At number two in our list is Fear of Men, who released their second album Fall Forever back in June and shifted away from their more indie guitar based roots into more ethereal territory. Despite only playing a couple of gigs in Brighton in 2016 Fear of Men have been on the road for most of the year touring America twice and spending a lot of time in Europe too.
Through a series of unfortunate coincidences we didn’t get to see Dog in the Snow live until this month. Gig clashes, not finding out about events until afterwards, timings changing – it was starting to look like we were avoiding them. We managed to put the situation right a couple of weeks ago when Helen Brown played a solo set opening the recent Two Three Four event at Green Door Store. We were so impressed that we decided there and then that we’d go and see her next time she played live, whatever else was on.
That next time was last night, when Dog in the Snow played at Above Audio. The night was put on by Les Enfants Terribles who have been putting on monthly nights at The Blind Tiger for the last year, but who also hosted a day at the Mesmerist for the Great Escape back in May and are running a stage at this weekend’s Playgroup festival.
We arrived too late to see support act Thyla, and between bands the lights were up and there was a lot of background chatter. Sadly that didn’t change when Dog in the Snow came on, and the sound wasn’t great either, with the vocals lost in the mix. Talent shone through though, with a quietly confident performance. Musically things were sometimes delicate but always purposeful, with layered soundscapes being created by Helen’s vocals and guitar (which was played with a violin bow on a couple of tracks) and her bandmate’s backing vocals , samples and keyboards. Dog in the Snow are band we’re going to do our best not to miss again.
This is the brilliant beautiful new song from Black Black Hills.
I wasn’t expecting this – a soulful mournful love song, imbibing the spirit of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but very much its own. Really gorgeous. Go listen.
And go download here http://emailunlock.com/blackblackhills/far-from-my-arms
Today’s post was meant to be a celebration but I fear it’s going to be a bit of an obituary. I wrote a lot of the Advent Calendar blog posts before November was even up but held off writing about Shrag because I had a ticket for the Riots Not Diets Christmas Party at the West Hill Centre that they were headlining on the 8th of December. I heard a rumour before hand which was confirmed by the band at the gig – it was probably their last time they would play Brighton.
What a bombshell – I had no idea it was coming. This year’s album Canines had been lauded across the music press as their finest yet, and gave us three fine singles – Tendons in the Night (which was a split single with touring partners Tunabunny), album lead track Show Us Your Canines in the Night and and the glam stomper Devastating Bones. While the singles were Shrag’s most muscular yet the rest of the album showed a band who’d finally found a maturity in their sound. The New Order-esque breakdown in the middle of On The Spires of Old Cathedrals gave us the shivers every time we heard it and album closer Jane With Dumbbells was majestic.
Things felt a bit different at the last gig. Helen finally looked a bit older and less like a child, and there was something a bit less indie about Steph. Maybe I was just projecting, knowing that in a few weeks time (there’s one last gig in their Diary, at Fortuna Pop’s Winter Sprinter in London) they won’t be part of Shrag any more. Maybe the band know that they haven’t got anything to prove any more. Maybe they were just drunk. Who knows.
What I do know is that in these quarters Shrag will be sadly missed. They’ve put out some fantastic records over the past few years and played some great gigs. They leave us with one final single put out as part of the Where Its At Is Where You Are singles club. Unseasonal Thoughts melds spiky guitars with 80s synths, and might just be the best thing they’ve ever done. At least they’re going out on a high.
So, you’ve finished with Oxjam and the mass of musical fun this past week? Wondering where the next great sounds are coming from? Look no further because hurrah, this Friday, Laish are back in town.
Daniel Green’s band have just completed a European tour and are now on a short home country trek, stopping off at the Hope on Queen’s Road, this Friday 26th October.
They’ll be supported by Maia – a 4-piece alt- folk band from Huddlesfield who have supported the Low Anthem, Anais Mitchell and the Unthanks, as well as playing the Cambridge Folk Festival and No Direction Home – a mix of gigs which pretty well describes their sound.
They’ve also got Nick Edward Harris on the bill, and having seen him support Emma Gatrill (also a Laish band member) at her album launch earlier this year I would highly recommend you get their early to experience his amazing intricate rhythmic guitar playing which is out of this world.
Laish, in case you didn’t know, come out of the excellent Willkommen Collective. Dan plays drums for Sons of Noel and Adrian when he’s not penning some of the most charming, honest and authentic songs to have come out of Brighton or anywhere for many a year. Their first album was released a couple of years ago, and was one of our records of the year – Mojo magazine termed it “Beguiling songs of love”, Line of Best fit “Clever and accomplished”. An excellent EP ‘Obituaries‘ came out earlier this year and a second album is now in the can and this blog for one can’t wait.
