Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Dudebox "Track Of The Autumn"

Happy Christmas, Dudebox readers, and a Merry Nu-Year too! As 2010 draws to a blissed out snowy climax, what better way to end the year than with one final Dudebox Review Of Some Local Bands’ MySpaces? This time on the 'turntables' it's MMT & Phil, musing on another great few months on the MK Music Scene!

(regular disclaimer: these bands haven’t asked us to review their MySpaces, we’re doing it because we dig local music and are always trying to bring you something new. Something you might not have come across before – it’s a big town. So jump in - and don’t forget to place your bets now as to what point in the reviewing Phil is going to first mention Sonic Youth!)

“Ideas For A Weekend”: SOUTH SEA COMPANY
[[Only formed this year, but SSC have already played some notable gigs, and their sound is an intriguingly refreshing indie rock one]]

MMT: Sounds like a slightly post-Britpop, melodic… very well produced. It’s not far off the edge of some shoegazing bands actually, got a sort of… reverby vibe to it.
Phil: It’d be good driving music, actually. The sort of thing I might put on in the morning and listen to while I’m driving along.
MMT: This is the song I like best on their MySpace.

“Let Me Go”: CANVAS
[[A boy-girl acoustic duo, though I can’t tell if they’re still gigging. If they ARE, we’re interested!]]

Phil: I’m enjoying this straight away. It sounds modern. Indieish, but slightly bluesy indieish. I like it.
MMT: Reading on their MySpace it looks like they may have evolved into a full band more recently, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen them advertised anywhere. It’s a funny world, MySpace. I still don’t like the new layout.
Phil: I’d like to see them at an open mic or a gig.

“We are here, we are waiting Pt. II”: WEAREWOLF
[[If it seems like we review an inordinate amount of intensely proggy and / or metally bands from MK, it’s only an indication of how many there are proportionately on the local scene at any one time! Here’s another, who played some high profile gigs at The Craufurd Arms in the last few months…]]

MMT: Interesting that the recordings by all the metally bands in Milton Keynes is, on average, of a much higher production standard than any other genre.
Phil: I’m liking it so far… I love all this melodic stuff at the beginning. I like the chilled out bits and pieces. There are a lot of bands doing this well right now.
MMT: Where do you stand on the Screamy Vocal / Singy Vocal dynamic generally?
Phil: I would prefer just a Singy Vocal, though I don’t mind a little bit of Screamy.

“Lemonade Pockets”: DUKE OF MARMALADE
[[A hard-edged indie rock act who we were lucky enough to see play live recently when they stepped in at the last minute to help us out in our ‘dress rehearsal’ for the new “Monkey Kettle Presents…” music promotion!]]

MMT: One of my favourite things about them when we saw them live was the little… footwork the lead singer was doing while he was playing – what he was playing was quite complex as well. Clearly very tight musicians, performance-wise. They made it look deceptively easy.
Phil: I liked the diversity of their set too. I liked the deliberate feedback – too many bands try and go for a polished sound all the time. I enjoy this track.

“No Tomorrow”: SAHARA C
[[Zimbabwean-born but living in MK, Sahara is an RnB singer who’s done very well in national songwriting contests over the last few years.]]

Phil: I have to say, RnB isn’t really my genre –
MMT: (astonished) It’s not?
Phil: - but I’m liking her voice, and the little flourishes of the production. It breezes along. You can imagine hearing it in a bar somewhere.
MMT: It sounds like mainstream RnB. I mean it sounds ‘national’, not ‘local’. It’s summery.
Phil: It’s professionally put together.
MMT: Have you ever liked any RnB?
Phil: (long pause) … I kinda liked the first Rage Against The Machine album.

[[A diverse-sounding bunch: indie, dub, post-rock, instrumental, punk, hip-hop, folk – s’all on their MySpace!]]

MMT: It’s an eclectic mix of styles… It’s good that you can’t pigeonhole them into one thing.
Phil: Yeah, I enjoy the random sound. I really like them.
MMT: I like this bit that’s gone down into just bass. And I really like their band manifesto on MySpace [which includes ‘…if you can’t understand us, f**k off and listen to the radio”].
I think that’s right. That’s why it reminds me of Sonic Youth, really. When you get things that are really ‘different’, it’s hard to say if they’re good or bad. It’s preference.
MMT: I really like how this has turned out, the kind of chuggy reggae-beat bounce…
Phil: What I liked when I saw them live [at the “Shocktower” Halloween festival] was how their songs would blend into each other as well. It’s music without rules. It’s definitely something I like. They’re a box of tricks – you don’t really know what you’re going to get.

“Alejandro”: INVOCATION
[[A bit of fun, maybe – but definitely worth a listen! Last we could tell, Invocation was the side project of one of the guitarists in the brilliant Machinist – this is a genius prog metal remix of a pop fave!]]

Phil: It makes her sound like Evanescence!
MMT: It’s actually one of my least favourite Lady Gaga singles, but he’s made it better…
Phil: I think it sounds great!
MMT: I just love the fact it even exists!
Phil: People should do more of that, playing around and messing around with music.

“Ophelia”: GLASS TEARS
[[An experienced folky jazzy trio such as you might see on the Stony Stratford circuit or at a chilled out festival in a field]]

Phil: I quite like this straight away, it’s very Joni Mitchell, very 60s / 70s kinda vibe. It’s very folky. Folky pop music. Thoughtful, lyrical stuff.
MMT: The recording is very clear, you can hear the nice calm bass. It’s gonna sound very muso-ey, but I like the sound of the guitar. And I love the way – though this isn’t necessarily ‘my kind of music’ – that it’s built into a more emotional…
Phil: I like the building. You get sucked into it. She’s got a great voice. It’s done with heart.


