Monthly Archives: June 2012

One to watch – Tall Ships

Well, this one’s been a long time in coming. I’ve spent the last six months willing myself to write something about this band, and the time finally feels right. Tall Ships now feel like an integral part of my being, like a kidney. Except, probably more important than a kidney, because you can always get rid of a kidney. The heart seems like too much of a cheesy metaphor. So let’s just say they are a crucial internal organ of some sort.

I first stumbled across ‘Plate Tectonics’ through a friend posting it on Twitter. I was instantly smitten. It seems fair to say that the ol’ time-signature switcharoo has been massively influential in the last five years or so in the indie/alt-rock landscape, with the like of Foals and Vampire Weekend creating a plethora of cheap knock-offs and wannabes. I had the displeasure of seeing a local band this year who just seemed to throw in a time-signature switch whenever they ran out of words or ideas on what to do next.

This is why this band are special. They have such a focused energy on making the switches fit in in the context of  the track. It’s always there for a reason. Not only that,but to create layers  of sound, guitar  loops are often  used. These loops and time signature switches are perfectly exemplified in ‘Plate Tectonics’. Initially, it’s a lyrically smart catchy-shindig of a track, before turning  round halfway through, pulling up its socks and running in a completely different direction. In the second half, one fretful riff sets the pace before other layers of guitar riffs are spread over the top, creating some kind of deep-fill sandwich of noise. There’s always a desire to want to praise the bass and percussion as well, but it does what it was built for; it acts as the structure that allows the track as a whole to shine. It’s the delicious bread in our bizarre sandwich simile. People sometimes forget the bread, but without it, you are just licking sandwich filling from your hands.

So that’s one track. I could sit here for forever and a day and turn every one of their tracks into delicious food-based lexical terms. But I don’t want to spoil the fun of other people’s journeys, but I really do want you to dive in. Head first.

One of my favourite people in the world bought me a ticket to go see their live show when they were on tour with Los Campesinos a few months ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the date in the end as I was several hundred miles away, but she said something that resonated with me, and it’s something I want to steal share. Tall Ships use vocals sparingly; they are intelligently aware of the fact that it’s just one part of music. Without being too disparaging of Los Campesinos, they almost overload the listener with lyrics. At times it works, but at times it leaves the listener feeling full and unable to absorb any more meaning. Tall Ships are able to say more with one sneaky verse of lyrics in a track; it has such a powerful impact. The white space of vocal silence acts as a framing device to magnify  what is being said. It also allows the actual music they are making to stand out too. A track like ‘Vessels’ is a case in point. The track is so brilliantly constructed, I can never get tired of hearing it.

So, the wonderful person who did get to go to the show got me a signed white vinyl single of ‘T=0’, shown in the picture. This track is the first single from a forthcoming debut album from the band. According to the band’s Twitter, an announcement will be made next week regarding a release date and a UK tour. Catch them while you can.

Biffy Clyro – Live in Swindon / Double LP to come

This horse trotted along to see the always incredible Biffy Clyro play their first live gig in about 6 months in the cool-as-fuck town that is Swindon. No really, its got a roundabout made up of 5 other roundabouts. And a decrepid leisure centre. A decrepid leisure centre with a basketball hall big enough for Biffy to come along and melt some faces. The night and the show were incredible for a million reasons, and that number is not far off the number of times I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them. ‘Glitter and Trauma’ played at a bit of a turning point in my life 7 years ago, so I always feel a bit indebted to this band.

I really hate being one of those ‘Oh I like their old stuff way more than their new stuff’ type of guys’, so much so I feel like going out and buying a second-hand jumper and a £50 haircut, but I really do. I appreciate their more recent stuff, but not in the same way as tracks from their first three albums affect me. So that’s why one of the highlights of the sweaty Swindon gig was hearing a handful of new songs from a forthcoming DOUBLE LP. Capital letters are entirely appropriate here. This isn’t going to be some Stadium Arcadium claptrap bullshit, this is going to be some beefy shit. Or at least, based on the news songs, I’m hoping that’s the case.

