30 Mar 2014

PAUL THOMAS SAUNDERS - Beautiful Desolation

I've listened to this album at least ten times before putting proverbial pen to paper. I wanted to give it every chance to impress itself on me because I have a great deal of time for the artist, who I saw in concert at Northumbria University back in October 2013 when he (and his band) outshone a stellar bill. Also, I absolutely LOVE the song 'Let The Carousel Display You & I' which somehow fails to make the debut album; indeed it's probably my favourite song of last year. 

So, what's my beef with Beautiful Desolation? It starts really well with the gorgeous 'Kawai Celeste' on which Saunders' voice floats above a soaring landscape of guitar and synth. The lyrics are hard to decipher due to the vocal treatment but it's not a song to study. rather one to lose yourself to. This makes it rather an odd choice for opening track then, you might think; usually these sort of songs are reserved for the climactic ending right? Yes, but that's the issue I have with this album - all of the songs could be the final track to another album - they all transport the listener to a higher place where mood matters over all else. But that simply doesn't work for a whole album ... not for me at least. 

Individually there are a some great songs here - 'Good Women' sounds like a top-notch Rhye song - perfect for a slow snog at the 80's disco, whilst 'In High Heels Burn It Down' would probably have pushed the aforementioned LTCDY&I for my record of the year had it been released in 2013 and as a standalone track. That's the real shame of this album for me, some fantastic songs are made to sound ordinary because of the company they keep; there's too little light and shade, way too much production and way way too much euphoria. It's a bit like having a strong roast coffee and spoiling it with 6 sugars. 

Even when the wall of noise abates somewhat, as on 'Santa Meurte's Lightning and Flare' the production is so sickly sweet that you'd be hard pushed to differentiate it from any of the other songs on offer here. 

I really hate not loving this record. I may ration myself to a track per week for the next 10 weeks and then re-appraise but for now I have to conclude that it just contains too much of a good thing. I hope the band visit Newcastle again soon so I can apologise in person and witness another great live rendition of these songs. 