“Thalassophobia”: SCARED OF THE OCEAN
[[Yes, it’s another Milton Keynes metally outfit – but definitely at the ‘upper end’ of the genre]]

MMT: Thalassophobia means ‘fear of the sea’, hence ‘Scared Of The Ocean’, that’s very clever!
Phil: It’s good – I’m liking the bass just now.
MMT: It’s ‘broken down’. I love that echoey vocal in the middle – and there we are back into the metal! I mean, fair enough, it’s metal – but it’s got angles to it. Layers. I dig it.
Phil: Really like them. Definitely my favourite of the more metally bands this time round.


“Never Returned”: FAULTLINES
[[We saw this off-kilter progressive indie trio play at one of the Sunset Acoustic Lounge’s spin-off music nights at the Red Dot Bar, stadium:MK this Autumn, and absolutely loved them! And their MySpace recordings are just as impressive!]]

MMT: I love that guitar sound. I dunno what effect that is? Is it distortion?
Phil: Distortion, definitely. Though it might be flanger and / or a phaser. They were the most exciting band on that night.
MMT: Some of it is reasonably straight-forward hard rock, but just some of the… sounds being created by the guitarist, and the unpredictability about where each song was gonna go… ‘where are they going to go next? Oh, they’ve gone that way, that’s brilliant!’
Phil: To me, this sounds timeless.
MMT: Lovely solo as well, one of those ‘space solos’ I really like. Beamed back by satellite. And then back in with the riff. Cool.

Friday, 29 October 2010


"Basement Music On CRMK", or "A Short Article About Something Really Great"

Words by: Phil W.

Back in January 2010, I attended a small launch party for a new show on Milton Keynes's internet based local radio station CRMK. The show was Basement Music, the brain-child of budding radio DJ Michael Andrews. The Concept: to promote original local music from all over Milton Keynes, covering all genres. Every week he'd get a different act in the studio, interview them and get them to play a few songs... and in-between he'd play nothing but music recorded by Milton Keynes bands and artists, and talk about and plug everything from open mic's to gigs at the Sno!Bar. It’s a home-grown Milton Keynes story of a passion for local music, rather like CRMK itself.

CRMK (Cable Radio Milton Keynes) has its roots at the very start of Milton Keynes along with the Milton Keynes TV station. The TV station is long gone but CRMK still struggles along with unpaid DJ’s and local volunteers, and a criminally small listenership. At some point, around the time that local radio began its slow extinction, CRMK was taken over by Horizon. Under Horizon things weren't too bad really but once Heart took over CRMK lost its analogue signal and was only accessible via the internet. The upshot of course is that they can basically broadcast what they like (though if you go on the show you have to try not to swear!). It’s still broadcast from the same studios as it was back in the 80's and stepping inside the small, wood-panelled studio with the huge mixing desk and the red "On Air" lamp is an exciting experience for any aspiring DJ or artist - and the first stop for numerous DJ hopefuls over the years including, from January this year, Michael Andrews.

"The Milton Keynes music scene is so separated into lots of different groups and each one is very insular," commented Michael. "If only we could bring them all together in one place." And that’s pretty much exactly what Basement Music does. Since January over thirty acts have walked through his studio doors including Footswitch, Project Wolverine, Roses & Pirates, Phil Sky, Dusque, Seeking Salvation Through Love, The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy, Scribe, Bine The Peg and Tombstone Bullets to name a few. When Dusque performed live they arrived an hour before their set and carted their entire arsenal of stage equipment into the tiny studio for a fully plugged in set. This really is a great thing going on. And there's more to come, Michael tells me he's fully booked with acts until January now.

I was in the CRMK studio again in October and have been a regular listener throughout the year. In the 21st century, a show like Basement Music is a more relevant thing than ever before. Macbooks have given every aspiring artist studio-quality recordings and across the board the standard of the tracks Michael plays is universally good. And there really is something to be said for the diversity of the Milton Keynes music scene, even if it can be a little insular. There’s something about this being a new city - that so many different groups of people have come together relatively recently into one place that gives Milton Keynes such a thriving arts scene, music included. In a world where bands big and small are more and more frequently going it alone, free of the record labels, an independent radio station like this just makes sense. Never before have so many high quality recordings been available to capture a thriving local music scene.

But despite this, The Man is always lurking round the corner. Rumour has it that Heart FM, CRMK's current owners, would like to close the studio down, ending the last bastion of local, independent radio in Milton Keynes. And to lose it really would be a sad thing. If you're in a band, it’s unlikely you'd be able to get your song played on Heart, let along drop in the studio and play a live set.

So if you can find the time, tune in to Basement Music, 7:30 till 9 every Thursday evening and support local music and local radio.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Gig: Lecarla, supporting Evarose
The Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, MK.
Phil W.

It was cold and dark in the back room of the Craufurd Arms but it was impossible to repress a thrill of excitement in seeing the stage set up and ready for a local band I was genuinely excited to see. Looking at the stage bathed in purple lights, I couldn’t help thinking it had been too long since I’d seen a gig in here. For the first half hour DJ Michael Andrews and myself had hidden with the locals in the main bar but stepping into the backroom immediately took me back into the magical world of gig-land. For all the hundreds of acoustic open mic nights, there’s still something special about basses and drums, and smoke machines, and the smell of burning amplifiers, and the bright lights, and the pitch dark auditoriums.

Matthew and I discovered home-grown Milton Keynes band Lecarla back in April when we reviewed them for Dudebox Track Of The Season with “Where Do We Go?” and then again in September with "DILLIGAF". Both tracks are tight, well-written slices of metallic pop rock with an awesome guitar sound and strong female vocals while "DILLIGAF" comes with an impressive music video. In fact when we first discovered them, the band seemed too good to be true; still unsigned, they already seem like the complete package. Their well-produced, polished songs already sound like singles, they have professional-looking music videos and they already sell a range of t-shirts branded Lecarla Armour. Besides the MySpace and Facebook, their own slick website boasts past tours with the likes of The Blackout and We Are The Ocean. According to their MySpace, the band even have clothing sponsors. It seemed high time I made an effort on behalf of the Dudebox to check them out live.

