The Twilight Sad keep it brilliant with IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

Five years is a long time at the best of times. However, in this day and age, five years is like ten years. Back in 2014, we lived in a world where Brexit wasn’t even a thing, David Cameron fucking the pig wasn’t even a thing, and we just lived in the bosom of the shiny-faced moon man that had a hard-on for killing the poor and disabled… and a hard-on for pigs, clearly. So much can change, and as we’ve seen, very little for the better. So, what has five years changed for Scottish post-punk heroes The Twilight Sad? 2014 saw the released of Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, accurately surmising the mood of British and EU citizens respectively.

Back with IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, five years hasn’t changed much for the band, but with that, they provide a consistent sound with sonic developments. Slightly more upbeat than NWTBHANWTL, IWBLTATT opens with the rolling synth of [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs], with James Graham’s reverberated vocals dancing over the top. The album, which is easier to type than IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, is poppier than its predecessor. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a cynical assault on a faceless, mainstream sound, this album still has the melancholic feel of its predecessors and The Twilight Sad’s influencers.

Songs like album closer Videograms feels like it’s come straight from the eighties, but with a modern tilt. Think legwarmers with Yeezys, Walkmans with Airpods. The band are influenced heavily by post-punk bands like The Cure, and whilst songs like these remind you of eighties post-punk and shoegaze heroes, they stand shoulder to shoulder with them, rather than in their shadow. The Twilight Sad have simply taken a tried and tested blueprint and put their own sonic twist on it.

IWBLTATT doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises coming straight from NWTBHANWTL, though seeing as NWTBHANWTL was greeted by rave reviews, the smart move would be to follow the same path and offer slight variations. Think of NWTBHANWTL as a vodka lemonade; crisp, refreshing, always enjoyable. IWBLTATT is a vodka lemonade… with lime. It’s what you know, with a refreshing twist, but doesn’t completely change the formula. Please though, do not try to drink this album.

Though do drink in the sonic layers offered by this album. Underneath the vocals are a rock band, underneath that are crystalised synths. Good production can take a bad album and make it a good one, with this, good production has made a good album a great one. Moving from album to album is a gamble for any band, and The Twilight Sad have clearly made a killing by not looking to rock the boat too much. So many bands these days will put all their eggs into a basket of a brand new sound and turn fans off whilst failing to convert new fans.

This album does offer an alternative challenge though; picking your highlights. Rarely is an album so well done that you struggle to find your key points, rather appreciating it as one body of work. The only negative is The Twilight Sad’s policy of writing a novel as well as an album. You put a bit of The Twilight Sad on at a gaff, your mate says “This is good, who’s this?”. You’re excited, they’re invested in your musical taste. “Oh, it’s [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs] by The Twilight Sad off their album IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME” you reply excitedly. It’s been four hours, they’ve all gone to the club and you’re sat in the dark. It’s twilight, you’re sad. Poignant.

Find your highlights where you want to find them and you can’t go wrong. However, the melancholic synths of Keep It All To Myself are definitely a high water mark on the album. Sunday Day13 is particularly heart-wrenching, mixing delicate and moody synths with lyrics that seem to tell a story of a slowly crumbling relationship. Graham’s repeated questions of “Would you throw me out into the cold, would you throw me out into the road?” hitting you in your gut. The meaning of the lyrics are up to you to interpret, but the darkness of the words do not change.

Whilst IWBLTATT isn’t that far a departure from NWTBHANWTL, it’s a definite evolution and favours punchy pop hooks over the intimacy of its predecessor. Tracks like VTr definitely have the DNA of the eighties’ biggest pop tracks and feels like they could spearhead The Twilight Sad into the upper echelons of the genre, and indeed, music as a whole. Whilst some bands cynically pursue the mainstream AHEMBRINGMEAHEMWIFEBEATERAHEM, others find themselves naturally creating a sound that appeals to everyone; the old faithful and a new breed of fans open to pop hooks and post-punk sensibilities.

Though overwhelmingly, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME is a perfectly crafted album, and could well see the band soar to new heights, whilst staying squarely on the ground. Whilst, for now, they stand amongst their influences, they could well soar to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before them. – Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

While She Sleeps make a welcome return with ANTI-SOCIAL

Some artists will become the flag-bearers for their genre; a hallmark of quality and THE starting point for any genre. However, some bands will take that flag down and put up their own, reshaping the genre and changing the face of it, or creating a whole new genre. Step forward, While She Sleeps.

Ever since introducing themselves with The North Stands For Nothing, WSS have been a band on the rise, somehow remaining solidly consistent across three full-blown releases, peaking with You Are We last year. Whilst classed as a metalcore band, they, like Architects, transcend the genre with their approach to musicianship and production.

So at some point, they’ve got to run out of puff, right? Potentially, but with the release of their new single ANTI-SOCIAL last night, the Sleeps brothers don’t look like that’ll happen any time soon.