Words: Russell Poad


I have recently been reading some Philip K. Dick. If you don’t know him, Dick was a critically acclaimed American science-fiction author who wrote some 44 novels and countless short stories before his life was sadly cut short by a fatal stroke. In his novels, Dick plays around with a polymorphous set of themes, ranging from metaphysics to theology to nihilism and everything in between, but the theme that comes through strongest is Dick’s complete disregard for what we might call reality. In ‘Ubik’, for example, he writes of a world disintegrating and regressing to earlier times; in ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’ he writes about a drug-induced stupor that renders reality and unreality completely indistinguishable; and in ‘Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said’, he tells us the story of a famous TV presenter who wakes up one morning to find that his identity has been erased and no-one recognises him despite his worldwide popularity. In all these novels and beyond, Dick plays with reality, bending it, twisting it, and concocting intoxicating parallel existences that leave you, the reader, feeling utterly disorientated as you try to work out if what you’re reading is ‘actually happening’ or just happening in the mind of the novel’s protagonist. Usually, you can’t definitively work out which it is. 
I mention all of this because this very same disorientation greeted me again when listening to The Diaphanoids new album, entitled ‘LSME’ and released on Tirk Recordings. The Diaphanoids are actually a duo, made up of Andrea Bellentani and Simon Maccari, perhaps better known as ‘Blakula!’, the name under which they have released three previous albums. The press release describes The Diaphanoids as Bellentani and Maccari’s ‘Space-Psycho Rock Project’, and in hindsight this is indeed a fairly accurate description of this album. I would probably add the prefix ‘Post’ to the word ‘Rock’, however. Pedantic terminology squabbling aside, this album beautifully combines elements of downtempo, ambient, and psychedelic post-rock, then sprinkles pretty much every drug both from the pharmacy and from the street on top. The result is something that sounds part hallucinogenic and part messianic, as soaring guitar riffs tremble over the top of soft, fuzzy, analogue sounding drum arrangements and twisted, garbled synth noises dance haphazardly between the lines. 
Yet this doesn’t mean that all the songs melt into a single pot of droning noise. Far from it. The tempos are varied, and in each different song The Diaphanoids taketh sounds away with one hand as they addeth new sounds in with the other. My favourite song on here is the bafflingly named ‘Alltheconstellationsouttherearen'tworthapinpointofliquidlightinyoureyes’, the only one without any drums. It’s a lovely piece of deftly constructed ambient music which somehow shimmers with an urgent undercurrent of energy. Then we get the epic 8 minute long ‘The Blackest Sun’, a journey through a tunnel of emotional peaks and troughs. The guitar riffs writhe and scream with emotion over the top of a ritualistic drum beat, and odd other-worldly automated sounds oscillate in and out of the foreground. Across all 482 seconds of it, it’s never boring. It holds your attention as you wonder what sort of cosmic emission that guitar is going to hurl at you next. Mechanically ordered chaos at its very best.  
The album opener ‘55th Dimension Nervous Breakdown’, which could be title of a Dick novel, has a similar sort of pounding, unrelenting beat but at a higher tempo, while ‘You Can’t Shine If You Don’t Burn’ drags things down to a slower, gently flickering speed. Tinges of oriental flavour permeate the song, and that guitar goes from strident to stifled as it chimes out a muffled electronic plea for help. ‘How Can I Distinguish Sky From Earth If They Keep On Changing Their Place’, which could also be the title of a Dick novel, is also good, driven by a repeating but somehow not repetitive bass tone. What’s more, the penultimate ‘Our Own Private Elsewhere’ is definitely the most ‘acid’ song you’ll find here. It’s distinctly strange: I feel like if motion sickness came with an accompanying soundtrack, this would be it. It bubbles and gurgles and sloshes around noisily, and the only thing that keeps you tethered to your sanity is, again, this ritualistic throbbing beat which tugs you along. Album closer ‘These Nights Wear Three Heads Five Arms And Ten Legs’ (what is it with these guys and song titles?) is the culmination of its predecessor, complete with riffs that the mentalist guitar player Yngwie Malmsteen would surely approve of. 
Throughout the entire album this Dick-like theme of disintegrating reality persists. Have you seen the film Gravity? It’s a bit like the scenes in that where Sandra Bullock is spinning around in outer-space. It’s that sort of feeling of not knowing what is happening; what sounds are coming; what that guitar will do next; whether or not that faraway synth will accelerate towards you or continue to lurk uneasily in the acoustic shadows. Yet like when you read Dick, you emerge out of the other end not knowing exactly what’s just happened, but you feel richer for it nonetheless. Deliberately and consciously creating this sort of unreality is masterful, whether in written word or musical composition. The Diaphanoids may benefit from a quiet word from the record label about the length of their song titles, but sonically this is astounding. 
In terms of criticisms, musically I don’t really have any. This album does what it sets out to do very well. The only thing I would perhaps say is that the order of the songs is wrong. I would never have put the slow burning ‘You Can’t Shine If You Don’t Burn’ straight after the more upbeat opener, and I would probably have had the ambient piece ‘Alltheconstellations…’ as the album closer as a way of winding it down. But, I suppose, you could argue that the organisation of the tracklist adds an extra dimension to that feeling of psychedelic disorientation, somewhat akin to being turned upside down by a tidal wave just after you’ve been floating around peacefully on an inflatable lilo. 
All in all, this is an album that I rather like, and I think Philip K. Dick would too. Indeed, he once said of his novels that “I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards.” Such a quote, for me, perfectly sums up what I think The Diaphanoids set out to do with this album. And I think they’ve succeeded. Therefore, if you like ambient music, post-rock, downtempo, or indeed anything with psychedelic overtones, you’ll at the very least find this album an intriguing and thoughtful listen.  

Words: Matthew Scott

25 Mar 2014

FALL OUT BOY at Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle - 21st March 2014

The Metro Radio Arena housed nearly every former Myspace kid in the North East last Friday, as fans were transported back to days of good-hearted Emo Pop lyrics and boy band crushes. 

Fall Out Boy performed almost every ‘corker’ from their five album backtrack which easily pleased both old and new followers of the American quartet.

The Pretty Reckless set the scene for the crowd which proved bad-ass front girl Taylor Momsen to be a little more than just ‘Cindy Lou’ from The Grinch.

Gig goers opened their ears to a harder kind of Rock which reflected Momsen’s influences from legendary icons such as Joan Jett and Kurt Cobain in such a male dominated genre.

The set was extended to make up for a missing support act, New Politics, who seemingly had a slight run in with the authorities on the road to Geordie land, ooer.

Yet the crowd seemed to eat up the rebellious sounds and enviably cool personas found in New York City’s grungiest rockers.
The venue went pitch black and the crowd roared as the speakers began to echo the distinct voice of everyone’s favourite frontman, Patrick Stump.

Fall Out Boy cropped up on stage sporting mysterious black balaclavas to match-up with the ‘Save Rock and Roll’ tour theme drawn from their latest genius album.

Everything about the performance carried such a strong sense of Rock music’s revival with Pete Wentz himself exclaiming that this genre was never dead to begin with.

Crowd Pleasers, ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’ and ‘Dance, Dance’, came from ‘Under The Cork Tree’ and sent the crowd into a frenzy as they rewound to teeny bopper years where Kerrang! Music channel was treat as the Holy Grail. 