To bolster my hopes, the band themselves have come out and said that this DOUBLE LP will be for ‘lost fans’ who may have drifted off with the more poppy recent releases. Mind you, the DOUBLE LP won’t just be face-melting spine-breaking toe-squashing rock. Simon Neill has been quoted as saying:

There are a couple of songs that are written entirely on keyboards, string sounds, and I guess Phil Collins-type electro beats behind it.”

So hey, perhaps I should without my judgement and avoid getting too excited. Perhaps not. I wanted to post one of their new songs from recent live shows , but the sound quality is poor. So here’s something older and more delicious to satiate our appetites until then.

Various Cruelties – F.E.A.R. (Ian Brown Cover)

Various Cruelties have put their spin on the Ian Brown classic – F.E.A.R. It creeps moodily along before erupting with a ferocius guitar solo that does something peculiar to my insides. The track will serve as a b-side to the excellent Chemicals which is soon to be released as a single. Tasty. Find F.E.A.R. just below.


Gaz Coombes Presents… – Here Come The Bombs

Despite what the weatherman may tell you, this is a glorious time of year. There’s always a great plethora of albums released in the April/May/June window, ideally pitched so that an artist/group can run into festival season on the back of new material. It’s similar to the gloriousness of October/November for gig-going as everyone and their nan seem to have nothing better to do than tour their socks off.

It’s been hard to keep up recently with all the great releases, and harder still to find time to write anything. But we must start somewhere, and this is the record that has stuck out most for me in this barrage of new music. First off, let me get my Gaz Coombes cards on the table. His former band, Supergrass, are one of Oxford’s greatest bands. In fact, Gaz et al grew up in Wheatley, an Oxfordshire village where I spent plenty of my formative years. Gaz was often spotted around the village, and I’m pretty sure his brother may have once worked at Oxford Welcome Break’s KFC (where I also worked). Either that, or Gaz was moonlighting due to his untold love of Kentucky Fried Chicken and wanted easy access. There’s something acutely inspirational about having such talented, creative people living in the same obscure geographical location, so I’ve always been proud to reference this point.

Supergrass parted ways after six albums, and Here Come The Bombs is the debut solo album from Gaz Coombes, formerly the lead vocalist and guitarist of Supergrass. The biggest question on approaching the first listen of the album was just how different from the Supergrass sound would it be. The answer is, it’s very much its own beast, and this is a glorious thing.

‘Hot Fruit’ could easily nestle into the Supergrass back catalogue without too much fuss, with its energetic, hook-laden nature; but an electro edge plays around in the back of the track, giving a taste of something that is expanded upon further on.

Tracks like ‘Whore’ and ‘Sub Divider’ expand upon this thought. Guitars still play an important role, particularly in the closing of the tracks, but the journey to this point is often aided and abetted by the sound of keys and percussion.

Coombes has been creating great pop and rock songs for 20+ years, so it’s no surprise to find that the album just grows as it progresses. A track like ‘Simulator’ has such a simple song structure, but Coombes knows how to make it work. It chugs along in the verses, before erupting in the chorus’ with everything combining together. Coombes voice has always been something to admire, it magnificently binds together everything else surrounding it.

Here Come The Bombs is littered with subtle variety that makes it such an addictive listen which is why I seem to find myself continually coming back to it. Towards the end of the record, ‘Break The Silence’ is Coombes attempt at a euphoric sing along moment: “Break the silence/come on/let it go.” It’s not the most beautiful set of lyrics written down, but it just sounds fantastic. Thus rendering the point of all of what I’ve just written pretty pointless, lest to say, this album is well worth 40 minutes of your time. Or some of your hard-earned cash. And the live show should be pretty tasty too. Roll on October/November.

Here’s a little taste of the album – ‘Break The Silence’