There’s something different with this track, but it’s hard to put your finger on it. The track still contains the classic Sleeps trademarks – big riffs, and bigger gang screams – but feels more progressive than You Are We.

It’s not like they’ve turned down and pursued a poppier sound, it still hits with the same venom and angst as ever before. You could argue the heavy, ominous synth is something new, but not exactly outside their range. The sound just feels like an upgrade, but not from one album to the next, it feels like they’ve learnt a lot and are applying it to their craft.

Past the synth however, it’s business as usual with frantically picked guitars, thunderous riffs and a chorus of screams. It just… it just feels like an evolution of the band. As if they’ve gone from being a Pikachu; an absolute unit, roundly popular, to a Raichu; even more electric and more powerful than ever before.

ANTI-SOCIAL is the first release from Sleeps’ fourth full-length album, SO WHAT?, due next March, and whilst we’re just one track in, you’d be foolish not to already be tipping the band to release an album of the year contender in 2019.

However, this album does come with an added pressure. The band have sold out halls, institutes and academies across the land, and SO WHAT? will be crucial, in that it could be the album that takes them to the arena-filling and festival headlining level, and turn them into metal’s latest giants. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Deaf Balloons bring light from darkness with The Black Country

At the best of times, Wolverhampton is a bleak place. Nestled in the Black Country, in the middle of Grey Britain, fun is a commodity in short supply. Whereas other cities across the land boast of their “scene”, the closest we get to a scene is a crime scene.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop bands from trying to be the best Wulfrunian export since Beverly Knight. Or Steve Bull. Or orange chips.

One of the latest bands to give that a whack is Deaf Ballons; arguably an indie band, but their sound is a bit fizzier than that. They’ve just released their first ‘proper’ EP The Black Country, hoping that much like their city’s motto, out of the darkness of Wolverhampton shall cometh light. And if you’re so inclined, out of Sandwell cometh shite.

Still in their infancy as a group, they could be forgiven for taking baby steps on their first EP (and their headline show at The Sunflower Rooms in Birmingham), but as the show opened up and the first notes rang out, they took total control of the rather full and sweaty room with complete confidence.

Another important thing is playing around your problems when you’re taking baby steps, and any technical woes were brushed off or laughed off by frontman Ed Scott, already owning a stage without any issues. The band look well glued together as well. They all seem to be enjoying themselves and the company of their bandmates, rather than being rooted to the spot. A good indicator of whether a new band are gelling and comfortable in their own skin: does the bass player look like they’re plotting a murder-suicide in their band? If they look happy, everyone’s happy.

The set was a fully blown one, comprising of the old songs from roughly recorded EP Dreaming of Somebody Else followed by a few new tracks with punk inclinations, before moving onto the real meat – the new EP. Let’s do the same, shall we?

Starting off slow and melancholic, The Black Country paints a dull and grey picture, inspired by life in the city. It doesn’t move past a slow crawl, and accurately captures a dreary day in a grey and anonymous scene. As a opener it works fantastically, settling you into the EP before something a bit more uptempo. Gangster Lean does just that with its heightened drum beat and brighter feel.

It feels unfair parcelling the band off as “indie” when they don’t stick to a linear blueprint, but there are some really light and airy beats on here, with Gangster Lean being a fantastic example of that. In terms of notes and feedback to improve their performance, you can’t really pick up on any glaring errors, omissions or black holes that need plugging. The only thing for Deaf Balloons to do is to keep doing what they do until they can do no more doing, and that? That will do. They have a solid foundation on which to grow, and the only thing is to keep it simple; save the flashy shit for the arena tour and the experimental shit for at least the fifth album.

A good example of deviating from a linear blueprint is EP highlight Crocodile Tears. A throaty scream opens the track, before a grungy riff starts to rattle your eardrums. There’s also the lighter indie bits in the verses, but the hefty part of track is that big, meaty riff. Let it in your ears, let the sludge permeate your soul and corrupt your children.

The Black Country is a solid EP, and a statement of intent from the band. Nothing’s a given in the music business, but Deaf Balloons are showing they’re prepared to work hard on the stage and in the studio to get the results they crave. All that’s needed now is to make sure they don’t float off, and to make sure they’ve always got a solid ear on what they’re doing. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

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.

Riff University: Map of the Problematique by Muse

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: Map of the Problematique by Muse

Read Last Week’s Lecture on Seek & Destroy by Metallica here.

Once upon a time, Muse were arguably the most powerful band in the world. Their space opera theatrics mixed with symphonic, heartbroken aggression, plus some big riffs, they made the world dance to their beat. Whilst yes, now they’re on the speed dial of every festival organiser, can sell out arenas with the flick of a wrist and shift records by the pallet, Muse reached their headiest heights in 2007, not long after the release of Black Holes & Revelations, as they took to the stage in Wembley Stadium, becoming the first band to sell out the “new” Wembley.

