May 9th, 2008

Some Like It Hot, Wave Machines Would Have Probably Preferred It Not More

Granadaland Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 9th, 2008

Wave Machines, Daybreakers, Laboratory Noise and Captain Jack and the King of Hearts. Granadaland at The Love Apple, Bradford

It is a hot night in Bradford and people would rather be on the roadside in the sun outside The Love Apple than inside watching Captain Jack and The King of Hearts and they are right to do so. Two kids singing grime, messing about, wasting time. They finish when one falls from the stage and the reaction of the five or six who are inside goes between bemused to amused. Back to the bedroom lads.

Laboratory Noise are an altogether different affair with polish and experience they are Bradford's finest exponents of post-rock soundtracking and perform well coming back from a six month hiatus. They sweep over the room and gain appreciation from the crowd they have pulled off the pavement into the bar.

Finding less apprciation are Daybreakers who seem a band out of place fitting in a little more soft rock than one might expect. They are a tight band and they make the sort of sounds that if you really like Van Morrison you would probably really enjoy but they fail to grab the distracted audience leaving Wave Machine - fourscousers in masks of themselves - to play to a fistful of people late on.

Drawing from Liverpool's pop tradition Wave Machine craft an entertaining tune with single I Go I Go I Go standing out. They look crestfallen when they finish having played to a couple of dozen but a mental note is made to check them out again.

Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 9th, 2008

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May 7th, 2008

What Comes After The (Vampire) Weekend? More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Vampire Weekend at The Cockpit, Leeds

They are nice boys these Vampire Weekend lads - the sort of boys that you read about in book that end with families eating noodle salad in the Hamptons - but they will have problems convincing anyone that they are a proper band.

They are active boys - popping around the stage with a nervousness that is not quite energy but is appealing in a way. They say they are happy to be in Leeds for the first time - American bands are always impressed to be where The Who were Live At - and you believe them.

They are polite boys - these Vampire Weekend lads - but they will have problems convincing anyone that they are a proper band.

This is not to say that they are not interesting to watch - interesting rather than enthralling - and that they do not put out a curious tune. In these days where thrashing guitars has become ubiquitous and inane lyrics are only matched by cod-psychology in the outpourings of musicians they make a welcome change to both. The African rhythms have only experienced the continent via Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon but those are interesting influences to have and certainly make Vampire Weekend stand out.

When they were first touted Vampire Weekend were dubbed as The Strokes playing Graceland and the latter half of that is true. The band lack the swagger of The Strokes though and all that goes with that swagger. Excitement is the word I'm talking around. Vampire Weekend are good to appreciate but they are not exciting.

They are a curio trying to carve out a sound for themselves as they are buffeted by a global media who descended on them before they were fully formed and took them from their scene to everybody's scene. They had their name on billboards in Times' Square when they should have still been gigging around building a sound and a following - Okkervil River and The National are on fourth albums and offer something more solid that Vampire Weekend do at the moment. One wonders how long an audience built on the quirkiness - the difference - of this sound can last. One wonders if were it not on heavy MTV rotation the members of Vampire Weekend might not got together and say "Well that was fun doing that Paul Simon stuff but let’s see where else we can go..." rather than carrying on as a covers band playing new material.

None of which is to criticise a good performance at a good gig. They played everything from the self-titled album with Mansard Roof opening, A-Punk standing out and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa being a good finish but most revealing was the new as yet untitled song which showed little progression. The bands that Vampire Weekend draw from were all allowed to move on to and off of a sound onto another.

Where do Vampire Weekend - penned in by the thing that has broken them - go from here?

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

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May 7th, 2008

Dalliance at Live at Leeds More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Le Tournoi, Pulled Apart By Horses, Fourteen Corners, The Sugars, Dinosaur Pile Up, The Debuts, Laura Groves Live At Leeds, Leeds

I'm Michael Wood and I'm late - this is why - and am stuck on a bus next to a woman who thinks you make Hummus with Yoghurt. Leeds is a traffic jam to get into and while I'm here I've missed Heads We Dance and the first half of Le Tournoi at The upstairs bit at Cockpit as the all day get in anywhere with your wrist band event begins.

Le Tournoi have dropped the old organised shambles approach to performance and put together a tighter, more focused set. The new guy Kez provides a focus - something that Bradford music gaffer Mark Husak noted as he booked them to support Lightspeed Champion in a few weeks - and everything about the band rumbles along more efficiently. They lag a few bands in the Bradford scene a little having shot out of the traps initially but they are never anything less than facinating to watch and they end this set strongly in the early heat of the under-roof in Leeds' leading venue.

A walk about downstairs for a pint and cut in front of someone at the bar. faces are familiar and a rush of people head off to Pulled Apart By Horses in the main room and I've heard good things so I head to the front only to be pushed back by the volume of a band who seem to have mistaken loud for melody, vocal acumen or even making sounds that don't sound like car crashes.

I feel disappointed cause I hoped for better and old because I'm at a gig complaining that the music is too loud and I remember hearing Nirvana in a pub in this City and they didn't have to turn everything up to eleven cause they could rock and write a bridge. I still feel old but am justified in being unimpressed.

