Muse… actually do a decent song with The Dark Side

Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again! The year of our lord, twenty eighteen, has been a topsy turvy one at best, but the topsy is about to become more turvy than ever before, because in 2018, Muse have actually written a palatable, and plausibly good song. Dropping as quickly and as surprisingly as your gym shorts in year 7 when the biggest boys snuck up on you, The Dark Side has a… well… a dark side that creates a demonic and dystopian vibe with its use of synth.

To be quite honest, the three singles prior to this were swings, and misses. Dig Down was more of a grower than a shower, but it left you feeling unfilled either way, Thought Contagion is probably the worst contagion since the plague, and Something Human sounded good as an acoustic jam, but didn’t quite land in the way you’d hope, however, it wasn’t terrible. With The Dark Side, Muse actually hit the mark.

The singles leading up to the now announced album Simulation Theory, a title and tracklist that conjures images of an Elon Musk wet dream after reading his favourite subreddits before saying “Goodnight m’lady, may all your dreams be le epic wins” to Grimes. This is a totally hypothetical situation, but let’s face it, after airing the dirty washing recently, it’s not that far detached from reality. Plus, considering the guy is a bajillionaire whose hobbies include making rockets and slamming tabs of acid, it’s totally okay to dunk on him, and to one day put the heads of the bourgeois on stakes.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0UWT0dFSQE]

The Dark Side has the same sort of dark, Depeche Mode-esque feel to it that Map of the Problematique has. That’s not to draw comparison between the two, but the use of arpeggiated synth in The Dark Side feels like a slowed-down version of Map. There is a very eighties electronic feel to this song, something that the other three tried to conjour but failed, whereas The Dark Side absolutely fucking nails it. Had they started with this track and worked our way up, Simulation Theory could have been one of the most tantalising releases of 2018, but with the way things are, this just about gets you interested again.

Vocally and lyrically, The Dark Side actually keeps it quite simple. Matt Bellamy‘s vocals are strained and reverberated, contributing to the darkened atmosphere in the track. Lyrically, it actually runs in a similar vein to Map, with the protagonist seemingly dealing with inner demons and mental torture, for instance, in verse one:

“I have lived in darkness // For all my life, I’ve been pursued // You’d be afraid if you could feel my pain // And if you could see the things I am able to see”

They are clearly suffering from some kind of mental anguish, and the theme runs through the entire lyrical theme of the song, combining with the dark and dystopian feel of the song.

Whilst not enough to instantly reinstall Muse as flavour of the month, The Dark Side feels like a throwback to an older Muse sound whilst keeping the band moving forward. Fingers crossed that this is more of what we’ll see on Simulation Theory, as opposed to the rest of the awful shite we’ve heard so far.

BROCKHAMPTON send London’s KOKO loco

Words fae Owen Yule (@owenyule)

20 days deep into August, and there remains little to no information on Brockhampton’s forthcoming release, The Best Years of Our Lives. Well so be it, I guess instead we will have to settle for a set list that segues through the rambunctious, and sentimental SATURATION  trilogy, that also interpolates the boybands most recent singles. And how clear the faith in the group’s new direction was as 1998 TRUMAN kicked off and set the standard for the energy of both the crowd, and the performers on stage.

And if there could ever be one word to define Brockhampton’s debut night at Koko it would be just that – “energy”. Whether that passion came from the man behind the mic, the sets or those left without contributions to specific songs, the groups stamina was relentless. From the second Merlyn took stage to deliver his belligerent hook on 1998 TRUMAN to Abstract’s closing chorus on the encored 1997 DIANA, the boyband resonated vitality and vigour with every vocal and strut – this intensity was perhaps best represented by Joba during BOOGIE when he just about rapped himself in to stifled heap on the floor. With such ferocity, performers often walk a tightrope in that delivery and precision is sacrificed for unfiltered emotion and excitement, but each member delivered every flow and bar with concise expertise.

While tracks like BOOGIE, SISTER/NATION and SWEET showcased the boybands proficiency with higher tempo tracks, or more simply put… bangers. Those who are familiar with the group will be well aware of the diversity in style exhibited throughout the span of their résumé, and so, deviations to more harmonious tracks were appreciated as timely intermissions from chaos. As BLEACH came to a close Abstract ushered the fans who responded with ardour relaying his bridge back to him acapella, making for one of the most memorable moments of the show. Additionally, Joba conveyed his expansive vocal range with his zealous performance of FACE that earned him an ovation from the crowd. However, as great as these performances were, Brockhampton’s slow jam kingpin Bearface highlighted why he is the bands go-to vocalist for the tranquil cuts with his performance of SUMMER – his ethereal vocals hung over the room before his guitar solo ruptured in to applause.

Brockhampton’s first time in London was therefore an exemplary demonstration of why the boyband has managed to propel themselves in to stardom so quickly. To sell out the venue in 30 seconds and galvanise ques outside the venue from 7am is an accolade worthy of hip hop veterans, let alone new recruits of the game. However, with all their skill and passion there is only so much the group can do about venues compromising safety for profits. Even if KOKO’s inappropriate distribution of tickets invoked Romil (Set DJ & Brockhampton Producer) to throw me a bottle of water whilst in a state of dehydration, there is only so many positives to take from audience congestion. Said overcrowding only gives more weight to the importance of campaign groups such as Girls Against. With that being said, when it came to pulling their weight, Brockhampton fully embraced their duties. In fact, it was only that afternoon that Kevin Abstract stated on BEATS1 Radio that he wanted to do “Travis number”, well I think it’s safe to say that on Monday evening the group’s performance echoed that sentiment.

Bring Me The Horizon start a cult with Mantra

Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bring Me The Horizon are slowly mooching their way towards the top table of music stars, glass of wine in hand, tie loosened, shirt unbuttoned, and with their new song, Mantra, they’re aiming to flip it over when they get there.

New Bring Me was always going to be an enigma, would they stick to the poppier sounds of That’s The Spirit, or would they walk a little bit further back to Sempiternal, or would they just straight up throw the baby out with the bathwater and release Tell Slater Not To Wash His Dick (Redux)? However, with Mantra, it’s hard to put your finger on the pulse, but the pulse is strong.

Mantra starts with the best of intentions; thundering drums, rattling bass that shakes your head about, and a bit of synth before the whole band show up and give you some Sheffield steel with a towering riff. It’s hard to say whether this is classic Bring Me, or another evolution of their sound, but whatever these riffs and this thunder is, it’s good. Interesting though, it feels like a song of two eras, with the verses having more of a That’s The Spirit, “poppy” feel to them, but a bit more beefier.

Again, it’s really hard to put your finger on just what this track sounds like, but whatever it is, it sounds good, and it sounds exciting. However, with a classic Oli Sykes scream midway through the song, it probably shares a bit of its DNA with a vintage Horizon.

It’s aggressive, uncompromising and yet again another step forward in their sound. With the marketing campaign for Mantra compromising of dialling a telephone number to hear snippets of the song, it’s quite clear what mantra Bring Me are chanting with their new song: Dial R for Riffs.

RANKED: The Top Ten Muse Tracks

Words fae top Muse fanboy Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Without a shadow of a doubt, Muse are one of the best bands the world has ever seen. Whilst the product has tapered off in recent years, the first four, maybe five albums took them from Teingmouth troublemakers to stadium monoliths, selling out every venue from London to Lima. However, is it possible to condense every anthemic stadium filler and emotional sonnet into a list of ten? Well, we’re about to find out. From Showbiz to the unnamed November release which we’re all so… so very excited about… Muse have managed to create some of the world’s most beautiful, symphonic and aggressive tracks, but in the end, there must only be ten.