Your reaction to their name might be one of pure adoration, or pure disgust, but the run of four albums from Showbiz to Black Holes is full of absolute treats, with few songs across those records disappointing the senses. Many of you will likely argue that Absolution or Origin of Symmetry is the GOAT Muse album, and to be honest, you’d be right with either selection. However, Black Holes is not without its charms and is a handsome bronze medallist. Think Knights of CydoniaHoodoo and Assassin, and you can see why Black Holes is such a treasure. However, nothing post-Black Holes has come close to it, with The Resistance, The 2nd Law and Drones offering flashes of greatness, but nothing that could slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of Matt Bellamy.

But one song off that album is anecdotally regarded as the best Muse will ever produce, and whilst this is a lecture, not an op-ed, it’s hard to disagree with anyone who puts this song at the top of their list. That song? Map of the Problematique. The composers? Muse. The result? Shock and awe.

Let’s just dive in right away and look at the riff, shall we? It’s absolutely sublime. First of all, how the fuck does it work? Research suggests that as per Matt’s mid noughties guitar work, involves a lot of effects-based jiggery pokery, largely focused around the Digitech Whammy, a particular favourite Mr Bellamy, and a Molten Midi 2, based on what Equipboard, a few YouTubers and a few live performances can tell us. Sorry to break the Magician’s Code on that particular riff, but peeking behind the curtain is the whole point of the series.

The result of tech wizardry is an octaved, harmonised riff that rattles around your brain as the notes crack through the sky like lightning. Couple that with the gently tapped piano, thundering drums and scratchy, choral sounds exploding through the song, the opening of Map of the Problematique paints an image of lightning breaking through a darkened sky, the white hot light of the bolts mixing with the inky blue of the night to create a midnight purple that illuminates the night sky. The use of a delayed, ocatved effect is prominent through the whole song, and has a real Depeche Mode feel to it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyLx0qc_gKc]

You’ll probably have a favourite Muse song, but it’s hard to find a song more polished, refined and perfect than Map. The title comes from the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, commissioned by Club of Rome, a think tank. The book talks of a “map of the problematique”, referencing to a “global problematique”, or a set of catastrophic problems that will face the world in years to come (See also: Trump: The Art of the Deal). The opening line refers to “Fear, and panic in the air”, which Wikipedia reckons is a reference to Mars, with Mars’ two moons being Phobos and Deimos, the Greek gods of fear and panic (not to be confused with comedy duo Pain & Panic from 1997’s Disney classic Hercules). Not a bad shout considering that the cover is shot on a red plane, maybe Mars, Cydonia is on Mars, and members of the band have been enjoying Mars bars[Citation Needed].

However, Map is unarguably about the faltering relationship between Bellamy and his then girlfriend. First and foremost, the first verse doesn’t exactly scream “Lad’s Holiday to Mars!” now does it? It instead paints a picture of the protagonist struggling with their relationship, and the feeling of hopelessness in failing to get things right.

“Fear, and panic in the air // I want to be free from desolation and despair // and I feel, like everything I sow is being swept away // well I refuse to let you go” 

Whilst Wikipedia argues that pain and pan- fuck – fear and panic refer to the two moons of Mars, “fear, and panic” in this context could refer to the fear that the protagonist’s efforts aren’t good enough for their lover, and panic that the relationship will be swept away as a result of it.

The chorus isn’t much of a picnic either, with the protagonist bringing their beau into the song:

“I can’t get it right // get it right // since I met you”

Three little lines, but it’s a very relatable chorus, it’s fair to say that in the midst of a rocky patch in a relationship, we’ve all felt that we can’t get it right, no matter how hard we try. Interestingly, since the eventual collapse of Matt’s relationship, he altered the last chorus to “since I lost you”, implying that either he, or the protagonist in the song still wrestles with the same demons that they did when with their lover. or that without them in their life, they struggle to live with the same vitality they did when with them. Arguably, this should have been reflected in the studio version of the song to add extra poignancy, but, none of us are members of Muse, unless you’re a member of Muse, then hello!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o2qwYeXBHY]

The use of a delayed, stuttered midi effect is also prevalent in the bridge in the chorus, moving the protagonist to plead:

“Loneliness be over, when will this loneliness be over?”

This is pretty poignant, as the protagonist feels alone in their own relationship, maybe through the rockiness in their relationship, they’re not speaking, and that can be an exceedingly lonely time. However, the poignancy and eternal romantic struggle, as the stuttered riff comes back in with some thumpy-ass drums, moving into a really dance-heavy section of the song, but still carries the gloomy lyrical theme of the first verse into the second, if not gloomier as the tone gets lower.

“Life, will flash before my eyes // so scattered almost // I want to touch the other side // and the world, thinks they are to blame // why can’t we see, that when we bleed, we bleed the same?”

Sort of like a real-life professor interpreting a body of work, it could be argued that wanting to “touch the other side” loosely refers to the protagonist taking their own life. Considering the gloom that envelopes them and their struggle to find happiness, or do right in their relationship, going to the other side may have become an option. For a song with such a pacey tempo & dancey structure, it’s pretty fucking dark.

