Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fanfarlo + El Guincho + Munch Munch @ White Heat, Madame JoJo's

Bristol's Munch Munch are the first to take to the stage. I'd been meaning to write about these guys ever since I got hold of their Wedding EP a few months ago. On record, their unconventional take on pop is as shambolic as it is brilliant and tonight's performance was no different. The battling duo of keyboards are chaotic, pulsating notes spilt and echo off each other while vibrant drumbeats ring out and the occasional xylophone sing bright melodies. But when it all comes together, in the pounding synth riff in Wedding, its not crisp enough to make the impact intended. This is the problem all night. The drama and authority of the band is diminished by sloppy delivery and poor sound, only during Endolphins' opening chant do any vocals break through the madness, and it leaves their set a little uninspiring.

The description I gave of El Guincho to my friend and fellow gig-goer beforehand was “He's a man with a drum” and, to be honest, its basically true but the jumble of exotic noises and exuberant beats that Pablo Diaz-Reixa creates with just a floor tom, a tamborine and a sampler are unbelievable and utterly compelling. The cadences and calypso samples are looped into a mesmerising, colourful blanket of throbbing sounds and adding Diaz-Reixa's superb drumming and undecipherable chanting on top of this was too much for the front few rows of the crowd, who begin to move and shake more than I've ever seen a London crowd move. The energy and atmosphere produced by this one-man-band was incredibly impressive. It's his rhythms that do it and, believe me, El Guincho has an amazing feel for a rhythm. They're hypnotic and almost brainwashing in their immediacy and turn anyone who hears them into feverishly dancing zombies. I couldn't tell you which tracks were played off his debut release Alegranza as his half hour set all seep into one glowing, tropical carnival but everyone in Madame JoJo's, well in the front four rows, had a little Mardi Gras of their own.

After El Guincho, Fanfarlo needed to be truly special to even match him but unfortunately their pleasant style of folk pop wasn't up to the job. The flighty intro of Fire Escape began their set with its lush violin part and twinkling keyboards and it climaxes with its soft but melodic trumpet solo. But that was the highlight for me. Every song from there just sounded like the last, moulding into a long, nice but indifferent track. Just as I was leaving, the band brought a saw out to add the eerie wails of a singing saw to the mix but by that time I was a bit bored (sadly) and had to catch the last train home. I'd like to see them again, maybe when I'm less in awe of the support again, but it was the sound of samba drums that rebounded round my head on the way home.

Munch Munch - Endolphins
El Guincho - Costa Paraiso
Fanfarlo - Fire Escape

Check out the rest of my photos from the gig on my flickr

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pork & Beans

After two days of scrutinizing listens and opinions swinging to and fro, i think i've finally made my mind up on the new Weezer single, Pork & Beans. Its awkwardly good.
Since getting into them in 2000/01, Weezer have been probably the most important band in my musical timeline. Every one of their releases gets me as excited as a little kid on Christmas and, to be honest, I've only really been let down by their last effort Make Believe, which was uninspiring to say the least.
Pork & Beans is a confident comeback for Weezer. Its actually a brave decision for their first single as its not exactly your no. 1 smash with its bouncy verse riff and odd background squarks but its the chorus that makes me giddy with joy. The double crunch that kicks it off leads into a scuzzy, over-driven chord progression that harks back to days of Blue and Rivers' vocal melody is huge and catchy.
I only have a couple of concerns really. Some of the lyrics are a bit crap. If Rivers is trying to be intentionally humourous then I suppose it works but the line about Timbaland makes me cringe a little bit, although saying that some of them are beautifully self-referencing. My other tiny concern is there's no mean guitar solo, something that made old Weezer songs so appealing.
The new self-titled album is out in June and I'm trying hard to keep a level head about this one so not to be disappointed if its flops but Pork & Beans is a small step back in the right direction.

Weezer - Pork & Beans

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Named after the low rising mountain region in Northern England, the Norwich four-piece Pennines are starting to get a bit of buzz about them in certain alternative circles. Their sound takes alot from 90s American alt-rock bands, such as American Football and The Dismemberment Plan, but instead of feeling nostalgic and dusty, Pennines' music feels fresh and sharp and forward-thinking.
Their lush, melodic guitars pulse and flow like a blood stream, giving life to every element of the songs. On Open Closed Open, the soft, sonorous vocals fading in and out of the mix, creating heartfelt, human glimpses into the emotional instrumental track.
Whisky Foxtrot Tango? Lima Oscar Lima sounds like it was recorded when the band were asleep, dreaming of their individual parts, with electrodes stuck to their heads and the subsequent electronic signals fed into a computer and delicately compiled into sonic waves.
With all my soft analogies, you may think the band are fluffy but they do have edge as well. Some of the guitar lines are unpredictable and their constantly changing time signatures make sure the audience is kept on their toes.
They're in the process of recording an ep to be released on the ever brilliant Big Scary Monster Records in May and there will be a spilt release with This Town Need Guns just before it, so keep an eye for them. Ones to watch methinks.

