Category Archives: Music

R J Archer : No Consolation Prize, LP released March 2018

A new LP of his own compositions from Cambridge acoustic guitarist R J Archer. Also known as Ricky Boom-Boom or Richard Archer he continues to project the blues through a neo-folk prism when recording or playing live and the opener ‘Trouble Will Find You’ is a fine example of this crossover.

‘Walking Blues’ is a smooth waterfall of guitar while ‘Song Of The Seasons’ and the delicate ‘Bitter End’ shows some psychedelic roots. Richard described ‘Spilt Milk’ as depicting how regret is a corrosive emotion, set to an unrelenting set of chord changes and strong hook. Considering the supposed limitations of one man and an acoustic guitar, there is a satisfying variety of material on show in these twelve tracks; ‘I Need To Sleep’ being a technical workout beneath the somnolent lyric.

‘Tired Old War’ is a straightforward protest song, always good to hear. Previously released ‘Barbara’ is the most unusual sonic track here, it was reviewed on this site as ‘….a stately amalgamation of dense guitars and a lyric and vocal delivery reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s later solo material….’

‘Downtime In The Panoptican’ is a challenging title that invites further research ( and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere of dissonant paranoia. ‘Bottlenecks And Barriers’ is more soothing and final song ‘Discotheque In The Dark’ is an impressionistic, intricate piece ‘..Who knows where everybody goes…now the doors have all but closed….’, a long way removed from the bright lights and loud noises of the institution in the title. This is perhaps echoed in the cover artwork where a knowing R J, guitar in hand, is leaving the party behind…


Vic Allen : Between The Lines, EP released February 2018

Vic Allen is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Norwich, making a name for herself in the flourishing UK new-country/folk scene. This set of four songs is a follow-up to ‘The Missing Piece’ EP from 2016. Opening track ‘Quit’ is a melancholy tale of the end of a relationship, woven through with resignation and reality. The gentler guitar work in the verses steps up into the sweeping but controlled chorus and the video partly filmed on the vast and strangely empty beaches of the Norfolk coast symbolises better times now gone. ‘Bittersweet’ is affecting in its deceptive simplicity, with some subtle vocal harmonies.

The title track is all about escape into the wide open spaces and an unknown future, a preferable alternative to a life trapped ‘Between The Lines’, set to a more conventional US country sound of instrumentation and vocal stylings than the rest of the EP. It is a fine soundtrack to the road-trip video that accompanies the music. ‘Kids’ is Vic’s best vocal performance, full of heartfelt mellow nostalgia for lost time over counterpointing guitar figures and a haunting hookline.

It is an impressive EP, four contrasting tracks that showcase Vic Allen’s expressive voice and songwriting potential.

Indiepop Alldayer, Firebug, Leicester, 24 Feb 2018

Another strong line-up in the upstairs room at The Firebug, kicking off with local duo Jitterz, who have claimed to be ‘the uncoolest band you’ll ever meet’ and the drums/guitar/vocal set-up is an ideal opener with some raw and smart own compositions. Like the White Stripes but more fun.

Charmpit carry an American attitude into some very British preoccupations and their infectious noise is accompanied by props, glitter and general likeability, including inviting everyone to the all-you-can-eat buffet afterwards. Personal Best were replaced at the last minute by multi-talented Emma Kupa, frequently reviewed in various guises on this site, this afternoon she was playing acoustic guitar and singing her heartfelt, emotional vignettes.

MJ Hibbert And The Validators play wistful, amusing songs showing that getting older doesn’t adversely affect your views on life, love and alternative music (‘…my boss was in an indie band once, he never sold his bass..‘). Nice bit of violin playing too.

After a short break to re-charge, Fightmilk opened the second half with the explosive ‘Bank Of Mum And Dad’, full of neat lyrics (‘…everything I own is in a box in the shed…’) they make a great sound, with a relaxed on-stage chemistry. They really are enjoying being on stage and the feeling spreads into the audience. The sinister, brooding ‘Your Girlfriend’ shows that the band are not just all-out rockers. A definite highlight of the day, can’t wait to see them again!

As soon as ‘Suggested Friends’ kick into ‘Chicken’, you know you are in safe hands; with Emma Kupa back on stage on bass, pounding drums and tight guitar work, all held together by Faith Taylor’s extra-special vocals. It is a ‘Song 2’ for the indie DIY scene. ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Horcrux For Your Soul’ motors along pushing all before it and the high point for me is the superbly concise and scary ‘Please Don’t Look At Me On The Bus’ with a hookline you can’t get out of your head.

I had been looking forward to seeing ‘Milky Wimpshake’ (returning to Leicester for the first time in at least twenty years!) and I wasn’t disappointed. Frontman Pete Dale has a substantial back catalogue to delve into and the bands sparse but sharp playing gives room for his tales of the politics of the nation and relationships or just the mundanity of everyday life, with some tracks going back to his recently re-released debut album ‘Bus Route To Your Heart’.

We had to leave soon after former Broken Family Band frontman Steven Adams And The French Drops started their bill-topping set, but they seemed to be hitting the heights early on with many fans in the audience.

It was a great musical mini-festival (and still only £8!!?)