Something that really stands out though is the last line before the final chorus

“Why can’t we see, that when we bleed, we bleed the same?”

In the context of the song it’s pretty hard to see what Bellamy means. Is it the protagonist trying to reach through their lover, in that both of them not communicating or seeking to destroy their relationship is destroying them at the same time? However, in a wider context, this line has a lot of poignancy, largely because we’re all human, we’re all of the human race, but the marginalisation of select groups, growing wealth inequality and rise of far-right rhetoric has caused multiple schisms in our collective human race. But if you were to cut us, we would all bleed the same red blood, just that some groups are cut more than others, and others can afford to be cut.

Again, this theory is probably GCSE-level philosophy at its maxim, but there’s something about that line that’s extra meaningful.

But the poignancy of Map’s lyrical theme, plus the perfectly polished production and composition of the track is what makes it one of, if not the best Muse songs ever written. The intricacy of the riff and similarities to Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode is what really makes it stand out. The upped tempo of the riff gives it a real uniqueness as well, and something that you won’t really find elsewhere in Muse’s back catalogue. Lyrically, Muse were really in their own in the mid noughties, especially with Absolution, but even more especially with Black Holes. You only need to look at the depth of songs like Hoodoo, Take a Bow and Invincible to see that the band had a real knack for writing meaningful songs back in the day.

Fingers crossed that with whatever Muse are up to this year in terms of studio time, they manage to bottle some of the magic that Map of the Problematique offered, and produce a song that bursts through the sky like violent lightning.

 

 

 

WhyNo? bottle the sweet essence of carefree youth on ‘Strawberry Sundays’

There’s something about a breezy, bouncy indie track that transports you back to your youth. Reminding you of a carefree time where your only worries were blagging warm Carling from the offy and getting invited to a few house parties, as bands like Two Door Cinema ClubBombay Bicycle Club and Any Other Indie Band With “Club” In The Name rattled out of an iPod dock in the front room.

With their new track Strawberry Sundays, Glasgow four-piece WhyNo? have clearly bottled that sweet essence of carefree youth, as Strawberry Sundays feels as if it was pulled straight out of your sweetest teenage dreams. It’s a real breezy track that’s easy to listen to and actually makes a Sunday like today as sweet and juicy as strawberries themselves. It’s a very summery track, the sort that you could enjoy a few cans in the park with, or something to make a driving playlist that little bit more relaxing.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/74xg9FD6bOXvlvHb7wrJ2C

Formed in 2017, WhyNo? class themselves as a “Surf / Indie / Punk / Garage / Slacker / Rock” band, something you can hear more of in their first release The First Ones, as Beach Babes &  Tidal Waves and T.H.C. mix in more of those influences, whereas Strawberry Sundays feels like a classic indie track. According to the band themselves, “Strawberry Sundays, released on a Sunday, fittingly enough, marks a change in the band’s sound, with a “less garagey” sound, “now akin to the likes of Hockey Dad, Skeggs and The Lapelles“, with Strawberry Sundays firing the starting pistol on an upcoming EP release.

The “Hey! Hey! Hey!”‘s on the track are also reminiscent of a brighter time. This track doesn’t re-invent the wheel in any way or introduces new concepts, it just shows you how exciting the wheel used to be. The airy feel of the track is quite nice as well, it gently dances around your head and doesn’t really go too hard on you. What it is, is a very promising indie banger from a brand new band.

From the band’s mouth itself, WhyNo? want to “bring good vibes to the Glasgow music scene”, but with Strawberry Sundays, it’s hard to see why they couldn’t take their good vibes to a wider audience. Stay tuned.

Riff University: Seek and Destroy by Metallica

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: Seek & Destroy by Metallica

Read Last Week’s Lecture on Passenger by Deftones here.

Your opinion on them is strong but either way, you know who they are; their albums, the hits, the members, the t-shirts, the drama. The band is a brand, and the brand is Metallica. But long before the widespread commercial success, the thronging crowds and Some Kind Of Monster (2004), a fledgling Bay Area thrash band had just thrown out their first album, Kill ‘Em All (1983).

Marrying the sounds of bands like Motörhead, Diamond Head and Blitzkreig to turbocharged tempo, Kill ‘Em All is widely regarded as a groundbreaking album for the thrash movement as one of the ‘Big Four’ bands along with Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. That being said, Kill ‘Em All is not the first thrash album: that accolade is often given to Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac released in January of the same year, whereas Kill ‘Em All came out in July 1983, nearly 35 years ago.

The groundbreaking sound is what set Metallica apart from their peers in the early eighties. Whilst an album like this is familiar to us now, there must have been nothing like this in 1983. This is the sort of album that is a watershed moment; there was music before Kill ‘Em All, and then there was music after Kill ‘Em All.