Two things are immediately apparent when Lecarla start to play: firstly every member of the band is stunningly musically proficient, and secondly they are very, very loud. Their sound is truly awesome, landing somewhere between pop rock and metal. In fact the Deftones is just as much a comparison as Paramore. The duel guitar sound is huge, the massive guitar distortion punctured by softer moments of refrained melody. Lead singer Lizzy Dent's vocals are strong and melodic while drummer Steve North adds just a little screaming while he pummels the drums, driving the songs forward with a impressive barrage of beats. All five members of Lecarla seem at ease and enjoying themselves on stage, the guitarist and bassist pulling out every rock n roll pose and grinning the whole while. This is a band that already looks and sounds like they are ready for a bigger stage, they are tight and cohesive and confident. But in the end it’s the songs that really shine; interesting, hook-laden and original. "DILLIGAF" already sounds like a radio hit while all the other songs stand out well in the set. If you’re looking for the next big thing in music to come out of Milton Keynes, Lecarla might very well be the place to start.

So DJ Michael Andrews and myself headed back to the bar and accidently missed most of the set from Oxford-based all female four piece Evarose which was a shame because what we caught we really liked - but this evening was really all about catching Milton Keynes’s very own Lecarla live and it was well worth it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Venue: The Coronet, London.
Words: Phil W and MMT.

For years I just never really GOT Nick Cave. I know that that’s a controversial statement but I just didn't GET it. Most of all I just didn't really think it was my thing, in the same way I'm still not sure Bob Dylan is really my thing. I am fully aware of all the things that are there to appreciate and I can hardly knock either artist, they are both very good at what they do whether I like them or not, but I just wasn't sure I really GOT Nick Cave.

Then one evening a few years ago while loafing around the Monkey Kettle offices, Nikki told me if I didn't really GET Nick Cave then maybe I'd GET Tom Waits, that might be more my thing. Apparently people often like one or the other, but in that moment my brain knotted the two artists inseparably together despite them both having wildly different styles and backgrounds and yet I still wasn’t sure EITHER was really my thing.

In fact it wasn't until I heard Scarlett Johansson’s solo album that I really began to appreciate the genius behind Tom Waits’ songs and I began to suspect it MIGHT actually be my thing. It was the lyrics; it was all about the lyrics, and suddenly Nick Cave's “Red Right Hand” entirely made sense; the words, the imagery; he was creating his own world in the lyrics, he was telling stories, drawing out characters and it was his lyrics that often provided the strongest hooks rather than the guitar. And now I got it all. Of course Matthew had been talking about Nick Cave for years; I'm a relative newcomer to his work.

Dude, I GET Nick Cave. Oh man, I GET him. Right about here.

The first time I GOT him was in 1992, when I saw him on “The Chart Show”, of all places! It was the video for “Straight To You”, the first single off “Henry’s Dream” – coincidentally my favourite album by yer man Cave & The Bad Seeds. And when I dug deeper and BOUGHT that album, I was hooked for ever. Intricate and evocative lyrics, like you mention. An accomplished writer who was also cool enough to be the stick-thin suit-wearing frontman of an astonishingly tight band of stick-thin suit-wearing hench-musos. And my avid love for his – and their – recorded output subsequently stretched out in both directions to span now more than 30 years. From the sinister garage thrashings of The Birthday Party, through his clattery blues phase, his indie-goth darling phase, his razor-sharp pop rock phase, even his mournful religious piano ballad and his upbeat gospel phases! I have dug it all, and been lucky to see him play live several times over at least two decades. I’ve got his novels, his books of poetry, even him reading his own latest novel across a 7-CD box set. He is, in a very real sense, one of my absolute heroes.

Anyway… can we go and see Grinderman now please?

There's no support tonight, at least none that we come across. We got in early and grabbed a couple of seats on the front row of the balcony with a perfect view of the stage. It’s exceptionally dark and mellow inside the cavernous Coronet, a former music hall and cinema that was converted into a music venue in 2003. We're several beers down when Grinderman take to the stage with riotous opener “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” that’s also the first track of their new album “Grinderman 2”. Up to now I've only heard the first Grinderman album but the new material sounds fantastic live. The exceptionally tall, waif-like figure of Nick Cave darts around the stage, gleefully attacking a guitar or craning over the adoring audience while the impressively bearded Warren (Ellis) constantly threatens to upstage him and even sets off chants of "Warren, Warren" at one point during the set, which Nick Cave joins in with. I've not seen Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds live but tonight Grinderman defiantly felt like a complete band with all members met on equal terms. The anthemic “Get It On” barrages through like a steam train, “Depth Charge Ethel” rocks the pews while “No Pussy Blues” sounds triumphant as well as helpless. The evening closes fittingly with the eponymous “Grinderman”.

If I’m being totally honest, I almost don’t count Grinderman as a separate band – despite what Cap’n Caveman clearly wants us to think. All four members are, after all, IN Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and for all the fuss about the loudness of the guitars on their two albums, it’s still not a million miles from their other recent albums – except with slightly louder guitars. Even the NC&TBS album which comes in between “Grinderman” and “Grinderman 2” (“Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”) sounds like Grinderman. But none of this is the point.

The point is the smiles on the heavily bearded faces of these men in their forties and fifties. The point is the FUN they’re having, the playfulness in Cave’s lyrics – his best in years, and that’s saying something. The point is that you CAN do both, be BOTH the best writer of mournful religious piano ballads of your generation AND rock out with a ridiculous moustache. The most telling moment of any of Grinderman’s output is the self-revelatory “Damn!” in their best song, “No Pussy Blues”. Says it all.

