26 Feb 2015

Festival Line-ups: Sexist, or a reflection of the lack of female guitar bands?

Over the past couple of days, revelations about the lack of acts including female musicians on the Reading bill have been all over the place. On the Reading bill, of the 100 or so acts announced, less than 10 included females musicians. And whilst yes, Reading probably does have a bit more of a laddish feel to it, you can't help but feel that the biggest rock festival in the UK has some obligation to reflect a fair amount of female musicians, instead of female musicians making up about 5% of all the people booked to play. Whilst I'm pretty certain it's ignorance on the part of Reading's booking agents, some people have alsosaid that it's simply symptomatic of there not being that many female musicians in the profession - but whichever way you look at it, this is a huge, huge problem.

Everyone's seen it, but here it is again; what the Reading and Leeds line up would look like if the all-male acts were removed. (and there's certainly a few I'd like to remove, from life, but now is not the time for an anti-Metallica rant)

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As you can see, it's looking beyond bare. It's also worth adding that Ash don't actually have the same female bassist they did when they started out, so if you remove them (that's 10% of the bands on the line up) you're left with only 9 acts over 6 stages that include a female musician. Wow. And, no disrespect to Marmozets, Wolf Alice, et al, but none of them are in particularly high places, are they? I mean, Azealia Banks, on the 6th stage is the only artist that has her name in a fancy font, and even that's right at the bottom of the page.

Reading is by no means the only guilty party, but it's definitely guilty of shimmying out female musicians, and any talk of there being a genuine shortage of female musicians and bands fronted by women in the rock/alt/indie/dance genres is absolute bullshit. I won't waste your time by lasting the hundreds of great bands on the circuit, but luckily someone did that for us already; in fact, some wonderful soul (freelance illustrator Phoebe Summers) went through the trouble of compiling a line up poster for an alternative Reading and Leeds, where only bands that have female members are playing - you've probably already seen it, but give it a look.

So, the Reading Festival/ Leeds Festival lineup is pretty devoid of women, again. In fact, only 10 acts have any female members at all.While many people on the internet are saying things like, “There are, and always have been very few good female bands. FULL STOP,” or, “What do you people want, an apology because women can’t do the low roaring vocal which befits most rock music?” - well, that’s just not true, is it?Here’s what the festival might look, if it contained solely female musicians, or bands which include female members to disprove the silly muso MRAs out there.To suggest that it would be ‘impossible,’ or ‘tokenism,’ to create such an event is ludicrous, especially considering the multitude of talented, interesting and varied artists who are touring and playing today.Hope you enjoy! Feel free to share smile emoticon

As you can see, it respects the genre-type requirements of each stage, and despite the lack of all-male acts, this faux Reading line up is a hundred thousand times better than the actual Reading and Leeds Line-Up. Even without the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Savages, Babes In Toyland, Mazzy Star, Goat and Sharon Van Etten, I'd pay £200 any day of the week to see that, if, for some reason you needed any proof that there are enough female acts to almost dominate a line-up completely on merit.

And I know that there are similar offenders, like Slam Dunk has only one non all-male artist on the bill, and Download's numbers are similar to Reading, so whilst Reading aren't the only culprit, they're pretty guilty. As well as that, Reading and Leeds, bar Glasto, is the most influential festival, and they should be obliged to promote gender equality in their booking. And it's not like it's impossible either; a quick scan of End of The Road (bar the headliners) and Green Man reveal them both to be festivals that have around a half and half split between the genders.

Pixies (featuring Kim Deal) @ Reading 2005
And even if you do, wrongly, think that there's a real lack of bands with female members, what are festivals doing to make sure that the future will see lots of great female musical talent? Because it must be toxic, to impressionable but aspiring girls to see how male dominated the festival line ups are. Bar Paramore last year, the bands that have headlined Reading since 2005 (that's 33 bands) have contained one female member between them. What kind of message does that send to female musicians? No matter how good you are, you'll always be further down the bill than the creme de la creme of male musicians.

It's not, don't get me wrong, like Reading are the worst people in the world for selecting a line-up like that. They've got more acts to announce, and there could well have been complications with booking and whatnot. But their line-up is completely symptomatic of how the music of female artists is being trivialised and pushed to one side in favour of male artists that do the same thing. But yeah, anyway you look at it, just over a handful of female artists on a huge festival bill is just plain wrong, and something is most certainly, definitely wrong here.


25 Feb 2015

Vapour Trail's Crack Team of Angsty Teen Bloggers Come Up With Some Alternative Brit Awards

"It's a conspiracy, they're keeping rock 'n' roll out of the Brits", said an angry Serge from Kasabian not so long ago, as if that was the sole reason that Kasabian and their hit and miss fifth record weren't nominated for a Brit award. Whilst it left me thinking "hmmm, Serge, are you sure you're not just not that great?" it did raise the question as to what it would be like if Britain's biggest music awards would be like if they focused a little more on artists off the beaten track. After all, it's all subjective and based on taste, so I wonder what it'd be like if it was us whose personal tastes were taken solely into account when dishing out the Brit awards, you know? So without further ado, me and Poppy took the titles of the Brit award categories (which is why the word 'British' appears more times than it does in the BNP manifesto) (not that I've read that, it was just a half-arsed attempt at poking fun at racists) and had some arguments and this was the product:

1. British Video
Kicking off proceedings is the video award, and as someone that really struggles to give a toss about music videos, maybe this isn't the best one to start on if I want my take on the best music around to appear noticed. Probable nominations would go to The Cribs' pig island video to Burning For No One and the sort of studio quality live Yak video for Hungry Heart, but transcending those has to be Eagulls, whose outrageous Hollow Visions video caught my attention as it did everyone else's. It was kinda gross but kind of cool at the same time, and for me, by making me sit up and pay attention it does exactly what a music video probably should do.
Winner: Eagulls (Hollow Visions)
Other Nominees: The Cribs (Burning For No One), Yak (Hungry Heart - live), TOY (As We Turn)

