The Scissors, Corner House, Cambridge, 1 April 2017

In these days of political and social upheaval it is good to have something to rely on; this year is the 35th anniversary of the first recordings by Southend band The Get, and here they are on stage at the Corner House with singer Bruce Gordon strutting around and delivering a set of punk laced with irony and wit on songs like, ‘Dalek’, ‘Batman And Robin’ and a concise guide to the music industry on ‘Hit!’. They have a newish EP out, and from that ‘You Made Your Bed…Now Lie In It’ could be taken as a commentary on large government decisions, or just as a diatribe against an ex-partner…

I have enjoyed and reviewed the album ‘Resounding’ by Moscow Circus (https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/08/29/moscow-circus-resounding-lp-released-june-2016/) so it was great to get an opportunity to hear it live at last. Songwriter Jonathan Beckett delivers the complex lyrics, vocal nuances and jangly guitar parts effortlessly and the four piece band are a tight playing unit.
‘Timebomb’, ‘Bleed For You’ and especially ‘Princess Rainbow’ were all highlights, but there were newer unrecorded tracks too including the enigmatically titled ‘4000 Weeks’ (that’s 77 years…Hmmm).
The set ended on another high with the noisy rocker ‘Ex-Genius’. This music had a long gestation time and has rarely been performed but tonight it was definitely job done.

One of Cambridge’s finest, The Scissors are seasoned presenters of spirited mini-movie songs and taking the stage quite late in the evening they featured many cuts from their 2016 album ‘Haunted Mirror’.
As I see so many guitar bands, it is always good to hear some keyboards too, especially when it is the timeless timbre of a Hammond organ, rolling in on ‘Do You Believe In Modern Love’ or more ska-laced on ‘Gone’. The strident guitar line and theremin wail herald ‘Why Don’t You Cry?’; their standout torchsong which is always a highlight of the varied set.
A quick encore of the album title track (as recently featured on charity compilation ‘Cambridge Calling Volume 1’) ended the trio of authentic acts in the welcoming setting of The Corner House (and all for free too…!)

http://thescissors.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.moscowcircus.co.uk/
The Get

Hannah Lou Clark, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 29 March 2017

Opening the show tonight Mammoth Penguins played new and older songs, starting with ‘Cries At The Movies’ and ‘Propped Up’, two of many highlights on their debut album ‘Hide And Seek’. Released in 2015 it is a glorious package of hooks, fuzzy guitar and exuberant bass and drums, topped off of course by the carefully crafted words and spot-on vocal delivery from Emma Kupa.
In a live setting you can appreciate the musical extras, like the fathoms-deep rolling bass on ‘Played’ and some great drumming fireworks on a couple of the new tracks, hopefully destined to be on a follow-up album soon.
I was glad that what is for me their definitive song ‘Strength In My Legs’ was in the set, a super-poppy blend of vulnerable lyrics and powerful music.

Hannah Lou Clark is a singer/songwriter/ guitarist, fronting a quartet playing some atmospheric Indie rock to celebrate the release of new guilt-edged titled EP ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’. From that disc, the dual salvo of ‘Matilda’ and ‘Don’t Sweat It’ are stealthy, restrained build-ups to memorable choruses.

Introduced simply as ‘..a love song..‘ the ballad ‘We’re Rich’ is a show-stopper; over guitar triplets the plaintive emotional statement unfolds, as the instrumentation gradually weaves in the layers. Wow, just how good was that?

Back into rockier territory for ‘It’s Your Love’ and we also hear the unexpected bass noises and drum pattern of ‘Silent Type’, showing that the band is not afraid to stretch the sonic boundaries.
The anthemic, stately ‘Grief Underneath’ is a big finish to the show with crunching guitar echoing around the appreciative crowd, already won over by some good interaction from Hannah during this well-paced, energetic set.

https://www.facebook.com/hannahlouclarkmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins/

Broadway Danny Rose, EP released March 2017

This EP from Broadway Danny Rose is called ‘Passive Aggressive Post-Its’ and according to the band is the distillation from 14 hours of music; that sounds like plenty to choose from, which is not surprising given the range and scope of the music made by Joe Bell and his cohorts.

‘Rabbit Foot’ is an out-and-out rocker, it sounds like Wilko Johnson has temporarily joined the band to play along with the riff for a tale of gambling, debt and low-life deals. Worth the price of the EP on its own, it is a great opener.
We then go over to ‘Jeffrey’s Place’, a strange concoction of loud loping bass and driving guitar; also it includes the lyric ‘….For Jeffrey knows what’s wrong, haunted by mistakes… Rupert Brooke’s can charm but the sentiment’s misplaced….’ and other cryptic delights.

