Album Review: Weirds – Swarmculture

Review from Ben Forrester

I will always champion the bands that try something different. A band that take their influences and flip them on there head. Leeds based quartet Weirds do exactly that. They take big, bulky, sludgy guitars and mix them with this sci-fi synth pop vibe that takes Space-Rock into totally new realms. On their debut album, accurately titled ‘Swarmculture‘, Weirds want to take you on an exploration into this new world that they’ve discovered.

It took me a while to get past opening track ‘Things That Crawl‘, simply because it is a planet imploding opener! Once that riff kicks in, there is no going back – there is so much power behind it and I can imagine a gust of wind viciously blowing through my hair as it pumps out of a PA in a sweaty little venue. It’s a clear indication on what this album is; big, cosmic and groovy.

Recent singles ‘Valley of Vision‘ and ‘Phantom‘ are brilliant slices of space-pop, full of thick guitars and drum thrashing in the choruses with urgent bass driven verses that make you wanna stick your neck out. I think a lot of fans of that early 90’s indie-dance scene will relate to this record, especially if you like the darker, pyschier moments of early Primal Scream and New Order. I’ve always been a fan of accented vocals and front man Aidan lets his northern drawl loose throughout, which I reckon will appeal to fans of that whole Madchester scene.

The first half of the record is big on the riffs (try not headbanging at the start of ‘Old World Blues‘) but it’s on the second half that Weirds go deeper sonically. Whether it’s the psych-kraut pomp of ‘Weird Sun‘ or the brooding indie pop balladry of ‘Crows‘, Weirds do a good job to cover all bases here. They find new ways to be heavy and instead of riffing out, they just let the fuzz ring out and use synths to elevate their sound to new stratosphere’s; ‘Salamander’s Sister‘ is the best display of this and is a reminder of how far out this band can go.

Ultimately, Swarmculture is a really exciting album. I remember a friend of mine going to see them recently, not knowing what to expect and they came out shouting ‘well, that was exactly what I needed‘ (Sounds familiar – Ed). And that is the exact sentiment I had with this album. I expected the unexpected and came out of it ready to run to the moon and back! This is a hefty debut, powerful in its execution with a sky’s the limit attitude. Leave your safety blankets at home and prepare to embrace Weirds.

Listen to singles from ‘Swarmculture’ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!

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EP Review: Gun Shy – The Long Dance

Review from Ben Forrester

On their debut EP ‘First Transmission‘, Gun Shy made quite the impression on the alt-punk world with a swirling mix of emo, punk, post-rock and grunge. Although it was quite an abrasive collage of sounds, the four-piece really pulled it off with a good grasp of dynamics and structure. It was one of those records that made you go ‘what was that?‘ and I think that’s why it resonated so well with the underground rock scene because it was a breath of fresh air.

So here we are 12 months on and Gun Shy return with their next instalment ‘The Long Dance‘. Clocking in at 21 minutes and featuring 7 tracks, just on its length alone, this makes me think that the band are gonna go even further down the rabbit hole here. And to be fair, I would say that was a fair assumption to have made.

Although it’s still as varied and dynamic as its predecessor, Gun Shy have made a more conscious effort to bring a stronger sense of melody and have sharpened up their songwriting skills here. ‘Test You Like Gold‘ reminds me a bit of a Brand New track, with that hazy yet regimented verse groove before going into this fuzzy chorus with an ear worm hook. It’s emo as fuck but it’s deliciously melancholic. The title track also carries a very nostalgic tone, jumping in between grunged out scuzz and beautiful post-emo sparkles. It feels a bit more coherent than previous material and the songs seem like they have more of an identity.

Although the band do indulge in that loud/quiet dynamic pretty much throughout the EP, they do keep it straight on tracks like ‘Whilst You Execute‘, which is a proper angular-punk party banger while ‘Holding Onto Nothing‘ is an atmospheric post-rock inspired moment of solitude. But there is no denying the bands knack of switching up mood within a track to sky scraping effect, the last 40 seconds of ‘In Perfect Silent‘ providing the best WTF moment on here!

The Long Dance is another unapologetically emotional and passionate piece that hits hard with a sincere delivery. Gun Shy are an innovative modern punk band and it’s this totally fearless attitude that they take to making music that makes them an extremely promising prospect in the UK scene right now. Don’t be shy now.

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Hey, have you heard about…Mi Mye

Clear the decks – Proper stop you in your tracks, lump in the throat stuff here.

