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The Lovely Eggs – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 1/8/13

August 6, 2013

 

Playing to a jam packed ground floor of Clwb Ifor Bach, the Lovely Eggs begins their set with a cacophony of noise and they put a smile on my face for the duration of the gig.

They’re a vastly entertaining act, and come across as a really fun pair. It’s an intimate affair, and with the band feeling very personable, you can’t help but warm to them. They frequently chat to the audience, telling little stories before blasting into the next song.

The band comprises of couple, Holly (guitar & vocals) and David (Drums) play fuzzy stripped down rock with often funny, observational lyrics.

They played for around 45mins, which felt like the perfect amount of time. Long enough that you feel you’ve had your moneys worth, but they leave you wanting more. The band was really well received, to the extent that they had to play what appeared to be a genuinely spontaneous encore, and I’m sure will be back to Cardiff before too long.

 

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Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

June 6, 2013

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It’s been six long years in between Queens of the Stone Age albums, but that’s not to say that frontman Josh Homme has just been sitting around twiddling his thumbs.

In the intervening years since QOTSA’s last release Josh Homme has kept himself busy  with his other two bands; Eagles of Death Metal & Them Crooked Vultures.  An album with each band and an extensive tour with the latter , as well as producing Arctic Monkeys third effort ‘Humbug’, a second baby with wife Brody Dalle and knee surgery all served to delay any start on a new Queens of the Stone Age record.

Losing a drummer midway through the recording of …Like Clockwork  meant that recording was further delayed. Dave Ghrol was drafted in, but this then meant working around his hectic schedule, meaning the process of actually recording didn’t come along as quickly as it might otherwise have, but it’s been worth the wait.

…Like Clockwork has all the things you wanted from a Queens of the Stone Age album, the sludge is there, prominent in opener ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’. The straight ahead rock is there as demonstrated by lead single ‘My God is the Sun’.  The things you didn’t know you wanted from a QOTSA album  are there as well with ‘Kalopsia’ sounding like you could be trapped on a merry go round in the fairground of your nightmares. The highlight of the album though has to be ‘If I Had a Tail’, which has worked its way into the very fibre of my being and is a powerful swaggering slice of bluesy rock.

The album offers a strong line up of collaborators, such as Elton John, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner & Jake Shears. Also appearing was former full band members Mark Lanagan, and Nick Oliveri. The latter making his first appearance since being unceremoniously kicked out of the band by Homme  in 2004.  Often with a line up of famous collaborators they can feel either shoehorned in, or the song they guest on can often revolve around them but it doesn’t seem that is the case with …Like Clockwork as the focus is at all times with Homme in terms of the vocals, where as in the past vocal duties have been shared around on QOTSA records.

Queens of the Stone Age have been long time favourites of mine; dating back to seeing them at Reading Festival 2000 and the then 13 year old me being absolutely blown away, at the time having never heard anything quite like them. Thirteen years on and there’s still not a band quite like them and …Like Clockwork certainly proves this.

Sparks – Two Hands, One Mouth Tour – Brighton Dome 25/10/12

November 1, 2012

 

Despite having been around for over 40 years, Sparks aren’t slowing down or shying away from trying new things. It would be all too easy to have turned into a nostalgia act, touring with other bands from the 70’s and 80’s and playing the hits at holiday camps and small city halls, however they’ve never really adhered to the usual conventions and persist in trying new things. Three years ago it was producing a rock opera for Swedish National Radio centred around the famous Swedish Director, Ingmar Bergman. This year it’s embarking on what they’ve entitled the ‘Two Hands, One Mouth’ tour, named so due to only utilising Ron Mael’s two hands on the keyboard, and Russell Mael’s vocal chords to make their music rather than a full band.

This is the first time they’ve attempted such a feat, having always previously toured with a full band, or using a computer in order to be able to produce the sound that fans have come to expect. Sparks have been quoted as saying that they didn’t want it turn into a singer-songwriter kind of affair, and to be fair to them it most certainly didn’t end up anything like the fairly sedate, introspective kind of affair that you might imagine.

Playing in the beautiful surroundings of the Brighton Dome, the band played a set comprised of songs from throughout their 40 year career. Due to the nature in which they were playing the nights set, it was interesting hearing how certain songs were reproduced so stripped down. It should be noted though that Sparks are no strangers to tinkering around with how their own songs sound, having released an album of reworkings of some of their most popular tracks, entitled ‘Plagiarism.’ They’re most certainly a band not afraid of a little experimentation.

