What We've Been Listening To - Opus Kink, Luna Rosa, Gag Salon, Porchlight, Life, Pigeonhole, Moreish Idols, Gawjuss, Hallan
By Jon Milton
Last month (on a whim) I paid a visit to Bedford Esquires for their ‘Ceremony 2’ all-dayer, principally to check out Keg and Hallan. Both of these were excellent on the day, but another couple of performers really stood out, Low Hummer and Opus Kink. I had the added bonus of seeing the latter again five days later as they opened for Feet, and I would recommend anyone reading this to check them out when they play next, as their performance is a wonder to behold. The band have also just released their debut EP ‘Til the Steam Runs Dry’ on Nice Swan Recordings, a heady mix of tunes seemingly drawing influence from Tom Waits, The Pogues, The Redskins and Pigbag.
Luna Rosa released a cracking single in ‘Brutal Nature’ at the start of May, and their EP of the same name has also just launched via those good people at Vandalism at Home. When talking about the EP, lead singer Rory McDade says it is
‘our stance against the ineffective asinine powers that be, a statement to every wave of self-doubt and a message to the downtrodden, the fucked and forgotten. Its core forged by our own truth and soul, its pulse and spirit soundtracks our defiance and conquering of the stronghold placed upon us in our times of tribulation. This is our proclamation of intent, our resistance against being ruled by anyone but ourselves. We mean every last second of this record, every word, every note, right down to the end. Hopefully it opens a few eyes and reaches a few hearts’.
The band cite The Verve as influences which certainly comes across on tracks like 'MK Ultra' and 'Empty'. 'Brutal Nature' the song reminds me of The Blinders when they were good, and the other stand out track on the EP ‘I in the Centre of Pride’ has shades of one of my personal favourites, Echo and the Bunnymen. The EP is thoroughly impressive throughout and a real statement of intent from the band.
Completing a trio of tasty new EP releases from bands on the up is ‘Get a Load of this Guy’ from Gag Salon. The band announced themselves in February with their debut single, the frantic ‘Horses’ with a further couple of tracks ‘My Gun’ and ‘Don’t Eat Stuff off the Pavement’ following. The equally insistent 'Germs' and '21st Century Classical Music' complete the madness wonderfully on this full release, which has flashes of Josef K, Gang of Four and Parquet Courts, albeit a bit more hopped up and quirky.
On the singles front, Porchlight’s new single 'Silver Spoon' is well worth checking out. I have to say I’m desperate to see this band play live but have been sadly thwarted in my attempts thus far. Silver Spoon and its preceding singles Drywall and Country Manor are all superb, with this latest one packing loads of post punk attitude, sass and noise. More please, and give us a gig on a Thursday or Friday somewhere centrally in London!
Other standouts just out are 'Hangar' by Moreish Idols, 'Black Cat, White Cat' by Pigeonhole, 'Cry Harder' by Gawjuss, 'The Drug' by Life and 'Sich Ubergeben' from Hallan. I was rather taken with Moreish Idols first single ‘Speedboat’ but Hangar is even better, and the best thing I’ve heard on Speedy Wunderground for a while. Many years ago the addition of saxophone on an indie track normally happened when they signed to a major and the major wanted them to sound more accessible, but invariably made them sound terrible instead. These days when done well it can really lift the track, and on Hangar its done really well, perfectly complementing the songs manic thrashing and the Do Nothing style vocals.
I've not come across Pigeonhole before on the evidence of Black Cat, White Cat I like what I hear. A Psycho Killer like bass line kicks off the track and then its indie glam stomping and attitude all the way. The band play The Windmill in Brixton at the end of the month with the equally intriguing Neuro Placid which should be a good night out. On Cry Harder, Gawjuss continue to honour the long established legacy of quality noise that Leeds bands seem to be so adept at making, and they have an album on the way on Clue Records out in September.
Life’s new single The Drug is yet another telling sign that their forthcoming album North East Coastal Town might well be up there as one of the albums of the year, sitting alongside TV Priest, whose excellent album we reviewed last week (scroll down). I thought Life’s last album A Picture of Good Health was good, but if this track, Friends Without Names, Almost Home and Big Moon Lake are anything to go by, then the new album will be another level.
Hallan had a great EP out last year ‘Reporting Live From The Living Room Floor’ but have been quiet since them up until now. Sich Ubergeben (Throw up according to google) is a welcome return from the band who are another who really deliver live. Its another top tune from The Nice Swan Recordings stable too, who just seem to consistently release quality.