The whole album, as is standard with all pre-Black Album Metallica records, is a masterpiece from front to back. Arguably one of the best ways to raise the curtain on your recording career, Hit the Lights announces Metallica right off the bat, then you have Motorbreath, Whiplash, Metal Militia, Phantom Lord and of course the masterful Cliff Burton on Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth). However, every crown must have its jewel, and the one song that stands taller than all its peers is the legendary Seek and Destroy.

The whole purpose of Riff University is to explore the writing, meanings and impacts of the biggest, baddest and boldest riffs of all time, and in Seek and Destroy’s case, it’s a struggle to find a riff bigger, badder or bolder (please @ us if you think otherwise). Second only to Master of Puppets in terms of live play, having been played nearly, or just over 1,500 times to millions, upon millions of Metallica fans across the globe.

The opening riff is quite simply, iconic; with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet crawling along the necks of their guitar in perfect harmony, before Cliff and Lars join in the fun. The verse is pretty simple, but to be honest, so is the riff. The real tasty bits of guitar work come into play during the three solos in the song, but the simplicity of the riff is what makes it work so well. Crowds can sing along to the riff as loud as they can the song, and THAT is what makes a riff iconic; if someone can sing the riff as well as they can sing the lyrics, you know you’ve got a major hit on your hands.

The riff, as Lars Ulrich will and has happily admitted, can be traced back to Dead Reckoning by Diamond Head, a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that greatly inspired the young band, and you can absolutely hear the similarities between Seek and Destroy and Dead Reckoning. Of course, most of Kill ‘Em All was either written by NWOBHM bands, James Hetfield or Dave Mustaine, but bands in their early days should be allowed to write in the shadows of their inspirations, because that’s how we all learn, grow and do better, by borrowing from those who inspire us. Or massively fucking shaft their original guitarist who’s kind of a dick and cause them to start Megadeth, the edgy teenager’s choice of thrash band.

Seek and Destroy is a song that doesn’t run out of puff either, an absolute highlight of the song is right after a burning solo from a fresh-faced Kirk Hammet, and the song slows down, before bursting right back into that riff all over again for a second round.

Whilst not the original lyric, it’s hard not to resonate strongly with “Our brains are on fire with the feeling to kill // And it won’t go away ’til we drink all your beers” from the band’s 1989 performance of the song in Seattle. This video also captures the live power of Seek and Destroy, right at, arguably, the height of Metallica’s thrash metal assault; post …And Justice and pre-Black Album, the mix of a band at full tilt, capacity and power is something to truly behold. Late eighties Hetfield is beyond fucking frightening and has likely sent that ESP Explorer up someone’s arse, body first

That video just sums up Seek and Destroy: it’s a fan favorite, arguably more so than Master of Puppets, as it has closed out hundreds upon hundreds of sets; the song that allows everyone to go home happy, the song that everyone spends the whole gig excitedly bouncing around waiting for. Of course, Metallica offer a wide variety of fine thrash metal tunes that span nearly forty years, but nothing rouses the Metal Militia like the first few bars of Seek.

Lyrically, Seek and Destroy is overtly and unsubtly about wanting to kick the shit out of someone, but not actually doing it. It’s pretty obvious that the band are looking for a fight with “Scanning the scene in the city tonight // looking for you to start up a fight // there’s an evil feeling in our brains // but it’s nothing new, it drives us insane”. Which against why it makes it such a great live track, because “scanning the scene in [your city] tonight // looking for you to start up a fight” is enough to get the coldest of crowds warmed up.

Same goes for the chorus, with “Searchiiin’ // seek and destroy!” making for a fantastic call and response from Papa Het and the fans. Deliberately or totally by accident, Seek and Destroy was designed for the live Metallica show, especially with their fan-centric stage setups. Of course, the lyrics are second to the riff, but the simplicity of “Running, on our way // hiding, you will be // dying, a thousand deaths” just lets you scream it in a car, an arena or an interview, each with the same amount of aggression.

Metallica would go on to hone and develop their craft, especially with Ride the Lightning just one year later, and oh, we’ll get right into that album, but Seek and Destroy loudly heralded the arrival of your new metal overlords, and would go on to be a centrepiece of the Metallica stage show.

Gig Review: Miles Kane @ O2 Academy Oxford

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

The last time I saw Miles Kane perform live, I was in great shape and was wearing a slim fitting paisley shirt. Fast forward four years later, I am in terrible shape and wearing a Metallica t-shirt because I’ve just stopped caring. However, four years between gigs for Miles, and he’s still in great shape as he got the O2 Academy in Oxford shaking, rattling and rolling.

I love Miles Kane, and without sounding too soppy, I’ve missed him. Colour of the Trap and Don’t Forget Who You Are were two fantastic albums, so as soon as he walked on stage with his brand new band and broke into Counting Down the Days, so many memories of Captain Morgan, the aforementioned paisley shirts and being overly handsome (that better be present tense – Ed) came flooding back as the man in leopard print went hell for leather.