They continued to surprise as they suddenly appeared on the middle stage to perform a two song acoustic piece including hardcore fan favourites, ‘Chicago Is So Two Years Ago’ and ‘Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy’.

Patrick, Pete, Joe and Andy effortlessly proved the reincarnation of Fall Out Boy’s music to a sea of awe-struck and dedicated followers, jumping back from darker times during the band’s two year hiatus.

Recent chart hits ‘My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)’ and ‘Save Rock and Roll’ uplifted the crowd and welcomed them in to the super group’s reimagined world and image. 

An emotional Fall Out Boy left Newcastle with a real ‘Infinity On High’, making no secret of the fact that they were saved because of Alt fans who remained loyal to their music.

Words: Amber Ahmed
Photo: Mike Massaro

24 Mar 2014


We're branching out into live music promotion this week - here are the details:

FRIDAY 28th March 2014   at   THE CLUNY 2, Newcastle


On the road to promote their blistering debut album Pink Fur, don't miss the chance to see this band in an intimate venue while you still have the chance.


The perfect support for this gig and a local indie rock band that never stop improving. It's only a matter fo time before they're 'discovered' so get ahead of the crowd and don't miss their set. 

Doors 8pm

Stage times - 

Tissue Culture 8-30pm
Post War Glamour Girls 9-30pm

Tickets available here until 4pm on Thursday 27th March. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/260797#.UzBXmxwaWkI

Tickets also available on the door.  



We're branching out into live music promotion this week - here are the details:

THURSDAY 27th March 2014   at   THE CLUNY, Newcastle

As part of our ongoing fundraising efforts we're putting on EIGHT great local artists/bands for a mere £5 entry. 

This is only possible due to the generosity of the performers who are giving their time for free, and the venue. We'd like to place on record our gratitude. 


The Unreliable Narrator  
Singer/songwriter Chris Whiting has a unique style of performing, often utilising different vocal styles within his clever, witty and original songs. He'll be joined by a new collaborator, his sister Ruth, for this gig. 


Paige Temperley & Allan Hyslop
These two were made to sing together. Paige is known for her sweet and charming vocal style as well as her fine songwriting, both of which she now employs within the popular group Oursleves & Us. Allan is lead singer and songwriter for upcoming band Kosoti and was formerly lead in James Allan & Co. 


The Shooting Of...
Paul Jeans has been around the local music scene for some time in various guises (most notably perhaps Jeans Goes Pop and The Lindsay Tin) and his latest project gives him the chance to show off his songwriting craft and musicianship to the max.


Gem Andrews
I read somewhere that Gem sings 'dark country ballads' and whilst that's true, it misses out the fact that she has a voice reminiscent of K D Lang. A fantastic and underrated talent. 


What We Call Progress
John Pattison and David Young wouldn't be out of place as members of Radiohead. The music may be synth-based but there's nothing synthetic about the emotion in John's voice. They've some new songs to showcase at the gig. 

Meghann Clancy
Despite her young age Meghann has been a stalwart of the local folk/acoustic scene for some time and is known for her delicate and beautiful songs and vocal talent. 

Peculiar Disco Moves
The North East's most quirky, fun band. Like Ben Folds Five with a sense of humour. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

So What Robot
There's no better way to finish off a night like this than with the cheerful guitar pop of So What Robot. Great guys, great tunes, great musicianship, great entertainment. 

You can buy tickets in advance here - up until 6pm on Wednesday 26th March. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/260798#.UzBU5RwaWkI

There will also be tickets on the door. 

BARRY DOUGLAS - Schubert: Works for Solo Piano, Volume 1

The latest release by Barry Douglas is a volume of piano works by Schubert, incorporating some very well known pieces of his compositional output, alongside other, lesser known pieces.

The ‘Piano Sonata in B flat’ is a quiet and reflective way to open the album, broadening out to becoming more majestic towards the end of the first movement then becoming withdrawn and full of stasis in the next. The third movement becomes full of life, and then finishes with another reflective movement. This is an interesting opening to Douglas’ album, and paves the way for piano playing which is both quiet and unassuming, moving towards an extrovert character in other parts of the album.

I am a huge fan of lieder: I love the style of having a piano and a voice which, to me, is such a simple way to experience music. I was excited to see that two lieder features on Douglas’ album. However, in this case, they are transcribed for solo piano by none other than Franz Liszt,. ‘Du bist die Ruh’ is a slow, moving piece of music which has a slight sentimentality to it which Douglas’ manages with great care, climbing up from the quietness to the grand crescendos and back again with careful consideration. The next, ‘Ungeduld’ focusses more on a quick tempo with a melody line which soars above the accompaniment in a playful way. Douglas pulls around with this a little, slowing down and speeding up again before the audience expects it, putting his stamp on a piece of music which has been beautifully transcribed by Liszt. 

