Live Review: Surfbort at Soup Kitchen in Manchester 13 February 2019

I like how you dance, you must really love music.

You shouldn’t, but you could reduce Surfbort to a binary distinction: one side of them is provocative and spikey; the other stresses characteristics common to punk scenes but often overlooked by outsiders and voyeurs like friendship, enthusiasm and enjoyment. Dani Miller, their singer, said the line quoted above to a group of friends that were mirroring her dance moves – reminiscent of that small child who disrupted a BBC interview. Those dancing down the front were soon joined by her and her permagrin as she jumped down from the stage to mingle mid-song.

Viewed from across the concrete bunker with nods to trendy bar vacuity that is Soup, it gave that ready brek glow feeling you get when you’re a witness to people having fun and being nice to each other. Sounds corny, fully true. And the voyeurs… I showed someone a Surfbort video the other day and they called them ‘deviants’ in a pejorative way. If that’s deviance maybe we should all get a bit different. If only we had a DIY venue that catered to and incubated this type of music and attitude in Manchester.

The Brooklyn-based four-piece (two guitars, no bass) head-down shredded for forty minutes. They’re reminiscent of X, with more sing-along vocals over the three old boy Texan 80s punks reusing the three to four chord riffs of their formative decade. A more recent analogue might be Amyl and the Sniffers in their straight down the line, high energy pop-ish hardcore. Their lyrics are funny, acerbic and sometimes political.

When, two songs into the set they bust out the ‘Where’s my shit?’ opening to ‘Hippie Vomit Inhaler’ they already had the crowd eating out of their hands. As the song lurches from the thrash-inflected verse intro to the heavier chorus, people lost it. As they did when ‘Les be In Love’ mined the riff from the Nirvana song ‘Terratorial Pissings’ to back a lyric that commands people to be in love and party with occasional images of suburban Americana thrown in for good measure.

Even during aspects of their set that could be a bit cringy, a song called ‘Selfie’ might be a cliché, but it is delivered with so much cheek and so little pretentiousness that they pull it off. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

Patrick has a book out! Here’s his sales pitch: “Buy my fucking book or get your local library to order it sukkerz”

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Hey, have you heard about…Working Men’s Club

Here’s a funny one, like – chances are you have already heard about this lot. Or maybe not, either way – Let’s get started on the trio with the great name, Working Men’s Club!

Running in the same circles as The Orielles and having a name very much on brand – that being dead British (see Black Country, New Road and Tebay Services) – they’re based out of one of our favourite spots Up Norf, Todmorden (“by-way of-Europe“).

In a similar vein to Gang Of Four and Television, with a dash of New Order here and a sprinkle of Orange Juice there, their debut single ‘Bad Blood‘ is really quite something, with excitement at every turn and an insatiable groove. Sounds like an instant classic.

The vinyl for this one sold like hot cakes and they’ve neatly slotted themselves into BBC Radio 6 Music’s playlist. Get in on the ground floor whilst you still can!

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Hey, have you heard about…Public Practice

Sunday mornings, eh? Can’t be beat sometimes. A moment of quiet in the house, a bit of incense on the go, a pot of coffee at the ready and memories of the night prior coming into focus (some good, some bad). Often a time of discovery, this very morning it’s been the nostalgic pangs of NYC quartet Public Practice.

The initial rumblings of ‘Fate/Glory‘ had my attention instantly, its off-beat post-punk guitar howls cat-scratching at the rhythm section before hypnotising vocals took over. By the time ‘Bad Girl(s)‘ gets into its infectious call-back chorus, I was hooked. Proper good this, kid.

They’re from NYC (see the photo for evidence) and their debut EP calls to mind the likes of fellow New Yorkers Talking Heads and Blondie (the funky, disco vibes of ‘Foundation), the vocals very much The Pretenders and that self-titled debut of theirs. It’s proper dancy post-punk and it’s very much the soundtrack to this Sunday morning.

Fresh off from their EP release in October, they’ve just put out a new one too – The hectic ‘Slow Down‘, taken from a flexi-disc being put out on Wharf Cat Records, also featuring our favourites Flasher!

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Hey, have you heard about…Holding Patterns

When I first moved to Manchester, I found myself suddenly thrust into this wonderful DIY music scene. I was going to awe inspiring gigs every week and discovering my new favourite bands in the process. I remember hearing the debut album from a Derby based emo crew called Crash Of Rhinos and being completely flawed by it. I saw them live shortly after discovering them and remember being even more blown away by their live show. Needless to say, they became everyone’s favourite band and ended up releasing two albums that are considered as UK emo classics.

