Wednesday, 28 July 2010

We Made God - New Songs - Please Listen

We Made God are an Icelandic post-rock band. Their new album is in the pipeline, coming soon. Here's a sneak preview. They're a great band so please support them in any way if you can, whether it's by buying their records or just listening to their new stuff. Enjoy.
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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Funeral For A Friend - London Shepherds Bush Empire - Friday 23rd July 2010

Funeral For A Friend are one of those bands that remain eternally misunderstood by so many people. Lumped in by many with the unimaginative 'emo' scene alongside the likes of My Chemical Romance but really one of the standouts of the post-hardcore scene that gripped the UK in the early 21st century. Their early EPs and debut album 'Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation' provide some of the best the genre has to offer, combining aggressive vocals and riffs with an ear for tuneful melody and the ability to write awesomely catchy songs. Now, seven years after the release of said debut record, the band play two special shows with the album being played in its entirety. This is to celebrate the contribution of guitarist Darran Smith to the band. These are his last headlining shows with the band before permanently departing after Sonisphere Festival next weekend. For fans these shows (the other of which was held at Cardiff University) provide not only an opportunity to bid farewell to a member of the band but also an opportunity (especially for those who weren't around the first time) to hear a great album in full.

Before FFAF take to the stage there is the pleasure of a support slot by The Automatic who, since replacing annoying shouty keyboard guy with Paul Mullen (yes, the guy from YCI:M), have actually become a pretty decent band. Sadly I only see half of their set after having a horrific journey to the venue to contend with but what I do see (including the monster choruses of 'Steve McQueen') persuades me that it's time to forgive them for their first record and give them another chance. Sadly The Blackout are extra special guests for this show. How they manage to be as shit as they actually are is beyond me but I guess they must be trying extra hard. I especially like how they have two vocalists to double the annoyance factor. They appear to be trying to be a post-hardcore band but their riffs are so watered down that they sound more like farts that are trying to be casually disguised and the vocals are abysmal. They manage to be a little catchy...but in an annoying Justin Bieber way not a good Take That way. Appropriately they come from Merthyr Tydfil which, I can honestly testify, is one of the biggest shitholes in the UK (even by the admission of people who live there). After their immensely crap set (which is well received by the Kerrang! devotees in the audience) it's finally time for the reason everyone is here.

Funeral For A Friend take to the stage at 9.30pm on the dot and kick straight into 'Rookie of the Year' (no prizes for guessing that), immediately prompting the start of a huge pit in the middle of the crowd. It's humbling to be at a gig where almost everyone sings along to almost every word of every song from an album and as the likes of 'Juneau' and 'Escape Artists Never Die' see the show progress the voices get progressively hoarser without ever dying out. Smith is reluctant to take any more of the spotlight than usual (i.e. not very much) but in between song chants of "Darren, Darren, Darren" and a barrage of horns in his direction prove how well appreciated he is by the band's fanbase. A particular highlight arrives in the form of the gentle 'Your Revolution Is A Joke' which sees just singer Matt Davies-Kreye and guitarist Kris Coombes-Roberts remain on stage. It's a spine-tingling moment for a song that most never expected to see live. By the time the band leave the stage with 'Novella' they have the crowd in the palm of their hand. Kicking off the non CD&DIC material with 'Into Oblivion (Reunion)' the band proceed to play their way through several highlights of their back catalogue from the finger tapping riffage of 'Roses For The Dead' through the rare b-side 'You Want Romance?' and golden oldie 'The Art of American Football' (which is spoilt by the fact that the band are joined by The Blackout's Sean Smith for the song). Sadly things run out of steam a little towards the end. 'Wrench' noticeably isn't known by a sizeable amount of the crowd (even less than the obscure b-side where I am). The intensity of the first set is never matched and, wonderful song though it is, 'History' isn't really the greatest of set closers. Still, the sight of the show ending with friends, crew and family onstage pushing Darran Smith to the centre of the stage to receive the blessing of the crowd is special and the first half of the show definitely was as well. Overall a top quality evening's entertainment and the best FFAF show I've been to yet.