‘Methadone Church’, the latest single from Mi Mye, was written following a single vision, a blink and you’ll miss it non event observed by frontman Jamie Lockhart of a mother (with a bloody lip) walking down the street with her twin daughters. Thank the great and powerful that this trio walked past Lockhart that day, as it’s developed into this spine-tingling, majestic heart-wrencher.

Methadone Church is the final single to be taken from 2016’s stunning full length (oo-er) ‘The Sympathy Sigh. Flip it over and the B-side is a reworking of album track ‘He Believes In Me’,  with James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls on vocals (Lockhart co-produced the latest PWGG album ‘Swan Songs’ in his birthplace of Skerray in Scotland).

Mi Mye aren’t box fresh by any stretch. Well known in Wakefield, Mi Mye was born as a solo outfit by one Jamie Lockhart a number of years back. One thing lead to another and Mi Mye soon became a band of five. Marc Riley is a fan and has previously had them in session, and they’ve even supported The Cribs at a recent homecoming show. But like me, you might be unfamiliar. So do yourself a favour –  Take five minutes out of your day and check them out for yourself below.

Methadone Church/He Believes In Me was released at the tail end of last month on Hide & Seek Records and Philophobia Music.

Listen to ‘Methadone Church’ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!

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Delve into the ‘Wild Imagination’ of Sweet Baboo in new moving picture film

“Within the honesty [of Wild Imagination] there is no agenda other than the salvation of his sanity, a man coming to terms with his existence and role on planet earth and its’ forever changing wallpaper.” – Cate Le Bon

The unbelievably catchy pop spectacular ‘Wild Imaginationis the latest from Sweet Baboo a.k.a. Stephen Black, taken from his forthcoming album of the same name. Mr Black is a purveyor of luscious, twee, world-of-their-own pop gems that warm the cockles of your heart and his latest single does the trick quite wonderfully.

The bizarro video was directed by James Hankins and is the first in a three part saga. Featuring the very same head used from the cover of Wild Imagination, it’s the typical quirky adventure one might expect from the little world that Sweet Baboo inhabits.

Wild Imagination is out June 2nd on Moshi Moshi. Following its release, Sweet Baboo will embark on a UK tour, including a date in Manchester at Soup Kitchen on June 18th!
Check out the video below and look for full dates here!

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Live Review: Then Thickens at Night & Day Café in Manchester 29 April 2017

One of the factors I used to convince our lass to join me on Saturday evening at the Then Thickens show in Manchester (other than singing ‘Tiny Legs’ at her at least once a week since we’ve lived together) was the humour expected of front man Jon-Lee Martin. Watching Then Thickens a few years back at 2000trees Festival in Cheltenham, it became evident that the long-haired frontman could have easily done 10 minutes stand-up aside from their set, such was the hilarity of his in-between chatter.

As it turns out, on the night there was pretty much 0% chat from Jon-Lee, other than enthusiastic appreciation. But with patter put to one side, what we got instead was a set full of glittering, full on poppy-alt-rock smashers. If that’s the price to pay for a strong ten song set from Then Thickens, so be it.

Straight out of the gate and we were treated to two straight up groovy-as-anything head-bobbers to kick things off. They’re the first in a run of new songs from the evening, taken from their soon to be announced third album. On ‘You Are Amazing’, Jon-Lee really shows off his vocal chops, set against the smashing of drums from Charlie Hartley. Elsewhere, ‘Never Be Normal’ has pop hit written all over it and is a more than welcome indicator of what we can expect from their follow up to 2015’s Colic’.

The new material from the Chorley collective is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right, even before one gets chance to properly decipher the lyrics and the crude, hilarious and likely morbid tales within. That’s what’s so interesting and likeable about Then Thickens – these sparkly, infectious jams that, once you peel back a layer or two, lyrically deal in tales of sexual perversion and depression, bought on by the occasional bout of sleep paralysis.

My Sunday’ gets an outing, a wonderfully catchy number from Colic, underpinned (as amentioned previously) by its tragic tale of drug devotion. It’s hard not to sport a huge grin such is its uplifting, summery nature, whilst all the while Jon-Lee laments about feeling empty and like a sack of shite. The undeniable pop smash ‘Tiny Legs’ was of course on the menu, coming up early in the evening. Sounding even more stripped back and subdued here, it was enough to send shivers as it picked up the pace in the pulse racing closing stretch. Elsewhere, the drug fuelled love song ‘Any Other Thingfrom 2014 debut LP ‘Death Cap at Anglezarkebrought strong Weezer-esque vibes with its closing guitar solo.