Sit down, relax, and prepare to loudly disagree with your screen as we take you through the top ten Muse tracks. There are a lot of honourable mentions at this point, because front to back, Showbiz, Origin, Absolution and Black Holes are 99.9% perfect. So if you read this list and feel aggrieved, we feel you, unless you think that something like Something Human or Revolt should be on here, in which case, fuck you.#

10 – New Kind of Kick – Single

Haha you should see your fucking face right now, you chump!

10 – The Handler – Drones

C-C-C-CURVEBALL! Already you are madder, redder and nuder than you have been in your entire life, but The Handler is on this list through merit. As stated earlier, the end product’s fallen off a bit in recent years, but in all fairness, that’s to be expected when you produce four world beating albums, it’s pretty easy for everything that follows to pale in comparison. However, prior to the release of Drones in 2015, the mouths of many Musers were salivating at the glimpses they were being offered, including Dead Inside and Psycho. After the disappointment of experimental-but-experiment-gone-wrong-sound of The 2nd Law, it was exciting to see the band return to a harder rock sound.

One of the standout tracks from that album, was, as you might have guessed, The Handler. Whilst Drones was in place a throwback, The Handler harked back to the very beginning, featuring a heavy handed riff, and a nice fiddly bit in the middle, a bit like In Your WorldShowbiz or Stockholm Syndrome. The song is about agents who try to control people, or for a real world example, just being controlled by someone. It’s quite a dark song, but like many of Muse’s best tracks, beauty is found in the darkness.

Of course, this feels like a bit of a left field choice, and you’re very right to have already phoned the police, but think about when this song was released, and how it felt like shaking hands with an old friend in a room full of strangers. The use of a big fiddly solo and Matt’s falsetto is a complete throwback, and should be celebrated as a return to their roots. And how powerful is that final verse with “I won’t let you control my feelings any more // I will no longer do as I am told // I am no longer afraid to walk alone // Let me go, leave me be”? All in all, it’s a classic Muse track from a modern era, and has a powerful, yet dark theme to it.

However, no more curveballs, on with the show, yes?

9 – Bliss – Origin Of Symmetry

Come the year 2001, Muse were still sort of an unknown quantity, especially compared to their stature today. They had gotten off to a steady start with Showbiz, but what would come next would launch them into the stratosphere. With more time and more budget to produce an album, Muse went to the next level with Origin of Symmetry, building on their use of arpeggiated synths, falsetto vocals from Bellamy and took their lyrical theme to the next dimension with hits like Hyper MusicNew Born and Plug In Baby.

Another high water mark from that album was Bliss, an upbeat song compared to the majority of the album’s theme. Moving at a pretty fast tempo, the song features arpeggiated synths and piano, and of course, Matt Bellamy’s signature falsetto. It’s a ridiculously positive song, and in the words of Papa Bellamy himself, Bliss “is probably the most positive track, the most truly embracing song. It’s almost in awe of the situation I’ve been given, because it’s a state of mind were you give out everything you have without any need for return”.

Much like most of Muse’s song, Bliss goes to a whole ‘nother dimension when played on the live stage, often featuring an extended intro and riff at the close, it can also feature an ear-splittingly, pant-wettingly good falsetto into the final chorus from Matt. Usually bathing the audience in pink light, it’s the kind of song that makes you bounce ten feet in the air as soon as the first riff breaks through.

8 – Knights of Cydonia – Black Holes & Revelations

THE rock and roll penis extension, THE bombastic stadium rock anthem for dads and lads (plus mothers, daughters and non-identifying relatives), Knights of Cydonia is ridiculous as a song; a spaghetti western and sci-fi thriller, condensed into less than seven minutes. It’s absolutely stupid, listen to the lasers and the clip-clop of hooves at the start, the towering chords and the “Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh!” in the intro, the tremelo guitar. Fun fact, Matt’s father George was in a band called the Tornados, and had a hit single called Telstar, which went to number one in the UK in 1962, using tremelo guitar, which Knights is apparently a homage too. It’s funny actually, Telstar was apparently Maggie Thatcher‘s favourite song, and the funny thing about that, is she’s dead.

On with the show; Knights of Cydonia rolled the credits on Black Holes, and could easily be the closing theme for Muse’s golden era. Arguably the last truly world beating song they wrote, it’s the complete overblown zealousness of this song that makes it so good, had it even been diluted slightly it wouldn’t land with the same impact. Live, it’s a staple song, going from the opener at their Wembley gigs, to a strange mid-set addition, but largely finding its home as a set’s closer, with the big man, Chris Wolstenholme opening with Ennio Morricone’s Man With A Harmonica. It certainly sets the scene for the credits to roll, with Knights being the fucking overblown finisher. However, in doing the research for this piece, it turns out that top ten runner-up Reapers has been dropped for shite-era fodder Unsustainable in recent sets. God is dead, murdered by Matt Bellamy’s er… orthodox approach to music.

7 – Citizen Erased – Origin of Symmetry

Whilst Absolution will forever be Muse’s finest hour, Origin Of Symmetry will forever be the finest hour before. Citizen Erased is essentially a symphony in two movements; the opening of the song is the filthy, apocalyptic riff with melancholic lyrics. Recorded on a seven string guitar in drop A tuning, Citizen Erased is “an expression of what it feels like to be questioned. I spend more time than most people being asked about purpose, and it’s a strange feeling”, according to Matt. Right you are then.

The riff is demonic, almost frantic and uncontrolled. The solo towards the last chorus is up there with anything the great guitar virtuoso Matthew Bellamy has ever done, with his falsetto on point. However, the highlight of the song comes after the bombs have dropped and the dust settles, moving to a gently plucked guitar bridge, finishing with a piano concerto, something that the band are famous for. The lyrics “Wash me away, clean your body of me, erase all the memories, they’ll only bring us pain” are again, right up there in the top ten (hence its place), for emotional and stirring lyrics. The perfect mix of anger and sadness, Citizen Erased is quite strangely, a pretty good break up song.

However, Hyper Music may be better.

Fuck! Hyper Music! Shit! Look out for the Top Ten Muse Tracks That Didn’t Make The Top Ten But Could Be In Your Top Ten very soon!

6 – Fury – Absolution

Does this count as a curveball? Probably not, as you, reading this right now are a pretty hardcore Muse fan, so you’re probably either foaming at the mouth Fury hasn’t appeared yet, or foaming at the mouth Fury isn’t higher up, but you know what chief? Write your own top ten Muse tracks list, and publish it. Everyone’s dying to read your nuanced takes on why Starlight is a top ten track, you CLOD.

Anyway, Fury was originally a bonus track on the Japanese, but, because nothing is sacred on the internet, and Muse fans at the best of times are rabid, bloodthirsty monsters, it found its way into general consumption, and the only question is why a song like this failed to make the cut compared to Endlessly. A somewhat cynical song, dealing with the existence, or non-existence of God, as many songs off Absolution did, the meat and potatoes in this song is in that riff in the middle.

Lyrically as well, Fury is quite strong, especially with the “and we’ll pray that there’s no God // to punish us, or make a fuss” right at the end of the chorus. Whether you interpret the lyrics as one person fearing God for the sins we have committed on this earth, and fearing the rapture, or just a slightly irony boy bit of music that we pray to God that he doesn’t exist to punish us, it’s a damn strong song, and deserves its number six.

5 – Showbiz – Showbiz

Now we’re getting into the tasty places of this list, as we enter the top half of the top ten, the VIP club of the top ten, if you please. The oldest song on this list, by release date anyway, Showbiz was the first light through the cracks, proving that Muse would eventually rise to the very top. A dark and melancholic song, the use of nylon strings on Chris’ bass provided the dull, muted bass sound along with the slowly beaten drums at the start, and the distorted “Controlling my feelings for so long” really add atmosphere.

