Monthly Archives: June 2010

Arcade Fire: We Used To Wait

Ah, good old Arcade Fire. A band consisting of pure sunshine. I remember seeing them at Glastonbury 2007 (the mud year). They came on the Other Stage, just as the sun was coming out, the rain was stopping and the cider began to, umm…flow…

Arcade Fire are a band with the unique ability to both uplift and have a dark, slightly sinister edge. This is particularly apparent in brand new track We Used To Wait. And when I say brand new, I mean brand new. Literally hot off the press today.

There are the familar Arcade Fire trademarks here – exploside drums, epic soundscapes and haunting vocals. However, gone are the (now overused) “ahh ahh ahh” trademark backing vocals, and everything seems to have been pared down to the bare essentials of what makes an Arcade Fire song, well, an Arcade Fire song. Particularly interesting are the repetitive piano chords that permeate the entire track – a nod to old horror movies and 80’s film soundtracks, at least to my ears.

If this is a sign of what is to come from Arcade Fire in the future then I’m intrigued – its still definitively them – there’s no revolutionary changes in direction here – but with a sign of maturity and evolution. Perhaps they could do with taking it a step further, but lets just see what else they come up with first.

6.5/10


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Live: Chameleons Vox – The Factory

I have written about Chameleons Vox before on this blog (resulting in a rather hilarious backlash from the support band after I gave them a less than complimentary review). That show was back around Christmas, at Sub 61, and Mark Burgess (Chameleons singer/songwriter) was ill. He was suffering with a terrible cold and could barely stand, let alone sing. Still the show must go on!

Well that was then, and this is now. Chameleons Vox performed a stomper of a show last night at The Factory (aka Uncle Hooky’s Student Party Palace). This time in full health and full energy and with a crowd going wild it was always going to be a special evening. Everyone in the room knew every word to every song. Original Chameleons members Mark Burgess (vocals) and John Lever (drums) were joined by a new guitar/bass section to recreate some of the best, and most overlooked, music from Manchester’s post-punk era. The Chameleons have been described, rightly so, as “the best band you’ve never heard of”. Theirs is a story of what could have been, of being almost famous. Actually, this makes up a large part of their charm. The quintessential northern underdog. If they were playing arenas it just wouldn’t be the same.

Thankfully for the select few who have discovered their music, Chameleons Vox are not playing arenas, they’re getting down and dirty in the basement clubs, where the music should be. Watching Burgess last night felt like not a second had passed since 1983 when seminal record Script of the Bridge changed the face of the darker side of rock music forever. Watching Chameleons Vox now, it doesn’t feel like a group of “old men” trying to relive their youth, as can often be the case, it is in fact a celebration of one of the most important bands in the history of British music. An opportunity to witness one of the most talented songwriters and influential frontmen perform his songs for a new audience. I, for one, wasn’t even born in 1983, so am thrilled to be able to experience live the music that inspired me to want to work in this industry in the first place.

8/10

“Is my creator a god or a man? Yes – Yours too.” – Monkeyland

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A weekend of free corporate shindigs

It must be world cup season, or pre-festival season, or something. Last weekend I experienced a lot of food, music and , umm, an even larger amount of free booze. Friday evening was the Umbro: Tailored in Manchester party and Saturday was the Adidas Originals party. Both invite-only corporate shoomoozy affairs, but surprisingly not full of nasty looking people. Here’s a breakdown, from what I can remember:

Umbro: Tailored in Manchester

This party was held in the Umbro shop off Newton St. Never been in here before but quite liked the layout. Not quire sure what the ‘South African inspired’ buffet was all about, as it consisted mainly of (really delicious) lamb kebabs, frikadellen and hummous. So, that’s everywhere apart from South Africa then. Still, who cares when there’s music and enough free booze to drown yourself in, right.

On to the music. Playing were 1913, Orphan Boy, Run Toto Run and the mighty Mancunian ‘next big thing’ Dutch Uncles.

I’d never seen 1913 before, only heard the odd demo so was quite pleased when I found out they were on. Energetic, catchy, full of memorable hooks and a band that should do well if they play their cards right. Orphan Boy, however, are a band I’ve seen before and am really not a fan at all. I find their music dull and uninspiring. I’m sure they’re great lads and all, and enough people seem to think they’re ace so perhaps I’m missing something. I went to the bar at this point. This is round about where my memory goes squiffy.

next up, Run Toto Run, a decent electro-retro-folk pop band. Again, they don’t set my world alight but hardly offensive either. I spent their set mingling around and chatting to strangers.

