Monday 24 January 2011

Dirty Revolution and Colour Me Wednesday at Bull & Gate - 21 January 2011

Colour Me Wednesday by Massimiliano Petrossi

Ska-punk is the ginger step child of UK music. It is often ignored, often derided by the mainstream. And this despite there being a vibrant scene of young bands playing to happy crowds that are bigger than you might imagine.

I’m at the Bull and Gate/Club Fandango to see three like-minded bands.

When I arrive, the good news is that I haven’t missed anything, the bad that one of the acts has had to pull out.

This leaves Colour Me Wednesday to kick off. They are very young, awkward and self conscious, but actually very good.

The main singer/rapper is Jennifer Doveton, who has great delivery and a strong voice and I love the way that she spits her lyrics at speed.

The songs are enjoyable and well put together and I wait for the band to really let rip. But tonight, they never quite do. They have one song called, rather commendably, “Purge Your Inner Tory”, but they seem unwilling to do anything as violent as that.

It’s a textbook example of a band starting out and not yet being completely comfortable on stage. They look at the floor a lot, they look at each other and they seem to exclusively seek reassurance from a small posse of family and friends down the front.

This is slightly frustrating, but nothing that getting more shows under their belt will not fix. In six months time, when they’ve loosened up and got the confidence that their songs justify, Colour Me Wednesday are going to be a fine act.

I hope to catch them again at that point.

Actually, the support would do well to look to headliners Dirty Revolution for inspiration.

This lot have stage presence to burn and spend their set in such perpetual motion that my rubbish amateur photography can’t capture them at all. I just get a succession of colourful blurs – which actual describes them pretty well.

They are led by the hyper-confident Reb who dances sings and occasionally produces a bright red melodica to add to the mix.

Dirty Revolution will not win awards for originality, but they know how to play a room and ensure that everyone is having a good time. And the ability to do that is pretty much priceless.

A decent night’s entertainment, all told.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Insect Guide and Alphastate at The Enterprise, 8 January 2011

Insect Guide

It’s cold outside, but this tiny room atop The Enterprise is like a sauna. The DJ downstairs is so loud that we’ll have to make a fair bit of noise to drown him out. Fortunately, help is at hand.

First on stage, and my first band of the New Year are Alphastate, a one vocalist, two guitar trio who are not prepared to let these cramped surroundings thwart their ambitious approach.

The band inhabits the vast swirling soundscapes that bands such as Cocteau Twins pioneered. The kind of music that had writers of the time reaching for descriptive clichés such as ‘sonic cathedrals’. Alphastate aren’t quite at that level just yet, but they do produce a very tidy sonic bungalow.

In the first half of their set, singer Ani is rather swamped by the FX pedals of her colleagues. Indeed, the first completely audible words that we hear are a perfectly sung “…if you can sort that [guitar] out we can play the next song…”

As things progress, Ani comes more into her own. She’s actually got a strong voice and it’s all very enjoyable. Songs such as ‘A Prayer For Something Better’ and ‘Units’ show promise and I think that all they really lack at the moment is that one single, absolutely killer tune that will make them stand out.

Alphastate are certainly in the right (sonic) ballpark though.

Headliners Insect Guide came to my attention last year with their rather good new album. I’m glad to catch up with them in the flesh, and in such intimate surroundings too.

There are three of them, drummer Chris, guitarist Stan, and singer Su, who hangs onto her microphone stand for dear life and bashes a large drum as the need arises.

Insect Guide create a wonderfully full guitar-heavy wall of noise which acts as the background to a set of rattling pure pop songs. Indeed, the whole mood is much lighter and upbeat than the album had led me to imagine. I really enjoy them.

Tracks like ‘Wasted’ ‘Down From Here’ and album title track ‘Dark Days & Nights’ are mighty things indeed. It’s already like a furnace in here and I’m lurching around way too much. But Insect Guide are far too hot for me to be cool.

Such is the quality of the band’s own material that when they unexpectedly pull out an admittedly great fuzzed-up version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’, it feels like an unnecessary move.
So that’s 2011 up and very satisfactorily running. It’s going to be a good year.

Friday 7 January 2011

Album Review: Cold In Berlin - Give Me Walls

So we’re just into the New Year and you’ve still got some iTunes vouchers that you got for Christmas. What to do?

HMV and other high street record retailers are gradually going the way of the dodo and you feel like one last nostalgic mooch round the shelves before the doors shut for good. What to do?

You feel that your daily commute to work will be enhanced by an iPod earful of full-on top quality rampaging rock music. What to do?

The answers, ladies and gentlemen lies in the purchase of Cold in Berlin’s debut album “Give Me Walls”.

I have loved this band for ages and am delighted that they have survived long enough to set down this batch of songs for posterity. Everything you need to know about the band is present here, and the only thing that you are missing is the live experience of having singer Maya dancing on your furniture and tangling you up in yards of microphone cable.

Cold In Berlin do not really deal in subtlety, so there are no lulls on this record. It’s purely a manic and exhilarating breathless gallop for 30 odd minutes. If this was the soundtrack to your morning run, you’d beat your personal best time and then drop down dead.

It starts with ‘God I Love You’ which sees Maya singing of obsession, half afraid, half excited. “Please don’t leave me by myself…” she pleads, as the guitars smash around her.

Old favourites ‘Inertia’ and ‘Destruction’ follow. These are songs that rely on the mounting hysteria within the singer before they explode in fireworks all around you. It’s the sheer urgency of Cold in Berlin that makes them so intoxicating.

‘What Went Wrong’ is a previous single and it is still one of the highlights of their live set. As is the awesome ‘Total Fear’, with its final screams of “There’s no hope left!” which just get me every time.

And so it goes, culminating in ‘Powerful Woman’, which is as apt a statement of intent as it is possible to imagine.

This album has already upset the delicate sensibilities of the BBC with its uncompromising attitude and language. Good.

‘Give Me Walls’ is a perfectly honed shard of velocity and venom. It makes you feel alive.