Many of you will no doubt agree that this is one of Muse’s best, and has stood the test of time, with its addition into 2017 setlists bringing crowds into almost stunned silence, before realising that yes, this is actually happening. The almost manic guitar in the middle and overdriven vocals are absolutely stunning. The song, according to Matt, is about the inner personality we keep hidden from the outside, this could indeed be a reference to actually performing live, and the public persona Bellamy would have to cultivate compared to his, er, normal, self.

4 – New Born – Origin Of Symmetry

Beginning like a lullably, fittingly, before becoming the sonic recreation of the end of the world, New Born is the cream of the crop off of Origin. Probably the song with the longest tenure as a live mainstay, it’s pretty obvious why everyone goes bananas when they hear the first few tinkled ivories. However, it’s all about the big, chunky riff after those tinkled ivories that everyone REALLY goes bananas for.

According to Matt, New Born is “A feeling of not being connected to each other, but we are, and it’s a feeling of the mind evolving from the body, but when that happens you just get this yearn to do something physical and feel something sensational, physical-ness-ness”… which is… a thing… about a song. Yeah. It’s probably best we don’t really take what he says on board.

So we’ve got some Showbiz era keys, some Origin era fuzz and that tremeloed solo in the middle is to die for. It’s frantic, out of control and absolutely fucking beautiful.

3 – Dead Star – Dead Star/In Your World

We’re into the podium places right now, and coming up from behind is Dead Star! Now, think about this, this is the top ten best Muse songs ever, so Dead Star has earnt its place here. Just look at it. This song was heart eyes emoji and drooling emoji and a little bit cowboy hat emoji before emojis were things. Another song that always launches people into a frenzy when it makes sporadic live appearances, it is as angsty as anything, and even as an ageing 25 year old hack, you will jump around your bedroom in a fit of rage when this comes on.

This song, along with its partner on the double A-Side In Your World, was written in response to the 9/11 attacks on America, and is about “how we should be responsible for our individual actions and not blame other people all the time”. The lyrics reflect that, but can also be easily translated into a nice breakup song, if you’re feeling particularly bitter.

2 – Map of the Problematique – Black Holes & Revelations

Really, between this and our number one song, it’s a complete toss up, but Map of the Problematique has to sit just below our top choice. Easily the standout song of Black Holes & Revelations, as well as being one of the greatest Muse songs ever written, Map is a little of the beaten track, with a dancey, arpeggiated riff (which you can read all about here!), and has a very Depeche Mode feel to it.

Written about a faltering relationship, at the time between Matt and his then girlfriend, Map follows the struggle to get things right in the relationship, and the protagonist’s struggle with his inner demons, which interestingly “fear, and panic in the air” relate to Mars’ two moons, something that was a common theme on Black Holes. It could also be loosely related to suicide, following a relationship breakdown.

It’s just… so fucking perfect.

Before we get onto our top, number one, greatest of all time Muse song, it’s time we dole out a few honourable mentions, so cheers to Pink Ego BoxReapersHysteriaFalling Away With YouPanic Station and Plug In Baby

1 – Stockholm Syndrome – Absolution

It just had to be, didn’t it?

Symphonic, heartbroken aggression and the probably what the apocalypse itself will sound like, Stockholm Syndrome is without doubt THE greatest Muse song ever written. Originally beginning as a post-song jam, sometimes after Hyper Music, that opening riff is just simply stunning, and shows Matt Bellamy at the peak of his guitar-based superpowers.

Even the verse, with its stabbed chords sound demonic; at no point does this song let you go, to the point where much like the condition the song takes its name from, you fall in love with your captor. Initially, this song was meant to be quite quiet with the main riff, until cooler heads prevailed and the riff was played on overdriven Manson and synths, with the two being married together.

Allegedly, if the chorus is played backwards, you can hear “You can’t see me, we sneak off. I lost to love. Please … save the night wind and high above, I lost to love. Sing, save”, but does anyone really have the time for that?

Undoubtedly, from start to finish, it’s just perfect. Absolution was the perfect Muse album, and this was the most perfect song appearing on it. Sit back, enjoy it, and let it capture you.

 

TRANSISTOR Fresh Picks: August 2018

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Another month, another batch of fresh applicants thanks to our pals at SYNCR. New music is always amazing, the brand new sounds rushing over your skin like warm water, immersing you in a new experience. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of August’s hottest new prospects!

Take a look at July’s hot picks here!

Want to have your stuff considered for our Fresh Picks series? Apply here via SYNCR!

Constine

Hailing from Sweden, Hanna Lindgren performs under the name CONSTINE, taking full control of her artistic vision by self releasing her work, and also being multitalented as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

The track provided to us, NEVER, is a rich, immersive mix of sounds, producing a melancholic indie pop feeling track, sounding as if it had been written specifically to be a chart topper. There’s a lot of percussion based instruments in this song, but are used so subtly it creates a really interesting and innovative sound.

If you enjoy toeing the line between indie and pop with a slightly dreamy and psychedelic feel, CONSTINE is definitely for you. She has a rich mix of talents, all of which are on display on the singles she’s released over the last year or so.

Lower Loveday

Oh yes yes yes! This is the good stuff! The good pups! Lower Loveday are an indie four piece, and the track they threw our way, Loved You, is brilliant. Parcelling them off as an indie band feels quite unfair, as Loved You has a swaggering rock and roll feel to it.

Furthermore there’s an eclectic mix of sounds in their catalogue, with their new single Is It Right is a pacey and bassy number. Okay, indie is probably the best way to describe them, but they’re so much more than a generic four lads with Fenders and haircuts band, there’s quite an exciting feel to their sound.

The solo in Is It Right is pretty damn cool as well. It’s hard to give you a “for fans of” description. But if you enjoy a melodic four piece with some hard riffs, eclectic sounds and occasional solos, take a look!

URF

URF is the noise you make when someone pushes you over, OOH is the noise you make when you listen to psychedelic shoegazers URF. In their own words, URF “provide their listeners with a luxurious technicolour of female fronted neo-psychedelic shoegaze, that smashes through the glass ceiling of an exhausted alternative scene”.

To be honest, we couldn’t describe them better than they have. Whilst they describe themselves in that way, they back it up with their sound. Like floating through a purple sky, Say You Don’t Mind moves as quick as it needs to, immersing you in noise and covering you with their blanketing sound.

Their instruments escape from them, but are rooted firmly to the ground with a solid rhythm section, allowing the keys, guitars and vocals to slip the surly bonds of earth and rock the face of god.

Miles Kane returns to form with Coup de Grace

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Appearing from the wilderness when we needed him most, Miles Kane has returned to sprinkle his whimsical indie magic over us with new album, Coup De Grace. As per usual, it’s a smorgasbord of interesting & exciting tracks, with the odd filler track hither and dither.

It’s been five long damn years since the release of the patchy but palatable Don’t Forget Who You Are, with Miles having fun in The Last Shadow Puppets, or just generally enjoying being a rockstar, including playing in a Beatles tribute band with Matt Bellamy of Muse. How do you spend your free time?

In an interview with Annie Mac prior to the release of lead single Loaded, the Scouse sonic sorcerer hinted that we’d see a plethora of influences, most interestingly, something that sounds like the Ramones. To which you probably screamed “Bollocks! Miles Kane? Punk? Get away with you”, or more likely went “nice, that’ll be good, maybe”. However, for the percentage of you that screamed bollocks, prepare to be blown away by album opener Too Little Too Late.

It’s Miles Kane alright, but it’s a raughty (raunchy and naughty) punk track to get the album off to a strong start. It’s classic punk, with the frantic, yet simple chords and the structure of the chorus. It’s hard to say the Ramones are an influence on your album and back it up, but with Too Little Too Late, it walks the walk. It’s not a loose bastardisation of a punk song, with the chorus being crooned in Miles’ familiar style, and up-pitch guitar. It sets the standard for the rest of the album, but fortunately, everything else is up to code and doesn’t slip straight down the cliff after the opener.

