Allsorts – Nudy Bronque
There is always a worry that as soon as you label anything as ‘kooky’ that it conjures up visions of mad aunts and those people who always insist on sitting next to you on a bus, even if the entire thing is empty. In this case however it is a compliment, Nudy Bronque are so effortlessly off-beat it is impossible not to fall for their charms.
With Movement and Sitting Pretty from their last EP easily in my Top Tunes of 2012 list, the prospect of new material, and the chance to hear it first, was certainly a good start to 2013.
Allsorts is the first track to be released from the three piece line up and has all the hall marks of a classic Nudy track. Built around a slower, almost lounge lizard groove, it is the lyrical imagery they conjure up that lifts Nudy Bronque so far above many of their peers.
Bringing to mind the likes of His ‘n’ Hers / Different Class era-Pulp or even The Divine Comedy, they find the romance in the day to day and make it all seem just a little seedy too. Lead singer Aidan is part crooner; part indie troubadour, narrating the woes of others and sounding more than a little like Jake Shillingford.
Refreshingly free of the usual Oasis/The Libertines rip offs that most ‘indie’ bands seem to rely on these days, Allsorts is the sort of song that reminds you that indie can be clever and interesting, not just generic and dull. My favourite tip for big things in 2013… Maybe, definitely.
Allsorts is out in February, to find out more visit the Nudy Bronque website HERE.
TOMASAYU HOTEI – CHALK FARM ROUNDHOUSE – DECEMBER 18
Reviewed by Peter Makowski
“In Japan I am tall, in England I am not so tall”, joked Tomosayu Hotei (or Hotei Tomosayu, depending which side of the globe you come from) referring not only his stature but also the fact that although the legendary Japanese guitarist is celebrating three decades of superstardom in his homeland, most people here will only be aware of his existence due to one snippet of music.
Battle Without Honour And Humanity, that coruscating theme tune featuring a riff that slices the senses like a samurai sword, is not only the theme tune to Tarintino’s Kill Bill manga tribute but is a musical franchise in itself having been sampled, featured in computer games, dance tracks and any clip featuring a marauding gang or impending fight scene.
This was all that I and a small smattering of European fans knew about Hotei before his show at the beautifully restored Roundhouse in Chalk Farm (which also happened to be his first show in the UK for almost twenty years) which was almost full and mainly populated by loyal Japanese fans with an age group that seem to span the guitarists entire career.
Looking tres cool in a sharkskin jacket, wearing black Cuban heels with a head of spiky hair; Hotei looked like a hip Yakuza straight out of a Takeshi Miike gangster flick. With a beaming smile he revealed how happy he was to be living here, the home of his musical heroes Bowie, TRex and Roxy Music.
The show (his first in the UK for almost two decades) kicked off with Battle… as the lights revealed the band all seasoned pros; the flamboyant Kimono wearing drummer/actor Tatsuya Nakamura, Toshiyuki Kishi-programming/keyboards, and most notably legendary bass player Tokie, looking glamorous, in a long red cocktail dress, split in the middle, and sounding lethal.
Bad Feeling, a song from Hotei’s days with his first band Boowy, got his fans (probably the most polite and well behaved audience I ‘ve ever witnessed) bouncing along.
If like me you love Asian films and culture you will love Hotei’s music, which unashamedly leaps across all styles and genres. Songs like Russian Roulette and Bambina start of like cheesy pop anthems but quickly evolve into eviscerating guitar workouts.
Exploding with energy Hotei bounded, duck-walked and strutted across the stage like a mutant rockabilly guitar hero. Sometimes his astonishing style and virtuosity can be buried underneath the over the top histrionics.
The technique and feel in Sphinx (slightly reminiscent of Parisienne Walkways) can only be described as Jeff Beck with a sense of humour.
The biggest blunders of the night were undoubtedly the cover versions. I don’t know what was more surreal; watching Roxy Music’s Andy McKay and Suggsy in the VIP bar, possibly under the influence of the free potent Saki, playing air guitar along to Born To Be Wild or Hotei’s strangulated vocal decimation of Starman.
The set ended rather flatly with Siren an instrumental that seemed to go nowhere, making one think that it might have been better if he closed the set with Battle. There were three encores and as far as the audience were concerned the show was a success.