If I was looking to fully understand Nick Cave then in the live setting I found what I was looking for; it’s Nick Cave's self-mocking humour that really steals the show in the end. That he can be both cool and funny, self mocking and serious all at the same time is at the heart the genius behind his act. “No Pussy Blues” makes not getting laid cool, he tells you he's tried sucking in his gut and he’s trying to stay up late and he's still just so cool about it and we end up smiling about the problem of growing older and still wanting to rock. From the way he leaps around the stage on his impossibly slender frame, you'd never know he was in his fifties and yet his lyrics don't pretend he's still twenty and angst ridden. He's middle-aged and coping fine, he's the Grinderman but that’s okay. It’s a better place to be than six feet under, he sounds like he's okay with it. He's not hiding anything and he still looks so damn cool about it. And now I know this is definitely my thing.

Man, I hope I can still leap about like that when I’M 53 years of age. I bet he feels it in the morning. But yeah, that’s it in a nutshell – he’s clever enough, talented enough, and shrewd enough to surround himself with way talented kindred spirits to do BOTH. Absolutely fantastic – a great gig by a great band… DAMN!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


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


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 “Naïve 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.

[[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.

[[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…

[[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.


“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.


[[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


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.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Little Fish / Jenny Owen Youngs / Phil Recommends... ALBUMS

Reviewer: Phil

“Baffled And Beat”: LITTLE FISH

So I was planning an article called "Phil Recommends: Little Fish" on account that I've seen them twice live and loved them - and yesterday I got their newly released debut album through the post. Sadly though, I'm a little disappointed with the album, it just doesn't feel like it represents the guitarist / drummer combo very well. Live, imagine PJ Harvey meets The White Stripes with acres of massive guitar distortion. On record, the songs are there and so are the vocals, but they don't feel as good with all that massive guitar distortion reined in for a more polished, radio-friendly sound.

Only a couple of times do we ever get brief momentary bursts of that live sound I found really inspiring. Otherwise, for a guitar / drums White Stripes-style combo, the studio polished radio-ready album is also bursting with other instruments including a very prominent bass guitar running all the way through from a guest bassist that’s mostly mixed higher than the guitar! To make a comparison, on Amanda Palmer / Dresden Dolls records there are other instruments but they never outshine the piano and vocals, always complementing them. Here, the singer / guitarist is lost most of the time and as if to add insult to the attempt to make these songs radio-ready, there isn't a single guitar solo on the whole record despite their live show featuring big face-melting searing solos!

So… well, I guess I just reviewed it there! A great live show but I expected a raw, guttural snarl of blues rock and searing vocals, rather than a polished slab of subdued radio-friendliness. I may grow to like the record anyway, there are still those great songs and vocals, but without the snarl of the live show they feel a little empty and without the simplicity of the guitar / bass combo they don't feel half as impressive. One of those moments when I remember why I don't buy many new CD's.

A final thought: it was with some sinking feeling after listening to the Little Fish album through for the first time, that I read the liner notes and discovered the album to be produced by Linda Perry! No wonder a live act I thought really stood out among the crowd has ended up sounding like everyone else! Makes you wonder why breaking bands aren’t producing their own albums in the way the internet underground now seem to be in droves, and with studio quality sound that would embarrass Jack White. Ahh well…

“Transmitter Failure”: JENNY OWEN YOUNGS

Another new artist album I bought this year was by American artist Jenny Owen Youngs. Seeing her live before her album came out, she's a lone singer / songwriter who plays a combination of country and punk songs with quirky lyrics and when she rocks she beats real punk energy from her acoustic guitar. So just up my street! But I was disappointed to find the debut album turned out to be all recorded with a guest band, with all the energy sucked out of the songs and everything rolling out like a watered down Arcade Fire which I guess is rather like what Florence and the Machine must sound like if I got around to listening to them. I'm guessing another example of record labels turning exciting live acts into more bankable album sales.

But after all this negativity, what about albums released this year I have liked?

Phil Recommends:

“Crazy For You”: BEST COAST – Debut album from the California based trio, imagine Beach Boy’s tunes recorded in your basement with noisy shoe gazing guitars and a female vocalist. It really is that awesome!!

“Volume Two”: SHE and HIM – Another slab of sixties inspired tunes from the impossibly cool Zooey Deschanel. It’s more of the same on her and M. Ward’s sophomore album but that makes it no less wonderful.

And last but not least “Junior”: KAKI KING – Miss King goes rock n roll on her fifth album to stunning results with guitar work to melt your mind and a set of songs that just get better every time you hear them. Truly awesome!

Monday, 16 August 2010


Review: MMT

Before I get into the “Dudebox Track Of The Summer” review – which is coming soon, Scout’s Honour!! – I’d like to do a round-up of some of the various demo CDs, EPs and fully produced albums (yay!) that have been pressed into my hands (often in exchange for monies or our own CDs) at the gigs, festivals and open mics we’ve been at over the last few months. It’s been another great summer for MK music, and here’s just some of what we’ve been hearing around and about…

* * *

And where better to start than the Sno!Bar? Aficionados of the Milton Keynes Acoustic Open Mic scene will no doubt know all about the Sno!Jam Sunday nights up at the Sno!Bar in the XScape – and if so, I’m sure you’ll already have a copy of their recent collection “The Sounds Of The SNO!Bar (vol.1)” (a compilation of 12 of the regular acts who frequent their open mic night… hmm, gives me an idea!)…

The CD is bookended by tracks by Isabelle, the fabulous five-piece who also act as regular hosts of the Sno!Jam night, as well as putting on gigs down in Leighton Buzzard. And if you’re keen on the kind of laid-back / soulful / summery / folky / heartfelt acoustic singer-songwriting usually on show at any of their nights, you’ll dig this. Featuring Sno!Jam regulars such as Jon Kendall, Robin Grimmer and Social Resin, I think my favourite choon is the shimmering harmonies of “The Man Who Fell Out Of The Moon”, by Isabelle escapees The Trotsky Assortment. Though it’d be a crime to omit a mention of “Girl Nowhere” by the superb (and apparently “hobosexual”!!) Jet Lagged Jeff, another legend of the local open mic world. An impressive collection.