2. Breakthrough Artist
After much deliberation to what qualifies as an actual breakthrough artist, we decided upon the sassy young star Charli XCX. Charli has been putting out music since the age of 14, when she embarked recording her own mix-tapes before moving on to gigging - a lot of which happened at illegal raves in London. Her first official album was released in 2013 and despite having a massively positive reception, it wasn't until she featured on two number one singles ("Fancy"/Iggy Azealea and "I Love It"/Icona Pop) that people really began to sit up and pay attention to this strong character changing the face of pop music. After the release of her single "Boom Clap" which features on the Fault in Our Stars OST, she's now a chart success. 2014 was an enormous year for Charli XCX and with her second album having just been released in the UK, 2015 promises even more.
Winner: Charli XCX
Other Nominees: FKA Twigs, Kate Tempest,  Temples,  Menace Beach

3. British Single
A complete force for sonic onstage mayhem, the London 3-piece Yak got their record deal on the strength of one song and one song alone, and that's quite something. But after Fat Possum signed them because Plastic People was so great, they upped their game, and took it to the next level in a way that's completely insane for their debut single. Yak's Hungry Heart is a whirling three minutes of what I'd probably describe as "psychosis rock" meets psychedelic punk. It's crazy, and it's exciting, and it's one of the more amazing songs to emerge this decade, and I'll leave it at that because I can go on about how great and life-affirming Hungry Heart is all night.
Winner: Yak (Hungry Heart)
Other Nominees: The Wytches (Burn Out The Bruise/Darker), Joanna Gruesome (Psykick Espionage), Slaves (Hey), Kate Tempest (Circles)

4. British Female Solo Artist
As much as we think the fact that men and woman are judged separately is stupid, we are trying to make this Vapour Trail Does The Brits as authentic as possible, so we're rolling with it. And besides that, it gives us an excuse to rave about two artists we love, so it has it's ups and downs. After a short deliberation period we decided this award has to go to the punk-princess, Charli XCX. Charli burst onto the music scene a few years back, but this year she has well and truly found her feet. With an incredible second album being released recently, a plethora of prestigious awards under her belt and a huge UK tour coming up, Charli is well on the way to super-stardom. And my god does she deserve it.
Winner: Charli XCX
Other Nominees: Kate Tempest, Laura Marling, Paloma Faith, FKA Twigs

5. British Male Solo Artist
Last year the Brits gave the award to David Bowie, someone that, despite being in business for almost 50 years still turned out a great pop album. This year, someone whose presence in the music industry is nearing 40 years went one better; as well as bringing out some arse-kicking singles, Julian Cope brought out a book. Bear with me here, because I know novels aren't really the kind of thing that win people Brit awards, but not only did Julian bring out a semi-autobiographical time-travelling shamanic novel by the name of 131, he also released songs and singles as the fictional bands that got namedropped in the book. And for me, that is so fucking cool it physically hurts, because even after doing everything else possible in music, the Archdrude is still finding fresh things to do that people daren't have thought of before, which, alongside bringing out an anthology of his 1999-2014 work called Trip Advizer, is why Julian Cope is the best British male solo artist. In the world. Ever.
Winner: Julian Cope
Other Nominees: Gabriel Bruce, Gaz Coombes, David Bowie, Thom Yorke

6. British Group
British music is thriving at the moment; last year saw so many great albums, gigs and whatnot by bands from across the country. The Wytches emerged to be everyone's favourite band over the course of the year, Slowdive reformed to play a number of crushingly beautiful shows, and Eagulls took the most humongous leap between their earlier material and live sound to release one of the greatest post-punk albums this side of the turn of the century. But these bands don't nab the award of Vapour Trail's best British group. The band that I believe, and Poppy kind of half maybe agrees, are the best band in Britain and indeed the world is Leeds noise outfit Hookworms. By releasing my favourite album of the past few years, making the most incredible sound live, and just being the all-round nicest, morally driven people in music, Hookworms are just the best thing in music at the moment, so just by default really, they're the best "British Group" in our pretentious hipster take on an alternative Brits.
Winner: Hookworms
Nominees: Joanna Gruesome, Slowdive, The Wytches, Savages

7. International Female Solo Artist
Again, it's kinda dumb and separatist that not only is the art of men and women judged separately at The Brits, but the stuff what foreign people (bloody immigrants, coming over here! Playing at our venues! Covering our songs!) do is judged completely separately to the stuff released by British people. I guess it's fair, because they are the 'Brit' awards but if a vaguely interesting person won the Best British Artist and a similarly interesting one won the Best International Artist, you'd probably want to find out who won. Maybe. But anyway, selecting the artist I love most who fits the parameters above was quite difficult; at the moment I really dig Waxahatchee (who I'm pretty sure is just one woman; singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield), and I'm slowly getting more and more into the recent Bjork album, but for me the International Female Solo Artist to whom the world is the oyster of is Courtney Barnett, who, after releasing a superb debut, recently put out one of the best songs I've heard in a while; Pedestrian At Best, which sees the Aussie rattling off witty conversational lyric after witty conversational lyric in a bona fide work of genius. Through her unique lyrics, and newfound punk ethos in her sound, Courtney Barnett is one of the best recording artists in the world at the moment, and her new album is going to be a work of brilliance.
Winner: Courtney Barnett
Nominees: Bjork, Waxahatchee, Karen O, Beyonce (Vapour Trail Respects Artistry™)

8. International Male Solo Artist
For years and years, Ty Segall has been putting out one or two albums per year, and for as long as I can remember they've been outstanding works of garagey fuzzy psych rock. This year, Ty stepped it up a gear and released a more polished, flawlessly produced album called Manipulator, and released some fuzzed out fuzzy singles simply under the moniker Fuzz. Whilst there are certainly a large number of hugely talented international solo males around, all our nominees actually American; Jack White and Mac Demarco have made a huge splash here in the UK, whilst on a smaller, cultier level BJM tambourine man Joel Gion released his debut solo album and Bob Mould released yet another fantastic LP called Beauty and Ruin; it's Ty's progression and constant production of LPs that's led me to think he's the best guy roving around the world as a solo artist in the world right now.
Winner: Ty Segall
Nominees: Bob Mould, Kanye West, Joel Gion, Mac Demarco