Hotei is definitely a talented musician and songwriter but if he is thinking about breaking through in the West he should focus on his strengths as a guitarist, and songwriter and maybe leave the vocals to some guest artists.
Definitely one to watch in 2013.
(C) Peter Makowski
All photos by:
(C) Kazuyo Horie
1-Battle Without Honour Or Humanity
9-Born To Be Wild
3-Fly Into Your Dreams
Vibrato – Paul Gilbert
I usually shudder when an album by a solo-guitarist lands on my door mat. Usually these albums are little more than a self indulgent exercise with every other instrument too low in the mix while the listener is subjected to nothing but twiddly solos. These guitarists are obviously good, but seem intent on telling the world about it on a daily basis. I often find my self bored by track 2, and ready to switch the album off by track 3. Not so with Mr. Paul Gilbert…
Paul Gilbert can play the guitar. And he plays it VERY well indeed. Clearly he recognises that only an idiot would doubt his ability and so this album is not one long guitar solo screaming out ‘Look at me! I can play!’ Instead, what we have here are well crafted, solid songs that not only show case Gilbert’s playing ability, but also his song writing skills as well. This is why Paul Gilbert’s latest album Vibrato is refreshingly good!
Vibrato is made up of some instrumental tracks, tracks with vocals, and 3 live tracks from a couple of years ago. As you’d expect from the man once voted the 4th greatest guitar shredder ever, the backing band are superb musicians that, like Gilbert, know when to dazzle and know when to get down to just playing a decent song.
The 3 live tracks are decent recordings too including a great cover of AC/DC’s Go Down and show that this guy is no fluke and can nail a great solo live with ease – but lets be honest, there would be a problem if he couldn’t!
A range of influences crop up throughout the CD from jazz, to Bowie, to funk, to all out rock. The title track is a perfect example of how the album will appeal to those who want solo’s at the speed of light and those who want to enjoy a broader range of musical prowess. Being someone in the latter of those two categories I can safely say I enjoyed this album. Gilbert’s guitar playing is as good as ever, and while at times it’s jaw-droopingly good, it’s not too in your face. I’d have no problem playing this CD again, and I’m sure fans of his previous projects would not be disappointed either.
(By the way, if you are one of those people really would rather just hear some crazy guitar playing, then head for track 10 – you won’t be disappointed!)
To find out more about Paul Gilbert you can visit his official website HERE.
Driving The Nails In – Nya
South Coast metallers NYA are back with their 2nd EP ‘Driving The Nails In’. You soon know what you’re getting with this band – lots of tight riffs, lots of soaring choruses, and an anthemic feel for the audience to go wild to. There’s just one problem… it isn’t a very good EP.
It’s well produced, but for me this EP lacks anything special. Everything on here has been done a LOT over the years, and NYA really need to look for their own signature sound to add to the mix. There’s nothing wrong with going for a tried and tested sound, but NYA need to at least try to make the sound their own. Each song seems to just blend into mediocrity and I’m afraid that vocalist Anezka Piska’s voice isn’t up to the standard of other female metal vocalists out there at the moment.
This is going to be a short review. There are no stand out moments, and while their first EP got them a good slot at Download 2011 I can’t see this EP doing them such favours. Sorry!
To find out more about NYA visit their site HERE.
France 98 – Girl Band
I received this album in the post recently and it stood out straight away. Mainly because unlike the other discs that turned up, this had no art work and press release telling me about the band. Just a disc with the bands name, EP title, and the track names. A real case of ‘Let the music do the talking’.
So here goes. Girl Band’s latest release France ‘98 starts off with a wall of feedback before crashing into a dirty riff and something of a Kasabian inspired vibe. There’s a real swagger to the music – an air of ‘We don’t care if you don’t like us’, which in an age of squeaky clean pop bands is always quite nice!
I like these guys. There’s nothing amazingly spectacular to be had here, but what they do, they do well. In other words, they know how to rock. Track 2 Busy At Maths grinds along nicely with screeching guitar noises in the background, and the 1 minute 17 seconds noise fest that is France ‘98 is, well a 1 minute 17 second noise fest! What more could you want?
