Tag Archives: Cambridge

Various Artists : Now That’s What I Call The Portland, LP released May 2020

A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).

1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.

2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.

3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.

4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.

5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.

6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.

7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.

8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.

9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.

10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.

11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.

12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.

13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.

14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.

15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.

16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.

17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.

https://theportlandarms.bandcamp.com/album/now-thats-what-i-call-the-portland
http://www.theportlandarms.co.uk

The New Fools : Mershmellow, LP released April 2020

The second album from Cambridge-based band The New Fools; again it is a mixture of styles, textures and well-crafted song writing.

1. London ’66.
A melancholy waltz to open the collection, swirling acoustic guitar and plaintive piano for a biting lyric ‘….winter ’66, a cold London street disturbed from its dream by the sound of a woman’s scream…’

2. The House of (Having) Fun. A Northern Soul stomper, the lyric celebrating nothing specific ‘…and I feel like a mystical man selling dreams from the back of a van….’ but acting as the glue for a perfect pop song structure.

3. Summer Rain. The pace of the band drives this mini road movie along, the meditative recollections of the vocals drifting above the rhythm guitar, organ and spirited drumming. ‘…autumn leaves fall from the trees…settling around my feet…sweet memories…’

4. The Story 0f Me.
40 years of biography in three and a half minutes, the waltzing carousel sound given extra emotional resonance by guest folk-infused violin, a brilliant counter to the disappointment expressed in the words, ‘…now I’m 50 years old I can hardly breathe for the weight of the guilt and the shame that surrounds me…move on will you please there’s nothing to see….’

5. Model Village. This could be a diversion for the character in track 4, spending many hours building a model village as a metaphor for escape. It solves nothing, after all ‘…what you gonna do when the rain comes…what you gonna do if it pours….pick up the pieces and start all over again…’. The band don’t let up in their intensity until a sombre coda that fades into birdsong.

6. Something About Jane. Suspicions about the breakdown of a relationship infuses the pounding rock momentum with a paranoia from the narrator. Another viewpoint is presented in a surprising reggae section, before the doubts re-establish.

7. John Candy Talking. A strident punchy anthem that musically unlocks a bit of REM and glam rock in memory of a largely forgotten cult actor as a metaphor for emotional confusion ‘….I’m going round in circles without you…I can’t help the way I’m feeling….the modern world is not forgiving…’. This track was pre-released as a single earlier in the year.

8. I Got on a Train. I’m not sure that the railway ticketing system allows for the random sense of escape that this track inspires ‘….I got on a train don’t know where it’s heading…anywhere is fine…I got nowhere to run but I’ve a ticket to ride…’ but it is a thoughtful and well-judged finale to this richly creative album.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Bouquet Of Dead Crows : Hemispheres Part 1 – Celestial, EP released April 2020

The new album ‘Hemispheres’ (a homage to the classic Rush LP?) from Cambridge “Sci-fi Alt Rock band” Bouquet Of Dead Crows is to be issued in two parts; ‘Celestial’ now then ‘Cerebral’ to follow….

1. Terraformer Scary doom-laden introduction, a barren planetary landscape of distant guitar effects…

2. Before The Storm I think the storm has already arrived at the start of this track, then it goes a bit jazz-influenced interspersed with the heaviness through a packed two and a half minutes.

3. Caged The clear and strong vocal rides over a synthesiser guitar backing, duelling with the threatening purity of the full-on rock sound, suddenly unleashed towards the end of the track.

4. Left To Rot Featuring one of the most dynamic introductions I have heard for ages, this previously released song pushes all before it, with the explosives that this band can unleash with ease. I don’t know how anyone can play the drums that fast. It pauses occasionally with a 70s prog rock interlude.

5. Kaiju Hijinks With the listener exhausted from track 4 this new single maintains the pace and energy. The title refers to the Japanese film genre and the accompanying video stars Godzilla and the unfeasibly powerful Mothra. As the super-deep bass drives the sound the drums and guitar take on the monsters.