Even in the weaker parts of this album, even the most casual of Miles Kane fans can take heart knowing that where the tunes are good, the Greatest Showman himself will take these tracks and turn them up to 11 on the live stage. And that’s pretty fucking comforting, knowing how good these songs sound, they’re going to sound twice as better live.

As we do these days, plenty of singles were dropped prior to the album’s release, so let’s take a gander at some brand new bangers. Cold Light Of Day is stunning and follows the same sort of punk-based blueprint as Too Little Too Late, but this is more classic Miles Kane. Again, with many modern albums, it’s hard to work out if it’s an advance in production techniques and sound, or whether everyone’s stepped their game up, because Coup De Grace is miles (HA!) better than Don’t Forget Who You Are, which, although with a few fillers, it was largely killer. Whisper it quietly, but this is even better than Colour of the Trap.

There’s a slightly sentimental vein running through the album, not surprising considering that the writing process for this album was kick-started by Miles having a breakup. However, the first single off the album, Loaded is probably one of the weakest songs on the album, penned about the protagonist’s girlfriend failing to save him, and the first one he wrote off the back of his breakup. At the time it fairly whetted the appetite for a new album, but looking back on it now it pales in comparison to the rest of the album. Even having melancholic maestro Lana Del Rey co-writing the song couldn’t save it from being lackluster. It just doesn’t land, you know? It sort of just fades into the background.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e53GyXCgys]

Keeping the microscope on breakups and new tracks, you’ll be hard pressed to find a track better than Killing The Joke on this album. One of Miles’ strengths is playing a slightly soulful acoustic track, in the vein of Colour of the Trap and Out of Control. It’s quite emotional, and a little bit self-deprecating, it’s nice, there’s a sort of ballroom slow dance feel to it at the start, bathed in dim light, fading into nothingness. There’s even a shout out to Bruce Forsyth with “it’d be nice to see you, to see you nice” in the first verse. Want any proof it’s a good album? There’s a fucking Brucie Bonus on it, name another album with a Brucie Bonus on it.

The new, new songs have a lot of grunt to them, but if you’re looking for a high water mark, or a stand out track, you’re out of luck, because it’s a straight-up scrap between Cry On My Guitar; a dick swinging anthem that swaggers its way through your ears, or title track Coup de Grace, which has a real darkened boudoir feel to it. The vocal style on Coup de Grace particularly is very similar to his friend Alex’s vocal style on a recent album by Arctic Monkeys. Whether the chicken or the egg came first on this vocal delivery is insignificant, as the smooth, velveteen vocals on Coup de Grace really make it, layered over the deep, grooving bass like icing on a sponge cake.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffkom6CLA78]

It’s hard to find a weak point on this album, sure, you might find you spend less time with a track like Shavambacu, the title which reminds you of the “fre shavac ado” vine, rather than something like Cry On My Guitar, but is that a bad thing? No, Coup de Grace’s problem is that there are some inch-perfect tracks on there, which means the tracks that aren’t inch perfect don’t entice you as much. It’s a nice problem to have, that an album has so many perfect tracks, the really good tracks just seem a little less appetising.

Lyrically, you could say it leaves you wanting, but coming to Miles Kane for poignant lyrics and insights on the modern world is like coming to Socrates for his philosophy on drinking cans and wearing skinny jeans; you don’t really come to expect much substance from either. What you come to him for is some dancy tunes, the occasional acoustic banger, and the live show. However, lyrically, he told the BBC that “it’s very personal”, so the story we hear on the record may have completely different meaning to him than it does to us. It’s also quick to poke fun at the comment that he called it his “Adele album”, but from the content & theme of the tracks, it’s quite easy to see what he means; it’s inspired by heartbreak, something that Adele does second class to none.

Shavambacu is the album’s closer, and a common theme in these reviews is making sure the credits roll with a good track, and this is no exception. It’s quite melancholic, with a real “walking through London in the rain feel to it”. Lyrically it feels like the protagonist is pining for their love, and it’s quite a sweet song reflecting and lamenting on missing your lover. Absolutely no fucking clue what Shavambacu means, closest Google Translate offers is that shavambacu is a Malayan word, and is Malayan for shavambacu.

On the whole, the album feels like a complete departure from Don’t Forget Who You Are, and even Colour of the Trap. It still feels like it’s got the familiar Miles Kane feel, but tracks like Silverscreen, with a frantic tempo and strained vocal from Miles feel as far away from his blueprint as possible. However, in the unfamiliarity comes excitement; this is a new sound from Miles, and though “Coup de Grace” is French for “the final blow” (thanks, Google Translate!), fingers crossed that this isn’t the final blow from Miles, and we see something similar to this in the near future.

Halestorm bare their teeth with Vicious

Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Coming off the back of a hit and miss album in the form of Into The Wild Life, Pennsylvanian power quarter Halestorm are back again for another round, this time with Vicious, aiming to build on their steady rise to the top of rock and roll stardom. Halestorm are a pretty simple band; they play it loud, and play it hard, producing some stunning results.

On Vicious, the album starts as it’s describe. Frontwoman Lzzy Hale screams her way into opener Black Vultures before exploding into the song. Probably one of the key components of any Halestorm album is Lzzy; the power in her voice translates through to her lyrics, which are often empowering, sentimental, or loosely alluding to fucking, something of which she is a queen of (lyrics, not fucking, the latter is unverified). Black Vultures is a good opener, it launches you into the album and grips you, which is the most important part of the album. It’s the first impression. If the first track on an album is shite, you’re not gonna sit around and wait for it to get better.

However, following after Black Vultures is Skulls, which to be honest, whilst not a bad track per se, it just doesn’t really have any impact, and if anything, that’s the problem with Vicious. Where it’s good, it’s brilliant, with all members of the band fluidly moving together to form a sonic assault. On the other side of the penny, where it isn’t brilliant, it isn’t terrible, it just struggle to keep you occupied. Is it badly played, produced or written? No, but it just doesn’t excite you. It’s just a bit “well, so what?”. It’s hard to describe, a bit shit because this is a written description of this album, but it’s not bad, or unenjoyable, you just don’t really resonate with it.

One of the tracks is hard to pin down, sonically, it’s really good, and it goes without saying that Lzzy is cracking like thunder. But, the lyrics are quite hard to pin down? Remember earlier, with the loose allusions to fucking, it’s hard to work out if Buzz is a love letter to vibrators. If it is, good, they do a lot of work and never really get much credit. And if it is, our Lzzy has played a blinder in loosely describing how fucking good a vibrator is, but could easily push it to the top of the charts, corrupting the minds of our youth, so we don’t have to. Here, look at this;

“Everybody’s keeping their little secrets // Hidden in the bottom drawer // But when it’s over there’s a terrible fever // That keeps you begging for more”

It’s absolutely about vibrators, isn’t it? Genius. Fucking genius.

The absolute filth continues through the album, moving from Buzz into Do Not Disturb, which is probably one of the high water marks on the album, from both a sonic and lyrical perspective. It’s a slow, dirty sex track. It’s hard to pin point which lyric is the sultriest, but the sonic elements of the song run over you like velvet; the song moves slowly, but it’s taking its time, it’s not rushing into anything, it’s letting you enjoy every second of it. If Lzzy sings about fucking as well as she you know, actually fucks, she should be given a gold medal in fucking. Just take a sniff of this chorus to understand the levels of sultry we’re dealing with here;

“I’m on the very top floor room 1334 // There’s a king size bed but we can do it on the floor // Turn your cellphone off, leave a sign on the door // That says “Do not disturb”

And if I were you I’ll bring your girlfriend too // Two is better than one, three is better than two // Leave a sign on the door, the whole night through // That says “Do not disturb”, “Do not disturb”
Moving on swiftly… the album is bookended pretty nicely as well; with Black Vultures as the storming opening, The Silence is the slow, acoustic finisher where the credits roll up. Whilst on point throughout the whole album, this stripped back, acoustic track really shows off Lzzy’s vocal chops the best. Again, Heart of Novocaine is a slow, acoustic track that really lets the raw power of her vocals shine through, compared to being mixed in with some dirty riffs and frantic solos.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr8hDEQoXcU]
Lead single Uncomfortable is another standout track from the album; it’s a fast, punk-ish track. It feels like Lzzy is openly taking aim at her critics, especially through the lyric “Just to make you uncomfortable”. It’s a really nice track, along with title track Vicious.
When all is said and done, Vicious is a pretty strong album with a couple of weak points, but doesn’t really detract from the overall feel of the album. Whilst it’s good to hear Lzzy be so open about her sexuality, personal struggles & writing empowering lyrics, it’d be good to hear the band tackle wider social and political issues in future releases. Vicious is an album where the band bare their teeth and their soul, coming up with some proper ear worms in the process.