By Jon Milton
I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t been profoundly affected by the seismic change brought on by the pandemic. Many like to think that the world is back to normal now, but it seems clear to me that chronic fatigue and mental health issues continue to live with us, stopping us from even doing things that we like to do for fun.
TV Priest’s second album ‘My Other People’ lays bare singer Charlie Drinkwater’s experiences during the pandemic, a period in which he confesses he was in ‘a place where I was not, I would say, particularly well’. The band had played once before lockdown began but were unable to move onto their second gig at Oslo in Hackney until July of last year. In between they’d managed to catch a lot of people’s attention with their first two singles ‘House of York’ and ‘Runner Up’, sign to Sub Pop and release their debut album, ‘Uppers’, but had to live this life changing experience as though they were detached bystanders. ‘It was a real gratification and really cathartic, but on the other hand, it was really strange, and not great for my mental health”
Photo: Hollie Fernando
The band describe My Other People as very much a reaction against the politically aware, angry, and bolshy post-punk pigeon-hole that they were being put in. Instead, the band have expanded their musical canvass impressively on this record, with Drinkwater’s lyrics exploring vulnerability and emotion ahead of polemic. As if to make that change in direction very clear, the first three singles from the album each showcase different sides of the band’s music, with the fourth release ‘It Was Beautiful’ the first to tread the frentic, motorik driven, more familiar ground of Uppers.
The starkest departure comes in the shape of ‘Limehouse Cut’, which considers whether one can really feel part of a constantly changing environment like London. There’s an almost Tom Waits like wistfulness about the song and on the bands numerous, detailed social media posts leading up to this release, Drinkwater notes that he has since moved out of London to a more rural setting. I can’t help wondering if that narrative may be influenced by parenthood, where responsibility for a new life becomes all-consuming so and when you finally come up for air, you find that the world around you has changed.
Songs like ‘One Easy Thing’, ‘I Have Learnt Nothing’ and ‘I Am Safe Here’ stand proud and ebullient in among the crowd pleasing ‘It Was Beautiful’ and ‘Unravelling’. The album's reflective moments surface on ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ and ‘Sunland’ and the aforementioned Limehouse Cut. The highlight of the album however is ‘The Breakers’, a paean to reaffirming friendship, that features a sublime guitar riff which perfectly complements the songs' optimistic theme .
TV Priest’s second album represents a big step forward for the band. Where Uppers felt like a collection of songs, My Other People feels like a proper album, and one that will go down as a ‘flash of greatness’ from the band for years to come.
In what’s likely to be crowded space this year, My Other People will undoubtedly be up there as one of the albums of 2022.
My Other People is released in 17th June. The album is available to pre-order direct from Sub Pop and also on limited edition transparent violet LP direct from Record Store HERE.
There is also a limited signed edition, each including an artwork print designed by the band's own Charlie Drinkwater, available from Rough Trade HERE or as part of an accompanying instore performance for the album's release day.
UK Tour Dates:
30 - Bristol, UK - The Louisiana
31 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds
1 - Dublin, IE - The Workman's Cellar
3 - Manchester, UK - Yes (Pink Room)
4 - Glasgow, UK - Broadcast
5 - Leeds, UK - Belgrave Music Hall
7 - Cambridge, UK - Portland Arms
8 - Leicester, UK - Firebug Bar
10 - London, UK - Scala
11 - Reading, UK -The Face Bar
12 - Southampton, UK - The Joiners
13 - Brighton, UK - Green Door Store
By Jon Milton
The good folk at VBAH (Vandalism Begins at Home) records are on a bit of a roll this month. Last week saw the release of Luna Rosa's excellent single 'Brutal Nature', and this week sees the release of another gem in the form of 'Holocene Ending' by Sourdough. Holocene Ending is the second single to be taken from Sourdough's forthcoming debut EP due for release in August.
Singer-songwriter Jacob Kyte says of the single
'The song is all about change, the end of something, and the start of something new. We wrote it during one of the many lockdown's, when there was this message of everyone being "in it together", but in truth people, and certainly politicians, were still betraying one another as much as they always had. We were living in an almost post-apocalyptic world, yet attitudes remained as selfish and greedy as they ever were. Everyone is still at each other's throats. Johnson and his cronies are still laughing at us - yet still getting the vote. It's like foxes voting to lift the hunting ban.