A few years have passed since the band called it a day, shortly after touring their second LP, but to the joy of many, three fifths of the band have been quietly beavering away on a new project. It was late last year that Holding Patterns finally released their first recordings, after nearly two years of teasing studio sessions plus a smattering of live shows. ‘At Speed‘ was a brilliant introduction to the three piece and retained the same heart on sleeve majesty that made Crash Of Rhinos so special, but with a more melodic alt-rock twist. At this point, the anticipation was high to hear more and since then, we have been patiently awaiting more info on the album the band have been working on since their formation.

Finally, the band have just announced their debut LP ‘Endless‘, which is being put out through Vested Interest Records here in the UK on May 17th! To celebrate the announcement, the trio will head out on a small co-headline UK tour with excellent indie-rock outfit Modern Rituals this very month!

As if that wasn’t enough, we also have another taster of the new album in the form of the near 7 minute epic ‘Dust‘. This is another seriously strong cut, with each member playing a blinder. The melodic shifts on this track are sublime, blending fist pumping alt-rock with gorgeous emo tinged guitar work, whilst the rhythm section pound it out with a punk-rock attitude. It’s one thing to be good at playing your instrument but it’s another to take those skills and write mind blowing rock songs with it, which is something Holding Patterns do with absolute ease!

Endless is available to pre-order now through Vested Interest on double vinyl and CD. The band will play the following shows in a few weeks times alongside Modern Rituals.

20/2 Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
21/2 London – New River Studios
22/2 Liverpool – 81 Renshaw Street
23/2 Bristol – Mothers Ruin
24/2 Brighton – Green Door Store

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Live Review: Blood Red Shoes at Soup Kitchen in Manchester 30 January 2019

Blood Red Shoes have had it pretty tough these past few years. Dealing with personal mishaps as well as having a bucket load of industry bullshit thrown their way, the future wasn’t looking so bright for Laura-Mary and Steven. But by taking the band in a new direction and bringing a new attitude into proceedings, Blood Red Shoes have emerged victorious with their brilliant new LP ‘Get Tragic‘.

Tonight we’re in Soup Kitchen, a slightly smaller venue than the band are used too, but all part of a short UK club tour in support of the album. The sassy, electro tinged stylings of their latest effort definitely fit the dark yet neon lit basement of the Soup Kitchen and naturally, the show is sold out and the room is buzzing.

Joined by members of 2:54 and Tigercub, Blood Red Shoes stroll out as a four piece tonight and kick into massive, riff hungry monster ‘Elijah‘; the epic closer from their new record. Combining their rock routes with a sassy, electro pop sheen, this is a perfect opener and the band seem straight into the show as Laura-Mary falls straight to the floor for her guitar solo. Two more bangers from the new record follow in ‘Bangsar‘ and ‘Howl‘, thrown out and swallowed whole by the crowd, before the band halve into the original two piece and get straight into the hits.

I think we get an 11 track run of solid gold smashes from the bands consistently solid back catalogue. One thing that’s cool to hear is the subtle changes with each record. We have the scrappy indie punk of ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better‘ from their debut, the anthemic grunge pop of albums two and three with tracks like ‘Light It Up‘ and ‘Lost Kids‘ before the beefy riff-rock album of four with ‘An Animal‘. You forget how timeless these records are and some of the choruses barely fit in the room, as the whole of Soup Kitchen mosh and shout along.

With the band expanding once again, the last part of the set brings out the poppier moments from ‘Get Tragic‘, like the groove-pop swagger of ‘Mexican Dress‘. The new material is greeted with such love from the crowd tonight and whilst I know some fans haven’t quite gotten into it yet, it really does sound massive live, bound to change minds whilst out on the road. But generally speaking, there is something for everyone this evening and it’s great to see the band genuinely having fun on stage with songs new and old. The word triumphant has been used a lot to describe Blood Red Shoes’ comeback and I’m pleased to say that this is definitely the case with tonight’s set. Welcome home.

Read our review of ‘Get Tragic’ here!

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Live Review: PILL at The Peer Hat in Manchester 28 January 2019

Monday evening in Manchester and frost is on its way. The forecast is snow and the streets are bare. Downstairs at The Peer Hat, tucked away in the Northern Quarter just off Stevenson Square, the Brooklyn based post-punk four-piece known as PILL are due on stage imminently. On arrival, guitarist Jon Campolo looks out and captures the energy of the room.

Monday night…

Within seconds, thoughts of being out on a freezing cold evening are forgotten as they kick into the blistering ‘A.I.Y.M?’, opener from their latest album ‘Soft Hell’, released a few months back on Brooklyn indie label Mexican Summer. Drummer Andrew Spaulding hammers away and catches the rumbling bass of Veronica Torres, as she shouts and coos in an almost Valley Girl style. Saxophonist Benjamin Jaffe gets down on one knee and covers the whole microphone with his mouth, the resultant feedback howling through the speaker. Later on he adjusts the levels on his amp with one foot and stands Ian Anderson stylee, the sax squealing as Torres shout ‘Am I Your Man?