9. International Group
There are so so many great bands working across the world who've had incredible twenty-fourteens. I've been so into the genius that is the new Iceage record, on which (excuse the revolting cliche) they really came of age, and Pond's recent album of cosmic Aussie psych was similarly bonkers, yet mature. On top of that, significant waves in the UK have been made by the likes of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Perfect Pussy, Bo Ningen, The Wands and Viet Cong, so it's really tough deciding who we'd give the international group award to. But, with their incredibly caustic art-punk, Ought have been one band that really knocked me for six; sure, they're heavily influenced by the likes of Pavement, The Fall and The Talking Heads, but their sound is fresh and almost unlike anything else in the world. Last year they released a great debut, More Than Any Other Day, but what really showcased them as a genius band that genuinely stick out was their last EP Once More With Feeling - a versatile release that even featured a bit of a #party #anthem, and one of the best lyrics I've heard in ages. (Who built a house, just to lock me out? (...) Who invited Paul Simon? I didn't invite him!) Through this, as well as generally being cool as fuck and having a lead singer who reminds me of a pasty faced art college equivalent to FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, Montreal art-punks Ought have stood out as the single best band to emerge on the world stage over the past year or so.
Winner: Ought
Nominees: Pond, Iceage, King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard, Viet Cong

10. British Album
This was the award that we had the most deliberation over. It took a few days and a few squabbles but in the end was have decided upon Menace Beach's, Ratworld. Put shortly, it completely affirmed my faith in the future of new bands. Produced by none other that MJ from Hookworms, this surprisingly short 33 minute long masterpiece draws on influences from just about everywhere. It’s chaotic yet melodic and the array of different genres they have managed to pull into one album is not only impressive but it falls together perfectly to make a fantastic compilation. It's the very best in slacker-pop, making sounding-like-we-don't-give-a-shit-but-we-actually-do like the best thing in the world. Read our full review of it here.
Winner: Menace Beach (Ratworld)
Nominees: Eagulls (Eagulls), Hookworms (The Hum), Cheatahs (Cheatahs), Honeyblood (Honeyblood).

Anyway, that concludes me and Poppy's ramble about our favourite bands, artists and albums from both Britain and all around the world. It's kinda just a bit of fun, but we put it all into a playlist for your listening pleasure anyway that contains a lot of the artists here, in a combination of album tracks, singles and the best live sessions on the internet. Give it a listen HERE, and use the comments below to tell us what you think about our choices and whatnot.

(WRITTEN BY CALUM CASHIN (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and the playlist) & POPPY MARRIOTT (2, 4, 10 and all the photoshop stuff)

23 Feb 2015

The Vapour Trail Guide To The NME Awards Tour

The NME awards tour is something that happens every year, and after last year's effort, something which, despite it's fairly big name line-up was advertised much more minimally and downplayed a bit, it's back in a much more conspicuous way this year. As well as just being an NME tour, it's Palma Violets' first full UK tour since December 2013, so you already know that it's going to be kinda hectic no matter what. As well as that though, they're complimented perfectly by Londoners Slaves and The Fat White Family, and now the Brighton-based band The Wytches (who we love the most) have been added to the bill, so it really is incredibly special. So I did some typing and put together a bit of a guide and a preview for anyone that's maybe yet to hear any of the bands on the tour, or is still ummming and  ahhhhing at whether they should go.

First things first; where is the tour stopping off at? Yesterday it was in Glasgow, and before that Sheffield and Newcastle, whilst tomorrow night it's in Leeds, and then the 4 bands are stopping off in  Notts, Manchester, Oxford, Brum, Brizzle and Portsmouth, before the final date at the Forum in London - full dates can be found on the poster type thing I've enclosed, but all the dates are some time between now and 4th March.

Because I really do love each and every band on the tour, here's a profile of each of them, with their past releases rated outta ten so you know which ones to go for first;


Who are they?
London four-piece headlining the NME tour, everyone knows who Palma Violets are. They're a four-piece operating outta Lambeth, and they've just finished work on their second album, which will be the follow-up to 180, their highly acclaimed debut. Their sound is very chaotic but well within the confines of indie rock, whilst their co-frontmen have fantastic voices - sort of cockney crooners, the East End's answer to Nick Cave - their keys section gives their music some melody amidst the madness.
What have they released so far? (Ratings in brackets)
After releasing their debut single Best Of Friends/Last Of The Summer Wine (10.0) Palma achieved a lot of media attention, and they became one of the most hyped bands in the country, because god it was an absolute banger of a track. From there, they kept the critics bated with Step Up For Cool Cats, (8.2) another strong track that continued the hype before they finally released their debut album 180. (7.3) 180 was probably a bit of a letdown for a band of such potential, but because they're such a talented, chaotic band, their second album may just live up to the brilliance that their live shows promise.
Is there anymore about them on Vapour Trail?
Earlier this week we covered the news of their new album and new song, Danger in the Club. But as well as that, they topped Poppy's album of the decade countdown (which was factually wronger than mine) and their Reading performance is up there on her top ten live performances of 2014 countdown.


Who are they? 
East Londoners that may potentially bring more mayhem than Palma Violets, their live sets' hectic nature have really made a name for the Fat Whites. They make consciously ugly, dissonant punk music, and their sound sounds like it's heavily influenced by The Fall and The Birthday Party, but in a way that doesn't try and completely rip them off. Always outspoken on the ol' social media, the 7-piece are actually responsible for tweeting what is potentially my favourite tweet of 2014, so I guess that sort of shows that despite the various incidents of onstage body fluids flying, their hearts are in the right place.
What have they released so far? (Ratings in brackets)
Like Palma Violets, they've put out a debut LP, but that kind of slipped under the radar a little more. It's by no means an easy listen, but I personally love the chaos of Champagne Holocaust (7.3) and think that it shows the band off at their best. As well as that, they've also put out a couple of singles; the first being Touch The Leather (8.1) which is a very visceral effort from the Fat Whites, and then the follow up non-album single I Am Mark E Smith, (9.2) which saw them at their best paying tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time in venomous style - "The Fall have I Am Damo Suzuki so we've got I Am Mark E Smith" said Lias, the frontman in an interview recently, and that's cool as fuck, really, and maybe something I'd describe as a proper I don't know why I didn't think of that idea.
Is there anymore about them on Vapour Trail?
In short, not yet. Although I Am Mark E Smith wasn't far from being included in our songs of the year countdown. As well as that, they're recording an album around now-ish with all the Beatles' old equipment, which is quite an odd combination, don't you think?