The last piece, ‘Fantasy in C major’ is a safe choice, and showcases one of Schubert’s favourite styles to write in: a fantasy. The album notes suggest that he was drawn to this form because the title was ‘non-prescriptive’ and because the form did not have to be prescribed such as with sonata form. Douglas’ playing throughout the whole fantasy conveys the wandering freedom of , drawing out the lyricism (especially in the second movement) and virtuosity. Every movement runs together flawlessly, and the listener has the sense of wandering in and out of various musical thoughts and moods with Douglas. 

Overall this is a ‘nice’ album: it is not anything massively flamboyant and manages to showcase various aspects of Barry Douglas’ playing, without being too much of a ‘show-off’ about it. 

Words: Emma Longmuir

METRONOMY at O2 Academy, Newcastle - 20th March 2014

I always make a point of catching the support band. At the very least it helps to build anticipation for the main act and sometimes you can discover a rare gem. Support for this gig was electro-pop band Virginia Wing. Sadly, they fall into neither category. In fact, a new category should be created for worst ever support act. I don't say such things lightly; I can't play or sing so who am I to criticise? However, it irks me that this prime support slot could have been filled by a band with greater imagination, ability and conviction - I can think of many local bands who'd have been far better suited to the event and who would have benefitted greatly from the exposure. Virginia Wing had a great drummer. The rest of the band looked uninterested. The bassist must have played a maximum of 3 notes during the 6 or 7 song set. The vocalist was so flat and out of tune as to be embarrassing. Sorry, they were dreadful. 

Metronomy had a task to wake me from my Virginia Wing malaise. Thankfully the crowd had been sparse until the headliners arrived on stage and so others weren't similarly afflicted. From the outset there was a hardcore of bouncing youth front and centre, helping to create a genuine party atmosphere. Like party organisers, complete with Butlins-esque matching jackets and trousers, Metronomy ignited the majority with a set full of upbeat and cheery songs. 

The band played expertly and all of the hits were rolled out as well as a healthy dose of new album 'Love Letters.' Maybe it was me but I was still left a little cold by it all. The band are fairly static during performance (bassist Gbenga Adelekan aside) and tunes that weave a crafty delight on record can sound a little flimsy and twee live. I found myself comparing the gig to one I'd seen a week earlier when Chvrches had blown me away with a much fuller sound than I'b been expecting. This compared poorly, but again I'm aware that the implied criticism is perhaps a little unfair; you go to a Metronomy gig to see and hear Metronomy not Chvrches. Those who managed to get into the spirit of the gig seemed to enjoy it very much indeed. 

Words: Russell Poad
Phot: Daniel Robson

23 Mar 2014

CONCERT PREVIEW - SAMLING MASTERCLASS at Sage Gateshead - 26th-29th March 2014

For the past 18 years Samling has attracted the best in the world to its prestigious Masterclass programme for outstanding young classical singers and pianists.

From the 250 plus artists who have benefitted from the residential courses to the world class stars who lead them, North East audiences have been treated to an experience that is usually out of reach, and given the chance to see, close up,  world class performances as they are created.

World renowned North East baritone Sir Thomas Allen will lead Samling’s second Masterclass of 2014, with acclaimed accompanist Malcolm Martineau and the American vocal guru Stephen King, who comes to Samling for the first time from Houston Grand Opera in the United States.  

The expert team will be working with six singers and three pianists in a public Masterclass on Wednesday 26 March at 2pm in Northern Rock Foundation Hall, Sage Gateshead and the intensive week reaches its climax in a concert on Saturday 29 March at 7pm in Hall Two, Sage Gateshead in a lively programme of opera arias, ensembles and song.

Tickets are priced £10 for Masterclass and £15 for the Concert, with a joint ticket for both events £22 and are available from Sage Gateshead

ABBA - Waterloo (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

In 1974 ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with the title track from their second studio album, Waterloo. To mark the 40th anniversary of the win and the album's international release it's getting a 'deluxe' re-release on 7th April. 

Some of the songs will be familiar to all of a certain age; 'Hasta Manana', 'Ring Ring', 'Honey Honey', 'Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)', and the title track. The reason we remember these songs (and perhaps none of the others) is that they have tremendous melodic quality. The lyrics may seem a little simple and dated but a good tune never grows old. 

Sadly, the quality control department were out to lunch when some of the other tracks made it onto the record. Particular mention has to go to the truly awful 'Sitting In A Palmtree' on which Bjorn takes lead vocal (so imagine a Swedish man attempting to emulate a West Indian to an irritating reggae influenced musical backdrop - excruciating). 