Riff University: Ace of Spades by Motörhead

All aboaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaardahahaha! Welcome to Riff University, where each week, Dr* Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler), with his PhD in Riffology** will walk you through some of the biggest, baddest and boldest riffs of all time, right from the genesis of rock and roll, to some of our future classics. By the end of this intensive course, you will be able to recognise a classic riff from the first note, make pub conversations awkwardly unbearable, and alienate Tinder matches from the word go.

*Abbreviation of “Dad Rock”
**Not a real PhD

Up This Week: Ace of Spades by Motörhead

Read Last Week’s Lecture on Breed by Nirvana here.

There’s a few riffs that everyone knows. From the first bar, everyone from your granny to a newborn child instantly recognises and clicks with that riff. Of course, if a newborn child does not instantly click and bond with any riff, the child is essentially useless and should be thrown away. Start your children with big riffs at an early age, folks.

One such riff that’s universally known is probably one of the most aggressive. No distortion pedals or trickery were used, just good old fashioned elbow grease, a hot rodded Marshall amp, and the most demonic frontman of his generation. From the first rattle of this riff, you’re instantly drawn in, because the magnetic force of this riff won’t let you leave. The band? Motörhead. The riff? It has to be… Ace of Spades.

Let’s be frank here, your average listener knows one Motörhead song, two at a push, but if you’re going to know one and one only, you can’t really pick better than Ace of Spades, but please, use it as a gateway into Motörhead’s wider discography. You might come out the other side with a thirst for Jack and a penchant for debauchery, but “that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”.

So, the riff… fucking hell. It’s fair to say that a lot of the aggression and the sheer magnitude of the riff comes from frontman Lemmy Kilmister’s bass setup. Famed for playing almost as a rhythm guitarist or “lead bassist”, he played a selection of Rickenbacker basses, pumped straight into a stack of Marshall amps, usually with the treble cranked up to the three o’clock position, which produced the biting sound you hear as soon as the track begins. It’s quite basic, but strummed with the force of an exploding sun, adds a whole new layer to it. Sometimes, a layer of filth actually improves the whole experience.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iwC2QljLn4]

It’s not even fair to say, it’s just a fact of the universe that Ace of Spades is Motörhead’s most popular song. Since it was first played in March 1980 at the West Runton Pavilion, the band played it a grand total of 1,159 times, or pretty much every performance since its conception. On top of that, it’s been played a staggering 3,188 times by 354 different artists.

Though with that said, the popularity also came with a curse, Lemmy mused on his annoyance with the song in his autobiography, White Line Fever, stating:

“I’m sick to death of it now… we didn’t become fossilised after that record, you know, we’ve had quite a few good releases since then. But the fans want to hear it so we still play it every night. For myself, I’ve had enough of that song.”

However, when all is said and done, it was a setlist mainstay, and is one of the greatest rock anthems of all time for a damn good reason, though Lemmy did also say “I’m glad we got famous for that, rather than some turkey”. Whilst Motörhead did go on to have a long and storied career after Ace of Spades, it’s fair to say that their high water mark was riding the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, achieving their first and only UK number one with No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, the live album recorded on the tour to promote Ace of Spades.

On top of that, the follow up album, Iron Fist, which paled in comparison to Ace of Spades, can’t have helped hold onto the fans that came on board with the song.

It’s hard to measure just how large the cultural impact of Ace of Spades is; the band featured on The Young Ones performing the song, and has gone on to appear on EVERY rock anthems, dad rock, stadium rock, and any rock compilation that you can think of. Quite frankly, it’s probably more confusing that you haven’t heard Ace of Spades at this point. It’s one of the definitive rock songs, and whilst it shouldn’t define the band’s career, there’s actually probably few Motörhead songs that land with the same impact. It’d probably even find its way into the top tens of even the most commited ‘Head fans in the land.

Lyrically, the song is what you expect from Lemmy; metaphoric. The rumour goes that he wrote the lyrics to this song whilst hurtling down the motorway at 90mph in the back of a Transit, but cannot be verified. However, for the sake of keeping rock and roll’s swashbuckling integrity intact, a VAR review says that yes, that’s absolutely true.

Also according to the frontman in an interview with Mojo magazine, the lyrics weren’t even that thought out…

“Ace of Spades is unbeatable, apparently, but I never knew it was such a good song. Writing it was just a word-exercise on gambling, all the clichés.”

Maybe he’s just being coy, but it’s not like he’s weaving subtle undertones with the lyrics. Over his 40 year tenure as the captain of the pirate ship, he wrote some very poignant & thoughtful lyrics, showing the depth of the band’s songwriting chops. Ace of Spades though? Not so much. Lemmy originally wanted to write it about his beloved one armed bandits, but settled for poker, as he felt that would be better expressed.

“If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man // You win some, lose some, all the same to me”

Though it may be a word exercise on gambling, there’s actually a bit of meaning in the opening line. There’s a carefree and somewhat nihilistic approach to it. Whether you win or lose, the dance carries on, doesn’t it? In fact, in the documentary focusing on Lemmy’s life, rapper Ice T echoed the same sentiments. An interesting point, hopefully true, is that instead of singing “The ace of spades, the ace of spades”, for two years, Lemmy sung “the eight of spades, the eight of spades”, and nobody noticed.

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools // But that’s the way I like it baby // I don’t wanna live for ever // And don’t forget the joker!”

In later live performances of the song, Lemmy would adjust the final line in the bridge to “but apparently I am”, referencing the fact that despite his fast-paced lifestyle & penchant for various indulgences, he continued to live, long after many of his colleagues had given up the game, or given up living all together. Unfortunately, the line never came true, as Lemmy sadly passed away on December 28th, 2015 at the age of 70.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBIa0o36pPo]

However, though Lemmy passed on, the song’s legend lived on, charting as high as number 9 in the midweek charts in January 2016, after a campaign to get Ace of Spades to number one in the charts to honour Lemmy’s legacy.

2000 Trees: Is That Your Last Can?

Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Anyone who’s been following my escapades for the last year and a bit will know I enjoy two things, and two things only: getting pissed and big riffs. So as you might imagine, a festival is the perfect place for me. Whilst you might not be down for sleeping on a slowly deflating air bed whilst a tent slowly poaches you in the morning sun, to me, there’s no finer pleasure.

However, with no Glastonbury this year, where was I going to get my dose of debauchery? Dahling, I’m rock journalism royalty, I NEED somewhere befitting of my complex tastes. Though, after much research, there were no festivals that offered free, cold beer and played nothing but Motorhead all weekend, I decided to go down to the woods and spend a few days at 2000 Trees Festival, sunk deep in the bosom of Gloucestershire. Boy oh boy, was it fun!