Pennines - Open Closed Open
Pennines - Whisky Tango Foxtrot? Lima Oscar Lima

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hot Club De Paris + Slow Club @ Hush, Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall? I hear you enquire. Yes that is what I said. For one bleak February (yes I know) evening, Moshi Moshi records took over the affluent and ornate Elgar Room in the RAH and filled it with the glowing sounds and joyful melodies of two of their brightest stars. The Albert Hall has a rich musical history, from the numerous flag-waving "Last Nights" to the story of my ma dancing in the aisles to Eric Clapton, and this acceptance and welcoming of new talent can only add to the venue's mighty stature.
After being directed upstairs by a number of red-blazered stewards - it felt like being at Butlins - and using the FREE cloakroom - i was mighty impressed - we enter the plush surroundings of the Elgar Room. It was stunning. The raised performing area overlooked th
e bar and everything was decadent and well...fancy. The lavish surroundings seemed to intimidate the crowd into a murmured hush, it could have been due to the stare of the carving behind the stage, everyone was unsure how to act. Was it a gig or a concert? How much am I allowed to dance at the Albert Hall? All these questions seemed to hanging over us as the bands took the stage but from the first notes, the answers was loud and clear. 1)Gig 2)Alot.

The review of Slow Club's set will appear in funfunfun zine #2, which should be out in about a month. It will also include a live review of Rolo Tomassi, an interview with Jetplane Landing and some reviews and features to be confirmed. I'll let you know more about it in due course.

Hot Club De Paris arrived on stage to a politely rapturous applause from the majority of the crowd. I was in the minority. For some unexplained reason I've never really listen to the Moshi Moshi mainstays, even though I see their name every time I venture onto the Moshi Moshi website and they've had excellent write-ups all over the shop. They just seem to be a band I've passed by so I was looking to be converted tonight. The three Scousers seem almost in awe of the venue and the reception as the first couple of tracks were a bit off but with a bit of amusing onstage banter and a more than receptive audience, they soon found their confidence and their stride. Bassist Paul Rafferty was immense, his fingers leaping from fret to fret almost mindlessly as he slouched over the microphone, singing. Guitarist Matt couldn't stop moving, resonating waves of sunshine guitar riffs as he rocked back and forth and drummer Alasdair controlled it all with an agitated beat, changing time signatures at a whim. Their playful melodies, raw guitar sound and regional accents sounded familiar, due to one-too-many of the same kin but Hot Club seemed to have so much enjoyment onstage that that alone puts them above the rest. Tracks like "Shipwreck" and "Who Am I?" got the front row singing along as the band whizzed through a set of fireball pop tunes. On this performance they deserve to be playing on such a prestigious stage.

Slow Club - Me And You

Hot Club De Paris - Shipwreck

You can find more photos of the gig at my flickr.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Beat Control

My my, it shows how slack i've been recently that i missed the new Tilly & The Wall track completely. I usually pride myself on being ahead of the game when it comes to Tilly tunes but this one just passed me by.
Beat Control is a simple pop song, its actually the most mainstream-sounding pop song they've created, every element of it is concise and basic, stripped of any excess, but in doing so they've captured the true soul of the song and managed to produce a highly catchy melody and kinetic beat that pinpoints the dance-enducing area of the brain and activate it completely. It still sound very Tilly with their duel female vocal harmonies and their exuding, contagious enthusiasm and happiness but one thing seems to have changed. Maybe to remove the "gimmick" tag it gave them or maybe they saw the success of their more electronic beat based songs ie. You And Me Misbehaving, The Freest Man, but tap dancer Jaime isn't heard anywhere on the track. Its a shame because I always thought she gave the band the edge to make them more-than-your-average band but on this evidence maybe Tilly don't have to rely on her talented toes to keep them above the pack anymore. To be fair Beat Control is even on their new album, O, released later this year, which means all the tracks on the album have to be better than this. Okay now i'm excited...
Tilly And The Wall - Beat Control

And you can watch the video for it here, its a bit camp but good fun. Enjoy.