* * *

YC Olie’s “Miss Direction EP” is a surprise. Well, a surprise to us – we’ve only ever seen him at open mics like The Cannon or the above-mentioned Sno!Jam night, where we’ve kind of got used to hearing him delivering confidently tuneful acoustic gems (and his rousing Killers cover!!). But this six-track EP is a totally different kettle of fish – it’s a balls-out fully-electric pop-metal treat!

It’s actually interesting to hear songs we’ve heard played solo live become melodic punky anthems – “Same Old Girl” and “Miss Direction” turning into much bigger, wilder beasts. Bigger, but not necessarily Better, of course. Just Different – cos naturally I like the acoustic versions too! You can hear the occasional influence of genre masters (like Green Day - listed as such under his MySpace Influences) though, and addition of these extra layers, like the buzzsaw guitars of “Anthem For The Broken Hearted” or the handclaps on “Two”, are a revelation. I’m intrigued to see what might be next for this voyage into “full band” territory. Will Olie gather together a full gang of musicians and translate these songs permanently? I think if he did they would make in instant impact on the local scene, such is the joyful catchiness of the tunes. Watch this space, I guess.

* * *

I’d like to include a brief but heartfelt “Ladies From Not Far Outside Milton Keynes” section here too – quick shout-outs therefore to Rozism who came down from Northampton and headlined our July Monkey Kettle Open Mic night. I managed to swap some Monkey Kettle CDs for her “Sketches EP”, which contains several songs from off her MySpace. “Special Brew” is well worth a listen, though her live cover of “Smelly Cat” will live long in the memory. Likewise I should also big up Jammiesammy who came up to MK to play at the Poetry Kapow! at the end of July: there’s a definite buzz growing around her charmingly wry gems – if you’ve got a short attention span check out her anthem “Weirdo-eo”, but if you’ve got any heart you’ll play them all!

* * *

And last, but by no means least - Final Clearance. We finally – after much Dudebox enthusiasm over them in the past – got to see them live when we had them headline our stage (Stage 2 – aka the Monkey Kettle Stage!) at the Great Linford Waterside Festival in June. And I was lucky enough to get not one but two of their CDs – the five track “Window Cleaners Of Amsterdam EP” (2008) and last year’s full debut album "Teenage Dreamland".

I’ve tried a few times in the past to qualify just why I enjoy their sound so much. The best I’ve managed to do till now is: in a local music scene which is predominantly teenage metal acts, acoustic solo artists or ageing blues-rock covers combos, they don’t sound like much else. But let’s unpack that a bit…

They’re an indie-rock band, for sure – but with the added weaponry of piano-keyboard and violins in their arsenal. The violin in particular makes a difference for me – it adds an elegance, an emotion, an urgency to the sound. But the more I listen, the more I’m drawn to Tom Simpson’s voice as well. Rich and deep with the occasional crack of humanity, it totally suits the band’s songwriting, complemented well by the occasional female b/vox. And let’s not forget, they make their own music videos too (see their MySpace) – as far as I’m concerned, that shows they know what it’s all about! ;-)

What makes them equally exciting to listen to on compact disc is the quality of the recordings of those songs. Both CDs were recorded in a “proper” studio (The Lodge Studios in Northampton), and it shows. The sound is rich, well-mixed and allows the songs to come through… the spiralling lead guitar runs on “After The Scream”. The heartaching harmonies and the military rhythms in the middle of “She’s So Pretty”. Great stuff.

The full album (a year on from the EP) is slightly more rounded and mature, as you’d expect. FC have a poppy, occasionally folky sensibility but that doesn’t make them inoffensive. There’s a definite edge to their music and their lyrics which shows through regularly. Phil mentioned once when we were reviewing them before that he could hear a definite “Nineties indie” influence, and that’s not a million miles off. “Stupid Things” for example calls to mind The Wedding Present, of all people. And the piano-led "The Final Word" could almost be intelligent Britpoppers Gene. But better!

Standout tracks for me are the forlorn and beautiful “Circles Round You” (again, the violin! I’m clutching at my heart) and the bouncy “She’s So Pretty” from “Teenage Dreamland”; and “Started A War” and “Naïve Child” from “Window Cleaners…” – this last I absolutely love – it’s fast becoming one of my favourite ever songs by an MK band!

So, then. Final Clearance. I hope the sale goes on and on. Check out their stock as soon as you can. Before the metaphor police come and nab me.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Venue: The Roundhouse, Camden.
Support: Hesta Prynn
Reviewer: Phil W

It was a hot evening in Camden Town, the sun still high on the early evening streets and the throng of colourful bohemians and the steam of street food pouring from vendors along the canal. It had been hot on the tube too, the air stifling, heavy and thick.

From the entrance opposite Belmont, right down to the old horse hospital, a long queue of predominantly teenage lesbians had formed, huddled against the walls of the old Victorian viaduct. A girl at the end of the queue was handing out flyers and I asked her if this was the queue for Tegan & Sara. “Yes,” she replied, “you’ve got a bit of a wait.”

The Roundhouse is a truly unique venue; built in 1847 as a railway roundhouse with turntable, it has been used as an arts venue since the 60’s. The feeling is very different from the old music halls that litter the London area though are no less spectacular.

I was up on the front row, elbows leaning on the steel railings to the right of the stage. Support act Hesta Prynn, lead singer from New York band Northern State, was here on a solo outing backed by a guitarist/bassist/fiddler with a looping Macbook and a drummer. The music was deeply pop-infused dominated by heavy drum and bass and Hesta strutted her stuff with aspirations of pop diva stardom that’s currently so vogue. But she won me over by the fourth song and I was almost tempted to buy her EP.

