Live Review: Cheatahs, Menace Beach, Shinies at The Harley, Sheffield (February 15th, 2014)

Hello bus station coffee, my old friend...
Hello bus station coffee, my old friend…

As I got on the bus to Sheffield at a time that shouldn’t exist on a Saturday morning, I thought to myself, “What the fucking hell are you doing going to Sheffield? This is a really stupid thing to do. Why aren’t you sleeping like usual?”

Well, Mr. Internal Monologue Laced With Self-Doubt, you are dumb.

I saw Cheatahs last November (2013, if you are from the future) supporting METZ in Glasgow. It was excellent. Just… excellent. There are no words. That’s why I didn’t bother reviewing it. Yeah… that’s why.

Sheffield is nice. It has trams. I like trams. You buy the ticket on-board from a conductor, which is just adorable. Every public transport system should be so quaint.

Also, their coach station has padded seats and that's a major plus.
Also, their coach station has padded seats and that’s a major plus.

Would you believe my luck? The Harley is also a hotel, and if you stay at the hotel you don’t need to buy a ticket. This saved me the princely sum of £8 which I later invested in a drink or two. Or nine. It’s also really close to a little Sainsbury’s. This is good news if you are like me and make sandwiches in your hotel room to save money.

As far as hotels go I’ve stayed in fancier but I found it was pretty cosy. A little run-down but not dirty and at no point did I fear for my life. Considering recent experiences, The Harley might as well be the goddamn Marriott. I watched the Food Network, I napped a little. It was bitchin’.

Then I had a dreadful nightmare.
Then I had a dreadful nightmare.

I went downstairs and felt really awkward for a while. Also, £4.50 for a Kopparberg!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Shinies were first up. They’re from Manchester. They’re also really, really good. I have a great attitude towards research so I knew absolutely nothing about them or even that they were playing, so I can’t tell you what songs they played. What I CAN tell you is that the songs were awesome. Definitely a band I’ll be seeing again.

If you don’t like to watch people eating, you can listen to the song by itself. I highly recommend it.

At this point I should mention that the music played between bands was just endlessly great. This is something that a lot of people neglect. A great opener should get you in the mood for the headliner, but what’s all that energy worth if you’re going to spend the next 20 minutes standing around being bored? I’m looking at you, Manchester Cathedral. You are boring.

The screen showed clips from Tarantino movies.
Menace Beach. The screen showed clips from Tarantino movies. Cool.

Menace Beach played in the middle and I shuffled myself down to the front. It’s really lame seeing an empty space at the front where there ought to be people – if you go right to the stage you no longer have to see the gap. This wasn’t an issue for much longer because Menace Beach are fucking brilliant. I’m going to save a lot of my gushing for the inevitable review of their EP, but I think I love them.

I took video. Here is video. It’s not the finest in the world, but sometimes shopping at Aldi isn’t so bad. Also, it’s my website so shut up. I do what I want.

Cheatahs are a real joy to see live. Their music is a fun mix of heavy, spacey and a little poppy that’s hard to dance to but a treat to hear. As good as their recorded material is (including their album which came out last week, it’s so good) nothing compares to seeing them live.

This was really the crowd looked like. Apart from not a cartoon.
This was really the crowd looked like. Apart from not a cartoon. Yes, this is how I dance.

There’s something about seeing Cheatahs that makes you forget about your life for a while. It’s hard not to feel like you could float away on the music. Some scienticians have found that good music increases dopamine levels in the brain. After this show, I believe it. It was a great spiritual cleanser.

If you think that sounds pretentious, you don’t understand because you weren’t there, man.

You know a thing I really like? When band members sit at the merch table. There’s something that feels so right about physically handing over your money to one of the people directly responsible for the stuff you’re buying. If I was a band I would totally do this, even if I was Nine Inch Nails.

I sort of hung out a little with Menace Beach. There was chocolate. There was rum. They are very nice.

Needless to say, I hated myself in the morning.

Bacon helped.

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Review: Live From New York City, 1967 by Simon and Garfunkel (2002)

SimonandGarfunkelLiveNY67

There was a time when I thought that I was too cool for Simon and Garfunkel. It turns out that Simon and Garfunkel were too cool for me. Thankfully, I grew up.

Most of us have some sort of history with one of music’s finest duos, but even if somehow you don’t (!?!?!) then you will probably enjoy this album. Some things are just universally great.

Moomins, for example.