The first plus? It’s tiny! Tickets are limited and the festival was started to provide a ‘value for money’ alternative to most festivals, and yeah, who’s gonna argue with the ticket price, and the instalment plan? Fabulous! Music is for everyone, regardless of income, and Trees do their best to make it accessible. But on top of that the size of it meant any stage was a stone’s throw away, and you didn’t have to wrestle your way through a thronging crowd to get a decent spot. Everywhere felt nicely airy

The second plus? How wonderful everything was, from the intimacy referenced, to the food, to the cleanliness of the place (the Queen shits in worse toilets!), and just how generally awesome everyone was. Real friendly, real warm, real community vibe.

The third plus? Well, we’re about to go through that, aren’t we? So join me as I’m around six or seven cans deep, winning a game of cricket and on my way to see…

Black Foxxes (Thursday, Main Stage)

Well, this one is pretty much par for the course, isn’t it? One of, if not the most exciting band currently in the United Kingdom, Black Foxxes were my first act of the day, and as you might imagine, they were fantastic. A quick run through of Foxxes’ catalogue opened with Husk, and whilst a short set, it was absolutely sharp.

Fighting through the pain of a broken rib, Mark was in great shape as he, Tristan and Ant burnt through Sæla, Manic in Me, River, Breathe, ending with JOY. A firm handshake to introduce the band to a wider festival audience, and letting everyone know what they’re about. The gauntlet’s been laid down, Trees, what else ya got?!

BEER COUNTER: 7 cans

RUNS SCORED: Loads, mate

Arcane Roots (Main Stage, Thursday)

Oh Trees, you are spoiling me! Arcane Roots are also one of my favourite British bands right now, with Melancholia Hymns definitely being one of the best albums of 2017. Again, it was a quick introduction to the band, but opening with Off The Floor is as firm a handshake as you can ask for. Big plus for me was them playing Triptych, an absolute banger off Blood & Chemistry.

It was good to hear new track Landslide played, sandwiched between Slow Dance and closer If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves. It was a shame not to have the intricate and exciting lights that form part of an Arcane Roots show, but half five on a Friday isn’t the place for a light show. Nonetheless, this band man, check ’em out!

BEER COUNTER: 9 cans

Look mate, my day’s consisted of pottering back and forth between my tent and the main stage to stock up on cans, so if you want a concise and in depth review of every band, you’ve come to the wrong place pal. This is the kind of gonzo journalism that wins awards or more likely, wins disapproving glances.

Marmozets (Main Stage, Thursday)

Marmozets were probably the band I was looking forward to most this weekend; after only seeing them once and not really knowing who they were, coupled with the grit of Knowing What You Know Now, I was well up for seeing the weird and wonderful. First plus point, Becca was wearing an Appetite for Destruction t-shirt, rendering this gig an automatic ten. The setlist mix was also on point, pretty much 50/50 The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets and KWYKN, with particular highlights including Captivate You, Move Shake Hide and Play.

Vibtech would have been an absolute stormer, but what Marmozets offered us was absolutely fantastic… and yet AGAIN, proving that they too are one of the most exciting bands in the UK. 2000 Trees’ act booking skills deserve THE biggest Italian chef’s kiss in the world, because there’s always someone bloody exciting playing a set at that festival. Let’s be honest, some right shite bands end up playing festivals, but at Trees, you go for breakfast and end up watching a damn fine set.

Anyway… closing out the set with Major System Error, Marmozets proved why they deserved to sub-headline, and between you and me, I’d take a roll of the dice on them headlining the main stage next year, but definitely if LP3 has the same grit and gravel as the first two.

BEER COUNTER: 11

My belly may have been full of beer, but my thirst for good music was unquenched. Fortunately, my day was about to reach a dizzying crescendo as I pocketed a few cans and headed for…

Black Peaks (The Cave, Thursday)

This might sound odd, but I’ve forced myself to like Black Peaks. Every time I mentioned Black Foxxes, my mate would then later tell me to enjoy seeing Black Peaks. So I said fuck it and listened to Black Peaks. And oh boy, what a treat!

Opening with their new single Can’t Sleep, they sounded in fine form as they headlined The Cave, and looked every inch a band in their element. Not bad for a band on their first album, with LP2, All That Divides coming later this year, but still headlining a stage. They were thunderous in their approach as they brought out DronesSay You Will and Glass Built Castles. Again, massively excited by this band and their Sabbath-like qualities.

Hugely enjoyable set from the Brighton based prog enthusiasts though, on a day where competition for best band was hugely stiff. I missed Shvpes but heard from our tent and they sounded brilliant, and the little pockets of noise that kept firing up across the festival sounded brilliant. However, whilst our thirst for bands had been quenched, our thirst for cans was creeping up on us, so a beer run to the car was called, and after that point, it all gets a little fuzzy…

BEER COUNTER: 20 at close of play, if not more, but I personally had like, ten cans left on Friday. 

Friday

Everyone’s got a festival special! Whether it be going for a giant yorkie pud, covering yourself in glitter or discovering new acts, we all love a good festival special! Mine? On the day after the first big sesh, I have a penchant for throwing up a luminous green fluid. However, this is the signal it’s time to party, so with a non-branded Isotonic sports drink in me, I headed to the Forest Stage for an acoustic audience with my friend…

Grumble Bee (Forest Stage, Friday)

I’m just gonna have to go to a festival one day and review all the shite bands.

Grumble Bee, without a shadow of a doubt, are my current favourite band. The multiple talents of young Jack Bennett, coupled with his amazing voice and soulful songwriting make him absolutely divine, with the recently release Everything Between EP proving his talents. So of course, getting down to the forest for half ten on a hangover for an acoustic set was no problem at all… because he genuinely cured my fucking hangover.

Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, every note gently danced through the dense embrace of the forest, opening with Red, and closing with Francium. There was quite a large crowd for half ten on a Friday morning at a festival too, but he’s god damn worth getting out of bed for. Luna Blue received its live debut, which sounded absolutely stunning in the surroundings of the intimate Forest Stage.

Heron also included a little bit of Stuck In My Throat by Reuben, fitting as he would be playing Camp Reuben later on. But the highlight for me was Soft Filter, Black and White Picture. That song is absolutely beautiful, mixed with his beautiful voice and slowly coming back to life from a hangover was fucking incredible. However, that wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Grumble Bee, but we’ll get to that later.

BEER COUNTER: 0

Gonna be totally fucking straight with you, I sacked a lot of things off today. It was far too hot, I was far too hungover and I had an overwhelming thirst for cans. However, whilst going for breakfast I stumbled upon Sick Joy as they were starting their set. They sounded absolutely brilliant for a Friday lunchtime and as a result, I’m now listening to them. But a real highlight of Friday was A Banging Snooze Whilst It Rained A Little, which meant I was fresh and ready for…

Press To Meco (Forest Stage, Friday)

A commonly accepted theme in my friendship group is that it’s a flurry of band recommendations, of which none of us ever really end up checking out. In this instance, Press to Meco have been on my list for at least a million years now. Sorry boys, I’m just super fucking lazy, but thankfully, they brought the party to the acoustic Forest Stage on Friday, allowing me to fully experience them.

They sounded absolutely inch perfect with good humour as they played If All Your Parts Don’t Make A WholeAutopsy and a cover of The Maze by Manchester Orchestra to name a few… or to name the few I remember. However, the brilliance of their acoustic set forced me to finally sit down and listen to them, and yet-a-fucking-gain, they’re a hugely exciting British rock band. Anyone who tells you rock is dead is a fucking liar. My apologies to the boys for not checking them out sooner, but it comes with a promise I’m going to see them on tour later this year… you should do the same.