At the announcement of their final song of the evening – ‘My Amsterdam’ – the band were nearly booed out of the building. Thankfully, Jon-Lee smoothed things over by suggesting that it’s all necessary: “Look at me – I’m fucking wet through!” The thoughtful, hypnotic track from the tail end of Colic acted as a swell goodbye from the band and its gnarly, wall-shaking closing left a lasting impression. Deafening chants of “CHORLEY!” rang throughout the venue long after Then Thickens had left the stage, but it was all for nowt.

Their appearance in Manchester was heavy on new material, peppered with the odd number from previous releases, which on paper is what you might expect from a band touring their latest release. Instead, one gets the impression that Then Thickens were ironing out the kinks of a strong set of songs before hitting up the studio. On Saturday night we heard the offerings of a band on the cusp of doing brilliant things on their third full length (oo-er). If that makes Manchester their initial testing site, there’s no complaints here.

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Live Review: Jamie Lenman at Sound Control in Manchester 01 May 2017

Review from Ben Forrester

It’s been quite the journey for Jamie Lenman these past few years. His band Reuben were the unsung heroes of British post-hardcore throughout the naughties and they worked ridiculously hard through the 10 years they were active. After their split in 2008, Lenman took some well needed time off, eventually emerging from the shadows in 2013 with his debut solo album ‘Muscle Memory‘. The release of the record managed to spawn a whole new wave of fans for him, with many going back and discovering the genius of his previous project. This new lease of life has lead to Jamie becoming one of UK rock’s most treasured voices.

Tonight, I am sweating my face off in Sound Control, ready to catch him and his band as part of a full UK tour in support of his new double A single. Having just signed to supreme indie label Big Scary Monsters with talks of a second solo album on route, there is a lot of hype and excitement in camp Lenman right now and this is very much transferred to the crowd this evening.

I noticed that all the supports for this tour are two-pieces and it isn’t until Jamie walks on stage backed by just drummer (Dan) that I realise that this was deliberate. That’s something I love about Jamie, his attention to detail. I am instantly intrigued as to how this is going to sound, particularly with some of the tracks on Muscle Memory being so fucking crushing. From the minute him and Dan rip into the sprightly rock rush of new single ‘Waterloo Teeth‘, you know that this is going to be a savage set as they sound monstrous!

Having played in  a noisy two-piece myself, I am astounded at how chunky the guitar sounds, the low end is properly booming out of the PA and it sounds fucking huge! Without little break, we get the ferocious thrash punk of ‘Fizzy Blood‘, followed by the bounced up rock of Reuben track ‘Parties Break Hearts‘ – they’re only three songs in and already the crowd are pure putty.

The set tonight is a celebration of Jamie’s past, present and future. We hear a nice chunk of Reuben songs with no skimping out. We get album tracks like ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave’ Em‘ and ‘Cities On Fire‘ and even rarity ‘Blitzkrieg‘ thrown in for the OG’s. By playing these particular tracks, it shows that Jamie respects the fact that Reuben fans go in deep and caters to our nerdy needs and doesn’t just bring out ‘crowd friendly hits’! I am totally delighted to hear his cover of Kerbdog’sMexican Wave‘ too as I remember hearing a recorded version of the cover years ago and it blew me away! It still blows me away tonight, especially its brief brutal breakdown at the end!

But of course, a lot of tonight’s set is dominated with Lenman’s solo material and rightly so! Muscle Memory is an incredible piece of work, consisting of a heavy side and softer side and it’s a testament to his songwriting talents that he can go from the acoustically driven ho-down of ‘If You Ask Then You’ll Never Know‘ to the utter, riffed up filth of ‘Six Fingered Hand‘. It’s also super cool to hear the new stuff he’s been working on and previous single ‘Mississippi‘ sounds properly massive with a strong confident groove, while brand new tune ‘All Of England Is A City‘ is a proper chest out rock hit in the making, with a QOTSA style swag.

As you might have guessed, Jamie and Dan absolutely smash it tonight. The set is full of twists and turns, the in-between patter is interactive and charismatic as always cementing Jamie Lenman as an utterly brilliant and unstoppable performer. I urge you to get to a show on this run and prepare for a seriously fun filled evening of hits, laughter and RIFFS!

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