Miles Kane’s studio work is good, but his live showmanship is next level; the energy that goes into every song as he bounces about the stage like a man possessed, with all eyes following him around the stage as he played through hits like Inhaler, Better Than That and Taking Over. They sounded inch perfect and studio crisp as a swelling and sweaty O2 Academy bounced around.

The whole purpose of this tour is to get him back up to match fitness and to promote his upcoming album Coup de Grace. The verdict? From what was played last night, Coup de Grace is shoring up to be a fantastic album. On Annie Mac when he was promoting the release of Loaded, he said that you’d see some Ramones influences, which had me sceptical at best. But with Too Little Too Late, you could see what he meant! It was a banger with punk sensibilities and had all the hallmarks of a classic punk track.

The vibe in the Academy was really good as well, it was an exceedingly good, hyperactive crowd, with a good mix of people. You had yer da in his patterned shirt, ready to have an evening before falling asleep by half 10, then there was the young’uns, boys and girls excited by a Saturday night spent in a sweaty room, all having a good time. The moshpits, something we always look for in these reviews, were of a good consistency, everyone was bouncy, respectful and a good clean fight was had, no eye gouging. Everyone was having fun.

A nice surprise was title track Coup de Grace, which was released as a Record Store Day exclusive, but as is the way, soon found itself on YouTube. Maybe it’s because it was a low quality rip off of a vinyl, but I didn’t really like it, especially after how enjoyable Loaded was. However, taking it from the studio to the stage, Coup de Grace found its feet as a funky, dancey track. Cry On My Guitar was also very enjoyable with its very lounge-esque feel to it, something nice and chilled.

 

This becomes even more interesting considering Miles’ best pal Alex Turner, whose band you MIGHT have heard of just released an album with very similar concepts. Perhaps they’ve been sharing notes, and it’ll be interesting to see what the mix is like on CDG, considering we’ve had two chilled tracks with Loaded and Cry On My Guitar, but we’ve also had two dancier track with Coup de Grace and Too Little Too Late. However, all signs are pointing to the fact that Miles Kane is gearing up to release a fantastic album… at some point this year. Maybe, like, tomorrow would be good?

One criticism of this gig could be is that it was too short, around fifteen songs long and almost exactly an hour on the button, but with such a rich catalogue like Miles’, it’d be impossible to not want more from a setlist, as we were missing Kingcrawler, First of my Kind, Tonight and Bombshells to name a few. Me? I’d have had Kaka Boom, The Competition and Caught In The Act on the setlist as well, so perhaps it was better that he kept it short and sweet, rather than play a set that would just be finishing around now.

However, what did make the setlist was just as tantalising as what didn’t, with Give Up producing a huge reaction, that’s a really good live tune, the way the drums are used in the bridge are fantastic, gives the crowd a chance to regroup and move into the big finish. I’m also glad he played Rearrange as that’s another fantastic track, and closing the set out with Come Closer was the perfect end to the evening.

I’m an old man now, and find it hard to be swayed by people, or influenced by them, but it’s impossible for me to not find Miles Kane ridiculously cool. At the front of a sweaty room, he’s just there, dancing about with a selection of cool guitars, in a flowing leopard print shirt, a fancy pair of jeans and some boots. It’s a look that I’d happily cultivate from now until the end of time. You thought Hugh Jackman was the greatest showman? Guess again.

Maybe it’s because I was on a huge nostalgia bender this weekend, or maybe, Miles Kane is preparing for a thermonuclear assault on the music scene. Whilst nothing’s for certain, Coup de Grace could well be Miles’… er… there’s a phrase for this… it’s French, means a killer blow… nah, fuck, it’s gone.

Slam Drunk 2018: Dying of Shame

words and photos by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Maybe to you, a boring idiot, Slam Dunk Festival is a pretty nifty one day festival that spreads its rich mix of bands across the four corners of this land (apart from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, because fuck those guys right?!), but to the more experienced and festival-savvy of us, Slam Dunk is a test of endurance; a one day alcoholic assault course that pushes your drinking tolerance, fitness and mental endurance.

Of course, those of you who followed last year’s boozy commentary, or had the severe misfortune of running into me will attest that I push my physical, mental and emotional limits to the maximum when it comes to Slam Drunk. Slam Drunk is for slamming beers, maybe for grabbing a £30 slice of pizza, and absolutely not about sticking to an itinerary of bands you wish to see. The compact nature of the festival makes it ideal to stumble around from stage to stage, spending the whole time trying to work out who the fuck this band is, but largely enjoying their sound.

Same rules as last year apply: a running tally of all beers must be kept, a beer must be drank between or during bands, and the third inning is known as the beer inning.

We run into the NEC with the Official Transistor Beer Counter at 8, and the first band on today are:

Four Year Strong (Jagermeister Stage)

For me, Four Year Strong are that band that did that really good cover of Love Song by Sara Bareilles. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I just remember slamming that Punk Goes Pop album on repeat with FYS getting a LOT of playtime, and that obviously introduced me to the band’s wider work. Maybe I was late to the party then, but I was certainly late to the party today as I rocked up halfway through their set… blame widespread rail cancellations, nationalise it all.