In 2008 I saw Tegan & Sara at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I’d only recently discovered them, via Kaki King who’d played guitar on one of their songs on their superb album The Con released that same year. At the time I remember thinking it was one of the best gigs I’d seen that year but two years later I’d been trying to remember exactly why. This question was quickly answered in what turned out to be a truly magical gig. These twin sisters are just so good! It’s in the simple, well written pop, the touching lyrical insights into life and love and their off key but emotionally grounded delivery. It’s the combination of Tegan’s straight forward punk songs and Sara’s quirky pop musings. Sara’s best moment is at the start of the set with an acoustic rendition of I Just Want Back In Your Head, Tegan’s best moment is in the set closer, the epic Nineteen, and everything inbetween was pure electricity. Their songs come alive on stage as the likable Canadian twins work the audience with a smile and a nod, oozing sincerity, and introducing songs with conversational back stories. The final encore and also the oldest song in the set, Tegan’s brilliant country infused Living Room proved to be the final highlight of another brilliant show. It was over all too soon.

Outside, the air was still warm in the night-time streets of Camden Town as revellers moved in and out of The Stables and across the canal. Queues of teenage lesbians heading for the tube.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Project Wolverine ALBUM


Review: MMT.

Is it really only six months since we reviewed Project Wolverine’s debut album? Criminy, the enthusiasm of the young, eh? Well, he’s already back with a second CD in under a year – the mammoth 17-track, hour-long “Lost Boy Blues”.

Even in this short time-frame though, a step on from “Life, Love, Loss & Politics” has definitely been taken - as you’ll probably know if you’ve caught Proj W live recently (his set at the MADCAP Battle of the Bands was one of the best gigs by a local artist we’ve seen this year!). His songwriting is developing fast – there’s still reassuring dashes of his trademark pro-Labour anti-Murdoch rhetoric, but I’m more enthused (as always) by his more personal-sounding lyrics. Generally he’s sounding more confident, more comfortable with his voice and his music.

The recordings are occasionally scrappy-edged or raw – more akin to demos perhaps, but if you’re into the lo-fi, urgent sound of a live musician then it works fine. I enjoy it. During “Won’t See Us Again” he coughs while singing, laughs and at the end chuckles “leave it in, leave it in”. And at the start of the fragile “Broken Glass” he informs us “this is another miserable one, by the way”. I think I'd call it 'downbeat' rather than 'miserable'! ;-)

So this is an impressive album. You can’t argue with his prolificity (I wish I wrote half as many songs!), but 17 tracks is a lot to get through without too many changes in the musical soundscape. I’m tempted to wonder how some of these songs might sound with a full band, or at least some bass and percussion. I think the bouncy “Walls Come Down” and “Max’s Song” would be killer. I can almost hear cellos on “Two Months Ago”… but then I do tend to hear cellos everywhere! The mournful piano on the excellent “Socialism Is For Lovers” leads into a beautiful chorus melody, maybe some strings wouldn’t be overkill?

But having said that, there is a musical development too. Quite apart from the start of the chorus to “Socialism Is For Lovers”, the laid-back “Some Girl” has a lovely shimmery guitar melody. So a lengthy work it may be, but worth persevering with – especially as an accurate snapshot of the Project Wolverine live experience.

As I described in the last review though, it’s his lyrics I’m most into. “Snap Election” is the pick of the political ones – though “Organise” (a protest song about the possibility that Cameron’s Tories might get in!) is particularly poignant in hindsight*. There’s even love songs! (“Loves You More Than I”, “Two Months Ago” etc) “Max’s Song” is possibly the best song on the CD, though I’m also very much into the pessimistic piano ballad “Sonny Boy” - and find myself singing the chorus to myself as I potter round the flat today!

Well then... a definite step on from Project Wolverine, one of the city’s most unique songwriting voices. He’s off to University at the end of the Summer, so it’ll be intriguing to see which direction that ends up sending him in! In the meantime, try and catch him live in MK if you can!

* Though on his MySpace he’s already up to date – check out new track, the bitter “Coalition Blues”!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dudebox "Track Of The Winter / Early Spring"

Yeah yeah yeah. It’s a wee bit late, like a month or something, but hey – we’re busy people! Here’s our semi-usual round-up of some great stuff we’ve blundered across while scouring the MySpaces of the great and good of the Milton Keynes music scene. As always, the bands have not asked us to do this – we’re just doing it to try and bring you some stuff you might like to hear… This time around it's Matthew & Phil on the reviewing 'decks'.

“City Reversal”: SEE WHAT HAPPENS
[[Young guitary indie rock fellas who we saw live at The Cannon back in February]]

Phil: I thought they were really good live. They created a good atmosphere. It was a breath of fresh air that they played all original stuff, I think.
MMT: When we were watching them, me and James were very much put in mind of The Bluetones, that kind of slightly post-Britpop guitar feel. And I remember – admittedly I’d had a few to drink – but I remember really enjoying the guitar solos. You don’t see many proper guitar solos any more. And they were lovely lads, as well. Friendly and enthusiastic about stuff. Which can only be a good thing.
Phil: They’ve got a lot of potential.
MMT: I really like that (makes widdly guitar noise)… is that a “riff”, would you say?
Phil: (slightly unsure) Er… yeah. That’s a riff.
MMT: A “motif”? (reiterates widdly guitar noise)
Um… I don’t know what the right word is. But it’s nice.

[[or, what some of Capdown did next]]

MMT: How aware are you of Capdown’s legacy?
Phil: I’m not particularly aware of Capdown’s legacy at all.
MMT: So you’re listening to this with fresh ears?
Phil: Yeah… it’s got a great drive, generally like it.
MMT: I really like this, it sounds intelligent musically. I like the… some kind of keyboard sound in the background is driving it, hard. They sound like they know what they’re doing.
[MMT proceeds to explain Capdown’s legacy to Phil without really knowing that much about it either other than what he’s read in magazines]

“Take Your Chance”: THE MAZE
[[The new band from former members of last Summer’s Indie smashers Equinox]]

Phil: I like that reducing of everything down to just like, a vocal and a bass.
MMT: The recording’s not quite as polished as some of the other bands we’ve heard tonight, but then they’ve only been going a few months.
Phil: There’s still something interesting and innovative about their music.
MMT: I love when the little keyboard/piano riff comes back in.
Phil: Yeah… it’s creative, it’s interesting, and it’s fun.
MMT: This middle bit is brilliant. Listen to that solo!
Phil: It’s like a lot of ideas coming together at once.