The Automatic - 7/10
The Blackout - 0/10
Funeral For A Friend - 9/10

Funeral For A Friend Setlist
Rookie Of The Year
Bullet Theory
Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings
Escape Artists Never Die
Moments Forever Faded
She Drove Me To Daytime Television
Red Is The New Black
Your Revolution Is A Joke
Waking Up

Into Oblivion (Reunion)
The Art Of American Football
Roses For The Dead
You Want Romance?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

2000 Trees Festival - Cheltenham Upcote Farm - Friday 16th & Saturday 17th July 2010

I’m under no illusion of the fact that many of you reading this blog won’t have the first idea about 2000 Trees Festival. Where it is? What it is? Who are those bands on the line-up? That sort of thing. Well firstly, 2000 Trees is located on the wonderful Upcote Farm in Cheltenham and is a music festival catering to around 2,500 people each year. Those bands on the line-up are a varying concoction of rock, folk, indie, instrumental goodness, etc, etc and many of them are absolutely awesome. Right, now let’s crack on with the music reviewing.

Having spent ages queuing and longer putting the tent up than first anticipated (let’s be honest Matt, it was never gonna fit in between those other two tents), the first band I have the undoubted pleasure of witnessing at 2000 Trees 2010 is Tubelord (7/10). Being a band I have already seen and enjoyed numerous times my expectations are high but, for whatever reason, their spiky math rock doesn’t seem to light up in the same way as it usually does. It’s still pretty good stuff though and the crowd gets going into its first moshpit of the weekend during the always fun ‘Night of the Pencils’. Coming up next on the main stage are Northern Ireland’s finest in the shape of instrumental post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar (9/10). This is a band that has just come off a support tour with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures...and I bet they rocked much harder every single night. The pure energy on stage during an ASIWYFA performance is always extraordinary and they’re on top form here. They’re also seriously loud...and that’s a seriously good thing. The Xcerts (8/10) are a band that is definitely going places. Having a bunch of seriously catchy tunes is well and good but the ability to meld them with proper rock bits and wonderfully delicate quite moments is what will make them a much bigger band in years to come. Although this set lacks the superb ‘Aberdeen 1987’ (“it’s too slow for a festival” frontman Murray Macleod says), the songs on display win over any doubters in the crowd with new single ‘Slackerpop’ especially standing out. Their set does seem a bit short however. If you haven’t seen Pulled Apart By Horses (10/10) live yet then you need to get to it. This band is enjoyable on record but live they’re a totally different prospect. Don’t expect bouts of melodic clean singing, Tom Hudson’s just gonna scream at you all the way through and don’t expect James Brown to complete a back flip either; to be fair, he makes a very worthy attempt considering he’s supposed to be playing guitar at the same time. Marking the most riotous crowd participation of the weekend, PABH’s set is the highlight of Friday’s action. Future Of The Left (9/10) run them close however despite numerous technical difficulties. The keyboard totally dies on Falco and co, whilst the frontman himself breaks the strings on two guitars. Good news includes the seamless transition that has seen Steven Hodson (of Oceansize and Kong) pick up the bass player position vacated by Kelson Mathias. Whether it is to be permanent or not remains to be seen but he certainly fits in perfectly, readily committing to the onstage banter that FOTL are known for. More good news comes in the shape of new songs, which are really good, especially closer ‘Dry Hate’. After the rocking action earlier in the day Errors (6/10) are a little bit of a buzz kill. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, they just sound out of place after FOTL on the bill. Their post-electro is enjoyable but a little dull in the live festival setting unless you’re really into it. Goldheart Assembly (7/10) in the Leaf Lounge are also pretty enjoyable and their 60s pop is far more refreshing than their bassists’ flowery shirt. An excellent cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Clap Hands’ is the highlight of their set. Frank Turner (9/10) headlining a festival doesn’t sound right...but it feels right. 2000 Trees is his self-confessed favourite festival and, after dropping out last year, he seems delighted to be back for a set that includes all the hits alongside b-sides like the superb ‘Nashville Tennessee’. The crowd scream along to what seems like every word and a special highlight for one Kyle Gill is provided when Frank gets him up onstage to play harmonica on ‘Dan’s Song’ to celebrate his birthday. Frank has turned into a great performer and yet he still retains the bond with his fans that made him so special in the first place. An encore of ‘The Outdoor Type’ and ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ sees him sign off his first festival headline slot in fine style. The only reason why Frank’s set isn’t perfect is the simple fact that his songs, great as they sound with 2,000 people singing along, aren’t made for such a large audience but for pub crowds and total intimacy. It’s hard to begrudge Frank his success though; if any folk punk troubadour deserves’s him!

