Author Archives: iknoweno

Tom Robinson, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 12 October 2017

Another sold-out show at the Portland started with the acoustic guitar and lived-in vocals of Lee Forsyth-Griffiths. Originally from Manchester he is now based in London and preparing his third album. Referencing some difficult past times in his lyrics and exchanges with the audience he performed a short set of intense and musically free-form songs, with passionate vocals veering into the hurting tones of the late lamented John Martyn and Kevin Coyne.

It was a good night for vocals, Tom Robinson had politely introduced Lee to the rapidly building audience, but once the bass was strapped on and his band took to the stage his voice showed no restraint as he blasted out the opening number ‘Up Against The Wall’. As is the welcome trend with many established musicians the show was mainly a complete performance of an album; in this case the first LP from the Tom Robinson Band ‘Power In The Darkness’. It is an album that has retained relevance with its many references to disillusionment (‘…I’ve given up reading the papers, I’ve given up watching TV…‘), alienation, government inaction, media, discrimination, racism – all sounding remarkably contemporary. On top of that the music is strong stuff and although the original TRB imploded after 2 years this specially assembled incarnation played it loud.

There were so many standout tracks; ‘Ain’t Gonna Take It’ with added Hammond organ sound, the slinky groove of ‘Too Good To Be True’, ‘Man You Never Saw’ ( according to Tom it was too difficult for the original TRB to play live! No problems tonight..), celebrating the iconic 70s ‘Grey Cortina’ (‘…8-track blazing Brucie Springsteen…’) and the prophetic ‘Winter of ’79’.

These ten original album tracks were encored with the music hall singalong ‘Martin’, the ground-breaking (and banned by the BBC) protest of ‘Glad To Be Gay’ and of course the all-time classic ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’. A bonus encore of later period hit ‘War Baby’ finished off the set.
Tom may be more well-known these days for breaking new music on BBC 6Music, but he has lost nothing of the anger and flair of live performance.

http://www.tomrobinson.com/
http://lee-griffiths.co.uk/

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Goldblume : Fawning, single released September 2017

A cracking new two-headed single package from Cambridge trio Goldblume. Opening track ‘Fawning ‘ is a no holds barred rocker but becomes a bit of a mini-suite of varied movements included in the five minute running time, which is impressive given the theoretical limitations of guitar, bass and drums.
Singer/guitarist Jethro is at his confident best, from the edgy stop-start lines of the introduction, taking its time before the vocal works its way in. He sounds almost as if the story in the lyric is slipping away from him (…’you can do anything, look at your perfect skin’…) and the music undergoes a controlled disintegration too. The bass gets chance to shine, I greatly enjoy that sharp cutting deep sound they have achieved in the studio.

The accompanying track ‘Tomorrow’ is fully acoustic; a relentless climbing chord progression underpinning an impassioned vocal plea. The drums are held in check, just contributing some brushwork but the bass again is crucial to the mix.

The pastoral cover art shows a cat in an ethereal woodland glade meeting a fawn from the title track, though perhaps that fawn represents the white hart of legend, the harbinger of doom indicating that a terrible evil or judgement was imminent; this music does have its darker side…

https://goldblumeband.bandcamp.com/

The Big Moon, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 24 September 2017

There was a definite anticipation in the air for a sold-out gig on a warm Sunday evening at the Portland. It meant that the room was already full for the spirited support band Get Inuit, a four-piece from Kent combining mercurial lyrics with some stop-start rock. With a clear American surf-pop influence of three part harmonies and a good-time vibe they won the audience over immediately. The highlight was the catchy surrealism of ‘All My Friends’ (…all my friends are dead, their corpses lie in bed…) and the slowburn intro of ‘Barbituates’, soon kicking into some serious loud guitar pounding.

The Big Moon are riding high, flying the flag for guitar bands at the Mercury Prize with their sublime album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ nominated and a great performance of ‘Cupid’ at the award show. Taking the stage with a backdrop of a large blue moon, we knew we were in safe hands as soon as ‘Silent Movie Susie’ opened the set with its soundwall opening and that three-voice descending hookline. Songwriter Juliette Jackson has put together a set of songs that seem to breathe new life into the basic guitar-band formula in a similar way to the first Franz Ferdinand album.
In a live situation the relaxed onstage chemistry between the four players extends out into the audience and we all share in the good times. There were new songs never played before, a bonkers cover of ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ and Fern Ford had the difficult task of swapping between drums and the occasional atmospheric keyboards, all adding depth and resonance to the show.