[[Crystal-clear folky rock from a five-piece who recently appeared in one of the first ever Featured Act slots at our all-new Monkey Kettle Open Mic nights]]

MMT: What was good about them at the Open Mic night was that they mixed their own stuff with some really good soul-pop covers from the 60s, drew people in. Obviously this track has a harder edge, because it’s not their acoustic incarnation.
Phil: It rocks! Here they sound much more edgy to me, more interesting. I really like this.
MMT: It’s really tight, really polished.
Phil: It’s good. Very good.
MMT: I bet they’re excellent at festivals. I’d love to see them play Folk on the Green. That’d be an ideal summer’s afternoon!

[[Now based in London but native to MK, these prog-metallers have toured Europe and are tipped as ones to watch in 2010 by Rock Sound Magazine no less! So I doubt they need our praise, but…]]

Phil: (enthusiastic) Yeah! I really like it. It’s one of the first acts that we’ve reviewed that I would actually think “I would buy this on CD”.
MMT: There’s light and shade. It’s not just relentless metal.
Phil: I like it.
MMT: Their MySpace profile has had over 600,000 views, and they’ve got almost 18,000 Friends. They’re on Scuzz TV. They’ve got upcoming gigs in Russia, Germany, Poland, Switzerland. I think it’s probably ridiculous for us to even consider criticising it in any way, given that they’ve gone way beyond the confines of Milton Keynes and are successful in a world such as we will never know… but I would listen to their album. It’s rare that I would say that about a Metal band from Milton Keynes.

[[Ever-popular Bletchley rockers, coming soon to a Monkey Kettle Waterside Stage near you!!]]

MMT: I have Disciples of Gonzo firmly in my head as a ‘good-time’ band.
Phil: They’re the “Cheap Trick” of Milton Keynes.
MMT: I don’t know what that means.
Phil: They were a ‘good-time’ band.
MMT: This is punky pop, though we’ve also seen them play, I dunno, folky acoustic rock? There’s always an energy to them, though.
Phil: They’re playing rock n’ roll music. I totally dig that. And they’re right up my street with the sentiment behind this song.
MMT: You can hear the smiles on their faces.

“Freedom”: SOLSTICE
[[Incredibly long-lived folk-rock leviathans (formed in 1980!) continue to go strong with this joyous choral number]]

Phil: It’s not a genre of music that I’m that into, but it’s perfectly listenable. Perfect for an afternoon slot at a festival.
MMT: I hope they carry on for ever. And there’ll always be a festival somewhere where they’re playing.
Phil: Whether or not I like the music, I get the impression that they love doing it, and they love playing it. They’re living the dream!
MMT: These guys, and in fact This Contrast Kills with their Capdown heritage, and TesseracT too – I think it’s important to celebrate that these bands are successful Milton Keynes bands – not necessarily genres we would listen to on a daily basis, but legitimately big acts that started round these here parts. And maybe don’t get lumped together into the same basket.

“MidgetDayCake (The Song The Audience Named)” : W.A.s
[[When we last saw them - at MonKeyVision – they were brilliantly scrappy teen-punk oiks. However, it sounds like they’re ‘coming of age’, as t’were…]]

MMT: I guess there’s a true story behind the song title! But… it’s completely – it’s almost like a different band.
Phil: It’s really Gothy… it’s like Type O Negative or something. I love the guitar sound.
MMT: I think it’s an incredible vocal. The falsetto there. And I love the way it moves in between slow and fast as well.
Phil: I love the genre-swapping.
MMT: Now this bit’s like punk but through a filter. It feels… genuinely mental.


[[Their second successive Dudebox Track Of The Season Runner-Up track (and it was a very close-run thing) – with some breaking news!]]

MMT: I think it’s criminal how much I’ve liked all the stuff we’ve heard by them on their MySpace etc, but we’ve failed to see them live. I absolutely love this, I think it’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard from a Milton Keynes band. They don’t sound like anything else round here at the moment, that’s what I find so refreshing I think. I love their orchestral flavour as well.
Phil: I agree. Are we allowed to keep praising them every time? I’d really like to see them live. You can list lots of people they sound a bit like, but… they sound like themselves.
MMT: That guitar solo’s great. And also – what’s not to like about a band who make their own videos? They’ve got The Theory in place.
Phil: I really love it.
MMT: We should so go and see them.
Phil: It’s a pact, dude.

[[STOP PRESS – Final Clearance are now confirmed in one of the headline slots for the Monkey Kettle Stage at the Waterside Festival this year – so Matthew & Phil will finally have their dream come true. Bless them!]]


“Where Do We Go?”: LECARLA
[[Fast-rising young polished punk-metallers just back from a national tour]]

Phil: It’s great. It’s well-produced, a well-put-together song. They’re tight, they sound great… um… I’m almost sceptical of their very existence!
MMT: Yeah, they’re almost too good to be true! It seems the full package, a really good MySpace, they’re touring nationally…
Phil: They’re all well-written, well-structured songs. They’re very talented kids. I love the big guitar sound… the big, massive guitar sound. The anthemicness of the song. I like the Quiet-Loud dynamic. I like the sparing use of screaming… there’s a little bit of screaming, just to keep you interested…
MMT: - if you like screaming!
Phil: With bands like this and TesseracT I begin to wonder what The Dudebox is about – whether they’re almost too big for us.
MMT: Beyond our radar? Well, they’re still bands connected to Milton Keynes in some way. Like Felix, who aren’t based in MK at all but make me very excited nonetheless. No, if I saw them [Lecarla] on “Scuzz” I’d think… that’s the sort of band I like.
Phil: It just feels fun, and exciting. And it feels like it’s the music they want to be playing.