Who are they?
Some more Londoners joining the Fat Whites and the Palmas, Slaves are a two-piece that make music that falls halfway between the clunky rock sounds of Royal Blood, and the energetic punk-rock snarl of the great punk bands; those specifically being The Pistols, Wire and Sham 69 in the case of Slaves. Although they're probably the band on the tour that I personally think the least of, they're hotly tipped for greatness in the coming months. Their sound isn't the most original, but it's delivered with such venom and angst that you really don't care all that much. They're great fun, and despite their smart, suited, booted appearance, they pack a real dirty great punch.
What have they released so far? (Ratings in brackets)
So far their releases amount to three singles that have come out over the past 15 months or so. They've all been along a similar, vicious vane, but they've got continually better and better. Where's You Car Debbie? (7.0) is a real Strummer/Jones call and response number, and Hey (7.4) adds to the punk rock chaos in a bit more of a mature, refined, but still venomous number. It's with The Hunter, (8.6) the two-piece really sound like a band that can be the next big thing; it's equal parts visceral oi punk and intimidating stand-offish rock 'n' roll.
Is there anymore about them on Vapour Trail?
Not really - they've got a track on this playlist and Sym from Piano Wire/Eighties Matchbox namedrops them in this interview type piece - but with an album on the way we'll have both eyes on them, and the fact that they were nominated for the BBC's sound of 2015 poll means it's their duty to save British guitar music, so they should be in for a lot more Vapour Trail coverage.


Who are they?
The Wytches ! the wytches ! THE WYTCHES ! SEHCTYW EHT ! This band need no introduction whatsoever, because here on this blog we've been championing them as one of our favourite bands for our entire short existence. They describe their sound as 'surf-doom', which kind of sums it up perfectly; they're very grungey, but with a great amount of Beach Boys pop type sensibility - beneath the hard riffing sounds of frontman Kristian Bell's Bleachy guitar are perfect, albeit morbid and vicious, pop songs, making them one of the best bands to emerge over the past few years. To be honest, it's surprising that The Wytches, who were brought in as replacements for Scots The Amazing Snakeheads - cap off the bill by opening, especially when they've got one successful album under their belts, and no one's even sure if Slaves' album will really be any good, you know?
What have they released so far? (Ratings in brackets)
The first single, and one which has the cover art which makes it as everyone's twitter header photo was the brilliant double A-sided Crying Clown/Beehive Queen (9.1) which quite frankly set the tone for their next releases. After that, they released the Robe For Juda (8.2), Digsaw (8.8), Gravedweller (8.9) and Wire Frame Mattress/Holy Tightrope (9.5) singles, which helped them land a deal with Heavenly recs, before bringing out their debut album Annabel Dream Reader (8.6), which was one of last year's standout albums (despite not quite capturing the live fury of the band). Since then, the only single they've brought out has been Burn Out The Bruise (9.9) which had the honour of being our first ever 20/20 single, before we decided that x/20 ratings were annoying and we should try something else.
Is there any more about them on Vapour Trail?
Crikey, yes; here goes; there's live reviews of them both in Southampton and Norwich, as well as reviews of Annabel Dream Reader and Burn Out The Bruise/Darker, but perhaps most remarkable is their End Of Year List performance on the blog - their track Darker topped our songs of the year (whilst Wire Frame Mattress came 19th), Annabel Dream Reader was third on our albums of the year list, and on our individual live sets of the year they made it onto the lists of both me (2nd) and Poppy. (9th)

So with four of the better bands around at the moment; some with scores to settle, some with new material to exhibit, and all of them with new fans to win over, 2015's NME awards tour looks to potentially be one of the must-see shows of the year. The Wytches, Palma Violets, The Fat Whites and Slaves under one roof; it's too good to miss.

(reviews et al to follow)

(written by calum cashin)

22 Feb 2015

Howland @ The Railway, Winchester (live review)

It's really quite a rare thing that a band are incredibly impressive at their very first gig, but that's exactly what Howland did as they debuted at Winchester's Railway. A four piece hailing from Southampton, Howland are made up of guitarist and frontman Torrin Rees, lead guitarist Lee Vincent, bassist Tim Beavis, and drummer Tom Bennett - all of whom are still in their teens. 

Taking to the Railway's small, ground-level stage, Howland opened with a song that was a bit of a mission statement; just like Pixies' Cecilia Ann opening up Bossanova, Howland opened their set with a noisy, short instrumental that was a perfect halfway point between the energetic indie of the first Arctics album and the hard-riffing of the Black Keys. From there, the rest of the band's set was made up of songs that featured Rees' distinct vocals, but each one was still full of energetic guitar parts and quick-paced basslines. 

Quiet verses that built up to explosive choruses, like in Playing Around and Where'd You Wanna Go? made Howland's sound really refreshing, and the fact that were so damn catchy showed that even at this point in their career they've got the songs to make it. 

"We wrote this one today", the frontman Torrin Rees declared before they raced into All I Know - actually one of the highlights of the set. In all my years as someone going to gigs, I've definitely never seen a song written and played live in the same day, but All I Know is, not only just a great song for one written a few hours earlier, but a great song full stop. After that, came the show's climax; closer Waiting For You wrapped the set up with an anthemic chorus and frenzied guitar playing, as well as a bit of a false ending to wrap it all up, drawing the set to a close in style.