On ‘Empathizer (Rat in the Box)’, Torres hands her bass over to Campolo and he in turn bursts into a hypnotising, pulverising bassline as she contorts her vocals and screeches. It’s captivating on the verge of confrontational, at odds with the smiley faces that adorn the strap of the bass.

The majority of the set is “All new” we’re told, as they’ve not played Manchester in at least two years. Whilst tuning up, Campolo says “You guys are dead quiet, man”. Quick as a flash, someone up front retorts “So are you”. Campolo looks up and laughs at this, taking it on the chin. It’s not a big crowd but it’s an appreciative one. A few members of local experimental post-punk outfit DUDS are in the house and there’s a lad up the front who seemingly doesn’t stop dancing during their 40-odd minutes on stage.

From acerbic and in-your-face one minute to ludicrously groovy the next, on ‘Plastic’, Torres again hands over the bass to Campolo who backs her up on vocals and throws in the occasional whistle. Torres meanwhile dances about to the insatiable groove whenever she’s not singing. It’s when they come together like this that the dynamic shifts, Torres moving about the stage whilst the rest of the band lock into some mesmerising grooves, like on the dreamy ‘Piña Queen’.

Within a heartbeat it’s over, the band just as thankful as the crowd, smiles all round. This isn’t one of those Lesser Free Trade Hall Sex Pistols moments, but it’s very much in a similar vein. In this case, a dimly lit basement off the main strip with a band effortlessly putting on an incredible show to a small group of people who will likely talk about it for days, weeks, months to come. Right now it’s particularly what’s needed over these cold months – an escape from what’s going on outside.

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: International Teachers Of Pop

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re delighted to have Leonore Wheatley of the wunderbar International Teachers of Pop in the hot seat, talking us through five releases that have had her inspired around their forthcoming debut album.

Yellow Magic Orchestra – ‘Firecracker’ (Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1978)

I travel a lot between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield and so when on the train I feel a good synth is crucial to keep one company.

The Yellow Magic Orchestra are easily as pioneering as Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream. One of the founding members is Ryuichi Sakamoto, who’s amazingly prolific, writing music for the film The Revenant, as well as releasing an album pretty much every year since 1978. But for me it’s YMO who created such timeless tracks and ‘Firecracker’ in particular is the missing link between Kraftwerk and Boney M.

Kim Jung Mi – ‘Your Dream‘ (Now, 1973)

A South Korean contribution, I came across this beauty of a songwriter on one of those discover weekly lists on Spotify the summer I started working with Adrian and Dean, and I’ve been annoyingly and drunkenly telling people to listen to her album ‘Now’ most weekends. Released in 1973 with no follow up album, this wouldn’t feel out of place next to Joan Baez or Townes Van Zandt.

Her vocals are so so beguiling. I love the sounds she makes in between the guitar instrumental at the end of this track, contrasting to the lyrics which are visions of pink blossom, horse riding through the mountains and returning to a lost love, (apparently, I don’t speak South Korean so I’ve relied on Google translate) Soppy stuff, but she makes it sexy.

Cocteau Twins – ‘Persephone’ (Treasure, 1984)

“When thinking of vocal ideas, there are a couple of female singers I always think of who have inspired me the most, and Elizabeth Fraser is up there (Bjork being another). ‘Persephone’ is a relentless and brutal track. The ‘gun shot’ of the drum machine underneath the simple and driven bass line paves the way for industrial sanctuary. And then her vocals, unlike Kim Jung Mi’s lyrics, hers as per are unrecognisable, but who gives a shit?

Improvising over instrumentals, I’ve always tried to write vocal lines with a shape, adding in lyrics later which may fit. Elizabeth Fraser doesn’t just write a shape with her melody, but creates a whole scene scape, enabling us to build our own story line.

Kylie/Towa Tei/Haruomi Hosono – ‘GBI (German Bold Italic)’ (Sound Museum, 1997)

“Just watch the video.

Sugababes – ‘Overload’ (One Touch, 2000)

‘Overload’ came out in 2000 when I was 14 and it was a mixture of girl bands which I had convinced myself I was ‘growing out of’ and a darker groove similar to that of a pop sounding ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane (really similar bass line).

The original Sugababes line up (there were about 37 weren’t there?) were so cool with fashion style out of a Gap advert and a video that didn’t need all the millions Britney was pumping into hers. But most importantly their vocals in ‘Overload’ reflect pure 90’s RnB but completely unforced. The melody and harmonies are written over the two chromatic chords which make up the whole entire song, again just such Pop simplicity. I remember having that album and single on the top of my CD list at a time when instead I was starting to branch out into grunge and metal. Tracks like that have kept me tied to Pop and RnB throughout every musical outlet I’ve explored I suppose.

International Teachers of Pop‘ is out February 8th! Bag a copy (or two) here.

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