Monday, 2 February 2009
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Wish me luck.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Realistically, Lovvers shouldn’t be in this situation. They shouldn’t be releasing their debut record on Wichita, home of indie luminaries such as Bloc Party, Los Campisenos! and The Cribs. They’re too messy, too hard to understand, too damn weird – that someone has decided to take a chance on them suggests that the music industry may not be completely out of touch. Lovvers are the kind of band to turn up unannounced, knock your drink over, spit in your face and disappear in a wall of feedback. It's as if Lovvers' main intention is to confuse and aggravate their audiences.
Think clocks in at just under 13 minutes, the 7 songs racing past in a flurry of noise and feedback. Some parts are more immediate than others; opener "Human Hair" recalls the surf guitar meets garage rock stylings of The Make Up, whilst "No Fun" sounds like the slowed down punk rock of Flipper. Most of the vocals are completely unintelligible, save for the odd phrase or word here and there, the wirey guitar sounds over power everything else, pushing the speakers into the red and overloading everything.
As a whole, this record conjures up the spirit of The Birthday Party, not necessarily in sound, but certainly in approach. Though they do at times come close to sounding like the Post-Punk meets junkie fury of Nick Cave's mob, albiet with a slightly more Antioach Arrow/Gravity Records twist, but it's more the attitude and the audacity of them that Lovvers echo. Both bands come across as if they're going to fall apart or implode at any minute, like there's no real way they could sustain such a ferocious and intense performance for any extended period. It's the complete disregard that Lovvers show for their audience that makes them so appealing. Whilst most bands would pander to a crowd, Lovvers are a big "Fuck You" to everyone. The phrase Punk Rock could never be more appropriately used.
Realistically, you probably won't like Lovvers. But then, the best bands are never that popular. Like the first time you heard Bleach, or when you first saw the video for "New Noise" on MTV2, you probably won't understand what all the noise is about. But Lovvers won't care - right now, we need them more then they need us.
More information here and here.
Monday, 8 September 2008
Making the jump from being a hotly tipped, well known local band to being a hotly tipped, fairly well known national band is usually the breaking point for most groups. To go from playing to a full venue with an appreciative audience to playing at some toilet venue in a town you've never heard of, to a crowd consisting of one apologetic looking promoter and his three bored friends, all for a case of 18 warm cans of cheap lager, simply because one magazine tagged you as "Ones To Watch", is more than enough to take the wind out of even the most enthusiastic band's sails. To get 4 people to all agree that this is a great way to spend the next 3 years of their life is a hard task, and is one that will most likely cause a breakup. After all, being in a band is like being in a marriage. Sheffield's Umlaut were no exception.
Started in 2003 by three University friends, Umlaut took to mining that rich vein of influences that is Indie Rock. An obvious comparison to the Pavement is understandable - they're slightly loose in their performances, almost to the point of sloppy, plus there's that monotone vocal delivery, but it all comes together because they can write a proper song. A couple of months later, they added a second guitarist and a whole new bag of influences - Midwest Emo, or Midwestmo, if you will. Taking cues from the likes of Cap'n Jazz and Braid, particularly in the drums, which have that scatter shot, all over the place approach that divides opinion (personally I really like them), Umalut, over the course of an academic year, became the go to support band in Sheffield. They had an actual fan base that wasn't just their friends from halls, they had a demo cd that was getting played in Sheffield's finest Indie clubs and, most importantly, they were actually good, unlike a lot of the bands active at this point.
It was around this time that the music press was writing about the "New South Yorkshire" scene and lots of bands were getting unreasonably hyped (Bromhead's Jacket? Really?) simply by virtue of where they lived. Whilst Umlaut avoided all this, for whatever reason, it probably helped bring them to the attention of Fantastic Plastic. At least for the sake of this blog it did. Fantastic Plastic released the Winter Coat 7" in October 2005. Featuring a re-recording of demo track "Winter Coat" on the a-side and the b-side featuring a post-rock by way of twee song entitled "Professionals", the single gained good reviews and more national exposure. So Umlaut did what any sensible band would do and split up.
By July 2006 they'd played their last ever gig, leaving only one 7" and a demo cd in their wake. Aside from debut single Winter Coat, the demo has two other songs on it: "First Song", which surprisingly, they always played first, and "Lea Green", possibly the only song to feature a chorus of "Twat gave you a car". Typically described as "Cap'n'Jazz meets Hefner in the botanical gardens", these three tracks perfectly encapsulate Umlaut's charm. They're poppy, but not to the point of being a pop band; they're sloppy but in a charming way rather than a can't actually play way; and they're twee but not so twee that you feel like the singer regularly jacks off to Catcher In The Rye. A bit like Los Campesinos! without the knowingly web 2.0 lyrics. And they use an old Casio keyboard, which is always nice.