Tickets for this Friday’s gig are £6 in advance (£7 on the door) and you can buy them here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/185957
(Photograph of Laish at the Haunt earlier this year by Jon Southcoasting)
p.s. also recommended this week: Thursday: RESTLESSLIST at the Pavilion theatre
When I first wrote about Kidda, when he played at the Juice New Music Night back in December, I wrote ” there’s going to come a day in spring when the sun’s out, the skies are blue and the world is just coming back to life when one of his tunes comes on the radio and it’ll be just perfect”. I just checked the weather forecast for this week and the sun’s out every day. And a few days ago, I got a heads up about the new Kidda single. And guess what – it’s the perfect tune for right now.
Get Close is the sound of Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and The Avalanches having a party with Junior Senior banging on the door to get in. Remixes come from JeKO and The Sneekers, and it came out on Brighton’s own Skint Records yesterday.
Music’s always been a big deal for me. One of my earliest memories is looking at the cover of my mum’s copy of Sergeant Pepper, slightly baffled by all of the characters on it. Growing up, I always had my walkman with me along with an extra pair of batteries in my pocket just so that I was never left stranded in silence. When I was old enough to have a bit of spare cash, I’d cycle to the record shops of Croydon and Epsom doing my best to fill the gaps in my ever increasing New Order 12″ collection. At uni I got involved with student radio, and then when I went and got a job, Monday lunchtimes would draw to close with a game of “Who?” – the inevitable reaction from my older colleagues as I went through the brand new releases I had gone and bought as early as I possibly could – 7″s by Kenickie, Bis or Comet Gain, Stereolab albums on coloured vinyl, the latest cds on Heavenly or Warp Records. Throughout my twenties, my summer holidays were festivals. Over the years I built up a soundtrack to my life – tunes which can instantly bring back memories of blue skies or broken hearts. So, music is important – If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it. It’s especially important to Saint Etienne. They’ve been making records for over twenty years now, during which time they’ve also turned their hand to music journalism, DJing, running record labels, writing songs for other people, film-making … You name it, they’ve done it in the music industry, which is how they’ve ended up at the point where Words & Music is the natural album for them to make. Opening track Over The Border will send shivers down the spine for anyone music really matters to, lyrically encapsulating exactly how it feels for music to grow up with you.
The very first thing I read about the album was a comment from someone on Twitter saying that Saint Etienne had made a pop record. Of course it was pop, I thought – they’re a pop band, after all. The gist of next comment I read was that they’d made the record with Xenomania, and it showed. That didn’t concern me either. The lead single, Tonight, reminded me of Action, which the band released ten years ago, and my girlfriend said that reminded it her of He’s on the Phone, from all the way back in 1995. The perception from some quarters seems to be that Saint Etienne should only be allowed to make retro pop, but the truth is that they’ve always had a bit of disco in them – They even worked with Kylie on a version of Nothing Can Stop Us.
While some of the tracks have been sprinkled with a bit of pop magic from Richard X and other Xenomania alumni Nick Coler and Tim Powell, old hand Ian Catt who’s been involved with the production of Saint Etienne records since day one is also on board. Outside of the disco pop of the potential singles, the pastoral folk of I Threw It All Away could be a Vashti Bunyan cover, and the acapella of Record Doctor harks back to Goodnight which closed Tales From Turnpike House seven years ago.
For me, the most interesting tracks are those that hark back to classic St Et but that are informed by all of the new lessons they’ve learned from their new chartbusting friends. Last Days of Disco has radio friendly electric piano verses, but two minutes in has a great breakdown which brings in some shamelessly synth strings. Popular, one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, does some fancy things time stretching vocals. Still Saint Etienne, but still moving forwards, which for a band so far into their career is no mean feat.
While it’s been a good few years since the last Saint Etienne album, the band have been busy being Artists-in-Residence at Royal Festival Hall, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their seminal debut Foxbase Alpha by playing the album live in it’s entirety and having it remixed by Richard X, reissuing remastered versions of the rest of their back catalogue, remixing a new generation of bands and quietly sneaking out a Christmas album. Here’s hoping there aren’t so many distractions for the band between now and the next album.
Words and Music by Saint Etienne is released on Universal Records on 21st May 2012. And if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Saint Etienne who are so associated with London on Brighton Music Blog, read my interview with Pete Wiggs here.
After several months of news, reviews and links, I’ve finally got around to the first Brighton Music Blog interview. It’s a rainy January evening, and I’m meeting Simon Bate and Alex Borg in The Gladstone. They’re two fifths of new band The Repeat Prescriptions, and when they’re in the band, they assume pseudonyms and take on a rather interesting back story…
RO: Hello. Who are you?