Throughout the set, the frontman was just great; whilst belting out Gallagher-esque vocals, he also had a brilliant Madchester swagger in his stage presence - it was halfway between Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown. As well as that, the rest of the band was just as great; the drumming reminded me of Parquet Courts, because it drove the sound on and on, and at times the guitar tones, and guitar riffs were like The Cribs at their thrashiest, garagiest best. 

Overall though, Howland's sound was a very refreshing take on indie rock, and it was performed, especially for a first gig, to near perfection. Although they've not got any music up online yet, it's coming, and when it does it'll win them lots of new fans. Howland; definitely one for the future. 

18 Feb 2015

Danger Approaching? Why The Second Palma Violets Album Is Set To SMASH IT

Whilst our Poppy was proper in awe of the debut album by East-Enders Palma Violets, 180 didn't convince me entirely that the band had released a record that showcased their potential enough. Where their hectic, sweaty, passionate live shows are just about the best live shows by any band around at the moment, the record didn't quite capture that chaos, as wafer thin production and a lack of real tempo ultimately led to a bit of an unspectacular record. Yeah, 180 was very good, but Palma Violets seem a lot like a band capable of greatness, and 180 just didn't deliver that. Luckily, they're and they've taken aim for their second shot at releasing a great album.

Danger In The Club will arrive on 5th May via Rough Trade Records, and already it's a record we're very excited about. A couple of days ago (16th) Zane Lowe premiered the title track from it, and it's everything you wanted and more; swaggering Doorsy key parts, a rhythm you can stomp to, and that brilliant cockney croon of frontmen Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson. Whilst you might admit, it's not a dinner-bringing obvious single, like Best of Friends was when it kickstarted their career, Danger In The Club, as a song, shows a more mature, yet boozier stompier sound and shows real potential for the rest of the album.

So, come May, which isn't far away, what can we expect from Palma Violets' second LP? Well, straight away the title, Danger In The Club kind of makes it seem straight away like the soundtrack to a British gangster film, and the cover art just reinforces that. It's very Lock, Stock... but also slightly Panic! At The Disco, which makes you wonder whether maybe Palmas will go a bit punk pop. But in all seriousness, it's quite a comic, larger than life title for an album that promises that album 2 will be like 180 but more.

What they've also released is a tracklist; here it is

  1. Sweet Violets
  2. Hollywood (I Got It)
  3. Girl, you couldn’t do much better on the beach
  4. Danger in the Club
  5. Coming Over to My Place
  6. Secrets of America
  7. The Jacket Song
  8. Matador
  9. Gout! Gang! Go!
  10. Walking Home
  11. Peter and the Gun
  12. No Money Honey
  13. English Tongue
Maybe you'll be in agreement with me; it really isn't the best, is it? Not one of those songs apart from #9 and #12 seem to be fully blown certified bangers based solely on the titles, and that's a shame, but let's face it - it'd be pretty damn stupid to judge solely on song title. Although if you've seen what Carl Barat's new Libs tracks' song titles are, it's easier to refrain judgement on some occasions than others.

Instead, the best thing to do is listen to the new song, and wait for the record to drop, because it should most probably be a great record. I think how great it's going to be, however, is going to be the bone of contention; will it be a record that seriously makes an impact on British indie guitar music, or will it be just another 'very good' release?

17 Feb 2015

British Guitar Music Is Alive And Kicking And Ready To Knock Your Socks Off

If any of you were awake and on the internet and reading various music blogs this morning, you'll have been lucky enough to read a piece (on a site I have a huge amount of respect for) that had an incredibly original take on music at the moment...


The article regurgitated everything you've heard before (here is it is but it's part of a wider spread of pessimism) and attempted to make guitar music dead by talking in depth about Swim Deep, The Vaccines and Two Door Cinema Club as if they're the only guitar bands in the world, and stacks them against Drake, Kedrick Lamar and Kanye West, as if they're just run-of-the-mill rappers. And it also uses one of those NME 'NG x' pull quotes to try and work out just why guitar music is finally dead and you should trash your guitars and use them as firewood.

But really, no one could be any further away from the truth. Sure, a lot of the crap pop music at the forefront of the British mainstream that just happens to have guitars is terrible. Mumford and Sons headlining Reading despite releasing nothing for two or three years is physically paining everyone, and those bands that are mentioned in that DiS article are all bands I (and lots of people like me) think are luckluster at best. But at the same time, lots and lots of great guitar bands are making music up and down the UK; some of them are small bands making energetic rock 'n' roll, some make more challenging music, and some make psyched out nostalgic music; and whilst the only thing they all have in common is that plank of wood with strings on it, they just prove that there's exciting stuff out there to combat any myths of guitar music being dead.


Let's start off with The Cribs - they've been on the scene for over ten years, and through slight variants of their music at each album, they've kept their sound fresh and exciting. As one of the best bands in the business, their bright, energetic sound is sounding anthemic on the material they've released from LP #6. And what's more, with a handful of hit singles in their bag (Men's Needs at #17 being their highest) The Cribs are on the brink of the mainstream, maybe a bit of a mainstream cult band if you will, so their refreshing brilliance kind of rubbishes the claim that all 'mainstream' guitar music is 'stagnant'. Oh yeah, and DiS really dig The Cribs as well, so everyone's happy with my claim that they make music that is both not stagnant, not dying, and with guitars, right?

But the trio aren't the only band making guitar music that brushes with the mainstream but really sticks out - after all, it would be a pretty weak argument, that; "guitar music isn't dead, but guitar music that isn't The Cribs is" - nope, there are countless other bands that Drowned In Sound should umm, drown in the sound of. Savages and Temples both cracked the top 20 with their debut albums, and both of them received almost universal acclaim. As well as that, they were both brought out on indie labels (Savages' being brought out on Pop Noire, singer Jehnny Beth's own label) that show not only is their music interesting, but it's also Championing indie labels in the way that it most certainly would if guitar music wasn't dead.

But maybe even the most annoying thing about that Drowned In Sound piece (and the general attitude of people across the board) is that it because the mainstream guitar music isn't mind-expanding, era-defining rock 'n' roll musics made by proper working class lads, all guitar music is dying. But away from the mainstream, as well around it like the bands mentioned earlier, there are a whole host of guitar bands that are lively and loud and make it worth getting up in the morning.