I'm always impressed with Fourteen Corners who have a new bassist - Hi new guy - and the set of superb tunes that are a cut above almost everything else that will be heard in the City today. Josh tells us he is sweating and Luke offers the audience "It's getting hot in here", arching an impressive eyebrow, "so take off all your clothes."

The idea of Fourteen Corners master stage craft amuses me for a minute and I hear how the songs mix together better now than they did when I first saw them. I talk to Josh later and he says that he thinks Luke is ace on guitar. I like it when bands get on together and that reminds me how the Pixies used to hate each other really and how I got into a discussion with the bloke who I cut in front of at the bar about how The Pixies were not as good as Throwing Muses/Belly because they were not as honest. Fourteen Corners are honest.

The taxi driver who takes us to Brudenell Social Club is not honest and rips us off for a pound but we are just in time to see The Sugars who are a kind of throwback to a time when looking a bit like Elvis was just being fashionable and when singing "Do-Wop" into a microphone - and The Sugars use beauitful looking microphones - did not have you dubbed and dismissed as a do-wop band.

They are a smarter band than they are often given credit for and they have some tunes worth hearing - hear them at the Love Apple soon - and if you like Metric but thought they needed White Stripe levels of energy then get down to see them.

In the end the only gripe with The Sugars is that while the tall blondeness and the grease hair quiff at the front are individually good they lack chemistry in a serious way and they need to get along better.

Getting along - or rather getting - was the order of the day piling back to The Cockpit to see Dinosaur Pile Up who made a fiver taxi ride and a route march past an old work place (Lower Basinghall Street dontchaknow) worthwhile.

Dinosaur Pile Up are Matt Bigland - one time of Mother Vulpine - and a guy playing fuzzy bass and a fuzzy guy playing drums and they are brilliant. They have added three new songs to the set since last time and each one bristles brilliantly with intelligence, with guitar hum and with melody thudded between slabs of noise.

Unlike Pulled Apart By Horses The Pile Up have the control and the belief to bring vocals - My Rock n' Roll brings smiles to the face, I Get My Direction From is pure Pavement - up the mix and let the guitars thump with tunes. They are the best band on today and they show it.

They are the peak and Le Tournoi's drummer James and Tim of the Chiara L's (bloke of a work mate of mine - Hi Lisa) are equally enthused and for a minute the strands of my life push together. In a little while I will be introducing Laura Groves to a man called Greasy.

Next though are The Debuts who are a massive disappointment taking sombre to a place it should not go - disinterested - and missing the diffidence of shoegazing leaving the impression that they would rather the audience were not in the room and on that point I agreed with them.

They attempt a threaded vocal through a layer or two of guitar but fail and come over as neither interesting or energetic and no one really seems to be having much fun although the applause after each song suggests that my views are not universal. I hear myself mumble "All the songs sound the same" and remember hearing someone once say that about my favourite album.

My favourite album of this year could well be the whatever comes out of Laura Groves - and I mean that in a much nicer way that it sounds - and the Shipley singer is spellbinding tonight keeping a roomful of weary gig goers enchanted streaming lyrics around and about and pulling you into her world or trails and optimism.

She plays - in my opinion - her best ever version of Can't Sleep and pulls her soul out for Imaginary Flights. She signs one fan's single afterwards as I queue - with Greasy - to congratulate her on a great performance.

The night was not going to get any better than that so at eight I depart for Bradford happy that my Live at Leeds let me see a fist full of great acts.

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

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May 1st, 2008

Let’s Do That Time Warp Again More

Live Review

Written By Ria Wilkinson Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The Nightflyers Dance Band, The Letter and The Analog Bombs May Day Mayhem - PCS Local Campaign at The Love Apple, Bradford

The evening kicked off in unusual style at the Love Apple with a 14 strong swing music band, The Nightflyers. With a generous 4 saxophone, 3 trombone and 3 trumpet brass sound enriched with a bass, percussion and organ, and occasional flute and clarinet, we were soon aurally transported back to a time when men were besuited cads and bounders and women in tea dresses were grateful for the silk stockings. Foot tapping away and eyes closed, it was easy to picture The Love Apple alive with twirling dresses and brylcreemed hair as people enthusiastically danced together to some of the classics of Swing played tonight.

The Nightflyers deftly worked though a range of material encompassing, but not exclusively, Rat Pack classics, Louis Prima, Glen Miller, Ella Fitzgerald and even Marvin Gaye. Each piece was announced and anecdoted on and this was appreciated by the audience who may not have been overly familiar with Swing music beyond the rehash of it by Westlife et al.

Their set passed quickly and the pleasure of the band performing together was apparent as they threw themselves fully into the music - most notably the trumpet trio - and none more during the penultimate piece, Mas Tequila. Finally, after about an hour, the nostalgic spell was broken and suddenly we back in the room, clad in denim and t-shirts, pints in hand.