However, if the first half was as good as the second, Four Year Strong put on a blinding show, sounding tight throughout Find My Way Back, Maniac, It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now, closing the set out with Wasting Time. It was at this point the stars aligned and I found some of my friends, so as the final notes from Four Year Strong’s set resonated throughout the NEC’s main hall, I heard the sweetest sound of all as someone said “Beer?”.

BAND RATING: 7/10
BEER COUNTER: 10 (one in Spoons pre-FYS, one post FYS)

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Sure, It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now, but not as much as it sucks to be me, as I dropped my beer. Some might argue it was down to a high level of intoxication, however, I dropped my beer because I saw several assassins approaching my friends, and in the process of performing several highly complex martial arts manoeuvres to save their lives, I dropped my beer. They will not be able to confirm this story due to the high speed in which these moves were performed, but I’m sure they are most grateful. Coming up after that dramatic fight were a band I’m so very excited about, and even more excited about to see for the first time…

Creeper (Jagermeister Stage)

Possibly one of, if not the most exciting bands in the United Kingdom right now, I have been excited to see Creeper since they were announced. Let’s be honest, compared to recent years, the line up’s a bit shit, but Creeper are one of the bands to justify the ticket fee alone. Sure, I was late to the party, as the first time I heard Eternity, In Your Arms, Creeper were just bringing their headline UK tour to a close, but when I did, it was easily one of the best albums I’d heard in 2017. Not too heavy, not too light, it was the Goldilocks of albums in 2017 as it was juuuust right.

As soon as the lights went out, the first bar of Black Rain struck and there was a buzz in the air as, and I didn’t have my glasses on, a suitably filling NEC greeted Creeper to the stage. It was an expertly crafted set from the Southampton band, giving a perfect mix of beginning to present, including Astral Projection, Suzanne and Black Mass. Something I noted on when giving an end of year review to Eternity, In Your Arms was how impressive the vocal blend of Will Gould and Hannah Greenwood was, and in the live arena, it’s no different, but the latter was simply sublime when performing a huge rendition of Crickets, with the vocal blend switching to between Hannah and the NEC. Hiding With Boys was also a highlight, it’s got a real bouncy feel to it.

Fingers crossed these guys get back on it soon and carry on building on the strong foundations they laid in 2017. I’m looking forward to seeing them again at 2000 Trees, where I promise to be more lucid.

BAND RATING: 9/10

BEER COUNTER: 11

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Shit… what happened after Creeper? I’m pretty sure something happened after Creeper. There was a wrestling match before or after. Look, I paid fifty quid to see Creeper and sink a beer. It’s my money pal, if I want to blow it on indulgent and unnecessary things, you’re gonna have a hard time stopping me. Oh, oh, and if I want to stall for time to fill an article where I can’t remember what happened, I fucking well will. Yeah? Anyway, I remember what happened and we went to the food court, which, seeing as it’s Slam Dunk, meant seeing another band, and oh boy, was this gonna be good as we saw…

Counterparts (Impericon Stage)

I was gutted to have missed Counterparts supporting Architects at Alexandra Palace earlier in the year, so seeing they’d be at Slam Drunk made everything okay again. The good news was the Impericon Stage has been moved into the food court this year, meaning everyone could enjoy something heavy whilst getting a £5,000,000 shawarma. Not for me thank you, I’m on a liquid diet.

Mightily impressed by these guys, especially with their stage presence as they tore it up as everyone grabbed an early tea. Their Spotify bio is just literally “nice music”, which is probably the most honest and least pretentious Spotify bio I’ve ever seen. Oh, and nice it was as they dropped hardcore bombs like Bouquets, Thieves, Choke and Rope. Simple, quick, one word songs. No idea what they opened with as I was still at Creeper as they came on, and beer makes me slow.

However, I turned 25 this year, which means I’m a very old man and must divert my attention to doing things like having dinner parties, and of course, what DO you play for ambient music at a dinner party? Considering that they delightfully soundtracked a room full of people eating dinner, Counterparts are my number one choice for dinner music.

BAND RATING: 8/10

BEER COUNTER: 12

Seriously, why have I drank so much today? Thank fuck I’ve got tomorrow off. I need a wee. I could do with some food but £9,000,000,000 for pizza? Fuck off pal. Sat outside and listened to Capdown on the Fireball Stage. Maybe these guys deserve a review but I can’t really remember anything about them apart from the fact they were pretty good. In this time I also missed Twin Atlantic, due to numerous scheduling conflicts. Basically I’d jump out here, as we’re hitting peak levels of “fucked it” right now. Then you sort of hit a swirl where you’ve seen about fourteen bands in the space of five minutes but you’ve no clue who the fuck any of them are, or who you are. Saw Creeper signing autographs, thought about joining the queue, decided against as I was too drunk and I’d end up interviewing them, but about their favourite drunk takeaway food as several presumably burly security guards whisked me away.