After a long morning (why did I have to wake up at 7.30am?), which includes a top quality nature walk (7/10), Saturday’s action is kicked off by alternative metal quartet Left Side Brain (7/10), who make sure the crowd are awake with their bruising off-kilter Therapy?-esque riffs. Noticeably however they seem a little uncomfortable on such a large stage in front of a larger crowd. Furthermore the vocals occasionally get lost in the mix but they still have some great songs and get the rock off to a good start for the day. Following them are the indie popsters Skeletons And The Empty Pockets (6/10) who are very energetic, especially the frontman who’s a great showman, but they just aren’t really my thing. Still, they’re not a bad band by any stretch. Neither are Flashguns (6/10), who would be a damn site better if they weren’t such cocky bastards considering their material. Their frontman ruins their last song, which is by far the best they play, by playing his guitar solo whilst strutting around like Matt Bellamy at his most “oh look at me I’m in a stadium band now and am going out with someone more famous than me”. Most of their songs are quite generic but they are a band with promise. I expect the NME will catch onto them soon and ensure they turn out quite badly after all. Three Trapped Tigers (8/10) take a while to get on stage after a light hits Matt Calvert in the head just before they are scheduled to go on. This is one hell of a band when it comes down to it. The drumming especially from Adam Betts is right out of the top draw. Their set provides plenty of complex electronic enfused post-rock for the crowd to get their paws into, no doubt especially appealing to 65dos fans. Meanwhile over at the Greenhouse The Oxygen Thief (8/10) is busy getting his crowd to ROCK (\m/) with his acoustic lullabies. A highlight is provided with a cover of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ which he somehow manages to turn into an acoustic metal sing-along. Epic, I just wish I’d seen the whole set (Matt Calvert’s fault). Unfortunately I see the end of Sonic Boom Six (3/10). They’re a bizarre blend of reggae and ska punk which, whilst imaginative at least, makes them sound like Sonic Boom Shit to me. I and Matt have been waiting for Twin Atlantic (10/10) to hit the stage all weekend. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and they don’t disappoint. Their songs may not be perfect but they are so often so catchy and the time signatures are joyous as well. Despite sound that’s far from top-notch and the fact that frontman Sam McTrusty makes a few mistakes while guitarist Barry McKenna breaks a couple of strings; they are an infectious band when they take the stage. Sam interacts well with the crowd as well, especially a cuddly turtle called Lucinda and Dave? the guy in the chicken suit who joins the band onstage for a final run through ‘Audience & Audio’. Whilst drummer Craig and bassist Ross leave the stage relatively quietly, the two guitarists set about getting some feedback out of their guitars whilst Sam chucks his Tele into the crowd; this causes much difficulty for tour manager Andy – who has to get it back. After a break from the action, it’s time for 65daysofstatic (10/10), who arrive 20 minutes behind schedule and therefore play just a brief 40 minute set. The crush that follows the opening scream of “THIS NEGATIVE ENERGY MAKES ME STRONGER. WE WILL NOT RETREAT, THIS BAND IS UNSTOPPABLE!” is far bigger than I, for one, was expecting but it’s awesome. Their more recent material doesn’t dim the energy at all with the danceable electronica of ‘Crash Tactics’ and ‘WEAK4’ seeing flailing bodies down the front. ‘Radio Protector’ maintains its status as probably the most epic song of all time and after a mammoth effort for such a short amount of time, the band leave the crowd chanting for more; thus shocking several Bombay Bicycle Club fans who arrive soon after. Directly after 65dos are Vessels (9/10) in the Leaf Lounge. Something of a halfway house between ASIWYFA’s near punk like energy and Three Trapped Tigers’ more measured approach, the band show their ear for epic melody alongside that for cultivating massive moshable riffs. They also deserve credit for managing to fit all their equipment on the tiny stage! Acoustic trio Orphans And Vandals (5/10) kick off their set with a song that seems to be mostly about tearing someone a new asshole. Then they progress, subject matter wise, to talking about a cottage by the sea with their mother. It’s not bad I suppose, it’s just really fucking weird lyrically. The Subways (5/10) are probably awesome if you love their music and are down the front. For anyone else though they just sound like what they are, a band that shouldn’t be headlining a festival, even one this size, because all their songs are pretty much exactly the same. Only closing song ‘Rock And Roll Queen’ is truly memorable to the casual bystander. Thankfully Leaf Lounge headliners Kill It Kid (7/10) are more interesting. Their singer’s voice is perfectly bluesy and looks totally out of place coming out of his mouth. Their indie folk stylings aren’t unique but are quite lovely.