Maybe you know a few songs but you find the super-60s production a little overwhelming, perhaps you think it’s just fine the way it is but you like hearing things done a little differently, you could even be from the moon – my point is that Live From New York City, 1967 is an essential album. I don’t know how I lived without it.

Okay, so songs and stuff. There’s a nice selection here. I’m not going to take it track by track because that’s not the point of live albums. A bunch of the classics are here – Homeward BoundA Hazy Shade of WinterI Am a RockThe Sound of Silence… always a pleasure.

There are also fifteen tracks besides those above. They are beautiful. You might think I’m slipping into hyperbole here, but I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that I love this album and intend to marry it.

“But why do you love this record to the extent that you’re willing to commit the rest of your life to worshipping it?” asks nobody in particular.

Nobody in particular is represented here by the world's everyman, Sasquatch.
Nobody in particular is represented here by the Sasquatch.

That’s a great question! In future though please keep your queries and comments for the end of the review. Thank you.

Well, besides the fact that every single song is entirely brilliant, Live From New York City, 1967 is a rare thing insofar as it is a Simon and Garfunkel record that features only… well… Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. This isn’t your usual Simon and Garfunkel and Drummer and Horn Section and Two Guitarists and Keyboard Player and Backing Vocalists and Bassist and Dude Playing Triangle live album and that is what makes it so special.

We all knew Paul Simon was an excellent guitarist, but wow he’s so amazing. I think he has an extra hand he’s not telling us about. Art Garfunkel is often done a great disservice in these sorts of pieces, cast as the amusical hanger-on, but the man simply has a stunning voice.

Together they are perfect, and that’s the real selling point of this live album: it’s a testament to the brilliance of Paul Simon’s poetry and the beauty of his and Art Garfunkel’s harmonies that the songs are somehow improved for being stripped down to their barest bones.

Basically, if you don’t buy Live From New York City, 1967 then you don’t have a soul.

Live From New York City, 1967 track list:

  1. He Was My Brother
  2. Leaves That Are Green
  3. Sparrow
  4. Homeward Bound
  5. You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies
  6. A Most Peculiar Man
  7. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
  8. The Dangling Conversation
  9. Richard Cory
  10. A Hazy Shade Of Winter
  11. Benedictus
  12. Blessed
  13. A Poem on the Underground Wall
  14. Anji
  15. I Am a Rock
  16. The Sound of Silence
  17. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
  18. A Church Is Burning
  19. Wednesday Morning, 3 A. M.

Review: The Drone by We Are Knuckle Dragger (2013)

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The Drone is the second album by We Are Knuckle Dragger. They’re a very good band and this is a very good album, but will you like it? Maybe.

Knuckle Dragger aren’t a group for everybody, but that’s fine. They make the music they want to make, which shouldn’t really be such a fucking novelty, and that music is beautiful. Not beautiful like Chopin, but beautiful, glorious NOISE.

A huge shit-eating grin spreads over my face every time that first slab of grumbly rumbly bass starts molesting my speakers. Perhaps such mucky stuff shouldn’t make me so happy, but I can’t help it.

This shit’s all over the place and I love it.

The Drone was produced by Ross Robinson, the man who invented Slipknot, and he’s a great fit. As much of a crime Korn was he totally makes up for it with this. We cool, Ross, we cool.

I’m not going to talk about The Drone song by song because it’s not that kind of record. Everything is brilliant, that’s what you need to know.

It’s also heavy. Really heavy. Really fucking heavy. Jesus Christ, it’s heavy.

Do you like heavy music? Do you like noisy noise? Do you like to boogie? Do you like to rock and/or roll? Do you like grunge? Do you like to do a depressed shuffle to The Cure? Into ABBA?

None of the above?

Billy Joel 4 life.
Billy Joel 4 life.

You should listen to The Drone anyway. It’s only 29 minutes long, what else were you going to do today?

It’s been very interesting to see this album develop. I was lucky enough to attend a secret show in Knuckle Dragger‘s rehearsal space where they played 9 of these 10 songs (the 10th wasn’t done yet) only a few days before they were recorded and beaten into shape. To then see them (in HMV, of all places) perform the whole thing front-to-back on the day of release was a real treat.

If they come anywhere near you then try and catch them while they’re still cheap to see. If you live somewhere near Newcastle-upon-Tyne then your chances are better than most (I’ve seen them three times this year without really trying) but they tour the UK fairly regularly and it’s surely not long until they can pop on over to mainlaind Europe to give them a good kicking.

Look! They're in HMV!
Look! They’re in HMV!

Here are a few videos to give you an idea of what’s what and the full album is below (on Spotify). Here’s their official website where you can buy their albums. Do it!