The Mael brothers have an excellent stage presence, and even though the stage was sparsely populated it didn’t feel at all lacking. Russell constantly moves around, almost hyperactively, whilst Ron for the most part is stoic and still. One of the little things that I noticed that really stood out to me was seeing Ron Mael, who is the principal songwriter for all of Spark’s material, mouthing along to the lyrics. It seems even after forty years he still loves the songs he’s written.

The set that they did play for the most part worked extremely well under the constraints they’d placed upon themselves. The odd track didn’t hit the mark, this was due to being somewhat lyrically & musically repetitive such as ‘My Baby’s Taking me Home’, whilst ‘The Wedding of Jaqueline Kennedy to Russell Mael’ is barely a song, but thankfully kept short. The audience for this show wasn’t the best, a combination of the venue not being full and being seated led to a fairly sedate crowd. Where there were obvious places in the set that audience participation may have enhanced it, it sadly fell flat.

Particular highlights included ‘Hospitality on Parade’, ‘At Home, At Work, At Play’, the medleyfrom ‘The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman’, and of course ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both ofUs’. All of these sounded particularly stirring and brilliant stripped back. Russells vocals and Ron’s keyboard really coming alive and filling the Brigton Dome. At the end of the show it was clear the format worked, and they put on a great show. Seeing them play stripped back like this though has only whet my appetite to see them play a full band show at some point in the future.

Set List:

Two Hands, One Mouth Overture

Hospitality on Parade

Metaphor

Propaganda

At Home, At Work, At Play

Sherlock Holmes

Good Morning

Under the Table With Her

My Baby’s Taking Me Home

Singing in the Shower

The Wedding of Jacqueline Kennedy to Russell Mael

Excerpts from The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman

Dick Around

Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us

The Rhythm Thief

Suburban Homeboy

When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”

Encore:

The Number One Song in Heaven

Beat the Clock

Two Hands, One Mouth

Spotify playlist of setlist.

 

 

One to Watch: Set Aside

July 27, 2012

A five piece pop-punk outfit hailing from Cardiff, Set Aside formed around a year ago. Obviously it’s still early days for them, but I feel they’re worth note and one to watch out for. I would say usually that pop-punk isn’t what I would normally listen to, but I Set Aside my preconceptions and gave them a listen. (Oh God, I’m so sorry for the pun)

The three songs they’ve made available on their Facebook so far shows that the band already seems to have a knack of writing catchy songs, which stay with you throughout the day, and often with you into the next as an earworm The standout among them for myself being B.I.G., which has a heavier feel to it than the other two tracks. The production on ‘A Friend of Eve’ & ‘Not Acceptable in Suburbia’ sounds very slick and professional, and is a good sign for any future recorded material.

They recently had their second live outing, supporting Hot Damn at Undertone in Cardiff. Whilst singer Matt Green’s voice wasn’t at 100% that evening due to illness it didn’t detract from an excellent performance from a band still in its relative infancy. After an unexpected but rousing rendition of ‘Afternoon Delight’ to start with, which leads to big smiles all round, the band suffered a technical hitch going into the first song proper. It would have been easy for this early hitch to have thrown them off their game, but they dealt with it well and recovered quickly. The band played a very well received set, playing the three songs they’ve made available already as well as some new material. The new material I felt seemed to have an edge to it, and acts as a counterpoint somewhat to the more traditional pop-punk sounding tracks lie ‘A Friend of Eve’ & ‘Not Acceptable in Suburbia.’ It makes for a very energetic feeling performance, and the perfect accompaniment to a sunny evening.

Set Aside are sure to be a band on the rise on the Cardiff live music scene, and it will be interesting to watch as they continue to grow and get more performances under their belts and work on new material. I would advise that you keep your eyes on your local gig listings, and if you see them coming to your town go out and see these guys.

They can be found on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/setasideofficial

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m friendly with a couple of members of Set Aside. I’ve done my utmost to not let it influence anything I choose to write about them and should make it clear that I wasn’t asked to write about them, 

Brand New UK Tour February 2012

February 24, 2012

I was lucky enough to catch three shows of Brand New’s recent UK tour, each one more amazing than the last. Cardiff, the last date of the tour, and the date which Gareth also attended was easily the best show of the tour, and possibly the best out of the 9 times I have seen them.