Franz Ferdinand, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 23 February 2018

Meggie Brown is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from London playing a mystical punk rock, showcased perfectly in her debut single ‘Coming Back Again’, (produced by FF’s Alex Kapranos). Tonight she was playing with her sharply dressed and tightly drilled band, who although as support they were all confined to one side of the cluttered stage, impressed and engrossed the steadily growing sold-out crowd. It was an enjoyable set, I particularly liked the sudden instrumental twists in amongst the spiky lyrics, and I am still pondering the meaning of ‘crying for 14 years’ appearing on Meggie and her companion guitarist’s frock coats..

Albert Hammond Jr has a reputation founded on his guitar playing in cult legends The Strokes, and he has continued to push boundaries with his solo work, soon to release his fourth album, ‘Francis Trouble’. Fronting a five=piece band he is a likeable and lively performer, able to share his affability with ease as he leaps around the stage, climbs onto speakers, plays guitar or serenades his stripy jacket. The band are reassuringly adept too, able to switch smoothly between wall of sound and sparser tracks based around single line figures.

Since Franz Ferdinand released their debut album in 2004 they have built a strong reputation based on live performance and a succession of contrasting albums, with constant experimentation weaving through their own distinctive sound. Now expanded to a five-piece, new disc ‘Always Ascending’ featured heavily tonight, with ‘Lazy Boy’ and ‘Paper Cages’ particular highpoints. In an artfully crafted set, old favourites also appeared at key moments, with ‘Do You Want To’ and favourite of mine ‘Michael’ (in the absence of ‘Jacqueline’!) which really kicked the crowd off. Some moody moog synth textures featured more in mid-set but of course the wall of guitars for ‘Take Me Out’ was stunning.
During the encore the back-projections of the band members and other effects went into overdrive and then the double header of new (‘Huck and Jim’) and vintage (‘This Fire’) brought the show to an explosive finale.


Faeland : All My Swim, LP released January 2018

This is a very impressive debut from Bristol contemporary folk band Faeland, an acoustic collective led by songwriting duo Rebecca Nelson and Jacob Morrison.

Opener ‘Too Much’ starts quietly before a distinctly celtic instrumentation broods mysteriously underneath Rebecca’s vocal stylings, her voice being one of the huge strengths of this disc. Released as a single, ‘We’re Just A Love Song’ is a sprightly but sad tale about the destiny of a relationship, ‘Prayer Song’ is layered vocals and atmosphere with a clarinet adding to the texture.

A shimmering harp sound on ‘All My Swim’ makes this transformative track even better, as the narrator becomes one with the flowing river. ‘Chantress’ is a more traditional folk sound, with accordion joining in too. And there is much much more, including my personal favourites ‘Strings’, with beautiful voice and elegant acoustic guitar figures and the sparse strumming and lyrical nostalgia of ‘To The Green – Live’.

Highly recommended, fifty minutes of gentle, carefully-crafted quality sounds. It is an album to escape into and become part of; somehow it seems removed from the normal time stream….


Shopping, Cluny 2, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2nd February 2018

Cluny 2 is an intimate and characterful venue converted from a theatre which was formerly a Victorian flax mill. Tonight it hosted three contrasting but complementary bands. Openers Swine Tax were playing on their home turf; they describe themselves as 90s inspired indie-rock chaos which seems an accurate description. Showcasing a mostly new and unrecorded set, they pushed the standard three piece instrument line-up in all sorts of directions, with singer/guitarist Vince Lisle fronting the songs with an energetic stage presence. They made a good noise, with recent single ‘Feels Like’ as a standout track.

Leeds quartet Milk Crimes are full of DIY-pop melancholy and desperation, set to a great wall of double guitar, punky bass and relentless drums underpinning plaintive vocals. In punk rock tradition it seemed a very short set, with riches including the opening salvo of ‘Hanging Out’ and ‘Deadtown’ and the frenetic bursts and quiet interludes in ‘Hail Seitan’. Hopefully they will have some new recorded material out soon.

Shopping have the simplest of sounds but it works brilliantly, live and on record. With many tracks from their newly released album ‘The Official Body’ (produced by indie legend Edwyn Collins!) their set was a spiky sounding masterclass in concise, message-carrying danceable pop. Their eternal triangle of staccato drums, single-line clear guitar figures and one of the sharpest bass sounds you will hear anywhere are topped off with call and response vocal interjections, often single words or phrases that say it all. ‘Why Wait’, ‘Discover’ (with a squelching synth bass line) and the changing tempo of ‘Control Yourself’ showed the band on top form with the audience under the spell. The final track was ‘Suddenly Gone’ and then they were…


Carolyn’s Fingers : Her Howl, single released January 2018

Refreshingly new and making an impact on the Cambridge scene, Carolyn’s Fingers (named after a song by the Cocteau Twins) are bringing their original music to life in live performance and now on this sparkling first single release.

‘Her Howl’ is a hypnotic, ethereal journey of the mind, painting an intense, personal picture through words and music of the nature of depression and dark thoughts. The four minutes include so many sections falling into each other; it is as if there are several songs overlapping and one of the great strengths of the piece – there is no room for complacency or background listening here. The audience is drawn in to become part of the band’s private meditation.

Sparse keyboard and subtly programmed percussive glitches weave their way between echoing electric guitar and minimalist bass foundations as the multi-voice layers finally resolve into an a cappella style chorus which disturbingly drifts away taking you with it.

Play their other intricate tracks on SoundCloud, watch their YouTube channel and better still, catch them in live action at the Portland Arms in Cambridge on 18th April…