SB: We’re the Repeat Prescriptions, and we basically play loud raucous rock’n’roll from a distant past.
RO: Tell us about this distant past…
SB: My name is Smuj E Koknokka, and in the summer of 1965 I moved from Ohio – I was a simple farming lad – to the bright lights and big city of LA, but obviously there was no money in it initially so to subsidise my meagre income as a musician, I got a job in the adult film industry as a fluffer, and I was on the set of Gorged that I met the director Ju Ju Sharp, who was a guitarist, and we formed the Repeat Prescriptions. We penned a lot of songs and did a few gigs, we met this gentrified English chap, who was heavily into the brown acid, called Marmaduke Marshall…
AB: Good Evening
SB: …and he was hanging out with a guy called Sandy Hoxton, who was a drummer, who was a surfer boy, wasn’t he?
AB: He liked girls and he liked riding the waves.
SB: Riding waves and women.
AB: That’s all you really need rhythmically. He was always going to be good on drums, wasn’t he? Sandy ‘Sticks’ Hoxton – the ‘Sticks’ is very important, that has to be there otherwise he gets a little bit diva-ish.
SB: What about Brian ‘O Brian’ Brian?
AB: Well he was playing keys for Hendrix, sessioning on some of his work which we don’t think ever saw the light of day, and it was through a friend of a friend we were put on to him and once he jammed with us there was no turning back and that was it.
SB: It was either him or Manzarek, but he was a little bit busy at the time. So in the late sixties – 68 – there was a very real prospect of being conscripted into the Vietnam war.
AB: Being fit, young men, as we are
SB: So we decided that maybe our market might be in the future so we decided to get cryogenically frozen. Keith Moon agreed that he’d ship us back to Brighton because he thought that when we thawed out in the 21st century we’d be a bit freaked out and that would be the ultimate place.
RO: So you’re back?
SB: Yeah, we’re back. We got thawed out last year. Obviously took us a while for our fingers to actually work again so we could play our instruments, but we’ve just started to do gigs again in Brighton – we played one gig already, we’ve got three booked up so far in the next month or so
RO: Which are?
SB: This Sunday, the 22nd, is the Green Door Store for Sunday Service. Two weeks after that we’re playing the Horse & Groom, up on Islingword Road with the Stash DJs, so that’ll be 50s and 60s rock’n’roll music, and then the 24th of February we’re playing the Brighton Ton Club which is a motorcycle enthusiasts day out.
SB: So we’re playing at that, we’re going to have burlesque dancers…
RO: Is that part of your rider?
SB: We’re going to have to start making stipulations for future gigs!
AB: I think we need some platforms for them, to the left and right of the stage
SB: Or if we can’t afford platforms, just get them to wear platforms, so they’ll just naturally tower over everyone else
RO: Next question – Are you planning to put any of this onto record?
SB: Yeah, yeah. We’ve come back and everyone’s doing digital stuff at the moment and I don’t really truly believe that you own something if it only exists as a series of ones and noughts, so I think what we’re going to do is release limited seven inch singles.
AB: Get some plastic out
SB: Make something tangible, it’s important that people can get something that can collect and hold that’s a bit unique, so each sleeve will maybe numbered or something like that.
AB: Something to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
RO: So, the blog’s all about Brighton – What do you think it is that makes Brighton such a creative place?
AB: It’s the people, isn’t it?
SB: I think Brighton is the closest we’ve got in England to Laurel Canyon in the Sixties, home to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, … They were all neighbours and they all used to play with each other, and I think Brighton’s very similar to that.
AB: It’s a little hotbed of creativity. But only seven people in Brighton are from Brighton, apparently.
SB: Everyone seems like they’re imports.
RO: What are your favourite other bands from Brighton?
SB: I love Abi Wade…
AB: …Gentleman Starkey …
SB: … Lolly & The City of Flies, Lost Dog, Rocker Switch *laughs* <it’s worth pointing out that Simon plays with the last two bands mentioned>
RO: Do you think the success of Rizzle Kicks and the Maccabees (currently in the top five in the singles and album charts respectively) will help the music scene in Brighton?
SB: Well, I think anything that puts the spotlight on a particular area is good. It would be nice if we had what happened in Manchester when the baggy scene started up, everyone was looking at Manchester and there were these bands who weren’t even particularly good suddenly getting some sort of recognition.
AB: I’m going to be controversial and I’m going to say that it’s not going to make any difference, just because those two bands are completely different and they’re not really coming out of any scene.
SB: I suppose so. When the punters think of that, they don’t think instantly Maccabees = Brighton.
AB: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s ever been a big scene in Brighton. There’s been lots of good bands doing their own thing, and just the ones that are really good at whatever do are the ones that shine. So Rizzle Kicks I think are great – I especially like the one about mums, and the video to that is brilliant.