After a rapid turn around of the stage area, The Letters arrived to provide a welcomed bridge between the swinging brass and a rather more raucous Analog Bombs later. This was about the fifth gig for the quartet, although singer Kelly admitted they were starting to lose count which I think shows how well they are into their stride, especially with their 8 track set which has become like meeting friends when heard by these reviewers now. They opened with the anthemically stirring Woke Up In The 80s which included Kelly purring names of 80s bands into the mic and giving a period Blondie a run for her money. She was ably abetted by her (mostly) ex-Green trio of men, livewire Rob - trademark beam in place - punishing the percussion, Kev nonchalantly working his black bass whilst Leon made well judged use of the various pedals at his disposal on lead guitar.

After an uplifting start to the set, things turned a little more melancholy as tracks Just Remember and Lemony lingered on weakness and misconceptions of people. Here Kelly’s voice showed it’s range from the more powerful 80s style of Blondie or perhaps Jane Wiedlin to the vulnerable and hurt which also rendered What Do I Do Now? with more despair and sadness than Louise Werner could ever had let herself show on the original version. On Barfly, What Do I Do Now? and These Thoughts, Kelly added some rhythm guitar to add extra depth to the sound yet without overcrowding the melody and vocals - frequently misjudged by many a band currently. It’s a rare commodity that The Letters possess to have confidence to keep things simple and understated and literally let the music speak for itself. No gimmicks, no grandiose arrangements, just versatile vocals over skilled instrumentation which shows the maturity both musically and personally of the collective. The set draws to a close with Flurry and then to lift the spirits and to mirror the opener, Drive is the final song to leave the audience humming as they head towards the bar.

So with Swing music from the 1940s and if The Letters are waking up in the 1980s, did this mean perhaps Analog Bombs might give us a glimpse of music from 2020s? Well if that was the case then, it’s all going to be back to as early as the 1960s through to the early 80s for post punk, 2 Tone and generally psychedelic inspired noises. Where The Letters may have a more experienced and professional sheen to their band that gives excellent cohesion, Analog Bombs are all about the entropy of alcohol and cobbling it together as it goes on stage.

They are the loveable rogues of the Bradford music scene and never less that totally entertaining as distinctive singer Ben lurched about with the mike stand on stage, Magners bottle a fixture in his hand, and nearly took out guitarist Lee and simultaneously quenched the thirst of a large amp with some Fosters. However, disaster was averted by the observations and snappy reflexes of the relative new comer to the band, bassist Rick. He has really come out of his shell since his debut and apart from ska-skipping as he played, he already seemed integral to the group as Ben pointed out at one stage, almost ruefully, that Rick knew the lyrics better than he. Into the third song, one of his bass strings went and Rick valiantly played on as a mate attempted a Formula 1 type string change.

That change took more work so, the rest of the band filled with a bass free interlude of a lighter track, and The Letters Kev lends his bass for another song until the problem was rectified. Analog Bombs ran through various songs that are well loved like Lola , Hancock and their ode to the infamous Tumblers and several people were up on their feet giving it some of the hoppy, skippy ska dancing and clearly loved this exuberant, scruffy and charismatically chaotic ending to an evening of music that crossed both genre and time.

Written By Ria Wilkinson Thursday, May 1st, 2008

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April 28th, 2008

The Letter Keep it Simple to Rise Above the Sum of Their Influences More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, April 28th, 2008

The Letters, Sharp Darts, Geek at The PM Freestyle Lounge, Shipley

Sharp Darts include a cover of The Strokes Last Night in their set. They perform it faithfully and entertainingly but as they play through that and the rest of a set of song early in the day at The PM Freestyle Lounge in Shipley one is left with the impression that the band will struggle to be more than the sum of the parts they put together.

Which is not to say that they are not admirable - not as impressive as The Swing Movement perhaps but still not without their merits - just that the Strokes with a dash of Babyshambling lyrics and the de rigeur swagger leaves them rather predictable. They go up and down because - well - that is where bands like this go up and down and while the vocal gets lost under the impossible to master sound of this converted loft venue the band earn and deserve the applause at the end of their set.

Dalliance is in Shipley to greet The Letters who are performing gig number four in slot number three in the all day event. Guitarist Leon Carroll will leave the stage unhappy saying he made too many mistakes but he starts out impressively and ends too harsh a critic as the band work well with their charisma and simplicity coming through.

Simplicity being an underrated virtue in this world where post-rock's complicated soundscapes are increasingly common and The Letters are never better than when they had a guitar, a bass and a set of drums banging out classic (indie) pop tunes in a verse/chorus/verse structure which boils down the melting pot of experience into something smaller and purer. They add a second guitar for singer Kelly half way through the set which muddies these waters a little and suits them less well.

New songs are added in the place of covers and The Letters take on a more sombre, more mellow tinge - "I wonder if it is possible/To love somebody’s lies." emotes Kelly showing the potential breadth of the band. They finish off with Drive and Leon is too harsh a critic of his afternoon's work.

Geek follow the path of recent Pavement influenced would be American college bands in West Yorkshire and they soon turn into a wall of noise after starting the set with an inspired guitar flurry.

The vocal is lost and the organ sound superfluous. They play covers from Rocket from the Crypt and one is back to the idea that to impress a band should strive to be more than the sum of their influences and far too often they fail in this.

Written By Michael Wood Monday, April 28th, 2008

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