6. Hemispheres Martial drumming sits beneath some deceptively gentle verses and noisy prescient chorus ‘….it’s not the end of the world…this time…‘ Trading the rockier conventions for a more anthemic sound, with each of the instruments and voice given a chance to individually shine this is a multi-sectioned complex and rewarding track.

https://www.bodc.live/

Tape Runs Out : Sleepwalking Into A Fire, EP released February 2020

Creative indie experimenters Tape Runs Out release an excellent new EP, a companion piece to last year’s ‘Talking Through The Walls’.

The Cambridge-based septet have an armoury of sonic flavours they can employ, but can still play  more conventional synth-rock as on opening track ‘Train Toy’. A waterfall of random sounds gives way to a stunning bass-driven chord progression; over this lushness a partly disembodied voice weaves strange, paranoid  imagery. The instruments come and go (especially a roaring guitar sliding up and down octaves) over a spectacular, relentless but soothing six minutes.
A bit like an epic song by The War On Drugs, or a journey travelling on water, it takes the time to do what needs to be done.

‘Anklebone’ is a much shorter psychedelic interlude, but like the following track ‘Children Will Dance’  there is a pulsing power produced by this talented ensemble.

‘Into The Sea’ is built around an urgent guitar figure (or is it the hammered dulcimer that they use later in the track?), tempered by some rich synths and violin. There is a melancholy in the lyrics on this pivotal song, ‘…maybe I’m optimistic…or maybe I’m sleepwalking into a fire…’

A repeating bass note beneath a treated violin heralds baroque chants and progressive rock moodiness in ‘Even Colours Follow The Rule’ then finale ‘Flowers’ is a calming meditation to bring this generous (twenty-six minutes) and accomplished EP to a satisfying conclusion.

https://www.taperunsout.co.uk/

Salt House, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 15 March 2020

Storey’s Field Centre in the new settlement of Eddington near Cambridge welcomed folk trio Salt House.
The clarity of the acoustics and the lofty church-like structure were an ideal setting for their haunting, celebratory music – conjuring images of stark but beautiful landscapes from the Scottish islands where they record.

Opening song ‘Turn Ye to Me’, “a tale of a baby stolen by a sea monster and replaced by a changeling whilst her mother gathered seaweed” is a new interpretation of an existing poem; immediately the music and voices on this and the following ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ set the tone for the evening. With acoustic guitars, a Gretsch hollow-body electric twelve-string, violin, viola and an indian harmonium the instruments were as lovely to look at as to listen to.

Imagine seeing hump-backed whales and orca off the coast then the northern lights in the sky, top it off by writing the gorgeous ‘Old Shoes’, with its fast guitar picking, relaxed harmonies and a lustrous violin solo and you have a perfect song to go with the ideal day.

Over the course of two sets they played many songs from their 2018 album ‘Undersong’ as well as all the tracks from their new long-player ‘Huam’ (the call of an owl), released at the end of the week. Each song was introduced and explained, drawing the audience into the rewarding layers of this rich musical genre.

The band feature the history and folklore of traditional Scandinavian and Scottish themes such as ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’; an epic seven minutes built around the recurring words ‘…the summer comes the summer goes…the grave of my father green grass grows…’. The words and music built the tension as the title characters prepared for the gory final act ‘…they hacked him into pieces small…’.

There were more contemporary reflections too; ‘All Shall be Still’ ties in the tedium of work routines with thoughts of escape and the timelessness of the natural world, also evoked in ‘Mountain Of Gold’ and ‘Staring at Stars’. Musically there was plenty to gently immerse yourself in but there was also darker, sombre moods such as the hypnotic dream of ‘The Road Not Taken’ with pulsing rhythmic guitar and soaring violin.