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Whatever, want me to talk about another band? I don’t. I don’t know why anyone reads the bollocks that comes off the end of my fingers and onto your screen. Anyway, here’s…

Trash Boat (Signature Brew Stage)

Oh these guys were fun, I couldn’t have told you a thing about them before, but they’re definitely one of those you’re pleasantly surprised by. The Hertfordshire punks played a great set to a brilliant crowd, firing blasts like Catharsis, Pangea and Shade. Again, nice one word songs, easy for the drunk, tired brain to process, meaning you can put more time into bipedal humanoid functions like walking, talking and stopping yourself from screaming every five seconds.

I’d say if I had to pick a “surprise” band of the day, it’d be Trash Boat, largely because I was surprised to be seeing them, but overwhelmingly because I was so impressed with their sound and their stage presence. Some bands you see at a festival one year and discard, but Trash Boat sold themselves well, pretty amazing considering they are named after a boat that has garbage on it.

BAND RATING: 8/10

BEER COUNTER: 15 (Saw someone serving two pinters and hot damn did my day go uphill)

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Nothing will ever beat Slam Drunk 2015 though, I got blasted, saw a load of metal bands including a headline set from Architects, met Dan from Bury Tomorrow and didn’t have a hangover the next day. Also it was at Wolverhampton Civic which is a far superior venue in a far superior city. The NEC is a cold, unloving monolith, the Civic is a warm, caring building. However, I know a band who’d make up for all that, and I’m hoping that band would be…

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes (Jagermeister Stage)

All day. All fucking day we’d been chomping at the bit for Juggernaut. Electricity followed us as we were just anticipating Juggernaut, and Juggernaut did not disappoint as Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes rattled the NEC with their sonic assault opening the proceedings. Someone got crowdsurfed and booted me in the head. Straight out the game. Big headache. However, that did not stop my fun during Fangs, and did not stop me doing my duty during Wild Flowers. I’ve said it before, but I love how it’s used to have girls safely crowdsurf, of course, this should be every song of every show by every band, but I love the fact that’s what Wild Flowers is for. Neck canes though, when you’re 6″4, you are the stairway to crowdsurfing. I love seeing Vampires in the setlist too, it’s a real simple song but that’s why it’s so good, the chorus is thumping and the drums and the Ooohohwowowowoah in the bridge is sublime.

It was a whistle stop tour through their discography, with Paradise, Snake Eyes and Devil Inside Me rocking up, and rocking out. It’s a shame really, as you can’t help but feel they’ve got the clout to be a bit higher on the bill, maybe at the top on say the Monster Stage? Maybe it’s too soon, but when you have such a plethora of stages available, throwing a box office band in at the top could pay off massively. It would’ve been good to see Beautiful Death, Primary Explosive and Spray Paint Love, but when you’re third from the top, you’ve got to go shock and awe. And awe it was.

It’s at this point I’d like to apologise to Frank Carter, his security guard, my fan and my future children, as during er, Jackals(?), a man called Frank jumped into the crowd, right in front of me! It was at this point a maverick journalist decided he’d get a “selfie”‘ with this man, for the sake of a good story. The selfie didn’t take, I just couldn’t take a good selfie, and I ruined everything. Frank probably doesn’t remember a fat, sweaty drunk man in a Spray Paint Love t shirt fucking up a photo op, because stuff like that is water off a duck’s back to a pro like him, but it will haunt me for the rest of my life. If I saw Frank Carter in the street, I’d cross the road, out of shame, I couldn’t face him. A week ago I’d have shook his hand with enthusiasm, now I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I can’t listen to Blossom or Modern Ruin any more, because I’m so full of shame for trying to take a selfie. Who the fuck am I, Philip fucking Schofield? It’s been five days now and I can’t sleep, I can’t look at myself in the mirror, because the man who stares back is a man who can’t take a selfie. Frank, I’m so sorry…

In my mind, Frank sang I Hate You about me, because I was the man who tried taking a photo. I’ve done some cringe things when drunk but this really takes the cake. To borrow a lyric, “What did I do last night, and will I be ashamed?”. Fuck sake.

BAND RATING: 9/10

BEER COUNTER: 16

ME RATING: -1,000,000/10

Right so, this is where I died of shame and my friend decided he was actually dead so I rescued him and kept everyone awake on the train home. I did see PVRIS, but only like, thirty seconds of them, so just imagine they were fucking brilliant.

As for me, I shall never go to a gig or drink again, apart from tonight where I am drinking, and tomorrow night where I am going to a gig. However, seeing as I died of shame, I shall be doing both of these as a ghost.

If you were at Slam Drunk, please let me know how it was for you, and how you managed to make an arse out of yourself in one of your favourite singers, it would soothe my weeping wounds greatly.