Tuesday, 28 September 2010

DUM DUM GIRLS

Venue: XOYO, London.
Support: Mazes, Wild Palms
Words: Phil W.

"Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" begs to be sung along to, "It Only Takes One Night" thumps along like a demented banshee with a hangover while "I Will Be" plays like the Latin-infused soundtrack to a Tarantino movie. The ballad "Baby Don't Go" pleads with your heartstrings but it’s the utterly beautiful "Rest of Our Lives" - a song written by band leader Dee Dee to her husband - that's really the stand out moment of the set. This is the sound of Los Angeles-based four piece girl band Dum Dum Girls, one of a host of bands leading America's new lo-fi scene across the Atlantic.

Perhaps it all started a couple of years ago with the brilliant Vivian Girls, brilliant and brief in every way. The Dum Dum Girls even share the same drummer in their live line-up. But on record, the Dum Dum Girls are only Dee Dee (aka Kristin Gundred) and a drum machine. In the same month Dee Dee's debut album "I Will Be" hit the UK shelf’s so did fellow California-based lo-fi act Best Coast with their debut album "Crazy For You" but in the age of the Macbook the lo-fi sound that infuses these records is more of an aesthetic of choice than a forced necessity due to the limited accessibility of technology or money. The Dum Dum Girls sound raw and noisy because that’s how Dee Dee wants it. She wants the album to sound like it was recorded on an eight track in the walk-in wardrobe full of tatty shoeboxes her mother is photographed standing in on the front cover of the LP. There's a selfconscious cool in these records, these bands care very deeply about appearing not to care from behind their impenetrable shades and their stories of Californian shores and half forgotten romances. There's a passion behind their basement recordings and carefully assembled pop songs, aside from the fact Dee Dee’s album probably was recorded in her back room and Best Coast probably did record their album live in a band member's basement - even if The Pixies “Come On Pilgrim” never sounded as under-produced as this.

Back in London's effortlessly cool new basement club XOYO, seemingly the perfect setting for a new generation of deep thinking slackers, the very noisy Mazes sound like Pavement meets Weezer and sum it all up with the line "I never wanna get out of bed, I never wanna do what you say". They may be a decade too late but they could also be a couple of years too early, because if this is coming back then that'd be awesome! Wild Palms brought in a host of influences from New Order to Arcade Fire and won me over in the end but then it was all about the Dum Dum Girls.

The Dum Dum Girls' set is short and tight, all four of them in black dresses and fishnets, gently rocking back and forth and looking distantly cool. Their songs are all over in under three minutes and sound like the Rolling Stones played on a buzz-saw with vocals lazily applied where needed, and I dug the vibe. Like I told Dee Dee after the show: "awesome show by the way!" "Thanks", she replied shyly from under her mop of jet black hair as she arranged a small stack of Sub Pop 7"s and cassette tapes.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

ROSES & PIRATES / APOLLO / FINAL CLEARANCE

Venue: Northampton Roadmender
Reviewers: MMT and Phil.

Between us over the years Phil and I have seen some magnificent national bands at the Roadmender in Northampton: Kenickie and Anti-Product stand out for me, My Vitriol, Defenestration, Deftones and many more for Phil. So when we discovered they do a monthly “open mic” gig (albeit one of those “open mic” gigs where you have to apply and be accepted to play. But I guess you can forgive them that given the quality of the stage / sound system / venue) on a Sunday afternoon, we were up for a visit... especially when we subsequently discovered that two of our current favourite Milton Keynes bands were both on!

It was a weird start to the afternoon in that there’s no compere – we only realised the gig had kicked off when they switched on the speakers in the bar to alert the few dozen afternoon drinkers that Roses & Pirates were coming to the end of their soundcheck. So the whole thing felt a bit more like an exclusive “fans-only” show in a semi-abandoned venue – but once we were in the main space, it was easy to get lost in the quality of the sound system and imposing stage. Not to mention the quality of the music!

Since we awarded
Roses & Pirates our latest Dudebox Track Of The Season a few weeks back, they’ve continued their impressive rise. One week they’re playing a gig with Vodka Boy & Phil Sky at the Grebe in Great Holm, this week they were fresh from supporting The Bluetones the night before this gig – and are apparently off to London again soon to support Skunk Anansie! You can’t really argue with that trajectory!

But you can also hear why they’re doing so well, they’ve got an engaging sound – lying just on that border between “indie” and “poppy” but with enough to be able to appeal to fans of either. Phil?