I had this image of farmers burning their own fields, destroying their own livelihoods. I think that's reflective of the world today. We are burning the world, destroying our own existence. Turning on ourselves, but for what worth? We are bringing about our own extinction. Our own end of days".
Given the level of emotion and the sentiment that sit behind the lyrics, it should come as no surprise to know that Holocene Ending is also an absolute beast of a tune and the bands' best release to date. Click on the link below to check it out yourself, or to listen via spotify head to the playlist section of the site and click on the fiver.
By Jon Milton
London’s Midlight have released a string of impressive singles over the last two years and now bring us their debut EP ‘Above from Below’. Self-produced and self-released, the EP features six suave tracks that ooze class, sophistication and quality.
The band are big fans of Radiohead and Talk Talk, whose influence permeates their early work, but on ‘Above from below’ it’s another influence that comes through most clearly, Coldplay. Now I know what you’re thinking, and yes, these days Coldplay are indeed truly shit, but their first album ‘Parachutes’ was rather good, so fix your mind on that rather than all that ‘Higher Power’ bollocks.
‘Above from Below’ begins with its title track, a clever little instrumental track that ends just as it starts to get going. Lead single ‘Home’ follows, noisily announcing itself before elegantly unfurling. Bloodhound sees the band embrace their melancholy, with the song initially stripped back to just piano and vocals before slowly building into epic proportions. The muted tones of ‘My Murder’ and the beautiful ‘Safer Space’ follow before the EP concludes with the jaunty ‘I Just Need a Chance’.
There’s a lot of smart touches to the EP too. Bloodhound has a touch of ‘Wicked Game’ to it. On My Murder there’s a little flicker of ‘Englishman in New York’, and there’s a glimmer of something that I can’t put my finger on by The Police on I Just Need a Chance. All of these elements are very subtle but are deftly executed throughout.
Yes, Above from Below is very accessible and yes it has a lot of mainstream crossover appeal to it, but the band manage to stay just the right side of alternative for me. Above from Below feels like a taste of something special with more yet to come.
By Jon Milton
If there's any justice in the world, Personal Trainer's new single 'Rug Busters' will be a massive hit and people all over the world will be spontaneously breaking out into its dance moves whenever it comes on. Before you read on, click on the link below, watch the video and tell me that I'm wrong!
Not only is Rug Busters a great tune, but they did that brilliant video in ONE TAKE! I'm not particularly one for dancing but even I can't stop wiggling to this one.
If you're not familiar with the band - they're Dutch and the brainchild of Willem Smit, the band's front man and a multi-instrumentalist. They're all about the unpredictable, with the band made up of a shifting line-up of friends and peers playing together with only one rule: there are no rules. Willem says of the single:
“I wanted to make a song to dance to for everybody - no one excluded. The idea was to make a song that brings people closer to each other, no matter who they are, who they are with, what they believe or what they've done.
"Dance", "Dance Dance Dance" and "Song 2 Dance 2" were three of the working titles before I settled on "Rug Busters" - "busting a move" meets "cutting a rug" or something."
The video was filmed by the band's own Kilian Kayser in the parking lot beneath their keyboard player Abel Tuinstra's studio.
"Coming up with a simple idea that feels a bit dumb, but sparks something inside of me or the band - then trying to give it your all to make the idea into something cool - has become a recurring approach for Personal Trainer.
I think we applied this to both the song itself as the video. I'd been trying to come up with an idea for the video in the van with the band or on the phone with my fellow Trainers. On our way back from a show we decided we should write a choreography and perform it, preferably in a nondescript space. The first ideas for the choreography were written in a bar in Amsterdam on that very night by a couple of Trainers, but the bulk of the thing was written and rehearsed in my bedroom.
It was a sight to behold watching six twenty-somethings busting rugs in a relatively small space. I was and am still very proud of everyone's perseverance and heart, and I think the video turned out great. I think most Trainers - including myself - are a bit ashamed of the video too!"
The band have just begun their UK tour. Go and see them and you can try out a few of those moves...
4 Manchester - Yes Basement
5 Leeds - Hyde Park Book Club
6 Newcastle - Head Of Steam
7 Edinburgh - Sneaky Pete’s
8 Glasgow - Broadcast
10 Nottingham - Rough Trade
11 Bedford - Esquires
14 Brighton - Hope & Ruin
15 Bristol - Crofters Rights
17 London - Moth Club
Photo: Kilian Kayser