By this point there are a few influences creeping through. The feedback and wailing guitars conjure up images of Nirvana having a scrap with White Stripes, while some of the quieter moments have a bit of an Echo & The Bunnymen edge.
Final track Handswaps is a monster of a track. It has a certain sinister feel to it and, like a Nirvana hidden album track, has some incredible bursts of power shrouded in and amongst a slower darker side that is always going to build up to something big.
So overall, an impressive offering. Admittedly it is let down a bit by the sometimes questionable production quality. I’d like to have the vocals much higher in the mix, and more bass, but that aside there is more than enough on here to make me want to check out more of this band. This is not for the faint hearted – and I like that!
To find out more about Girl Band visit their site HERE.
Story – David Bronson
‘Story’ was written, recorded and produced by David Bronson, with really rather good results. Opening up with the fantastic ‘The Turns’, Bronson has taken on board the sounds of Neil Young, David Bowie (why am I getting so many CD’s with a Bowie sound lately?), and even, dare I say it, a 70’s era Elton John in places, to give the listener a great sounding, well crafted, delightful album.
Each song is a story in itself, but also part of a greater tale of life and discovery. There’s a real bombastic sound to the album thanks in part to the great production and not being afraid to really rock when the songs need to go up a notch. On the flip-side there is also a slower, more folk inspired side with a hint of Bright Eyes that manages to work well with the more grandiose moments.
Tracks ‘If’ and ‘Easier’ illustrate the two sides to Bronson really well with ‘If’ building into a great all round rock number while ‘Easier’ slips down a bit into a country-laced song with some lovely harmonies and a more dreamy vibe to it. Final track ‘Unending’ captures the lot in one track and is a great way to sign off.
You’ve probably guessed that I like this album! It’s not the sort of thing I’d usually go for but there is so much attention to detail throughout the album, and while it may not have a radio friendly ‘hit’ to introduce Bronson to a wider audience, there is easily enough on here to warrant a listen from any folk-rock or indie fan.
To find out more about David Bronson visit his site HERE.
Running In The Family (25th Anniversary Edition) – Level 42
If ever there needed to be proof that fashion is a fickle beast, then surely the 80s is a case in point. Whilst once derided for the questionable hairstyles, unfortunate clothes and a long list of bands sporting both, the 80s have gone through something of a resurgence, or at least re-evaluation, over the last few years.
Some acts of course fair better than others under the harsh light of the 21st century, Spandau Ballet for example still irk me more than is rational whilst Simple Minds earlier work seems more appealing with each listen. However, despite their omnipresence in the later part of the decade, my over-riding memories of Level 42 are of Mark King’s bass emblazoned with the LEDs up the fret board rather than the music… or so I thought.
Spawning no less than five Top 40 hits, including the Number 3 title track, Running In The Family saw Level 42 at their commercial peak but ultimately it would be the album that split the band.
The album has the classic crisp, electronic production of the late 80s and the remastering has added an extra crispness to the sound. Thankfully the quality of the songs themselves serves to counter any negative thoughts you may have about the 80s sheen, even if the smooth jazz-lite of It’s Over does sound like the soundtrack to a dinner party serving shrimp cocktail and Babycham.
To Be With You Again and Fashion Fever allow Mark King’s thunderous thumb the chance to do what it does best before ending on the earnest social commentary of Freedom Someday.
There is plenty to explore throughout the bonus tracks and nothing says the 80s like a Shep Petitbone Remix, present and correct amongst the extras. More interestingly there are six ‘Acoustic Re-interpretations’, recorded for this release they see the songs stripped down to a far more basic set up.
Lessons In Love still shines, whilst it lacks the driving throb of Mark’s bass the melody is still as infectious as ever. Running In The Family and Sleepwalkers also work well, only Freedom Someday feels a little stretched.
The three live tracks taken from the 1987 live video have been lovingly mixed and mastered, capturing just enough atmosphere but ably demonstrating just how good Level 42 were outside of the studio as well as in it.
The band would never be the same again after this; creative differences and exhaustion saw the departure of both Phil Gould and Boon Gould and commercially Level 42 would not surpass the success of RITF. 25 years on this album still offers something to the nostalgia hunter as well as the new comer, good pop never goes out of fashion; thankfully shoulder pads did.
