up’, released last year on It’s Alive Records, basically continues as if only a couple of months had passed since their last release. I have always felt Transgressions stand out somewhat in the pop-punk scene. They walk a very fine, straddling the divide between the more traditional, catchy, bubblegum-y Ramonescore side of pop-punk and the more recently trendy gruff ‘n’ rough element of pop-punk. They sing about getting high on their couch, grim fairytales and holes in their socks. Think if you combined say the Ramones-y straight-forward immediacy of Varsity Weirdos with the tobacco-stained misery of The Credentials, before adding in the weed-fuelled apathy of Houseboat and that is pretty much Transgressions.

It’s a new-take on an old familiar: ‘Fucked Up’ blasts through three-chord, sub-2-minute pop-punk tales of getting high and wanting to get the girl. Green Day, anyone? But it’s also really, really not Green Day. Transgressions offer everything with a shrug; there is no idealistic romantic pining of “At the Library” here. Instead, they give us a “Grim Fairytale”, the stand-out track on this 7”, where a couple get together, as they “both share a love of opiates”. The pair is essentially as fucked up as each other. So, yeah it is a kind of twisted guy-gets-the-girl number. When they close the song with the lines, “in this song, the loser gets the girl”, it feels real, not like a clichéd, high school dork loser, like the American Pie generation sang about in the early 2000s: a proper loser. And that makes for proper pop-punk. Never has a better song about sock holes been written.

Check it out: https://itsaliverecords.bandcamp.com/album/fucked-up

DB

Hey, look, it’s a brand new punk band! From Falmouth. And hey, this is their first release, but they already sound super fucking good!! Like, if I didn’t know otherwise, I would have assumed Holy Wow to be a hidden gem from 90s alternative.  American Enthusiasm’s sound is already so tight and slick, it’s difficult to believe that this is a new band. They essentially play lo-fi rough-around-the-edges, indie-punk with vocals that growl at you. It has elements of say Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney or Pavement, while not particularly sounding like any of them. There is some fantastic melodic indie fuzz to this record, which subtly draws you in over a number of listens. The one band that American Enthusiasm did remind me of was Tenement, as this record is all over the place. I mean that as a compliment. It leaps from the guttural wails on the grunge-y opener “Holy Wow” to the mid-tempo, ear-worm-y sing-a-long “Lazy” to the slowed-down, blues-y melancholy of “Trash”. There is great variety on Holy Wow, but each song is in that same, fuzzed-out, crunchy tone. The primal, gravelly vocals also help to capture the emotional resonance of the lyrics (listen to closer “Vote” for the best example of this). While recalling Tenement’s raw, melodic punk at times, American Enthusiasm also manage to avoid the indulgency of their longer, more experimental songs, ensuring the immediacy of keeping everything at 3 minutes or less. To sum up: one of the best new punk bands to come out of the UK in a good while!

Check it out here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/holy-wow

 

Image result for Dan goatham lost your way bandcamp

Dan Goatham is lead singer and guitarist in UK punk band Spoilers, who released the fantastic ‘Stay Afloat’ EP a couple of years ago. On the ‘Lost Your Way’ EP, Dan blasts his way through stripped back, acoustic versions of three Spoilers songs. It’s just Dan and a guitar basically. I often see acoustic versions of songs as the acid test for a band. By stripping everything back to pure singing and acoustic strumming, the songwriting can be put under the spotlight and be truly tested. It is a test which Dan easily passes. These are three fantastic raw, punk songs sang Billy Bragg style (right down to the Southern English accent). “Lost Your Way” and “Stay Afloat” are reasonably mellow, heart-on-sleeve, tender acoustic musings, but it is the fun-as-hell “Punks Don’t Die” which stands out here. It celebrates staying in the punk scene for the long-term (until dying, basically). The track is driven, energetic and a sure sing-a-king, especially with its background gang vocals, shouting out “punks don’t die!). I am interested to see where Dan will go from here: if he will continue to release acoustic versions of Spoilers songs, or if he will start to write songs specifically for the purposes of his solo acoustic work. Either way: I’m in!

Check it out:

DB