‘Organised Sport’ is a short blast of punk pop energy, with an opaque cut-up lyric where it is the sound of the words that count. I am lucky to own an early acoustic version of ‘Carrie Simmons’, on this release it is now filled out to form a swirling mini-movie murder ballad,‘….There’s something about the way you use that knife….Together in death as in life…’. Disturbing stuff; this is also a track of musical contrasts and shows the impressive versatility of the band.

I look forward to the album….

https://broadwaydannyrose.bandcamp.com/releases

Ricky Boom-Boom, EP released March 2017

This EP is called ‘A Rum Old Do’ and is a refreshing dose of folky blues from Ricky Boom-Boom, a Cambridge guitarist named after the enduring song by the late great John Lee Hooker.

The opener ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ has a driving acoustic riff with a lyric of bitterness capped off with the unlikely meteorological notion of the title line. As the singer sinks into despair (‘…Good will has jumped out of the window to a hundred storey fall….’ ) the blistering slide guitar of Tom Colborn bursts breathlessly into the mix.

‘Trouble Will Find You’ is a great blues title and the song is more mellow as the slide guitar rolls across the top of the chords. While the narrator is full of foreboding and warning on this song, the next track ‘Eyes Of Strangers’ is a lyrical sequel, a sinister and oppressive musing that there is no escape from destiny (‘…now you’re getting sleepless nights…You’re getting paranoid and won’t switch out the lights…’) , these words contrasting with the intricate guitar work from both musicians.

Beginning with the neat lyric ‘….wandered lonely in the crowd.. Until some eyes stared out aloud…’ the final track is the distinctive ‘Barbara’; a stately amalgamation of dense guitars and a lyric and vocal delivery reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s later solo material. A high quality finish to a stylistically rare and satisfying addition to the current Cambridge musical cornucopia.

https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/album/a-rum-old-do (Proceeds to National Autistic Society)
http://www.tomcolborn.com/

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Vol 1, released March 2017

A new compilation of tracks representing the diversity of the Cambridge music scene, curated by Dave Hammond from his highly-regarded alternative radio show on Cambridge 105.

1. Trick Bird – Window Catchy opener from DIY popster, an up-beat tune carrying a lyric with dark undertones.
2. All We Earthlings – Berlin Plenty going on in this rock-prog epic with a story to tell over some powerful instrumentation.
3. Broadway Danny Rose – Find It/Hide It I really like this, Joe Bell effortlessly whisks you away into shadowy territory, a troublesome serenade sounding like it was recorded in the middle of the American desert…
4. I Strip For Couples – An Introduction Orchestral rap, killer guitar, crowd noise, fireworks? It is like a whole album condensed into one track.
5. Black Buttercups – 209 Sinister blues, hotel room 209 (and 208) sounds the place to be, before a buzz-saw guitar solo explodes into the mix.
6. The Seven Twenty – (Can’t Find No Love In This) City – Alt. Mix Evocative, thoughtful song, musically restless with violin roving in and out to great effect.
7. Garuda – Theta This one rocks, relentless drums and unusual guitar effects combine hypnotically.
8. Motor Tapes – Count To Ten Experimenters play electronic slabs over solid drums and bass pedals. Great vocals too, but I still can’t decipher the distant voices over the end fade…
9. Keltrix – Butter A martial drum approaching over the horizon heralds the arrival of a folk pomp-rock ode, the spirited vocal underlined by a violin sounding like medieval pipes. Complex and rewarding.
10. 3 Screaming Popes – Great Day A memorable name for the band and a laid-back, gently rocking track, taking its time and delivering a strong hookline.
11. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Drownout Heaviest track on the album, crackling from the speakers and capturing the high quality of their live performances.
12. Eil Marchini – Come and Go Introspective, intense and very melodic acoustic musings.
13. Datum Plane – Lighthouse Optimistic gospelly ballad with a timeless feel.
14. Pete Newman Clarinet Project – Cheap Black Plastic Cool jazz interlude from clarinet/sax virtuoso. Nice!
15. Lizard Brain – Bring The Curtain Down This is the longest track on the collection, atmospheric alt-rock with rolling percussion and warm vocal performance.
16. The Scissors – Haunted Mirror Prominent Hammond organ gives sixties vibe to a short groove from one of the city’s premier live bands.
17. Model Village – Don’t This is a folky-rock grower from one of my favourite bands. Do!
18. Umbrella Assassins – Chicken Crazy lyric of bird species over an addictive tabla/sitar type drone. Are all their songs like this? I hope so…
19. Gavin Chappell Bates – Follow The Light Live-looping troubadour gives the full band treatment to an impassioned anthem from his debut album.

