Tag Archives: music

Half Man Half Biscuit, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, 12 June 2015

‘At DFS a job I have landed
But I don’t get paid for the first five years…’

If that raises a smile you could be a potential fan of the cult national treasure that is Half Man Half Biscuit. They arrived on stage to the sounds of ‘Summer Is A-Comen In’ from the film The Wicker Man, a tribute to recently deceased actor Christopher Lee and as soon as they started it was clear that The Apex was a fine venue for their show, with good sound quality allowing the words to be heard.

Frontman Nigel Blackwell continues to explore the lyrical backwoods of living in small towns, daytime TV, musical trends, forgotten celebrities and one-time sports stars. His surreal narratives combine astute observations, rants, jokes, absurd wordplay and almost unintentionally end up as social documents of the minutiae of life not recorded elsewhere.

Sometimes more serious subjects are filtered through the same process and make statements about unemployment (‘Turned Up, Clocked On, Laid Off’), mental illness (‘Used To Be In Evil Gazebo’) and death (‘When The Evening Sun Goes Down’). Of course there are the ‘love songs’, she always leaves (with featureless TV Producer Steve… in ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’), or is missing and renders all else pointless (‘For What is Chatteris…’) or there are relationship misunderstandings (‘My Outstretched Arms’).

And there is much much more; celebrate the delights of Korfball in ‘Joy in Leeuwarden’, experience the insomnia of ‘Restless Legs’, recall that BBC 6Music was nearly closed down if it hadn’t been for the campaigning anthem ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ and of course relive the anticipation and disappointments of ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’.

In the two hour show early songs from ‘Back In the DHSS’ (their first album and John Peel favourite) went down a storm, as did the newest tracks from current album ‘Urge For Offal’ but their back catalogue is so rich there was plenty else they could have included.

Its not just the words and wit, they are not to be underestimated musically. As a live outfit they are a taut, noisy post-punk riot of guitars, drums and grinding bass. Between songs Nigel holds the crowd with tall tales and reminiscence, handing out luxury backstage crisps and getting the front row to decipher a fake setlist. He is a likeable bloke and clearly still enjoys performing and meeting his audience. It was a brilliant show; they play dates now and then instead of long tours, probably a very civilized way to be?

All together now…
‘For you I’d lose my self-esteem
For you I’d lose my self-esteem
For Crewe I’d use Junction 16…’

http://www.chrisrand.com/hmhb/
http://cobweb.businesscollaborator.com/hmhb/

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Trick Bird : Window EP, released June 2015

The new EP from Cambridge musician Trick Bird, a collection of self-penned tracks, well-crafted inviting sounds with their apparent summery lightness tempered by a darkening edge.

1. Window. The title song is a catchy pop tune, nicely arranged with a distinctive hook in which the narrator is fascinated and tempted by a vision/imagined temptation in a window, but like Odysseus drawn to the Sirens’ enchanted call you sense it would not end well.

2. Horizontal View. A similar musical feel to track one, evolving from an echoing guitar intro into a more complex sound. A slightly sinister lyric about snow, forests and hidden paths. Driven along well by drums and multi layered guitars, but still a feeling of claustrophobia..

3.The Great Escape. Pulsing bass line with almost whispered vocal, not sure what the paranoid singer is escaping from, this one is all about texture and ambience.

4. Chase. Relaxing acoustic strumming and a gentle repeating guitar line coiling around the layers of other instruments floating in and out, including some rather lovely strings taking over at the end..

5. Sleep All Day (Dream All Night). A suggestion of early Pink Floyd or Genesis (1970 album ‘Trespass’) for this song describing cycling through a graveyard and then becoming enveloped in its more mystical elements (like the ivy entangling the gravestones?). It is my favourite track, a sparse but rich arrangement, with atmospheric keyboards and more strings..

http://www.trickbird.co.uk/
http://trickbird.bandcamp.com/releases

Tellison, Corner House, Cambridge, 4 June 2015

It was time for the rockier side of Indie tonight at a packed and hot Corner House. First on were Goldblume, a Cambridge based trio, their ‘angsty rock’ featuring great interplay between guitar and punchy bass and compact, optimistic songs. Frontman Jethro built a good rapport with the audience, it was a strong opening to the show.
Accompanying Tellison on several dates this tour, quartet Bad Ideas from Lincoln are soon to record a third album. They have a fearsome and formidable sound, convincingly played, with lots of clever guitar touches. The pace and enthusiasm of their set did not relent and they were well received by the crowd.

Based in London, Tellison formed in 2003 are working on their third album, the follow-up to the highly regarded ‘The Wages of Fear’ from 2011.
They are definitely a compelling and interesting band, with their feet in many camps, from noisy anthemic rock to quirky or intellectual lyrical twists and musical turns. It was all on show tonight, I was very impressed.

‘Freud Links The Teeth And The Heart’ is a subtle song ‘..about falling in love with your dentist..’, representing their quieter side, while the more recent ‘Tact is Dead’ is a showstopper, with great descending guitar riff and the loudest grinding bass line I have heard for a while.

Singer Stephen Davidson has a dry humour and confident presence; he was surprised how comparatively quiet the Cambridge audience were but he decided it was because we were listening attentively. I think he was right, there certainly was plenty to take in and appreciate.

According to their website they are ‘…stepping up to take another swing at, if not the big time, at least the medium time…’
I look forward to the new album…

http://www.tellison.co.uk/
http://badideasband.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband

The Ukrainians, Junction, Cambridge, 25 May 2015

The Ukrainians returned to Cambridge on a Monday bank holiday evening in the intimate setting of Junction J2. Singer-songwriter Ellie Jamison opened the show, performing heartfelt songs with her pure natural voice and gently played acoustic guitar, accompanied by subtle percussion. The set was well received, with her warm and engaging personality evident in her asides to the audience, but the numbers in the venue were few at this point so it was difficult to create much of an atmosphere, until the final more up-tempo track.

In 1991 The Ukrainians were founded by ex-Wedding Present guitarist Peter Solowka and violinist and singer Len Liggins. Quickly establishing a reputation for frenetic live shows they have continued to record and tour. Always singing in ukrainian, with a mixture of traditional folk and rock instruments they have appeal across many genres. During their career they have occasionally recorded versions of some cult rock classics such as an early EP of four Smiths songs. Now their latest project is a new album ‘A History Of Rock Music In Ukrainian’ with a tour featuring tracks from it…

Chronologically and thematically random, ‘I Predict A Riot’, ‘Psycho Killer’, ‘Venus In Furs’ and ‘The Model’ all work really well and who can resist ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with an accordion break or ‘Hound Dog’ accelerating from slow blues to full speed blast. When all six musicians are in full flight the combination of guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, violin, accordion, unidentified pipes and vocals is unstoppable, a bit like The Pogues in their heyday (and still now, see my review from last year…). Western music does not in general get gradually faster over the duration of the song, but it is an infectious and addictive rush when it does.
I missed some of their more ‘traditional’ and much-loved songs (with lyrics about crows, bread and lost donkeys?), but I like the idea that they are trying something a bit different on this tour.

This was the fourth time I have seen the band, it is always a real treat, catch them next time they are here!

http://www.the-ukrainians.com/
https://www.facebook.com/eljamisonmusic/app_2405167945