The final one word titled ‘tetralogy(?)’ of ‘Cupid’, ‘Formidable’, ‘Bonfire’ (complete with an invasion into the crowd..) and ‘Sucker’ rounded it all off in style. A great night, I think it will not be in the intimate surroundings of the Portland the next time The Big Moon come to town….

http://thebigmoon.co.uk/
http://getinu.it/

Newts : Newts 2, EP released August 2017.

Named after the most misunderstood of UK amphibians (often blamed for holding up infra-structure projects, with Ken Livingstone and Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle as famous keepers) Cambridge power-trio Newts release a blasting new EP.

1. Losers.
A mighty guitar riff, stately bass and drums, sorrowful vocal, it is like a strange industrial folk-tale to match the video of sinister doll heads and limbs being assembled. Crazy, disturbing but addictive.

2. Remains. The bass leads this more up-tempo track, with a distant vocal sounding a bit like goth-rock supremos The Mission, which is no bad thing.

3. Mission Creep. At five and a half minutes the longest track on the EP, the first slow section featuring a good build up of moody guitar picking and ultra deep sustained bass pedals. The drummer knows how to leave space between the flourishes. The song stops in true prog rock fashion then follows with a neat strummed bridge into a powerful descending line and heavy fuzz, my favourite bit of the EP.

4. Bone Wars. As summery as grunge rock could be, a short and sweet garage pop anthem, with added guitar solo.

Recorded with an on-stage sound, on the evidence of this EP the three-piece sound like they would be a bold live attraction….

https://newts.bandcamp.com/

Bouquet Of Dead Crows, Six Bells, Cambridge, 9 September 2017

The local music scene in Cambridge (and I assume in other towns) is being supported by an increasing number of pubs and cafes featuring the best of home-grown talent (special commendations to The Earl Of Beaconsfield and Relevant Records café). Now the Six Bells off Mill Road has broadened its musical repertoire to feature some of the more contemporary indie artists, including a recent bout of noiserock from up and coming four-piece Shyer, as well as a forthcoming December gig from carnival psychsters The Scissors.
Tonight it was an acoustic showcase, beginning with Matt Hammond, added to the bill at the last minute, and very pleased to be playing to an appreciative audience.
He is one of those guitar players who is fascinating to watch, a style based around tapping the strings up the neck of the instrument, forming repetitive, hypnotic patterns to underpin his mellow vocalising. It was all relaxing and tranquil, he is clearly a fan of Nick Drake and John Martyn, as everyone should probably be….

Jethro Steel of Goldblume is not a coaxer of the guitar, preferring a more punishing approach to the strings. He plays effective versions of the electric power-trio’s tracks, with all their unpredictable twists such as whisking us away to ‘Winconsin’. With a new EP release imminent, this magnetic performer knows how to win a crowd over.

Bouquet Of Dead Crows are equally at home as full-on rockers and with different stripped down versions; tonight it was the vocals of Antoinette Cooper with guitar (and some effects) from multi-instrumentalist Neil Bruce and a rare appearance of an acoustic bass played by Graeme Clarke. They were featuring songs from debut album ‘Of The Night’, previously reviewed on this site. They certainly held audience attention, for a couple of quieter tracks we were instructed to be silent to get fully involved, this was readily obeyed!

Varied musical styles, intimate surroundings, good beer, free(!), that must be a good night out…

Bouquet of Dead Crows
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/09/13/bouquet-of-dead-crows-of-the-night-released-november-2015/
https://goldblumeband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.musicglue.com/matthammondofficial/shop

The Surfing Magazines, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 8 September 2017

Ricky Boom-Boom opened the show with the most obscure cover of the evening (‘You Belong In Rock And Roll’ by underrated Bowie side-project Tin Machine) and although he describes himself as ‘….playing songs about disillusionment, bitterness and smouldering anger….’ I found his set quite uplifting, with some sparky guitar work and lyrical entanglements. ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ is a highlight , featured on his recent EP, along with the characterful ode to ‘Barbara’. New song ‘Discotheque In The Dark’ continues in the earthier trend of his work but my favourite was probably a bonus encore at the end, a burning blues that seemed part-improvised but showed that perhaps the devil does have all the best tunes.