Great stuff. There is such a rich seam of musical talent to be mined, there is enough for a Volume 2 already…

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cambridge-calling-vol-1 (Proceeds going to the Arthur Rank Hospice)
https://germanshepherdrecords.com/

Indiepop Alldayer, Firebug, Leicester, 11 March 2017

The upstairs rooms at the Firebug bar in Leicester were an ideal venue for an excellent line-up on a rainy Saturday. The 10p Mixes are a fun low-fi confection of observation and reminiscence, the strong voice of Danielle and guitar acrobatics of Will welcome you readily into their beguiling world.

Rainbow Reservoir from Oxford have a loud, rocky edge to their sound but leave plenty of room for some lyrical idiosyncrasies such as their final song ‘Brenda’, about the Queen(!). It was half an hour of top-quality power pop.

I am an admirer (see review) of Wolf Girl’s album ‘We Tried’ and it was good to hear some of it live at last, as well as many new tracks. Wolf Girl have a great rapport with the audience and their infectious summery sound such as on ‘Deep Sea Diver’ belies their ability to unravel the complications of everyday events and oddities in their words.

Peaness are a poptastic trio from Chester, and we were very pleased they had made the journey down! The catchy songs with their multiple hooks and harmonies were played with warmth and razor-sharp style. ‘Oh George’ (…you broke my heart…) was a standout song, with some neat drumming and great chorus but actually the whole set was unmissable.

After a break we were treated to a set from indiepop local heroes Po!, recognised by John Peel with a session in 1994 and embarking on a comeback. Singer/songwriter Ruth Miller has an enviable back catalogue to draw on, vignettes of small events from a unique perspective such as ‘I Took My Head On A Date’, ‘Bus Shelter’ and the jauntier gem ‘Sunday Never Comes Around’. The miniscule ticket price of £8 had been superb value so far, and still three acts to come…

This was the third time I had seen Chorusgirl and they don’t disappoint. The strong songs benefitted from a fairly beefy sound mix, especially on the incisive bass. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Silvi was on top form, leading the band to new heights musically, especially on ‘Shivers’ when some frantic pogoing threatened to deliver the audience into the bar below… They are about to record a second album, with some promising tracks previewed in this striking performance.

Cowtown avoid many musical clichés with frenetic drumming and guitar, synthesiser bass and an incredibly full sound, showcasing short songs and you never know where they are going next. Their nearly-controlled anarchy is fully evident on new album ‘Paranormal Romance’ and they featured many of its tracks (I think?!) including 36 seconds of ‘Captain Planet'(did they play this twice?) and the crazy logic of ‘Motivational Speaker’. Rewarding and exhausting and strangely addictive!

The final act was Indie royalty Pete Astor, a calming and commanding presence with a subtle backing band to make the most of his carefully considered lyrics and unhurried tunes. He is a class act indeed, his career spanning many years and revitalised by the 2016 album ‘Spilt Milk’.

It was the perfect end to a great mini-festival with excellent music, sound quality, company, venue, beer, organisation…I look forward to next year already!

http://peteastor.com/
http://cowtown.bandcamp.com/
http://chorusgirl.co.uk/
http://peanessband.bandcamp.com/
http://ruthpo.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.wearewolfgirl.co.uk/
http://www.rainbowreservoir.com/
http://the10pmixes.bandcamp.com/

Pinegrove, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 26 February 2017

Lomelda (aka Hannah Read) is a singer/songwriter from Texas. Accompanied by just her guitar, the attentive audience at the Portland were treated to a set of heartfelt songs, sometimes with almost freeform vocals over gentle or occasionally booming and echoing guitar. ‘Columbia River’ was a standout track. She seemed surprised at the quietness and polite respect of the audience, but that’s Cambridge… it was a warm, relaxed performance, a good musical complement to the headliners.

Pinegrove are an amiable band of excellent musicians from the USA, fronted by the confessional voice of singer/songwriter Evan Hall. They have a line-up of drums, bass and three guitars, allowing for many subtle tricks and touches in the brilliant sound mix, one of the best I have heard at the Portland. They played many of the tracks from their well-reviewed album ‘Cardinal’ (and known and much-loved too judging by the response of many in the audience).

It all rolls along in an easy-going mix of Americana, folk-rock and some sharp grooves, with lyrics that draw you in every time. ‘Old Friends’ is their signature tune, each section stopping and starting and greeted with enthusiasm from the sold-out crowd. Evan established a good rapport with the audience, explaining context and the creative process and adding some insight into the carefully crafted lyrics with some good dry humour too.

I particularly enjoyed ‘Size Of The Moon’, ‘Waveform’ and the newer songs due for recording in June were shaping up well. It was a sumptuous and satisfying show, summed up by the unifying finale ‘New Friends’…..

“…so I resolve to make new friends…what’s the worst that could happen?”

http://www.pinegroveband.com/
http://lomelda.net/index.html