BEER COUNTER: 5 

God I’ve seen a criminally small amount of bands this weekend… But… when you can hear every band from your tent anyway, why even bother getting out of bed? I’m not even joking, I came back with a handful of new listens just by having a nap on Friday. Yeah maybe I should have seen more, but I’m getting old lads, I’m in my mid twenties, it hurts to stand up, I like having a good sit, my back hurts, leave me alone. Never mind. There’s only one band, and one band I’ve wanted to see all weekend, so step forward and get weird with…

Creeper (The Cave, Friday)

You know the drill, folks! Yet another temperature check on the health of British rock, and we are in rude health baybeee! Rightfully headlining The Cave on Friday, the tent was packed to the brim with Creeper cultists, ready to welcome their heroes to the stage. There was a nice little intro, singing about 2000 graves and what have you, and 2000 trees! That was really cool to be honest, writing a special little intro, with Will Gould’s unmistakably butter smooth vocals introducing the band.

Bursting straight into Suzanne, Creeper sounded absolutely inch perfect as the tent housing them rattled as fans jumped, screamed and moshed themselves about. It’s pretty hard to pick a winner, but from where I was standing, Creeper fans probably take the crowd of the weekend by a hair. That being said, when you spend half your gig lifting folk up to crowd surf them, you wonder if the only reason people even speak to you any more is because you’re tall, leading yourself to have an existential crisis in the middle of a gig, wondering what life would be like if you were 5 foot 7. Holy shit, nobody would like me.

Again, a huge word has to be given to Will and Hannah on vocals; the trade and the harmony between those two is absolutely sublime. You’d be hard pressed to get one talented vocalist in a band, two is just fucking silly. Hannah also did a brilliant job on Crickets despite being on vocal rest, and it’s still probably in the top three Creeper songs. So heartbreaking, so beautiful.

It sounds weird saying this for a band so young, but it was a nice mix of old and new, with Astral Projection, VCR and Gloom working their way onto the setlist, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Down Below, Poison Pens and Room 309, with every fan knowing every word. Probably the highlight of the set was Hiding With Boys, opening with a nice acoustic intro, before bringing the full band in. I Choose To Live was also a pretty emotional highlight. To be honest, the whole band’s live game is absolutely brilliant; there isn’t a single member who doesn’t look confident in their ability or their skin, and their stage presence is huge.

The encore was pretty standard, right? The band came off stage, we all clapped like mad bastards for “one more song!” because it’s always “one more song!”, or more. So of course, the first piano bars of Black Rain sent everyone into a frenzy as the chorus started to shake the foundations of the stage. Again, great song, inch perfect live, setting everyone up for Misery as the closer. Except one William Gould, esq. had other plans for the crowd. Do we want Misery, or do we want weird? I can’t remember what we chose, but we got weird, and by “weird”, he clearly meant “fucking incredible”.

Closing with a cover of Meat Loaf’s You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), the band did the song justice, and, whisper it quietly, might have even done it better than our lord and saviour Meat Loaf. Maybe the crowd didn’t know it as well as Misery, but it was miles, miles better than getting Misery. Hopefully it morphs into a studio version, because really, once wasn’t enough.

BEER COUNTER: 10 + 1 Turbo Whiskey

It was after this we retreated back to the tent, dissecting the day’s action and getting ready for the silent disco. At the silent disco, I lost all my friends, so I decided to make some new ones, headed to Camp Reuben and sat down for…

Luke Rainsford (Camp Reuben, Friday)

Who are you? You’re not Grumble Bee. He said he’d BEE here by now! Haha! Bee!

Anyway, Luke Rainsford is a solo acoustic artist, and he’s from the Midlands, automatically making him one of the best artists ever to grace this earth. I don’t make the rules, this is just how it goes. However, whilst yes, I had come here to see Grumble Bee, I was blown away by Luke’s talent. I can’t remember all the songs he played, but I checked him out afterwards, and he’s really fucking good.

You know how I’m the most talented and handsome music writer in the world, so everything I say is gospel? Yeah go check this guy out, pick between I Feel At Home With YouI’m Nothing Like My Dad Turned Out To Be or his new EP I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved (big mood), really you can’t go wrong with this guy. Real nice bloke too, I’m sorry I couldn’t remember which songs he played, but you’ve got to understand, I was drunk. Go listen to him though.

Grumble Bee (Camp Reuben, Friday or Saturday)

“You were sat in the tent listening to Grumble Bee with your legs crossed like you were in assembly, you looked adorable”

Should we do two Grumble Bee reviews in here? Absolutely, if anybody deserves more praise heaped on him, it’s our man Jack. Despite being totally unplugged, despite it being way past all of our collective bedtimes, it was still a damn fine gig as he opened with Lapwing, taking suggestions for songs. I shouted Francium, because I’m a dick, I should’ve shouted Bravest Soul. Also, I’m just a dick. It was pretty much the same set from the Forest earlier on, but just as enjoyable, if not a little bit more. He also announced that he’s working on an album, and played a snippet of Volcano off it. Can’t come soon enough. Love that boy.

Ending with Francium, we were officially the loudest crowd of Camp Reuben as we belted out the final chorus. Happily, we could have sat there all night and listened to him play songs, and he took the time out to chat to everyone afterwards as well. Fucking love that boy.

BEER COUNTER: 10 + 2 Turbo Whiskeys

After a full day of… not a lot… we partook in the silent disco, that was pretty cool, wall to wall bangers, I went to bed, didn’t throw up, didn’t have much of a hangover, just as well, because I had an early start on Sunday for…

Mantra (The Cave, Saturday)

Feels like a Sunday. Freaks my nut out. But it’s a Saturday. Football’s not coming home. Might as well be Tuesday.

Nevertheless, first band of the day for Satursuntuesday were Mantra, a band recommended to you if you like Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Royal Blood. Buddy, fucking hook this band into my veins.

However, it’d be unfair to parcel this boys off as a lookalike band, as they’ve got their own unique, gritty sound, and if you listen to them on Spotify, it’s gotten confused and you’ll end up shitting yourself as a weird pop version of New Rules comes on shuffle, by someone clearly also called Mantra. Mantra, cover New Rules.

There’s something familiar about their closer, I Want, it’s pretty biting. But if you know me, or keep up to date with me, you know I love big riffs, and Mantra do too. Their new song, Individual is pretty good too. In the nicest way, they’re not reinventing the wheel; they’re just a good old fashioned rock and roll band. Sometimes, that’s all you need, and Mantra can do that. Check ’em out. Same for Sick Joy on the Friday, they come up as a suggested band.

BEER COUNTER: 1, I’m driving.

Right, time to pack the tent up. Can’t pack the tent up. Tent’s too thicc. Found a beer under my tent. Cans galore. Tent’s packed up. In the car. Back to base. Tired. Forest bound. Don’t deserve to be alive.

Undead Raisins (The Forest, Saturday)

Oooh, I’m gonna be honest, I’m here to get a good spot for Enter Shikari’s acoustic set in a bit. However, seeing two of the guys from Hundred Reasons do an acoustic set as a cleverly titled band should be good, right? Right, absolutely. Thanks Shikari! Eager to set things off right, they opened with a snippet of Chop Suey, the perfect appetiser for any set of any kind of music ever.

And these guys were pretty cool, really good sense of humour and some banging tracks. The whole point of this is to see your fans and hopefully grab some new ones, so mission accomplished, these guys rocked.

Enter Shikari (But It’s Just Rou) (The Forest, Saturday)

The best bit of the forest is the mystique comes down, it’s just the artists and the audience, no walk ons, no theatrics, just a nice acoustic set. So it was a treat to see frontman extraordinaire Rou Reynolds fight a MacBook and his guitar whilst pretending not to see us. He also got handed a drawing by a little girl and look genuinely delighted. I love that beaming man.

Opening with Stalemate, Rou was not here to fuck about, burning through a deep cut from A Flash Flood Of Colour, and oh boy, what a treat that was! You sort of hope he’ll play something like that and bang! He does. Minor technical difficulties aside we got a cover of Cars by Gary Numan, Redshift, Undercover Agents, Take My Country Back, Heroes by David Bowie, ending on Live Outside, complete with a wee boy sat on his monitor after asking for Airfield. Personally, he should have asked for Zzzonked, but each to their own, I guess.