So, the basic album is about 50% great and 50% awful but this isn't the basic album, it's "DELUXE"!! So what else do you get? Well, multi-linguists are in for a treat as you get 5 versions (yes FIVE) of the tile track - French, German, Swedish, English and Alternate Mix. Then there's foreign language versions of Honey Honey and Hasta Manana and a remix of Ring Ring. I think it's fair to say that this is a bit of a completest's dream but for the rest of us it may seem a little bit too much of a good thing. 

Apparently there's a DVD release to co-incide if that isn't enough for you! 

Words: Rachel Jean 

THE BAND FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION - The Band For Disease Control And Prevention

Maria Mackman & Antony Bircham are, they claim in their press release, "solely responsible for the calculated racket" on their splendidly titled band and debut album. The overall sound is a relentless onslaught of thundering drums, spiky punk guitar and yelped vocals. In many ways it harks back to the heady punk days of 1977 but the heart here is completely contemporary. The songs touch on a range of sometimes taboo subjects like mental health, religious hypocrisy,  conflict, despair, truth and self pity.

The albums kicks of with 'Form' that begins with some weird guitar effects that rumble like a thundercrack before Mackman asks us a series of questions and screams "no one knows what I'm really thinking of" while the guitars roar impressively behind her. The songs are, for the most part, short, punchy and sweet and before you know it we are into 'Pert Plastic' with a healthy dose of feedback and a crunching guitar line as Mackman seemingly descends into depression with a spooky, scratchy guitar solo moving things along.

The songs are somewhat similar across the album but this helps to give it coherence and strength. The duo clearly draw influences from a wide spectrum from within the well of punk and elsewhere, you can hear the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and even a splash of X-Ray Spex (in a good way). This convergence of influences is clearest on 'Self Pity Me' that rides out on a riff that shares it's roots with Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' and draws on some Black Sabbath too and there's in a nice borrowed line that I know from somewhere but can't place in "I never want to wait for the storm to pass - I just want to dance in the rain". 

'April of the Fool' initially slows the frantic pace a little but soon has the guitar thrashing away behind  Mackman's chanted scary vocal. The remaining songs thunder along in a high octane way breezing along until we hit the twin peaks of 'Man of God' which is an angry chant of sheer horror with treated vocal and roaring guitars. Too soon we reach the final track and unlike the short and thrilling preceding songs 'Strawberry Day' has a huge epic quality as it rolls across its eight minute duration. It begins with a ghostly synthesiser, stately piano, some scratched guitar and a rumble of drums before the banshee wail of Mackman smashes back in and the layered guitars crank things up to end on a real raucous high point with Mackman screaming "Where Are You Now?" and a  superb blasting riffing coda ending proceedings.

So, it's an impressive debut and a welcome antidote to the anti-septic and anaemic music that seems to surround us today. If you want to hear an album that is stuffed with guts, balls and stomping big riffs then this one is for you.

Words: Greg Johnson 

SIBELIUS Violin Concerto, Karelia Suite, Finlandia, Valse triste, Andante festive, Valse lyrique, The Swan of Tuonela – Jennifer Pike with Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis

Jennifer Pike shot to fame in 2002 when she became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year at the tender age of 12. Since then she has studied at the Guildhall and Oxford University and released numerous recordings including a world premiere of Schulz violin concerto by the contemporary Australian composer.

I know the Sibelius concerto well, having been given a recording featuring eminent South Korean Dong-Suk Kang as a young violinist myself. Pike to my ear has the exact right style for the Finnish composer’s only full length concerto – a somewhat sinuous tone which slides and glides wrought with passion over the full range of the violin. The tricky nature of the concerto is neither made to sound too easy nor strained, rather I was left in awe at her technique and poise. 

The violin enters on a shimmering carpet of strings, beautifully balanced (to the point of disappearing). The beginning of this first movement feels like the calm before the storm, and Pike’s tone initially very much matches the tone of the orchestra. Soon, however, Sibelius develops things in a more agitated direction, leading to the tuneful and interactive cadenza between violin and orchestra. The slow movement features the woodwind and horns interspersing with the solo violin. Although the key is B flat major there is throughout an ominous presence, emphasised by the heavy bass line and the pulsing strings. Pike’s playing in this movement has an urgency and commitment which truly makes her stand out as the violinist of her generation. In the bouncy final movement, once compared to ‘a polonaise for polar bears’, the orchestra feels expertly guided by Sir Andrew Davis, leading into a glorious rendition of the triumphant melody.