A final thought: their last gig suffered from some sound problems. After some calls to "turn the guitar up", one audience member called for them to "turn your commitment up". A fine heckle indeed.
Some of the dates in this blog might be off. I'm guessing some of them. Why not use the comments section to tell me how wrong I am.
Monday, 1 September 2008
A good band name is a rare thing – if even the most influential pop group of all time has a name that fulfils Homer Simpson’s criteria of being initially witty, yet subsequently less and less funny every time you hear it, then what hope does your shithouse band have? Personally, I always find that sticking a swear word in there helps. I probably wouldn’t go and see The Champs but The Fucking Champs? They’ve got to be good. The one exception to this rule is Jackie-O Motherfucker. Great name, but they’re one of the worst bands I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Milburn.
Thankfully, Guildford’s The Shitty Limits live up to their moniker. Their sound has been described as a combination of “60s Garage, 70s Punk and 80's Hardcore” which pretty much hits the nail on the head – they’re loud, fast, snotty and yet still melodic. They’ve pretty much distilled the best bits of the last 30 years of punk music into succinct 2 minute bursts of noise. They’ve got the garage riffs, the hardcore rhythms and the right attitude, right down to refusing to be involved with the NME – The Shitty Limits are essentially a lesson in punk rock. Name any band in that is considered in any way punk and you can see how The Shitty Limits have taken a cue from them. The Stooges, The Sonics, Wire, Minor Threat, Black Flag, it's all there. But don't mistake them for some sound alike band - The Shitty Limits are their own band, they have their own sound, they can play with the best of them. Just do yourself a favour and listen to them.
And no, it's not just a clever name.
For more music, and free downloads of all their records, head to myspace.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
October sees the release of the band’s second album, The Chemistry of Common Life on Matador Records, which the band describes as “an expansive epic about the mysteries of birth, death, and the origins of life (and re-living)."
From the get-go, it’s clear that Fucked Up are making the most of their new label’s recording budget. Opening track 'Son the Father' features a flute, bongos, some synth and lots of guitar tracks. Lots and lots of guitar tracks. It also features some questionable, overly sassy backing vocals, which reappear at the end of the record. It seems that Fucked Up are trying to avoid falling back on their standard hardcore sound, almost as if they’re trying to distance themselves from it or prove that they’re not limited by it, which is understandable considering how long they’ve been together and what Year Of The Pig sounded like.
One of the problems with hardcore records, and especially the “classic” hardcore records, is that they all suffer from poor recording and production. More often then not, it’s hard to reproduce the intensity of a live band on record, making the band sound flat or lifeless when in reality they’re anything but. Oddly, The Chemistry of Common Life almost suffers from being too well produced; there seems to be so many guitar tracks and additional overdubs that it creates a dirge like effect at points, notably on 'Days of Last.' It’s kind of similar to the approach that Oasis or any number of bands in the mid to late 90s; too much coke in the control room perhaps. If you think the Oasis comparison is weird, 'Crooked Head' sounds like 'Rings Around the World' by Super Furry Animals.
The second half of this record lags a bit; it’s not until 'Twice Born' that it picks up again. Of all the songs, this is probably the one most reminiscent of Hidden World. It’s your standard Fucked Up affair – Poison Idea-style hardcore with a bit too much compression. It also marks the reappearance of the female backing vocals from the beginning of the album – they provide a sassy response to Damian’s call of “hands up if you think you’re the only one.” Whilst it veers a little close to sounding like the guy from Blood Brothers, it still ranks as one of the stand out tracks.
Despite being a whole twenty minutes shorter then their debut, The Chemistry of Common Life still seems too long. A lot of it comes across as wholly unremarkable and passes by without really doing anything, and in doing so it high lights the problem with Fucked Up – they’re just not that good. Undeniably, they are a great live band; however, on record, and especially on this record, they fail to do anything to elevate themselves from being an above average band to an amazing one. If you get the chance, and you probably will considering their touring schedule, go and see them live. If maybe a cliché, but they really are better live.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that there's a big shoegaze influence on this record. Lots of swooshing guitars. An abundance of wah, if you will.
Fucked Up - Son the Father
(click on the icon to play the song)