However, a fully acoustic Shikari show would be a treat off the back of this. Fully stripped down, a few deep cuts and you’ve got yourself an evening at the theatre buddy. It was a beautiful set, and definitely whet the appetite for tonight’s feast.

BEER COUNTER: 3

However, a feast of pie awaited me, as we decided to jostle for a position for Shikari later on, meaning we’d have to endure…

[Redacted] (Main Stage, Saturday)

Forgot I was seeing [Redacted] today, so I took a piss beforehand, meaning I couldn’t lob piss at these guys. They sucked. Like, really sucked. Not because they’re cancelled, but because they suck. Really badly. Sucked.

S U C C.

Enter Shikari (Main Stage, Saturday)

Turns out all that standing about to jostle for position was a waste of time as everyone fucked off after [Redacted], Glastonbury crowds had left us naive. So an hour of dicking around with inflatables was on the cards, but worth it as the lights went out, The Spark fired up and the band came out.

Opening with The Sights, you still feel the same magic as you did when you first heard the album. It’s an instant feel good song and instantly perks your mood up. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi with Rou these days, but he feels more of a showman these days, more fluid in his movements. Maybe it’s the hair, the suit, the glasses, but he’s on fire, and I am here for it.

Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour seems to be a setlist regular after the TTTS2017 shows, which is a treat. It flows beautifully with the old and the new, and hopefully inspires a few more Take To The Skies classics on the next round of tour setlists. Labyrinth, anyone? Juggernauts also made a welcome return to the setlist as well, delivering the full bollocks and getting the crowd moving about like angry protons.

It was pretty much confirmed as the band were confirmed for Trees, but seeing Shinrin-Yoku performed live was absolutely stunning with the quadrophonic sound, especially as the track was set up to roll straight into Undercover Agents. Again, The Spark is probably the best album they’ve ever done. Not my favourite, love you Flash Flood, but it’s arguably their best.

Is it a tease to play the opening of Ghandi Mate, Ghandi and mash it up with Mothership? Who knows, who cares! Mothership was bookended with a snippet of Insomnia by Faithless, a nice little surprise for a Saturday night.

The stage set up was beautiful as well, with a flurry of lights that are a Shikari hallmark, but they had these huge light boxes, where colours danced around the stage. It was a crisp, modern look and added an extra dimension to the usually visually stunning Shikari live show. Couple that to the quadrophonic sound, and you might have one of the best live prospects in front of you.

The headline slots are only an hour or so long, which is a shame, but still leaves plenty of time for fun with the Quickfire Round, a segment where the band play four songs in eight minutes. Ready? Sorry You’re Not A Winner moves into Sssnakepit, which then blew up into Meltdown, which then made way for The Jester. Genuinely, I’d swap all that for System… into Meltdown. The reaction to it is huge, especially on “fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities”, which is all the more apt in these dark times.

I loved the version of Airfield as well, with Rou on guitar as opposed to piano, but it’s just as beautiful. Arguing With Thermometers also seems to be a setlist mainstay nowadays, and long may it reign.

Closing with Redshift and Live Outside, you couldn’t help but feel this was Shikari’s first headline slot of many; a band deeply committed to touring, playing each and every venue that would welcome them seem more confident than ever. Couple that with their live show, and the more accessible sound of The Spark, they could quite easily translate this show into bigger and bigger slots, with a gang of Rabble Rousers sure to show up to support them.

Unsurprisingly, on a weekend filled with amazing acts, Shikari were the cream of the crop yet again.

The Verdict

You’ve read this far? Fuck me, we’ll go for a pint next time I see you.

So, I went into Trees with high hopes, and they exceeded my expectations in every area. It’s a beautiful little festival with amazing bands, amazing people and amazing food. Hopefully it stays as small as it is, but I do recommend you getting your hat into the ring for next year, because trust me, arm yourselves with cans, and you’ll find a band worth listening to.

Love to my friends for making it such a good week and steering me through a particularly rocky patch in my mental health, love to the bands for being awesome, love to all of you for reading x

Muse leave you wanting something else with Something Human

Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Remember the person you had a crush on in high school? That they were the alpha and the omega, the sun and the moon, everything they touched turned to gold and they were your perfect vision. Time moves on, you explore the world a bit more, and actually, they haven’t gotten better with age… they’re actually a bit naff now.

Apropos of nothing, Muse are back with a brand new track, Something Human. Sentimental in its delivery, this was the first track written by Matt Bellamy after coming off the gruelling Drones tour. Dealing with the themes of burning out, and just generally being on the road, it’s quite a meaningful track.

However, sonically, it just doesn’t really land. Matt delivered an acoustic performance of this on Muse’s Instagram and that actually sounded better as an acoustic track, perhaps with the band coming in later on. In the studio version, it’s a more synth-heavy version in the same vein as Dig Down and Thought Contagion. But it just feels a bit thin. The synth feels stock, like something you’d bang together in Fruity Loops. It just feels a bit phoned in, like Muse are slowly making the transition to a greatest hits band.

It just leave you wanting something else, it feels half done. It feels like you’ve cooked chicken nuggets (or a vegan alternative), but they’re just a bit frozen in the middle, and you want something better. It’s not like this song is unlistenable, because it’s very easy on the ears, you just don’t want to listen to it.

Muse, more than anyone, have earned the right to be experimental, with their approach to songwriting and structure producing albums like Origin of Symmetry and Absolution, with ground breaking sound. This isn’t a bad song by any means, but at the same time, it doesn’t grab you, it doesn’t really leave any mark on you. It’s the best of the three tracks, but that’s like saying chlamydia is the best of three venereal diseases. It’s just sort of there, like trifle or the pavement, it doesn’t really leave you wanting more.

Something that shouldn’t pass without penalty though is the video. What the FUCK is that video? This is the worst video on the internet since 2 Girls 1 Cup.

The plot follows Matt, in an eighties theme, with a Lamborghini Countach (very nice), and from what we can tell, he’s got to return a VHS to the store, which he’s been watching through a VR headset.

So he’s bundling along the road in his super car, he’s gotta get to the video store before he gets a fine or something, but the guy’s a fucking multimillionaire rockstar, just buy the fucking video Matt. How much is a VHS, like, £20? Just buy the fucking thing, rerelease Absolution or something to make a few quid. Christ.

However, Matthew’s cavalier approach to speed limits and the laws of… the land he finds himself in… brings him to the attention of the police, in this case, Dom Howard and Chris Wolstenholme. Are these guys actually police officers? This feels suspect, they don’t seem to be qualified officers of the law. So they’re chasing him, and there’s some cringeworthy moves being pulled that makes the Fast & Furious films look positively cerebral.

Pissed off by his former colleague’s shenanigans, Officer Wolstenholme removes his Stetson and pulls out some kind of fucking electromagnetic rocket launcher, putting Matt into a spin, it’s all over! No it isn’t! Matt spins around and is driving straight towards the police car! It’s all over! Not it isn’t! He flips a switch and teleports through the police car, teleporting outside the video store. Why didn’t he just do this in the first place? Talking about “ten thousand miles until I am home” in the song when you could just fucking teleport.

He returns the video tape, the store lights up, then the worst thing ever in the history of internet videos happens: a beam of light comes down from the moon, Matt is lifted into the sky, turning into a werewolf. At this point, Dom and Chris somehow teleport here in a phone box, searching for the miscreant.

For some reason, Matt kills Chris, no idea why, then drives at Dom, knocking over the phone box and driving off. That’s sort of it. Don’t forget, these guys are now in their forties. They have families, mortgages, adult things to do.

So there you have it, a slightly underwhelming track with possibly the worst video in the history of the internet.