A selection of Sibelius’ orchestral works form the rest of the Super Audio CD. Most of these are familiar jolly works full of brass fanfares and soaring string sounds, although there are also calmer treats such as the beautiful Swan of Tuonela (cor anglais Hege Sellev├ąg, cello Jonathan Aasgard) and the moving Andante festivo scored for string orchestra and timpani. It seems a shame Jennifer Pike is not featured any further, but the Bergen Philharmonic certainly make the recording their own with these tracks and enjoy the warmth and tonality of Sibelius.

Words: Katie Lodge

22 Mar 2014

GIG PREVIEW - FOREIGNER and EUROPE at Newcastle City Hall on 4th April 2014

With worldwide sales of almost 80 million albums Foreigner is one the most successful rock groups of the last four decades.

Tickets for the bands date in Newcastle sold out in record time, and it’s no surprise either, as fans are eager to celebrate the return of Mick Jones – the bands sole remaining founding member – who took a sabbatical for health reasons following the release of 2009’s ‘Can’t Slow Down.’

With their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – presided over by none other than Billy Joel – Foreigner have surpassed their equals in terms of status and recognition – hits like ‘Cold As Ice’ and ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ receiving modern airplay thanks in part to their inclusion in the popular Grand Theft Auto videogame series – proving that good music always lives on.

Providing support on the night are Sweden’s original Scandinavian rocker’s Europe, whose timeless melodies speak for themselves, and who also received a revival of sorts on the touring circuit following 2009’s ‘Last Look at Eden’ – 2013 saw Europe celebrate their 30th anniversary as a group and this is a rare chance to see the headliners play a supporting role.

Words: Wayne Madden

21 Mar 2014

SPACE & REPUBLICA at O2 Academy, Newcastle - 19th March 2014

Cards on the table. I approached this gig with some concern. The only Space song I recalled from the 90's was ' Female of the Species' which I'd never liked purely because of the way in which vocalist Tommy Scott delivers the "is more deadly than the male" part of the lyric; for some reason it's always grated on me. My problem with Republica was that I only recalled 'Ready To Go' and whilst I liked it, I also thought it had been played to death and so I wasn't eager to hear it again. I also had a bit of an issue with the pairing of what seemed to me two very different bands. Would it work? 

The O2 Academy (2) was a good venue for the gig. By the time Space took to the stage it was nicely full and a jovial party atmosphere existed amongst the predominantly 30-50 year old and slightly merry crowd. 

From the opening song I realised I'd misjudged Space. Their performance was very credible and confident. Not at all 'revivalist' in feel. New songs blended well with old favourites and whilst I still can't fully appreciate 'FOTS' I did recall and enjoy others that had slipped from my mind including 'Neighbourhood', 'Avenging Angels', 'Me & You Vs The World' and of course (how COULD I have forgotten) 'The Ballad of Tom Jones'  complete with projected Cerys Matthews looking and sounding very good indeed. Of the new material 'She's in Love With the Boy in the Bodybag' stood out for me. Quirky and entertaining in a good way. 

In the short time it took for co-headliners Republica to take the stage a few of the Space fans had departed leaving me to conclude that maybe others had shared my misgivings regarding this rather odd amalgamation. 

The band's opening song was good and had my feet tapping but around 4 songs in it all started to sound a little 'samey.' Also it occurred to me that lead singer Saffron seemed a little nervous, waving to the front row like they were long lost friends who might be relied upon to return a confidence boosting smile.  Thankfully, as the set continued confidence seemed to grow and by the time the song everyone had waited for ('Ready To Go') arrived the band had truly hit their straps. 

I left feeling that perhaps I'd be better off suspending judgement next time. Whilst the billing of these two bands together didn't quite work I'd had a very enjoyable night and left with a renewed interest in Space's back catalogue.  

Words: Russell Poad
Photo: Mike Noble

RADKEY at Cluny, Newcastle - 1st March 2014

I don’t think I can start a gig in this part of the world without commenting on the depressing state of Mother Nature. The wind and the rain give credence to that simple fact. I’ve been dragged away from my cosy fireside to review a performance I’m almost (unfairly) doing a massive disservice to before I’ve even arrived at the venue. Objectivity is needed and that is what you’ll find here tonight.

Support comes from Turbogeist – who I’ve heard of – and Lyger (who I’ve not). The former have a great track named ‘Black Hole’ which gets me into a mood for the band ahead while the latter produce a set which is impressive and yet instantly forgettable, though the tracks ‘Stroke’ and ‘Power Struggle’ are worth checking out.

When I first heard the name Radkey it was in relation to an obscure covering of a Faith No More track. Taking this as somewhat of a sign that the group had done their homework I was impressed at their ability to source such a song as opposed to simply something from the ‘Greatest Hits.’ 