Moonstrips have changed a bit since I saw them last, they are still filtering some fairly heavy rock through a psychedelic prism but now a saxophone has been added to the line-up and the music has increased in ambition. ‘Broken Catapults’ and ‘Why Do You Need It’ from their album ‘Glimpses’ stomp along nicely but it was the new ‘You Had To Find Out’ that brought the set to boiling point, an epic waltz sounding like seventies icons Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Hazel O’Connor saxophone of ‘Will You’ fame had joined the party too. In a few spare minutes at the end they threw in a powerful cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Electric Funeral’ (which greatly impressed Dave T of the Surfing Magazines!)

Not since the formation of The Travelling Wilburys has a ‘supergroup’ been quite so anticipated; The Surfing Magazines consist of David Tattersall and Franic Rozycki from the Wave Pictures, Charles Watson from Slow Club and drummer Dominic Brider.
With a newly released album their onstage enjoyment of the music shone out from the opening track ‘You Could Never Come To Me Too Soon’, with all the expected flourishes from these players; forlorn lyrics, crisp guitar solos (now with extra rhythm guitar added), driving drums and slinky bass.

Taking turns to sing, David, Charles and Dominic all add something different to a cool set of songs, favourites of mine being the garage shuffle of ‘Goose-Feather Bed’ (featuring the exotic wordplay of ‘…pickled onion monster munch for lunch I had a hunch…’), the country lament duet of ‘One Of These Days’ and the brilliant build-up of ‘Lines And Shadows’. It is all such infectious good fun, a cover score of N Young 2, B Dylan 1 and don’t forget the surf guitar instrumental ‘A Fran Escaped’, propelled by Shadows-style dancing that may need some practice…

Like the famous quiz ‘fact’ that only one of The Beach Boys could actually surf, there may not be much sports activities here but this band can certainly play the blues/garage/pop/rock and have a great time too..

https://thesurfingmagazines.bandcamp.com/album/the-surfing-magazines
https://moonstrips.bandcamp.com/
https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/

Mary Epworth, Norwich Arts Centre, 2 September 2017

Three upcoming acts from the Momentum funding programme in the converted church that is Norwich Arts Centre. First on was Love Ssega, originally part of Clean Bandit, he now records polyrhythmic funk and soulful commentaries on modern life. Tonight his full band were stripped back to a subtle single electric guitar, this was an empathetic accompaniment to his strong voice and winning personality.

Hannah Peel is an amazingly talented solo performer, dressed in a white flowing outfit, surrounded by keyboards and conjuring extra sounds and effects from violin, a music box and her voice she takes herself and the audience to another plane. ‘All That Matters’ is a show-stopper, even better than the recorded version.
Back projections of her parents’ wedding video from 1978 seem timeless as the gorgeous and melodic ballad ‘Tenderly’ builds to a crescendo. I’m not sure quite what ‘Cars In The Garden’ is all about but it is a fine and memorable song. She ended the set with the epic ‘Foreverest’, an electronic spectacular; more evidence that Hannah is a creative force to be reckoned with.

Musical free spirit Mary Epworth has just released her second album, ‘Elytral’ (..relating to the wing cases of a beetle…) and tonight with a four piece band she enhanced the recorded versions of many of the tracks, with industrial bold beats, plenty of percussion, free-flowing saxophone and deep, deep bass synthesiser; it is a heady mix.
At times sounding like a modern version of ‘Being Boiled’ by the Human League but with Mary’s voice floating and yearning over the music she has created a sound all her own. This is most evident on ‘Me Swimming’, an extended, echoing piece with haunting hookline. ‘Last Night’ has a more ambient experimental start then a cacophony of synth crashes in like distorted sirens.

…..and the music disappeared upwards into the high rafters of this superb venue….

http://maryepworth.com/
http://www.hannahpeel.com/
https://www.lovessega.com/