To find out more about Level 42 you can visit their official website HERE.
Simon Townshend – Port Washington Library, Port Washington NY – Friday 7th December 2012
Sat on a train leaving Manhattan for a destination little more than a name on bit of paper was not how I expected to be spending my holiday in New York. Having seen The Who at MSG just two days earlier, a flurry or emails and phone calls to a variety of people saw us accepting the offer to go and see an intimate gig. At a library.
When you consider that one of the phone calls came from Paul Townshend and the artist in question was none other than Simon Townshend, you can understand where my new found sense of adventure had come from. The idea of being able to see Simon up close and personal just two days after seeing him (albeit it from a nose bleed inducing height) at The Garden was just too tempting.
So walking down the Main Street of Port Washington in the dark and the rain looking for the library was actually far more exciting than you would imagine, I realise it didn’t make us Christopher Columbus but it still felt like a fairly exhilarating undertaking.
The Library really is a library, I was half expecting it to be a funky name for a cool venue, but no, it is an actual library. With Red Apple Snapple in the vending machine and no beer. However this is a library with a difference and they host these ‘Sound Swap’ events on quite a regular basis from what I can tell, the stage and set up is certainly more impressive than some actual venues I have been in.
It is evident from the before Simon even takes to the stage that the audience are here to listen and as Simon saunters on he is greeted by a warm welcome followed by a reverent hush.
Introducing the first track, Electric Friend, with a story about his ‘friend’ Eddie Vedder not only captures your attention but does rather put my rock ‘n’ roll stories into perspective.
Simon is very honest about his songs and their meaning, he candidly talks about some of the inspirations behind the likes of Denial and is visibly moved as he speaks. Given the personal nature of not just the lyrics but the show itself it seems crass to reveal all in a review like this but suffice to say the emotion is raw and the feeling is shared by all in attendance.
Not all of the songs are soul searching however; some are more simple love songs like She Asked Me which was written for his wife, whilst others have more curious beginnings like All So Real (or All Surreal as Simon dubs its) which started with Paul Weller writing the melody, in a dream as it transpires but it has a hypnotic quality to it capturing the dream-like quality.
As the evening progresses Simon seems to relax more and more, he even eventually removes his sunglasses. It is to his credit that he makes the slightly formal surroundings feel like his own front room, we’ve all been invited and he cuts a charismatic host.
He ends the performance with the rather marvellous Making Waves, a keen observation that sometimes it is just better to wind your neck in; although Simon puts it far more eloquently than that. ‘Making waves on a stormy sea, is a recipe for making enemies of lovers’ is a powerful image and a suitably fitting message to finish the show on.
Given Simon’s family heritage and indeed his ‘day job’ as guitarist for The Who it is inevitable his sound is heavily influenced by the Mod scene but don’t be thinking he is relying on his family name to sell records. Simon definitely has his own voice and stories to tell and this evening has proven there is far more to Simon than family ties alone.
To find out more about Simon Townshend then visit his official website HERE.
The Best Of Eva Cassidy – Eva Cassidy
The wonderful thing about music is that you don’t have to be the best in the world to have an impact. Musical history is littered with examples of those who, whilst technically lacking, had the one thing that is more important than any amount of professional training; passion.
It is one thing to stand on a stage in front of some high waisted trousers and millions of viewers and proclaim ‘This is all I’ve ever wanted’, it is another thing to just keep your head down and get on with it. Talent will prevail.
Eva Cassidy is the perfect example of this, an undeniably elegant voice but certainly not perfect, but she certainly knew how to use her vocals to the best of her ability and every song on this collection feels achingly genuine and heartfelt.
Sadly taken before her time, it has been the subsequent years that have seen her music finding new ears with every passing moment. The very best of Eva Cassidy is released to coincide with what would have been her 50th birthday and is a fitting tribute to a true talent.
It is not enough to simply record a ‘good’ version of an existing track; you need to be able to add your own mark to make a cover version work. This is something Eva managed to do with a rare consistency. Ain’t No Sunshine and What A Wonderful World both honour the originals yet sound uniquely ‘Eva’ gentle but sublime.
There are delicate versions of two tracks made famous by Cyndi Lauper, both Time After Time and True Colours have a restrained grace about them, the chorus for Time After Time is about as beautiful as you can get.