What I didn’t know was that their unique brand of Punky Metal would bring this brotherly trio from Missouri to a cold, wet and dark Newcastle night in Ouseburn. Three teenage brothers – Dee, Isaiah and Solomon – are causing somewhat of a sensation, following the White Stripes and Hanson before them. Their energy and enthuse can only be described as 80s Hardcore, a feeling of positivism and happiness in a sea of Punk, which can be heard on tracks like ‘Pretty Things’ and ‘Red Letter.’

Dee, the vocalist and guitarist, is learning to read and write Japanese, something he tells the audience he hopes can be incorporated into future music. Bassist Isaiah has the distinct look of a young Phil Lynott about him and despite not possessing the Irish accent to accompany that could be certainly more than matching in talents. On drums Solomon proudly sports the kind of arms you’d expect to find on Dave Krusen or Cozy Powell and brings a beat to the cymbals which complement the exciting flavour and energy of their craft.

Acting like they could awaken or even reorganise the most disinterested band of individuals, Radkey have a sense of unity about their music, addressing social and political issues, with the song ‘Cat and Mouse’ almost sounding reminiscent of similar work by the Divine Comedy – if not slightly heavier. It’s also got a very Sex Pistols vibe to it, but not because of the sound, rather because of the effect it has on people. This venue is far too small to hold a band of this nature and the lucky assembled know it.

Having spent the previous night complaining to a friend that there was simply no good music out there to find anymore, I’ll know in future to keep my mouth shut! These three young men will be the future of music and I’m humbled to have gotten the chance to catch them this time around.

Words: Wayne Madden

20 Mar 2014

INTERPOL at The Riverside, Newcastle - 16th March 2014

The word ‘Riverside’ in musical terms is synonymous with Newcastle folklore and while the location may have changed, it was with intrigue I headed to the opening show of the new ‘Riverside,’ to see Interpol.  I must say I was largely impressed with the venue; it’s spacious, airy and the high ceilings allow for the sound to travel rather than reverberate.

            The support act, Newcastle’s own Warm Digits took to the stage a little later than advertised, but as they rolled into what became a forty-five minute rolling track the crowd completely took to them. For an instrumental two-piece they created a fantastic array of sounds and the sheer energy of the drummer who was relentless in his playing was admirable to the say the least, and the ovation they received thoroughly deserved as the mix finally came to an end.

            The main event though was Interpol, and by now the venue was packed out. One of the big advantages to Riverside is its size, and while I wouldn’t like to speculate at the attendance I would suggest similar to that of The Cluny, but with a town center location, definitely an advantage.

            They took to the stage opening with Say Hello To The Angels which they ploughed through flawlessly and quickly following it up with Evil. Such a popular track so soon into the setlist settled the audience into the groove and this continued with fellow ‘Antics’ track C’Mere. This rapid fire opening to the set allowed the band to sample the water with the first of three new tracks they would play during the show, My Desire. It was well received, as were the other two, Anywhere and All The Rage Back Home and the setlist as a whole was solid and performed immaculately, highlighted by The Heincrich Maneuver, Obstacle and closed out with Slow Hands.

            One thing I would say about the show, is that Slow Hands seemed a good way to end out the show, and send fans home happy, however the band came back for an encore. I’m loathe to criticize such a thing but I can’t help feeling that the encore was lackluster and probably the weakest part of the show. However, this is of course no more than picking for the sake of picking. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable show. 

The band showed they certainly still have it as they go off to headline the NME Tour, while the venue shows that it could cement its own place in Newcastle’s music scene to follow its oh so famous namesake. 

Words: Ian Mason
Photo: David Wala

19 Mar 2014

CHVRCHES at O2 Academy, Newcastle - 7th March 2014

The music industry has changed a lot in the modern world; it has become fast paced environment which sees new bands go from the release of their first single to massive headline tours in little under a year.  In most cases these bands have reached this peak of success so quickly due to some great single releases which force them into public ears and thus, massive chart success; but this can lead to easily skip-able album filler which doesn’t quite hold the listeners attention. 

This appeared the case with Glaswegian synth pop trio Chvrches.  Despite being described as Album of the year by many reviewers, their debut The Bones of What You Believe, released in September 2013 didn’t seem to live up to the hype created by the pre-album released singles.  What was left to be heard appeared to fall flat alongside the punchy energy of  tracks like ‘Gun’ and ‘The Mother we Share’ which for many was the soundtrack to summer 2013.  However, all scepticism of this band and their lack lustre filler material was well and truly blown away during their Newcastle O2 Academy debut; bursting into the northeast with their brand of pounding electronics and rejuvenating their lesser loved tracks. 