I really enjoyed their set, especially the last song in which the bassist swapped her bass for an acoustic guitar. I love their combination of acoustic and electric songs and the choppy time changes that fill their songs. They’re constantly interesting. There's also something very 90's about their songs. I dug them!

In between R&P and their fellow MK emissaries came a tough-rocking act from Corby, no less! Apollo played a variety of muscular almost-funk metal-rock which was pitched one-quarter Red Hot Chili Peppers (at worst!), three-quarters Rage Against The Machine (at best!). However, it’s a Rage Against The Machine featuring Nigel Tufnel not Tom Morello: the guitarist is excellent, riffing and soloing with breathtaking skill – and gurning and cheek-puffing as he does so, weirdly reminiscent of an old-skool axe-slinger circa 1975.

It was the singer who put me off to begin with – his cocksurety while setting up and soundchecking gave the impression that he may actually have the papers which prove he owns the venue, and although I’m as happy with a bit of cartoon bravado from my rock stars as anyone else there’s nothing in the rulebook that says lead singers have to be swaggering prannets!

Having said that, by a few songs in I was grudgingly admitting he had the talent to back it up. They whipped what small patchy crowd there was into a proper froth and are clearly fully at home on a stage that size.

By the midpoint of the set, Apollo had won me over too. The bassist worked hard with his axe while the guitarist sure played a mean guitar – their style hitting the gap somewhere between Rage Against The Machine and Motorhead. There was plenty of aggression in the vocals but between the vocalist’s posturing and the guitarist's facial expressions you couldn't take it too seriously. They just seriously rocked!

So, Apollo are tight, loud and exciting. Sadly I can’t direct you to find their music online – there are dozens of Apollos on MySpace and I can’t be bothered to wade through them now. But if I ever do find them I’ll let you know.

And then - Final Clearance... Simply awesome. We'd seen these guys before of course, on our Waterside stage, but it was great to see them in the impressively big venue under the coloured lights. They were the only band of the three to use all their 45 minutes – (we think that was the deal!) - but they certainly have the material, the set just felt like it got better and better. Their sound was truly awesome in that big indie rock vein, their songs really coming together in the live setting.

I’ve been enthusing about them all year (and beyond!) of course – but this was the first time I’d seen them on a Proper Stage™ and they didn’t disappoint. New songs and old alike filled all of the big space – one of the best compliments I can pay them is that they managed to hang on to a substantial portion of Apollo’s crowd, despite the difference in musical style.

“Hush” and “Na├»ve Child” were especially anthemic, and there was a definite harder edge to many of the songs than on CD. Still for me it’s the moments where the violin kicks in as a lead, to counterpoint the hard work of the rest of those songs, that are the cherries on the, er, rock cake. So good that even I almost danced. Fantastic.


And in the eternal darkness of the Roadmender's main stage you'd never know it was only 5 in the afternoon!

True – when we staggered onwards to our next engagement (“Northampton’s Best Kebab Shop”!) it was with eyes blinking in the unaccustomed daylight! Great stuff! And all for just two quid a pop! Kerching! Definitely worth checking out, even if there aren’t any MK bands on. The only real drawback is the temptation of all that beer on a Sunday afternoon. (rubs stomach ruefully)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dudebox "Track Of The Summer"

Yes yes, yes yes, yes yes, yes and yes – the waiting is finally over! Dudebox Track Of The Season is back back back! Our semi-regular round-up of new tracks added to the MySpaces of local bands from all across the spectrum of the local music scene is this time conducted by MMT and Phil. As always, in most cases the bands and musicians featured here haven’t directly asked us to review their stuff, but thanks to them anyway. And hopefully if you’re reading this you’ll find something that you like! Uh-huh. Let’s kick off…


“Love My Madness”: THE SASSY JUDYS
[[Glam-flavoured hard rock from an act we’ve not come across before – but a great name!]]

Phil: Here’s one for Brian!
MMT: I like it. I love the guitar solo, then the bass bit and then there’s a sort of drum flourish. It’s good time music, isn’t it?
Phil: It’s well put together, well produced. Not really my sort of thing, but they sound really polished. Like you could be singing along to it while you’re driving in your car. I think I’d enjoy them live, you get the energy, and the kind of… excitement of it.


“Devil Red”: PHILIPPA MOYLE
[[Young singer-songwriter who we saw earlier in the year performing with the excellent Apple and the Core at the MADCAP Turn It Up contest]]

MMT: Bounces along quite pleasantly, doesn’t it? Something summery about it.
Phil: I love her vocals. I love the delivery she has.
MMT: Is it somehow jazzy? Kind of… (struggles and fails to describe it)
Phil: It’s an intelligent, well-put-together pop song.