So, overall, 2000 Trees provided a weekend full of great bands. It has a great atmosphere and it costs only £50. Basically, you should go next year...yes, you!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Circa Survive - Camden Underworld - Wednesday 14th July 2010

The Underworld is a sweaty place at the best of times. This is probably down to a combination of it being a very small space underground in which around 500 people (I still fail to understand how this place can supposedly fit that many people in) get their rocks off accompanied by one of the least effective air conditioning units known to man. Tonight sees the Underworld attempt to reach new levels of sweatiness however. This is partly because Circa Survive's fanbase is one of the most dedicated on the circuit and partly because the tube is horrendously warm as well at the moment, meaning that everyone is already sweating by the time they arrive.

Halos take to the stage a little after 8pm to the general indifference of the majority of the Anthony Green hungry crowd. They immediately get down to playing an impressive opening set however. The quintet have a little of both tonight's headliners and the more visceral moment of Sunny Day Real Estate about them as they plough through indie songs that burst into jarring heaviness at extremely satisfying moments. There's more than a little post-rock about them too as they progress through the twists and turns of their songs. Certainly a band to watch out for in the future, especially considering they haven't even recorded their debut full-length yet.

The reaction to Circa Survive taking to the stage is much less muted than for their support act. The band are greeted like the major league rock stars they could very well turn into in the future. Launching straight into new album track "Get Out" there is a surge forward towards the stage which Green immediately owns. Despite having a voice is marmitey to the extent that you will either love it or loathe it there is no doubting that he is a brilliant frontman. Whether crazy dancing around the tiny stage as if in the middle of a bizarre trip or manically high fiving the front row Green is hard to take your eyes off during the duration of a Circa Survive show. The set progresses with the biggest reactions coming for older material (especially "Act Appalled" which is only played after repeated requests by audience members). There is a sizeable chunk of new material but it doesn't dominate the set (a shame for me as new album 'Blue Sky Noise' is by far their finest work to date). New songs are still given the same riotous singalong treatment as the older tracks however, causing Green to tell the audience "Yeah, we have a new record out in a couple of weeks...but I guess you lot already downloaded it for free". The shame in the lack of new material may be restricted to those, such as me, who are less favourably disposed towards the band's older material. For the minor problems with Circa Survive's set arise not from any performance issued but from the quality of material on air. Songs like "The Great Golden Baby" may be popular with the die-hards but are simply not as good as more recent efforts. This is emphasised by the fact that the band chooses to conclude their set with a superb "Imaginary Enemy", a song from the new record. The five members leave the stage looking like they've had a great time and the audience leaves with smiles on their faces and the knowledge that the band will return to London to play an even larger show at the Scala in September. Whatever gripes I may have about some of their older material there's no question that Circa put on a good live show and this was a fine evening of American experimental rock.