Kicking off the evening of booming synth pop was something a little more relaxed; perhaps a move to ease the audience into a false sense of security for what was to come, or a badly matched pairing of a solo acoustic act with a high energy electro affair. The support in question was Birdie Monds-Watson AKA Soak; this young Irish singer-songwriter also happens to be the first signing to Chvrches new label Goodbye Records. NE:MM had the pleasure of sitting down with Soak to have a chat; although the endearingly sweet charm of miss Monds-Watson which we witnessed in our interview appeared rather lost in the sea of rather uninterested electro fans which packed out the huge venue.  

Chvrches however, were far from lost! Their ability to command a somewhat acoustically subdued audience to attention made them right at home on stage as they quickly fired through some album favourites including Sink, Gun and Lies in the fifteen minutes.  Despite Lauren Mayberry’s slightly shaky vocal start, she quickly hit her stride and the trio pounded through their album with a furiousness that gave the once ‘filler-esque’ tracks a much fuller and resonating sound; elevating tracks like Tether to the level of the big hits. 

The night’s performance appeared abundant with efforts to liven up the material; this was aided greatly by an impressive lighting design which mimicked the geometric style of The Bones of What You Believe album art. This bright display was hard to ignore and at times the only thing to be seen over the packed crowd.  Alongside this effort was an interesting shuffle in the bands composition, with synth player Martin Docherty taking over the microphone to display some rather erratic dance moves whilst he restyled Under the Light.  Mulberry graciously took to the synth during this performance, showing that Chvrches may be more versatile than we think and perhaps the next album will have some changes in store.   

Chvrches redeemed themselves with their energetic performance, adding weight to their album tracks; however as band with only one album they fell into yet another familiar trap of early success. This was a particularly short show and one which had begun rather early, which to many was a disappointment. As a band that are hailed for their ability to cover tracks with style it seemed great let down that they didn’t feel the need to flesh out their encore with some well-loved covers. But perhaps this focus on the album alone will encourage fans to revisit and re-enjoy those filler tracks with a new lease of life.

Words: Dominique Daly
Photo: Daniel Robson


Their debut album Wave Like Home was released way back in 2008 but Baltimore-based Future Islands only lost their live TV virginity two weeks ago. The band performed ‘Seasons (waiting on you)’ on The Late Show with David Letterman to rapturous applause from the presenter and audience, swiftly followed by online media praise.

Watching that performance was the first time I had ever seen the band in the flesh and lead singer Samuel Herring stood out as a strikingly eccentric individual. His Simon Cowell pants belted above his waste, twisting, shimmying and fist pumping to the Synthpop rhythm of his band, with an unflinching eye contact. It’s hard to think of a frontman with that much stage presence at the moment. As a YouTube comment puts it, ‘The only way that performance could have been more sincere is if he started crying, fell over, pissed himself, then floated up to heaven’ (quite the compliment).  However, what stuck out most was the man’s thespian croon. There’s a haunting moment where he lets out a growl of devilish ferocity, not dissimilar to a Death Metal or Hardcore Punk frontman and grabs the air with such neck-tingling conviction you believe he’s literally hanging onto something.

The version of ‘Seasons (waiting on you)’ that made it onto the band’s latest album Singles, doesn’t contain that peculiar moment, but it doesn’t really matter. A warm eeriness to their music still exists, in tracks like ‘Back In The Tall Grass’, which wear’s romantic nostalgia of the American sort, proudly on its sleeve. Herring’s lyrics are parables on the human soul; they seem to favour possibility over pessimism, but never make it too obvious. ‘I’ve seen the way that bodies lock and bodies tend to break’ he sings over ‘Light House’, one of the more anthemic moments on the album.  

At times the music feels very familiar. Second track, ‘Spirit’ owes a lot to Human League’s Dare, yet something more stirring than Phil Oakey’s monotone irks beneath Herring’s odd, soulful vocal. It allows the band’s music to transcend pop simplicity, opening up various alleyways of emotion.

Reverb is the chosen effect of a lot of bands at the moment but Future Islands use it for more than just making guitars sound a bit bigger. It washes amongst the quivering synth of ‘Like The Moon’, surrounded by tender chords and chugging clasps of bass that somehow manage to be subtle and euphoric all at once. This balance is something that the band pull-off well. 

Just as everything starts to seem a bit comfortable, that demonic vocal creeps up again, under the sludgy guitar of ‘Fall From Grace’, crawling out of Herring’s mouth, till the song slips back into shining bell chimes. 

Singles has got the heart of a lion and the mind of an outcast. Its flirtation with the darker fringes of pop is what makes it an extremely powerful album, a feat that may just push the band further than they’ve ever been.

Words: Nad Khan