The Drone track list:

  1. This Better Be Life Threatening Norman
  2. Starting Strength
  3. Class of 94
  4. Bunch of Fucking Mutants
  5. Sucker
  6. The Moon on a Stick
  7. Learning by Doing
  8. Here’s Your Shit Sandwich
  9. Flapjack the Ripper
  10. Funhouse

Review: Road Avenger (Mega-CD)

roadavenger2

(Note: The original version of this piece was featured as part of a Reader Roundtable feature on Sega-16.com back in 2011. Look at their site to learn more about the ultra-obscure Mega-CD platform. Also, you can totally get this for your mobile now so there’s no excuse not to play it.)

People talk a lot about defining moments in videogame history. They bring up the epic storyline of Final Fantasy VII, the addictive qualities of Tetris and even Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone.

Not me.

But what could possibly be more important than spiky-haired Lego people trying to save the Earth, Russian mind-control plots and blue hedgehogs fighting robot wasps?

Look at it. He's made of Lego.
Look at it. He’s made of Lego.

The answer is Road Avenger… or rather the theme tune by “me neither” Japanese soft-rock band J-WALK. From the opening line (“Ah know ah‘m gawna re-vah-ve when ah ayum… awn the rowad”) to my personal favourite – “Ah knerr too well eeh‘s berry hurd, eeh‘s jes burkeng for dee seelbah moo-oon” – the song has absolutely everything. I feel that it sums up the game very well. You almost don’t need to play the game if you listen to the song, but you should anyway.

Yes, you can complain that the video is grainy or that the gameplay is repetitive and maybe even that the animation kind of sucks, but you cannot deny that the game has charm. It manages to be exciting because it is FAST – just like driving a car! You never know when you might have to turn left, brake, accelerate or even turn right!

There’s more to it than that though. Road Avenger is every car chase ever filmed since Bullitt. It has all the components of a great action movie without all of that tedious ‘story’ which is always getting in the way. All you need to know is that a gang of street punks (with helicopters) run your car off the road, killing your wife but leaving you unscathed. Naturally, you decide to get your extra car (oh, that one) and drive it into lots of other cars. The title says it all.

Even the cows aren't safe.
Even the cows aren’t safe.

The thing about Road Avenger is that you accept things which would be ridiculous in a film, the difference being that you don’t have time to laugh because then you’ll forget to turn right and then you die (set some time aside and watch this compilation of death scenes and crashes, it’s totally worth it). You drive your way through several hotels, dodge flying boats, smash into helicopters (they blow up in mid-air but you are fine – because don’t ask questions, that’s why) and chase motorbikes up stairs. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool.

Absolutely do this at home, kids. It's really cool.
Absolutely do this at home, kids. It’s really cool.

Something which you also begin to realise when you get about halfway through the game is the fact that you are killing a lot of people. At one point you nudge an enemy car off an unfinished bridge and you can see the terror on the driver’s face as you send him over the edge. Even Grand Theft Auto doesn’t have that. I know they killed his wife, but come on.

This really happens,
This really happens,

I also refuse to believe that there are absolutely zero civilian casualties – particularly in one scene where you drive through a hotel dining room full of people, out the window and into a helicopter (which then crashes into the side of the hotel in a big ball of flame). Just imagine the news reports you’d be seeing in that city – which would presumably be interrupted when the reporter is run down by a vigilante in a nice car.

Protip: Kill everybody so there can't be any witnesses.
Protip: If you kill everybody there can’t be any witnesses.

I’m not sure a game has ever made me think so much about the human cost of your average quest for vengeance. Surely this proves beyond reasonable doubt that Wolf Team has created a masterpiece that transcends mere ‘game’ status and becomes something more, something which will ultimately bring about world peace as soon as Ban Ki-moon can buy enough copies for the assorted leaders of the United Nations.

Explosions for peace! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Explosions for peace! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Review: The Bones Of What You Believe by Chvrches (2013)

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I feel strange. I was aware of Chvrches through their name alone and was very put off by it – in my head it manifests as Chvurchevesezeches – and so I ignored them in the hopes that they’d go away.

Pixies were on Jools Holland last week. I watched it. Chvrches were also on and I was feeling open-minded (read: lazy) so I chose not to fast-forward it. Not exactly to my tastes, I thought, but certainly intriguing. Their second song came after an interview with Black Francis, so I couldn’t ignore it, could I?