Halos - 7/10
Circa Survive - 8/10

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The National - London Camden Roundhouse - Saturday 10th July 2010

The iTunes festival is something of a mixed blessing to music in the UK. On the one hand it provides free gigs to go to (if you're lucky enough to win tickets, or have them offered to you on It also does a great job of promoting bands that have yet to fully penetrate the mainstream music consciousness of the country. On the other hand however it is exclusively based in London, somewhat lending credence to the idea that UK bands have to be in London to get any attention. Furthermore the fact that tickets can be won through competition does lead to the potential of gigs being filled with people who are just pleased to have won tickets to a gig and may not really care who they're going to see.

This isn't a review of the concept of the iTunes festival however. It's a review of one band that it is fantastic to see being given the recognition of being on the lineup. Brooklyn's The National were of little concern to anyone other than the indie/art rock underground before new album 'High Violet' was catapulted to 3rd place in the US Top 200 and 5th in the UK Top 100. The success was overdue and came as a result of the slow-burning weaving of predecessors 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' into the ears of music lovers worldwide. Whilst those two albums were excellent there is no doubting that 'High Violet' trumps them both, being both a masterpiece of atmosphere and of dextrous songwriting. It's also a rather addictive record; having had it just over a week it has yet to leave my stereo. Indeed the new album has provided pretty much the first listen I've had to the band for over a year but that's the beauty of many of their songs. They are so fresh that even if you don't hear them for years they come pouring back into your consciousness as soon as they grace your ears again.

Before The National take to the stage however there is support from indie folk collective Stornoway. Their songs are pleasant listening but perhaps a little repetitive on first listening. Very much a pop band disguising their capacity for writing pure tunes with folk instrumentation, they seem to please much of the crowd gathered inside the Roundhouse early enough to see them, getting a few to dance to their cheerful ditties. Entertaining but only a warm-up for the main act. The National are preceded by an extremely informative (sarcasm alert) iTunes presentation presenting the audience with footage of many of the acts to have played the festival back in 2008 or 2009. What exactly we have done to deserve having footage of Mika and The Saturdays is unclear. This brief pain is soon forgotten when The National stride onstage however. Augmented into an 8 piece lineup for live shows the band kick off with the fine double header of "Start A War" and "Mistaken For Strangers". It certainly takes the band less time to warm up than it does the crowd. The intensity is notched up by the time the first big crowd reaction comes along, for recent single "Bloodbuzz Ohio". Frontman Matt Berninger spits out the words in his distinctive baritone whilst Bryce Dessner switches effortlessly between guitar, bass and piano. As the show wears on more and more of the crowd become aware that they're witnessing something very special, even those who clearly know very little or none at all of The National's material. Soon Berninger decides that the stage isn't quite big enough for him and so he proceeds to wander through the crowd (dilligent cameraman doing very well to follow him all the way). By the time the band emerge again after a brief break for the encore they've performed pretty much perfect renditions of many of their finest songs. They are the sort of band that it really takes seeing in the flesh to fully appreciate. Songs like "Runaway" and closer "Terrible Love" come to life even more thrillingly on stage than on record. Berninger fails to resist the temptation to wander through the crowd a second time during "Mr. November" and the crowd themselves fail to resist The National's near perfection. An truly incredible band.

Stornoway - 6/10
The National - 10/10

The National setlist
Start A War
Mistaken For Strangers
Anyone's Ghost
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
Afraid Of Everyone
Little Faith
Conversation 16
Apartment Story
Geese Of Beverley Road
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
Fake Empire
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
Mr. November
Terrible Love