It is also to her credit that she manages to keep the emotion in Danny Boy without it becoming too gloomy, as this is surely one of the most depressing songs ever written and can easily become unbearably melancholic.
It really is all about the song throughout this collection, vocal and instruments beautifully accompany each other, no histrionics, no overproduction to hide the cracks, simplicity is the key and it works. If you haven’t already discovered the delights of the Eva Cassidy back catalogue, then this is the perfect place to start.
Martin Rossiter live at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, Tuesday 27th November 2012
I suppose it depends on your point of view as to whether the Wedgewood Rooms is looking half full or half empty as Andrew Foster takes to the stage. Whilst not bursting at the seams the room is receptive to his acoustic stylings and as he does his best to battle through ‘the lurgee’, playful banter is exchanged with various members of the crowd and one by one he wins over the audience.
As rock ‘n’ roll entrances go, coming on to the strains of ‘Tomorrow’ from the Annie soundtrack is amusingly camp, whilst most of us assume it is done ironically, we are later assured it is just because Martin loves the song. He does concede however that perhaps he will be retiring it in future due to titters from the front row.
So, as Martin’s pianist Robin slinks on as the music dies, Martin glides on stage next as the crowd move in and applaud the return of an unsung indie hero. I should just say now, as far as I am concerned Gene were highly under-rated during their career and Martin Rossiter does not receive the critical praise he deserves. Sucked up in the furore of Britpop, Gene were too quickly written off and unlike many of their peers, their split in 2004 was the last they wrote, no revival/nostalgia tours for them and therefore little revisiting of their work has taken place.
Performing a select few tracks from his Gene years, tonight is really a showcase for Martin’s debut solo album ‘The Defenestration Of St. Martin’, an altogether different beast to his past incarnation. Sure, this still shares some similarities to Gene, they certainly look alike, but this feels more like Martin laying his soul bare and exorcising more personal demons. This is also purely Martin’s work, no band at play, no compromises to be made; just the songs Martin wanted to write.
It is no secret that the album is ‘soul searching’ shall we say, something Martin jokes about several times throughout the show but it is far from doom and gloom. The emotionally raw set is punctuated with wry between song chat. Sipping a beverage Martin concludes ‘Beer tastes better standing on a drum riser’ before adding with his tongue firmly in his cheek ‘I have one in my house; I just drink beer on it’.
Opening with ‘No One Left To Blame’ everyone is instantly under the spell of St. Martin, there can be few performers who have been away for so long yet command such instant respect and awe from their audience. As hosts go, Martin is warm and engaging, despite the fact he is only accompanied by the piano throughout, every song is greeted with a quiet reverence, everyone hanging on every word and move he makes.
The Smiths comparisons dogged Gene in the early days and they were often dismissed as ‘wannabes’ but this is incredibly short-sighted, after all I am pretty sure if you listen closely, Oasis had shades of The Beatles in them… ‘I Must Be Jesus’ does admittedly have all the trademarks of a Morrissey statement, all it is missing is the bunch of gladioli and a pout. It is however a funny but painfully keen observation about the trials of being a teenager and how Martin justified his pain to himself, assured he must be destined for bigger things.
‘Sing It Loud’ and ‘My Heart’s Designed For Pumping Blood’ are both majestic and Martin is almost true to his word, ‘Drop Anchor’, the first single from the album, very nearly does move me to tears. An ode to a loved one to make a commitment and settle down, once again it is incredible how powerful such a sparse song can be.
The Gene back catalogue is treated with respect and forgotten gems like ‘London Can You Wait’ and the stunning ‘Olympian’ are truly beautiful when stripped back to just voice and keys.
Highlight of the show is the deeply moving ‘Three Points On A Compass’, lyrically brutal but musically tender it is genuinely one of the most powerful pieces I have heard in a long time and provokes real feeling from everyone in the room.
This evening was a truly moving experience, Martin’s song writing has matured and developed an even greater emotional depth than he displayed with Gene. I implore anyone reading this to check out his debut solo album ‘The Defenestration Of St. Martin’, this is one name from the past that deserves to be heard without prejudice. Leave any preconceived notions of a Britpop revival at the door, all hail St. Martin.