On that Saturday morning, sat in my pants and eating leftover Chinese food, I found myself thinking that this band were actually kind of great. That thought stuck with me all the way ’til Wednesday, when I decided that I could take it no longer and marched myself to HMV.

I bought an album that’s in the top 10 this week… because of telly. They’re so goddamned new that only one of their members has a Wikipedia page.

It was a great fucking decision.

The Mother We Share is both the first track on the album and my introduction to the group. Plenty of interesting things going on. Snappy synths and a lovely warm wash of a chorus. I’m not sure you could find a way to not like something about this song. She also swears. I love swearing! We Sink has another fuck. Is it because they’re from Glasgow?

Gun is a single or something. It’s got a video. Lots of nice colours! I could probably boogie to this, and I hate dancing. I really do. That’s just how good it is.

It’s like I’m inside the song, man.

Time for the slow track. Yay. Tether is a nicely atmospheric track, gloomy guitars, muffly bass and the sort of beat your heart does when you’re about to do something terrible. This is probably the electronic equivalent of the classic LOUDquietLOUD dynamic. Naturally, things get more complicated towards the end. This song deserves a decent video at some point.

Lies is the song that swayed me on that cold morning, wrapped up in my quilt and cradling my rice. It reminds me quite a bit of Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode – it may seem to be conventionally poppy but there’s also something horribly wrong, something unsettling. A nice splodge of Nine Inch Nailsian noise at the end too.

Oooh! Under The Tide is sung by somebody else, but I don’t know who does what at this stage so you will have to make up his name. Far from simply being a ‘letting Ringo sing’ moment, it’s a very good song and fits perfectly on the record.

I bought the CD, but this is probably where you turn the LP over.

No interesting caption, just a cool picture.

Recover is a pop sandwich – bright and bouncy bread with a filling that pleads for better, some salad, some cheese, anything. An utterly brilliant track.

What’s going on here? Science/Visions is going on, that’s what. For some reason it reminds me of Akira. Does that make me a massive nerd? It’s a very oppressive song. I love it.

Lungs brings to mind some of the more damning songs from Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero. While it doesn’t necessarily sound like NIN it’s not lyrically dissimlar to songs like The Warning.

Closing time. You Caught The Light has some nice Martin Gore vibes and has other fella singing again. It ends things on a nice quiet note and leaves you feeling that, yes, you would quite like to play the album again.

You know what? That’s just what I did.

The Bones Of What You Believe is an excellent record and I’m very pleased that it exists and is successful. It deserves it. I’m also happy that people are buying such great music lately. Thank you, people.

Buy it today and make some Glaswegians happy.

Chvrches deserve all the success they can get. They write, perform and produce their own material and seem to do what the hell they like, which is always admirable. We have a female singer who sings like a real person and isn’t willing to take any of your shit. We also finally get some decent new electronic music that doesn’t have any shitting dubstep in it and isn’t trying to make me dance or buy trainers. It’s all very refreshing..

Everybody have a look at these people. They are awesome.

The Bones Of What You Believe track list:

  1. The Mother We Share
  2. We Sink
  3. Gun
  4. Tether
  5. Lies
  6. Under the Tide
  7. Recover
  8. Night Sky
  9. Science/Visions
  10. Lungs
  11. By The Throat
  12. You Caught The Light

Review: Shameless by Therapy? (2001)

Err...
Err…

A lot of people hate this album. I don’t hate this album though. I think it’s great, although it does have a few dodgy moments. Cover art included.

Shameless is Therapy?’s ‘American’ album, recorded by grunge hero Jack Endino in Seattle. Unfortunately not a gamble that translated into good record sales but one that produced a good rock record nonetheless.

Do you remember that thing music people used to do in the late 90s? That thing where some of the song would sound like it was on the radio? That’s what leads us into opener Gimme Back My Brain. It’s a little unfortunate, but it’s soon fixed with a great yelp and an excellent riff. Gimme gimme gimme baaaack my brain. Yeah! It rocks. That’s all it needs to do. It’s even got a bass solo/cowbell breakdown. The fuck more do you want?

What a nice segue! Dance is a nice heavy track, that strange sort of slow that you can still boogie to a little bit. Is there a lot to say about this song? Not really, although it does feature the line ‘welcome to fuckland’, make of that what you will. Oh yeah, and the guitar solo is pretty cool too.

Whoa-oh-oh-ah-whoa! This One’s For You is one of those should-be hits. Perhaps if it had come out a couple of years later amongst all this ‘Kings of Leon’ bollocks it would have been just fine, but that would have involved conforming and being appreciated which underground society tells us is wrong.

Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends. What a beast of a lyric.

I was lucky enough to see I Am The Money performed live, one of the only times since Shameless was buried in 2002. I was unlucky enough to see it the one time Andy Cairns decided to experiment with auto-tune technology and it all went a bit wrong.

What’s really shit in this case is that we have a fucking great song with an incredible outro that’s CUT OFF on the record. The full version languishes as the b-side on some single somewhere. Wank.

For serious though, a good song, just a bit castrated.

Wicked Man is pure Iggy Pop rip-off. It’s fantastic. What the hell is a heavy metal parking lot? I don’t care. Features some classic 1960s rock organ work by some dude. Theme From Delorean has an arguably quite stupid name which is a shame because it’s one of the best songs on the album, with a great bongo fury in the middle.

Now, as much as I love this album, I can’t deny that the quality does go down a smidgen from this point. That doesn’t detract from their merit as awesome slabs of rock ‘n’ roll, but they do suffer compared to what has come previously.

Tango Romeo brings us back to where we need to be just in time for the end of the record. It does seem to be generally disliked amongst the Therapy? faithful but I think they’re all wrong. Silly lyrics, maybe, but riffs ahoy! Stalk & Slash is a real car crash of a song, but that’s how every great joy ride should end, isn’t it?

Shameless is a flawed album but the intent behind it shines through. Therapy? obviously set out to make a fun album of maximum rock ‘n’ roll and in that sense it was a great success. Perhaps it came at the wrong time, after grunge stopped being novel but before it was okay to like it again. Perhaps that doesn’t fucking matter, because it’s a fantastic record. Listen to it!

Shameless track list:

  1. Gimme Back My Brain
  2. Dance
  3. This One’s For You
  4. I Am The Money
  5. Wicked Man
  6. Theme From Delorean
  7. Joey
  8. Endless Psychology
  9. Alrite
  10. Body Bag Girl
  11. Tango Romeo
  12. Stalk & Slash

Review: Lavazza Tierra coffee

So, I was in Waitrose yesterday…

Shut up, I'm telling a story.
Shut up, I’m telling a story.

I was in Waitrose yesterday and I felt like treating myself to some fancy coffee. I chose Lavazza Tierra because it is ethically produced because it was on special offer and came in a tin.

I like tins.
I like tins. They’re sophisticated.

Upon popping the lid, I found that there was a secondary lid underneath. I aspire to be that guy in the shop who sniffs things and Lavazza had denied me this with their extensive packaging. Bastards.

This would have been a negative, but it only made me want it more. Lavazza Tierra was a mystery tramp and I wanted a taste. I took it home. £2.99.

Mystery tramp. Not as sexy as it sounds.
You get what you pay for.

The second lid was one of those ringpully tin lids. I opened it eventually. It was a struggle, but I won because I have a beard.

The smell was remarkable. It was not unlike chocolate, but more like coffee. Strong, smooth, seductive… the way a good coffee should be.

I prepared it in my tiny cafetiere, which I take to work in an effort to look cultured. The grounds are finer than usual so the plunge is less satisfying and you end up with coffee mud at the bottom, but this also means an easier clean-up and less crap in your mouth when you get some grounds in the cup because you’re shit at pouring.

I considered measuring out a sensible amount of coffee, but I decided that my usual helping of “too much” would do just as well.  This was a mistake. It turns out that Lavazza Tierra is an espresso, although it fails to mention this on the tin outside of the word ‘INTENSO’. Fuck you, Italy.

The caffeine high was instant and ridiculous. I was master of the universe, I was on top of the world, I was King of the fucking Moon. I put on Coltrane’s Giant Steps.  Vinyl, of course.

Of course.
Of course.

Yeah, I was inside the music, man. Riding the grooves in the grooves. Smoking cigars with the ghosts of dead jazzers. On a unicorn.

Side one. Giant Steps, Cousin Mary, Countdown, Spiral. Turn over. Side two. Syeeda’s Song Flute. Naima. Mr. P.C. Fin.

I came to a shocking realisation as the arm returned to its cradle. This coffee was making me pretentious.

I stuck on Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits and performed some surgery on my Blackberry. All of the side buttons had fallen off, so I cut up a toothpick with some scissors and secured the bits in place with some red electrical tape.

"Did I ever tell you about the time I performed an appendectomy with a rusty sardine can?"
“Did I ever tell you about the time I performed an appendectomy with a rusty sardine can?”

I came down. I was wearing a skirt, I brewed another cup.

Mmm, nice.