At the moment, my absolute favourites are Joanna Gruesome, whose 2nd album comes out this year; it's guitarry noise pop that contains all the energy in the world, and it's infinitely more life-affirming than any of the acts that Drowned In Sound champions as outliving guitar music. As well as that, intelligent yet energetic crunch-pop is also coming from Scots Honeyblood, whose debut was one of the albums of 2014. 

True, guitar music (a lot of the neo-psych and post-punk influenced bands) owes a lot to past influences, but so many bands of this type are in and around the UK ready to knock your socks off. Leeds' Hookworms and Eagulls released the two best British albums last year, and through a punk mentality, a lot of noise, and a level of vicious musicianship that's out of this world, whilst the city's also home to the caustic stoner metal of Black Moth and the baggy scuzz of Menace Beach - all 4 bands guitar bands that you'd like to think make some of the best music this side of the new millennium. 

The capital's guitar output is equally fantastic; maybe the sounds of The Horrors are the best example. Through making guitars sound so unlike guitars, and combine them with synths, their latest output (as well as the shoegaze and psychobilly sounds of their first two records) has made them an incredibly exciting band. But they're not all; fellow psych bands TOY, Telegram and Yak genuinely get the pulse racing, because whilst they do have an array of past influences, they belt them out at a tempo that can only be matched by the sheer volume of it all. As well as that, grimey, dirty punk rock is being made by Palma Violets, who split opinion, but really have an incredible amount of potential to bring out a great album. As well as that their tourmates for next month, The Fat White Family and Slaves (who will definitely be a feature of the top 40 soon enough) make equally visceral music, whilst also seeming fresh, exciting, and angry.

And man, I could go on and on about my favourite UK-based guitar bands for ever and ever, so I'll refrain from name-dropping one after another, but here's one last throw of the dice; if you think the UK's guitar music's stagnant, I'd recommend The Black Tambourines, The Wytches, FEVER, Wild Smiles, Nevermind Me, Wyldest, Dead Rabbits, Melt Dunes, The Voyeurs, Claws, The Soft Walls, Younghusband, Feature, Slowcoaches, Piano Wire, Bel Esprit, Kassassin Street, Cheatahs, Formes, The Children Of Leir, Bloody Knees and The Wave Pictures. That's it from me. Well. Maybe there's more, but I'll refrain from dropping anymore names.


And it's not just the bands either, it's the labels - Heavenly are home to a large amount of bands on that list, giving lots of psych bands their big break, whilst smaller indies are also making it all possible for guitar music to be THIS great as an underground scene. Strong Island release great stuff for us down south, whilst Brighton label Faux Discx bring out a lot of brilliant releases. Continentally speaking Fuzz Club release a lot of great European stuff, but their roster also includes some great UK bands, like Southampton's very own Dead Rabbits. It's hard to put into words just how many great labels there are, but obviously Domino, Rough Trade and Cherry Red release great stuff, and other guitar band championing labels include Speedy Wunderground, Wichita, Captured Tracks (alhough they're mainly American, they recently signed Novella), Sonic Cathedral and Fortuna POP!  

Despite countless people claiming guitar music is dead, it really is alive and kicking. You just sort of need to know where to look, and you don't even need to try especially hard to find it, but great guitar music is here, there and everywhere. In places it's one of the most forward thinking genres, one of the most expressive and one of the most angry. Whilst yes, it's not assaulting the charts, you've got to remember that sales have very little correlation with success; it is an acquired taste, but so are the rappers that Drowned in Sound put forward. And you've got to remember, whilst guitar music's commercial appeal might not be at an all time high, you've got to remember that between them Joy Division, The Smiths, The Sex Pistols (sorta), Led Zep, Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, The Libertines, The Mary Chain, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, Ride, Bauhaus AND The Stone Roses never had ONE UK number one hit between them, so it's far from remarkable that today's brilliant, brilliant guitar music isn't having the meteoric chart success that maybe it would need for Drowned In Sound to think it was still alive. 



PEACE @ EPIC STUDIOS (live review)

“Lets go back to the days when the jeans were tie-dye and everything was delicious.” Harry Koisser’s intro before California Daze took everyone on a nostalgia trip when Peace began the first of three out of the four songs from the much loved EP Delicious on Friday’s nights set at Epic Studios in Norwich. This was my eighth time seeing Peace live and if you compare them to their 2012 set at the Arts Centre, (the very first time I saw them) they’re almost unrecognisable. The band I saw on Friday were grown-up and mature but still glitter bearing and poncho wearing. The magic is still there and for a band such as Peace, it always will be. 

Higher Than The Sun into Follow Baby as the openers ensured the crowd kicked off straight away, before going into the first of many of the new album tracks. Despite the album being out for a mere 4 days at the time of the gig, all the songs spawned massive sing-a-longs, none more than the title track. "Where did all the happy people go?" was sung at the top of the crowds lungs and it made for a decidedly magic moment. Lost On Me sounded as perfectly pop-y as ever and Money had improved drastically since the first time I heard it in 2013. Of course the highlight of the night had to be 1998. It's up there with some of the best songs I have ever heard and musically, it's just flawless. This into Bloodshake caused absolute carnage before calming down the set with Float Forever and finishing with Wraith. 

You're reminded of how adored these four boys are by the screams of 'PLAY ONE MORE, ENCORE ENCORE ENCORE" and when they do return, it's to play a gorgeous rendition of Someday. But of course, the calm never lasts. Lovesick gives you a two minute blast of summer and I'm A Girl is by far the best song from Happy People.  The final song is Sam Koisser's time to shine and he grabbed that chance and ran with it. And by that I mean he climbed a tower of speakers and hypnotised the crowd with his phenomenal bass solo in the middle of World Pleasure. A perfect end to a perfect gig. 