It was a warm, flawless and brilliant show.

http://www.salthousemusic.com
https://www.hudsonrecords.co.uk/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/


Mammoth Penguins, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 3 March 2020

A big turnout for a Tuesday night at the Blue Moon, full of well-wishers for the upcoming appearance at the US ‘SXSW’ festival by Mammoth Penguins.
It was a cracking support bill too, started by Peterborough quartet SUDS. Opening with the catchy recent song ‘You’ll Feel Better’ the sound is immediately established; a warm, ethereal jangle-pop, topped with smooth vocals that float over jazz-infused guitar lines, a bass line that descends and garnishes reassuringly and drum playing that weaves everything together.
The breezy pop of ‘Evergreen’ was a highlight – this was their debut single and included on their EP ‘It Suits Me Well’, a fine collection soon to be added to with recordings of some of the new songs featured in this impressive set.

Last time I saw Goldblume they were playing live in a summer storm and as always generating enough energy to compete with the elements. Opening with ‘Fawning’, tonight they were showcasing the instrumental power and complexity when the ensemble lets loose, with math-rock time changes and the volume and dynamics of the trio constantly varying. A great communicator with an audience, singer/guitarist Jethro brings the lyrics to life with a vocal performance that cuts through the noisy wall of sound, especially on ‘Bleach’, one of their best songs.

Cambridge three-piece Mammoth Penguins have two excellent albums to draw songs from and they opened tonight with the compact and to-the-point ‘Propped Up’ and ‘Cries at the Movies’ from 2015. Emma Kupa’s vocals sound simultaneously disconnected yet right in the middle of the narrator’s viewpoint in the songs, especially on the more recent album tracks such as ‘I Wanna’, an uplifting and clear statement of love (‘….I wanna be waiting when your train arrives…I wanna save your life….’).
The tense longing of ‘Put It All on You’ with the lyric of contradicting pairs of phrases (‘….you filled me with confidence and then you drained it all out…’) is another highlight, especially when the band go into overdrive, as they also do on the power pop of ‘Cold and Lonely Place’.
Mid-set they perform ‘Closure’, one of my favourites and probably their definitive song in all areas, with the resigned melancholy of the vocal, the chorus that sounds suspended and unresolved and the bass and drums that alternately sit back then explode into action.
It was a standout set in an atmospheric venue…good luck at SXSW!

https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.sudsband.com/
https://schedule.sxsw.com/2020/artists/2022509

12 Highlights From 2019 : A Sampler Of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums, singles and Cambridge shows of 2019…

1. Sleaford Mods: Into The Payzone
Opening salvo for their storming Junction set; minimalist, wry and addictive.

2. Ward Thomas: Hopeless
Alt-country harmonies first heard at an instore appearance then in a superb show at the Junction.

3. Luke James Williams: Still in Bed
From 2018, but with steadily gathering airplay and compilation appearances this is still an emotional tour de force.

4. Hydra Lerna: In the Dark
Strong and perfectly crafted single from Norwich multi-talented electropop performer, making her live debut in Cambridge.

5. Billy Bragg: A13, Trunk Road to the Sea
After many BB performances I have finally heard this favourite live!

6. Captain Handsome: I Wish I Had a Dog
Lily from Fightmilk releases an excellent solo single – thoughtful but playful, tense but catchy.

7. Big Joanie: Used To Be Friends
Passion, politics and sharp tunes at the Portland Arms. (Enjoyed support Sink Ya Teeth too!)

8. Robyn Hitchcock: The Speed Of Things
Another fine song from the intricate Hitchcock canon and as always a brilliant live show.

9. Molly-Anne: Cold Is the Night
Chance discovery of this acoustic gem from Gloucestershire folk-country rising star.

10. Caswell: Surface
Classy upbeat single from this dynamic live performer and skilled songwriter.

11. The Tuts: Let Go of the Past
Cambridge debut from energetic indie trio, electrifying the show in a Corn Exchange double bill with The Specials.

12. Jeremy Tuplin: Humans
This elaborate and engrossing single with famous people name-checks was a highlight of his art-folk album which was brought to gentle life at his Blue Moon show.