Dutch Uncles are another story altogether. There’s no way I was going to miss this. They are absolutely brilliant. One of the best bands playing in Manchester at the moment and they really will make it big. Deservedly so.

The night ended with me falling asleep on the night fright bus and waking up, lost, in Stockport. Happy days.

Adidas Originals

I almost didn’t make it to this. After a shocking, body crunching hangover I just wanted to go to bed. However, I was convinced to brave it and go. I’m very glad I did. The evening started quite well, with a nice shandy at Common before heading to the ‘secret’ locations. After a while of walking around lost, we found the location – a security gate round the back of Granada TV studios. After numerous security checks, guestlist cross-referencing, document signing and accreditation (this was a cross between checking in at JFK airport and Glastonbury) we were allowed in. First stage was a red carpet area covered in Adidas branding and a few free vodkas, courtesy of VitaminWater (oh dear). After hanging around for a while we were escorted to a street familiar to millions – the set of Coronation St. Yes, a party on Coronation Street. A World War 2 style street party, with cocktails in teacups, sandwiches, salads and cake! Beautiful:

It all started in a very civilized manner. In fact the tea/cocktail party was delightful. Then came the seemingly bottomless free bar. Again.

As the night went on, music came in the form of Mancunian electro heroes The Whip (who also played the JD Set a week earlier), everyone’s favourite lover of daft hats Badly Drawn Boy and total legends New Order Bad Lieutenant.

I love New Order. Love them a ridiculous amount. However, that night I just found it all a bit cringeworthy. Now Hooky’s off endorsing compilation albums and running his student theme park The Factory, remaning members Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner and performing under the name Bad Lieutenant. While they call it a new band, it really isn’t. Most of the set consisted of New Order tracks, with some other guy hiding at the back playing bass. Seeing Sumner jump around the stage in a gold Adidas tshirt just didn’t do it for me. Really sad as I was hoping I’d love it. Ah well… everyone gets old I guess.

A great weekend was had in all. Both Umbro and Adidas know how to throw one hell of a party.

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Live: To Sophia – Eurocultured Festival

Eurocultured is an annual street festival that takes place around Oxford Rd train station in Manchester every year. It features brilliant graffiti artists, performances, cinema and live music from all over Europe and, unlike other events, exists to showcase the most interesting and cutting edge artistic projects, rather than those that will simply sell the most tickets.

To Sophia are a band based in the leafy Suburb of Chorlton, but have a sound that is anything but domesticated and easy listening. After having gigged as an acoustic act for a number of years (affectionately described to me by lead singer Najia Baji as acoustic drum ‘n bass) they have recently expanded their setup and ‘gone electric’ (insert 1967 Bob Dylan reference here). Sadly, I never saw To Sophia as an acoustic group so am unable to comment on the transition, but what I saw at Eurocultured was seriously impressive.

Despite a quite frankly shambolic atmosphere and disastrous sound setup, To Sophia rocked the roof off at Thirsty Scholar. With instrumentals sounding a bizarre mash between jazz, punk and metal, drums so perfectly rhythmic they sounded almost electronic and gritty, soulful vocals, To Sophia are truly unique. A band they could possibly be compared to, if anything, would be The Noisettes around the time their first E.P came out (Burn / Monte Christo / Signs) but even that wouldn’t really give an idea of what To Sophia are trying to do.

Bands that transcend genre definition are few and far between. What interests me about To Sophia is that they are genuinely free of obligation to cite direct influence and totally devoid of pretentiousness. They are doing their thing, and so long as it makes them happy then they will obviously continue to do so. In a world where I am constantly being subjected to bands that care more about their haircuts than their songs, I find the pure attitude and dedication to music that To Sophia have genuinely inspirational – enough to restore my faith that there is good and interesting music out there, you just need to know where to find it. To Sophia were the highlight of my weekend, and easily one of the most interesting bands working in Manchester at the moment.

To Sophia are next due to perform at Kendal Calling festival. I’ll be there – and so should you.

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