Rating: 8.2/10

16 Feb 2015

Charli XCX / Sucker (album review)

"FUCK YOU, SUCKER!" An explosive opening line for an explosive album. The punk-princess Charli XCX's second album spits in the face of all the girly pop stereotypes and walks all over it with killer heels. She's taken the industry's desire for a female pop star and extorted it to the highest degree to make an album worthy of being called punk pop.

Sucker is a huge Fuck You to anyone who broke her heart or put her down and nothing screams attitude like the title track, and opener, Sucker. This flows perfectly into the equally bratty Break The Rules. It's synthy, loud and full of fire. London Queen is possibly the weakest song on the album, but the rest of the tracks make up for it with enough hooks to hang your entire wardrobe on, including Charli's most famous single, Boom Clap. It's by no means her best song, but it's had the most commercial success due to earning a spot on the Fault In Our Stars soundtrack. Slap bang in the middle of the LP comes her latest single featuring Rita Ora; Doing It. There are catchy electro-pop rhythms and despite not being a huge fan of R.O, this song is still mainstream gold. The album draws to a close with Need Ur Luv which to me sounds like a 60's girl group gone bad. It finishes the album in the style it began, full of attitude, full of girl power but still musically fantastic.

Charli XCX is exactly what current pop music needs; a feminist icon with the ability to write catchy, feel good pop songs without losing her stunning musical integrity.

Highlights include : Sucker, Break The Rules, Doing It, Hanging Around, Need Ur Luv.

Rating: 16/20
(written by Poppy Marriott)

The Cribs @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (live review)

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After five albums of intensely electrifying, highly acclaimed material, you'd think The Cribs would have slowed down in recent years, but as LP #6 is ready to hit the shelves The Cribs' intimate, sweaty Wedgewood Rooms gig this Valentine's Day proved that only the opposite can be true. Halfway through the final tour before For All My Sisters hits the shelves, they played for 80 sweaty, anthemic minutes which proved why they're just about the best indie band on the circuit.

Kicking off as the sole support act, Leeds' Menace Beach motored through a set made up of their debut record Ratworld, which came out last year. Perfect for The Cribs, their scuzzy Madchester sound was easily danceable, although some poor sound-work - the drums drowned out everything and the rest of the band were just too quiet (Jarman sabotage?) - let the overall quality of their set down. Overall though, Menace Beach's songs alone were brilliant enough to carry them over the line in a way that was full of the character that their LP demonstrates.

But obviously, it was all a mere primer for the headline act, The Cribs; beginning as lively as they would go onto be throughout the whole set, they smashed their way onto the stage with the sonic assault that is Mirror Kissers. Being not only a really fast-paced track, but one which Gary Jarman's backing vocals take centre stage, it allowed frontman Gary to get amongst the audience from the start. And with The Cribs, the intimacy and closeness they share with their crowds is such a special part of the gig, which you could have told solely by the fact that they're playing venues a tenth of the size that they probably should be.

From there the three piece (joined intermittently by a fairly anonymous second guitarist) unleashed an arsenal, and armory of some of their newest songs; they were a bit more anthemic and danceable instead of out and out punk songs, but they still had a bit of charm. In fact, throughout the set every new song sounded fantastic, and it poised their new record to be really exciting. Later on in the set, title track For All My Sisters' stop-start mentality was even a possible highlight, with the crowd reaction to the newbies - "that's wha' I love about Cribs fans" Ryan Jarman (I paraphrase) said, "sometimes you see a band plays all new ones but this..." with nothing but gratitude in his voice.

Embedded image permalinkThe Cribs, as a three piece were such a musical force throughout, as well. Come On Be A No-One was, as expected, an incredible chantalong that the Pompey crowd greeted by embracing each other, and Another Number was an incredibly electrifying experience. Both these songs, the way Jarman respectively pronounces "you" and "disappear" is phenomenal and charismatic.

But The Cribs, undoubtedly one of the greatest indie rock bands of their generation went from strength to strength through their set, just proving that statement - as well as their live furiosity, they also had showcased some of the finest post-Strokes pop songs in the world. Classics from the Men's Needs... album like the furious Our Bovine Public, live rarity I've Tried Everything and the absolutely classic I'm A Realist were really something live, and a nice juxtaposition to the softer, more melodic sounds that were ripped off of LP6.

Throughout their set, The Cribs were sonically incredible, loudly smashing their way through a 19 song set, but the crowning glory was the last three songs of the set, namely the penultimate two. Hey Scenesters was explosive, and if there was anything good about guitar music in 2005, the smack in the face that is Hey Scenesters demonstrates it all. But after that, before closing with City Of Bugs, The Cribs unleashed (after an intro of some white noise) Men's Needs upon the Portsmouth crowd, and with it's electrifying riff, consciously off-key vocals and it's general shouted choruses, it was one of the most spectacular moments the Wedge has ever seen.

The Cribs are such a special band, and indie rock titans that should in no way be playing tiny coastal venues in the arse-end of nowhere like this. But their general down-to-earthness, perhaps their most endearing quality, is what makes the Jarmans one of the most lovable bands in the world. Their newest single Burning For No One comes out with the album, and maybe Ryan's introduction to it just shows off why so far into their career are The Cribs so well loved...

"This is our new single, if you can think of a way to get it to number one, that'd be great... it's a real fuck you song... Christ they actually think we're being serious. But it'd be great if we could 'ave a number one"


NMEThe Cribs' 6th album ALL MY SISTERS is out 23rd March

They're currently touring the UK, but it's sold out, although the new album might yield another tour

Check out BURNING FOR NO ONE here and it's swimming-pig video out HERE


15 Feb 2015


Yorkshire's a real hotbed for great bands at the moment. You've got all that noise coming from Leeds' Hookworms, Black Moth, and Eagulls, as well as some of the best indie bands in the country; Menace Beach, and alt-J. It's the latter who have maybe had the largest influence on bands coming up, with their unique, angular electronic indie records being some of the most interesting releases of the past few years; they're even heading the bill at Best Kept Secret Fest, which is incredible in itself.