“Descent”: MACHINIST
[[Prog-metallists featuring our old mate Tom H on guitar – and who’ve finally got themselves sorted out with some vocals!]]

Phil: I like the fact the song sounds like an invading army, bombing the beaches.
MMT: It’s really… I mean, the beefiness of the bass and the drums is… is… I mean, I would probably be scared live, but… you also get the nice vocal / screamy vocal dynamic, and then it descends into sort of, really nice widdly guitar.
Phil: There’s some really mellow, melodic stuff going on in there as well, along with some very… controlled… beef.
MMT: Yeah. It’s great too that they’ve kept going, persevered with the band.
Phil: I think they could go far if they keep writing songs like this.
MMT: They already sound ‘more than local’, and we’ve already seen it’s easy enough for Milton Keynes bands of this genre to make the next step up.


“D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F.”: LECARLA
[[MK’s hottest band in 2010, the ace pop-metallers step up another level with their new single – check out the video on YouTube! Apparently DILLIGAF stands for ‘Does It Look Like I Give A Fuck?’ Yowch!]]

MMT: It doesn’t feel like they’re unsigned, does it?
Phil: Maybe these days you can just call up some guys on the phone and they come out and make your video for you! It just looked so well put-together, so well produced. You wouldn’t know they weren’t signed, you could have watched that on Kerrang TV quite happily.
MMT: Where would you put it on a scale between Power Pop and… Metal?
Phil: I like it. I like the vocals, I like the fact they’re not screaming. It’s heavy, but you can tap your foot along to it with a smile.
MMT: There’s a brilliant bit where it stops and they all do a sort of… choir bit together, that was fantastic. They look cool.
Phil: I’m intrigued.
MMT: I’d love a clothing endorsement of my own. I’m gonna try and see if Oxfam or Cancer Research are interested…


“Waves”: ELLIE WALSH
[[Long-standing solo performer at Monkey Kettle events, now coming back to MK after a couple of years away]]

Phil: I think it’s good. It’s well put together, well recorded, well written and everything. Some great imagery going on. It’s another broken love song.
MMT: I really like the clarity in her voice, it’s one of my favourite Milton Keynes singery voices. It sounds deceptively simple at times, but it’s genuinely affecting, especially when you see her live. Welcome back!


“Dance Rummy, Dance”: FOOTSWITCH
[[Young rockers who are new to us here at the Dudebox Lounge…]]

Phil: The first band I thought of – without them sounding that much like them – were Jane’s Addiction, in that Jane’s Addiction were a bunch of people who wanted to make something new out of rock and just threw in lots of influences from Funk, to Classic Rock, to all those things.
MMT: Yeah, you want to hear the individual influences of the members combined together to make something different, that’s the only way you’re ever going to come up with something different. It is nice to hear four or five different sorts of “sound” in there.
Phil: There’s lots going on.


“Scatter Me In The Ocean”: THE SECRET CIRCUS
[[The new band from hard-working young solo talent Josh Timmins, on an altogether darker Eighties tip]]

MMT: I think it’s a really interesting change of direction from young Josh. Kind of Gothy, Synthy Pop. Did you say something at the Waterside about Eighties Film Soundtracks?
Phil: Um… maybe…
MMT: Was that not you? Must have been somebody else.
Phil: It definitely sounds like the Eighties. I like the idea of him taking it so far as going in a completely different direction to his solo material.
MMT: The sound they’re driving at is really interesting. I love the synths. I’m also very pleased to see that a photo I took for them is their MySpace photo. And I haven’t received a penny yet.


“Bionic”: GO LUCKY
[[This season’s Great Act We Really Enjoyed But From Outside Milton Keynes – Go Lucky came and performed at one of our open mic nights, but sounds even better on these studio recordings]]

MMT: Fantastic.
Phil: I really like it too. It’s not the kind of music I’m into, but I’m inspired… a fairly simple techno backing track, and her vocal is the melodic instrument running through it. If techno’s the right word?
MMT: The genre as given on her MySpace is Electro – Club – Disco – House.
Phil: It sounds so cool. It bubbles with kind of… lots of different things going on.
MMT: I feel really bad that the sound didn’t work out for her when she came and played our open mic – hopefully we can get her back and rectify that at some point.