AB: And the Maccabees are great. I think they’ve always been great, personally. That Pelican tune is fantastic considering they’re all about what, 21, 22?
SB: Still? They can’t be 21,22! They’ve always been 21, 22!
AB: They’re probably all 36. Anyway, I like it. It’s not boring drossy run of the mill indie.
RO: What’s your favourite venue to play in Brighton?
SB: I think the Green Door Store was what Brighton always needed. It’s got that Berlin shabby chic. It looks like a bombed out shell of a building.
AB: It’s very industrial there.
RO: It’s good because you can spill your pint and no one cares
AB: You can spill blood and nobody cares!
SB: All the girls I know there wear quite fancy shoes. That massacres your shoes. It’s basically like dancing on emery boards.
AB: It’s an orthopaedic war zone. That would make a good album title.
SB: It’s a concept album!
RO: So you love the Green Door Store…
SB: And the Albert. I think the Albert’s got great sound.
RO: A lot of the stuff that goes on at the Green Door Store kind of feels like the stuff that would have gone on at the Albert before, but it still feels like the Albert has got loads going on all the time. Any other venues you feel warrant a mention?
AB: The Hope. The sweaty Hope. It is incredibly hot. In the summer it’s almost unbearable but it just seems to be the perfect little sweatbox venue that holds about a hundred people. I’ve got a lot of happy memories from there. I’ve played there a few times, put on gigs there. It’s a weird venue, the road it’s on, you get the passing tourist trade and that can make it quite exciting sometimes. I always thought there was an air of danger from that place because you can get anything from football supporters to the complete other end of the spectrum.
RO: And what about the Hippodrome – the old Mecca Bingo Hall down on Middle street, which has apparently been bought up and is being done slowly up by Live Nation who used to be Mean Fiddler. It’s got history – the Beatles and the Stones played back in the 60s.
AB: Whenever a building of that historical significance, it’s great.
SB: I think it’s inevitable in a city the size of Brighton there’s going to have to be something like that. There is still a city centre gap…
AB: …and it’s going to have to be someone with some money and some clout to make it a successful operation. The only way that would work otherwise would be if you got some kind of community syndicate project to sort it out. That’s obviously not happened so somebody with some clout and some money’s gone in there.
SB: I still think places like the Albert and are going to be perfect for the homegrown bands, because they’re really nice places to go.
AB: It’s going to be touring bands that play at the Hippodrome, anyway.
SB: Anywhere would be better than the Brighton Centre. That’s a horrendous place to see bands. You might as well stick a ghetto blaster in the King Alfred Centre for the sort of sounds you get in there.
AB: I have a feeling it’ll be about the same capacity as the Dome, which does seem to go for the “still touring at the age of 60” middle of the road vibe
SB: It’s a seated thing isn’t it?
AB: That’s why all the good gigs are in places like the Hope or the Green Door Store. So many good ones happen when it’s just you and a fifty or a hundred people.
RO: Last Question: Brighton or Hove?
AB: Hove’s full of estate agents.
SB: Hove’s a little bit snooty. I love this side of Brighton. I love the area where I live.
AB: There’s nothing to do in Hove, except get on a bus and come into Brighton.
SB: Stick us down for two Brightons!
The Repeat Prescriptions play the headline slot at 9pm for the Sunday Service at the Green Door Store on 22nd Jan.
Shrag first came to my attention (musically at least) last year when I saw them supporting Pains of Being Pure at Heart at the Concorde. I fell in love with them immediately – they reminded me of loads of the bands I loved in the mid nineties – Prolapse, The Delgados, Bis and Heavenly. Funny then, that support at the gig was Tender Trap – fronted by Amelia Fletcher, who also fronted Heavenly all those years ago. For most of Tender Trap’s set, Shrag lead singer Helen King stood at the front transfixed. It must be quite an honour to have one of your heroes supporting you at a gig in your hometown. Since this is the Brighton Music Blog, not the Oxford Music Blog, so I’ll skip over Tender Trap’s support and head straight onto Shrag’s set. They played a roughly equal mix of tracks from 2010’s Life! Death! Parties!, earlier tunes and songs written for their upcoming album due to be released next year on Fortuna Pop. The band don’t really aim for professional – the start was delayed by a couple of minutes while the bassist was fetched from the bar, and when a string broke on Bob Brown’s guitar, he didn’t have another spare guitar to swap with, instead having to use keyboard player Steph Goodman’s, which was “impossible to tune”. But it doesn’t matter one jot – I’d rather see a band who are funny, and intense, and who I can relate to instead. Their set was over far too quickly – one of the downsides of fast paced punky indie pop. Let’s hope they play again soon when their album comes out in the spring.