One of the bands that alt-J's 'new folk' has influenced in a big way are York's very own Luxo Jr. With a very similar sound to alt-J, Luxo Jr are a 4-piece that make electronic indie music - it could very well be the sound of 2015 because they're rising and rising, and their music is both fresh and passionate - just give their new song Growing Pains a listen to get a load of what we're on about.

14 Feb 2015

The Cribs / For All My Sisters (album review)

"Ah no! The Cribs have gone pop" is what you'd be led to believe from some of the headlines leading up to the trio's 6th album, For All My Sisters. And maybe that's true to an extent; there are ooh-oohs and ah-ahs littered around all over the lyrics, and harmonies that wouldn't be out of place on Please Please Me, but to dismiss the LP as 'going pop' is a long shot away from telling the whole story. 

Bar a few exceptions, there are certainly more big anthemic choruses than thrashy guitar tracks that sound like they were recorded in a kitchen. But is that really so far from 2012's Belly Of The Brazen Bull? I don't think so; the escalating chorus of Pacific Time builds up in the same raw, passionate way that (one of my favourite Cribs tracks) Back To The Bolthole does, and Different Angle flaunts a (relevantly) angular Ryan Jarman riff that could slot into any of the last two or three albums without any eyelashes being batted. In the rawest of senses, these are perfect pop songs, but more in the way that Shadowplay, Cut Your Hair and Smells Like Teen Spirit are perfect pop songs, as opposed to being reflective of their musical style.

Although as well as that, there is certainly an undeniable pop sound on lead single Burning For No One, as well as An Ivory Hand and Summer Of Chances - maybe at the helm of a different band these would top the charts - big choruses make them anthemic Cribs tracks that are going to sound amazing in a live context. And that's just what you want really, because The Cribs are one of those bands that are always much better live, and they've certainly succeeded in writing some incredible songs. The first of those, Burning For No One, as well as being a great pop song, is a total mission statement - yes, it's a poppy, poppy, pop song with a right proper hook and that, but the lyrics (Like a candle on a vacant table (...) I'm burning for no one) tell it like it is; The Cribs aren't making a pop album because they've sold out and are on a major, they're making a more pop-based record because that's what they want to do - after all, they did say in an interview that they've been listening almost exclusively to 80's pop since the release of the last LP.

Anyone that's heard the album in full, though, will know that until this point I've not mentioned the best bit of it; to understand just how amazing the 7-minute long closer Pink Snow is, you're going to have to listen to it, loud. Through seven minutes of quiet bit-loud bit dynamics, explosive, woozy riffs, and the killer refrain that gives the album it's title, it's easy to see just why Pink Snow is one of the Jarmans' personal favourite songs from their expansive discography, and why I'd be inclined to agree. It's both a perfect pop moment, and some indie guitar thrash that completely transcends anything their peers could ever muster.

So yes, For All My Sisters is more of a pop-focal effort, but The Cribs have done it to perfection. Unlike Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and maybe even bands like Coldplay, The Cribs have managed to exaggerate a poppy dimension that was already there without alienating any of their loyal fanbase. Yeah, it's not a chart topper, but For All My Sisters just amplifies this: not only have The Cribs, six albums in, never released a bad album, but they have, in fact, never released an album that isn't fantastic.



10 Feb 2015

Peace / Happy People (album review)

After the release of Peace’s debut album in 2013, the hype has grown and grown for their follow-up. The announcement of Happy People and the release of the singles only made everyone more excited. Their excessively pop-y songs were not for everyone, but come a few weeks before the release day and a few more singles released, suddenly everyone is back on the bandwagon and remembering just how talented this band really are. 

O You kicks off the LP and from the get-go, you realise that Peace have not, and will not, lose their individual sound. Harry’s voice has such a hypnotic quality to it and the Doug on the guitar continues to work his magic, creating a sound that could only be Peace. Sam and Dom hold the whole thing together and you are reminded immediately that no matter how bizarre this band are that they can still write perfect pop-songs. This is present in nowhere more than the next two tracks. Gen Strange and Lost On Me are indie-pop anthems. They’re not Peace’s strongest tracks by a long shot, but they are fun, catchy, dance-y and Lost On Me is pretty much the pop song to end all pop songs. (let’s not forget the video, which I reviewed in full here) 

Perfect Skin follows and it’s a summing up of all the insecurities a teenager feels, but instead of being dark and depressing, it’s fairly uplifting. And if Harrison Koisser feels as insecure as we all do then there’s no hope for anyone and absolutely no point in worrying about it all. This is a song to sing your heart out to and it’s a real highlight for me. The title track of the album is a definite stand out for me, but in a weird turn of events this feels like one of the more forlorn songs present on the album. It’s called Happy People, on an album called Happy People, but the lyrics are heart-wrenchingly sad. Peace have a habit of writing about important topics beautifully, but this is something often overlooked because of their pop style. This is another reminder that they can write meaningful lyrics, whether they are backed up by happy melodies or not. 

Someday is the next song and this is another highlight for me. As I previously mentioned, Someday is the song that really reminded me of just how talented they are. It's Harry and his guitar and the lyrics are wise beyond his young and eccentric years. Money, into I'm A Girl, into Under The Moon is truly a combination like no other, with the latter out of those three being my personal favourite from the whole album. It's inspired by Elvis and you can clearly hear these influences which makes it one of the most unique, yet stunning songs going. 

The ending of Happy People comes in the form of [Blondie's] Rapture, meets [Blur's] Parklife, meets one of the funkiest bass solo's going. Sam Koisser is a true talent and the groovy rhythms coming from Doug and Dom with Harry's sort-of-rapped lyrics over the top make World Pleasure one of the very best indie-pop songs in recent years. Despite it replacing 1998 as their live set closer, it still manages to spawn utter chaos, especially Sam's solo. 

To attempt to compare Happy People to In Love would be illogical, because the styles are so different. In Love was an indie-rock band finding their feet and testing genres to see what worked and what didn’t; Happy People is a slick, and incredibly feel-good pop album. It shows just how far Peace have come and it is an album to be celebrated. 

Rating : 16/20

(written by Poppy Marriott)