It is an impressive feat for a band to manage to make every show amazing, despite the fact that the set list was almost the same for every date. The inclusion of ‘Mix Tape’ from Your Favorite Weapon was a definite highlight. It was awesome to be stood in a room with so many dedicated fans that could sing along word for word to songs from four different albums, one of which has recently had its 10 year anniversary. The band said themselves that they hadn’t come here to shift albums, they’d simply come because they knew that we wanted to see them and the sincerity of this statement was obvious. Jesse Lacey finally seems comfortable with the role of front man, and his laughing and joking on stage created an infectiously good atmosphere which only added to their brilliant live show. As Gareth said, their decision to play straight through instead of pull out the cliched pretence of an ‘encore’ is a good one, and after the climax of ‘You Won’t Know’, a song which has grown into an almost overwhelming wall of sound, there was no way that anyone in any of the venues that I saw them in would have felt like they were owed any more songs from the band.

Brand New – Cardiff University Great Hall, Cardiff 17/02/12

February 24, 2012

 

In 2010 I saw Brand New in the less than intimate surroundings of  Wembley Arena, I went into that gig knowing a couple of their songs and wouldn’t have considered myself a fan. On that night, I left the same way that I came in; not really a fan. I was there as a good friend had a spare ticket and no one else that could afford the trip to London.

On the most recent occasion, in Cardiff, the ticket was once again a gift and I went along as not much of fan. However, on leaving this time something was different. I had the compulsion to go away and listen to Brand New, and have racked up an impressive number of listens according to my last.fm account.

It made me wonder, what was different about this gig than the last? Sure, Brand New put on a technically sound performance at the London show, but it didn’t click with me. On the Friday night in Cardiff on the last night of their UK tour the band seemed in excellent spirits and much more chatty than I had previously seen them.  This time around they also were not touring in support of an album so their they were playing a greatest hits set. For a non-fan this I feel may have been the clincher. Getting to a see a band perform all of their best and most well known songs (well known ≠ best as we all know)

Brand New played well, and looked to be having a good time doing so. Towards the end of the set the support bands, as it was the last night of the tour, were throwing things on to the stage and everyone was generally in high spirits.

I also appreciated the fact that the band didn’t waste time by doing an encore. They simply stayed on stage and played until curfew. Playing as much as they can for an audience is something I really appreciate, and I am often annoyed at gigs by how much time can be wasted with the whole process of doing an encore (don’t get me started on double encores.)

 

The set they played can be found below and  I have turned the set list into a Spotify playlist for anyone that is so inclined. BNC

Julie, the other half of this blog was also in attendence, so you might get lucky and get her review. I imagine she’ll have plenty of different stuff to say about the gig as she is a big Brand New fan.

1 .Welcome to Bangkok

2. Millstone 

3. Sowing Season

4. Vices

5. Gasoline 

6. Sink

7. Tautou

8. Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades

9. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t

10. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows 

11. Mix Tape

12.  Jude Law and a Semester Abroad

13. Seventy Times 7

14.  Limousine

15. Jesus Christ

16. Deggausser

17. You Won’t Know

Electric Six – More Than Just Gay Bar

May 22, 2011
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There is more to Electric Six than simply ‘Gay Bar’ & ‘Danger! High Voltage’, and whilst they’re highly unlikely to be winning any Ivor Novello awards for their song writing, they are, I believe, worthy of another look.

Every year since around 2005 Electric Six have released a new album, usually in November and toured the UK in the December. Electric Six are already scheduled to tour in December, so I would imagine a new album won’t be far off either. They seem to be one of the hardest working bands going at the moment and it’s impressive that they consistently record and tour on such a cycle.

I have put together what I believe are Electric Six’s most accessible output post ‘Fire’, their first, and widely regarded as their best album. Much of it is culled from their 3rd album ‘Switzerland’ which has been their peak since ‘Fire’ but they have remained consistent since and I would urge you to take a listen to the five songs I have put in the Spotify playlist, and will list below for any of you not on or unable to access Spotify.

1. I Buy The Drugs (Switzerland)
2. Down At McDonaldz (I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master)
3. Night Vision (Switzerland)
4. Formula 409 (Flashy)
5. The Band In Hell (Switzerland)

More Than Gay Bar