RUNNER-UP DUDEBOX TRACK OF THE SUMMER

“Little Moments”: JET-LAGGED JEFF
[[How has it taken us this long to review the beautiful Jeff? Criminal, is what it is – although the fact he’s now getting full recordings onto his MySpace does help]]

Phil: I love it, I think it’s fantastic.
MMT: He’s one of the nicest guys we’ve met in the entire Milton Keynes music scene. There’s something about his voice, isn’t there, that –
Phil: He growls… well, not growls, that’s the wrong word. But he kind of… growls everything in this wonderful way. It sounds original, while still sounding classic. The imagery that you can hear in the song – you can feel like the old town where it might be set in. I might have misheard all of the lyrics. And there’s something deceptively simple about his guitar work, when it’s actually quite complex underneath.
MMT: I wouldn’t normally choose to sit and listen to a whole album of just acoustic recordings, but I could easily feel like I could listen to a whole album of Jeff. When you see him live, he’s so easy with an audience, isn’t he? Due to his regular compering at the Sunset Lounge, I suppose. He’s a really good live performer.


DUDEBOX TRACK OF THE SUMMER

“The Rose”: ROSES & PIRATES
[[There’s been a lot of “Facebook Buzz” - if I can legitimately use such a term about an MK band – about R&P this Summer, and on this early evidence it’s well justified]]

Phil: I like it a lot. I love the guitar work, I like the bass. I love the way the song builds up and then drops down again. I like the way the vocals sounded quite emotional.
MMT: I really like the drums, the sort of… there was a kind of… I dunno how to describe it. Probably I should do if I’m a reviewer on the Internet. Like a, sort of a shuffling beat to it that was at odds with the guitar work, but I really liked how it sounded.
Phil: I like them a lot. I’m trying to think of a band they reminded me of…
MMT: Not every band has to sound like another band.
Phil: No. No. They definitely remind me of bands. And they had a bit of distortion in there as well. There’s a sort of different tone going on to it.
MMT: Yeah, definitely an interesting new sound.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

SUMMER ROUND-UP - Phil

Review: Phil

Live From London: A Gig Round Up, March - August 2010

Kaki King - March 10th - Scala, Kings Cross:
Guitar wondergirl Kaki King returned to the UK with her new live band to perform another stunning set heavy in songs from her new album "Junior". It really doesn't get better than this. Anna Calvi was once again in support with her own impressive guitar skills, she's got a well overdue record out soon apparently and it can't come soon enough.

Hole - May 5th - Brixton Academy:
Courtney Love dragged herself on stage like a washed up lounge singer for her long awaited return. The new songs with the new band sounded tired and messy but there was still something very special about Love's crow on classic "Violet". A bigger highlight was her support acts, alterna-rock newbie Tiffany Page and the ever brilliant punk blues duo Little Fish.

She and Him - May 7th - Koko, Camden:
The irresistibly cool Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward rode into town with their sixties inspired pop and country songs spilling out of their saddle bags. Zooey bounced around on stage like a kitten on catnip, oozing enthusiasm and charm. And The Chaplin Sisters provided strong support with their country-infused harmonies and Zooey bounded on stage toward the end of their set to further fill out their sound.

Tegan and Sara - 24th June - Roundhouse, Camden:
Twin sisters Tegan and Sara returned for a magical performance at the Roundhouse in Camden. Read the earlier Dudebox review for more.

Kaki King - 13th July - Dingwalls, Camden:
Kaki King was back again, this time backed only by long term collaborator Dan Branagan on the Electronic EVI Synth, for another mesmerising performance. No support tonight, just more than two hours of Kaki King wonderment with a set heavy with songs from her earlier albums and lengthy improvisations. It was like peeking through from behind the door on her private jam session and it was pure magic.

Redfest - 23rd July - Redhill:
Just south of London in the middle of a farm, Redfest happened in the midst of the gorgeous summer weather. Without a doubt my favourite act of the day was mesmerising punk blues duo Little Fish. Imagine PJ Harvey meets The White Stripes. But other highlights included techno-punk act Subsource fronted by a double bass wielding vocalist and on the acoustic stage Twin Brother, a melodic five piece with a country pop sound that invoked Arcade Fire and The Shins.

The Dandy Warhols - 8th August - Koko, Camden:
Underrated American indie stalwarts The Dandy Warhols returned for another epic set, playing songs from right across their 15-year career and ending with a rare performance of "The Dandy Warhols Sixteen Minutes Rave Up" from their first record. Awesome as always.