Monday, 26 April 2010

TURN IT UP Battle of the Bands - The Final

THE FINAL – Saturday night

Well, it’s been a great week for me behind the seating rake, but all good things must come to an end – and on Saturday night the biggest audience of all the four nights (as you’d imagine) gathered to watch Hikaru, SuperMassiveMonkeyMen (yes, Men not Man, despite what the compere says!) and Knuckle*Down compete for the title of Turn It Up winner.

Before we get down to business, a massive shout out to Gawaine and the MADCAP Music Project in general – this has been a great advert to the work they’re doing with young people, and I’ve been impressed most of all by the sheer variety of bands they seem to be encouraging and developing! Kudos!


It’s nice to be able to see Hikaru get a second bite at the cherry – tonight their sound and mix are far better than Thursday night, and you really got the full benefit of their quiet-LOUD metal dynamic. I also realise that when I praised one of their lead guitarist’s work the other night, I’d missed the fact that the other lead guitarist is every bit as good – this time he’s higher in the mix and you can hear how well he can play too. It might not be 'my kind of thing' necessarily, but Hikaru definitely deserve to be classed up there alongside any other young MK band in this genre.

Phil sez: “Solid alt-metal in the vein of System Of A Down complete with a cover of Toxicity and some stunning guitar and drum work.”


It’s another casually confident set from the SuperMassiveMonkeyMen – some of the same songs from last night sound just as fresh, and there’s some new tracks thrown in too for good measure. The last song (Myles later claims many of them don't have titles??) is a doomy epic which shows another angle to them, and overall I genuinely dig their cheerful scuzz-rock sound. It’s right up my alley anyway of course, but for me – Band Of The Week.

Phil sez: “Brilliant indie rock, this is much more my thing, with great songs, some sharp guitar work and a solid rhythm section that holds it all together.”


But really you'd have to say that the competition has saved one of the most impressive sets for last. Knuckle*Down seem to have managed to bring along the biggest fanbase, and clearly fancied their chances of winning as a consequence, which helped them. They just seemed livelier, more sure of themselves tonight – and the crowd responded. It’s a joyous, friendly rush through their songs – the singer has us in the palm of his hand, even organising a stage invasion (benevolent rather than revolutionary!). A day later, two days later and I still have their anthem “We Are Knuckle*Down” going round and round in my head.

Phil sez: “These guys really picked up their game tonight and gave us a very solid performance of their hip-hop infused alt-metal. They were definitely a crowd favourite and when the kids invaded the stage it was no surprise they ended up winning.”


Yes, Phil’s on the money. Knuckle*Down were the winners, and given their massive popularity on the night no-one can have any complaints. As local bands go their sound is fresh and energetic – and in their frontman they have a unique weapon. But all three bands tonight – in fact all the bands we’ve seen this week – have had something to offer, and should all be proud of themselves in their own way. I gather several of the acts already have plans to take indefinite hiatuses come the Summer when University beckons, but if they do they can go out with their heads held high. And just maybe form new bands at Uni and come back and play at MADCAP again some day! Thanks for listening.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

TURN IT UP Battle of the Bands - Heat # 3

HEAT THREE – Friday night

There’s not really any getting round the fact there weren’t many people there Friday night. With two bands dropping out this time thus halving (at least) the number of fans in attendance, I briefly considered nipping off for a shave and trying to sneak in at the last minute as a battered-looking 19 year old a capella singer. But for the two bands that did show: SuperMassiveMonkeyMen and Northampton’s The Lab Rats, it was a great chance to make Saturday night’s final…


There’s a deceptive ease to the way frontman Myles plays guitar and provides the focus for SuperMassiveMonkeyMen. He comes across as casual and self-deprecating (introducing their best song with an apology that they’ll probably get it wrong!), and appears to be laidback while simultaneously playing what seems to me at least to be pretty complex lead guitar riffs. They’re an indie-punk trio with a dash of scuzzy blues at times – the bass player and drummer form an exceedingly tight, reliable rhythm section for Myles to play over. Despite the circumstances they play a really impressive set, one of the best of the week for me.


It’s difficult to review The Lab Rats without mentioning the Arctic Monkeys – I lost count near the end, but I think 6 or 7 of their 10-song set were covers of Sheffield’s finest. They did them pretty well, don't get me wrong – but it was so Arctics-heavy a set that by the time they played some other stuff I couldn’t get the Arctics out of my head! The singer-rhythm guitar kid seemed to be smashed off his box to start with, mumbling and repeating himself in between the songs, but wasn’t having any problem with the lyrics at least. Their best choon was called “Danny’s Riff”, which had a kind of reggae beat – I’m assuming that one wasn’t a cover, which bodes well for them in the future. They finished with “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” (of course!) and a cover of “Wipeout” which showed how good the drummer was – that one takes stamina!


In the end I think this was one of those weird-vibed gigs that all young bands – and some not so young, I can vouch for that! – have to go through at one stage or another. For the first time this week though I backed a winner – SuperMassiveMonkeyMen sneaked it and take their place in the Grand Final with Knuckle*Down and Hikaru... and it’s anyone’s guess who could take the ultimate crown! I’m looking forward to finding out!

Friday, 23 April 2010

TURN IT UP Battle of the Bands - Heat # 2

HEAT TWO – Thursday night

The curse of the teen bands has struck again and for the second night in a row (and a third tomorrow already confirmed) one of the bands has dropped out, leaving a straight three-way dust-up between Hikaru, The Abyss and Project Wolverine. It’s immediately obvious that the audience appears to be split into two big gangs brought along by the two full bands – so which one has brought the most? Or can the acoustic stylings of Project Wolverine split the vote? Away we go!


In a way, Hikaru are a lot more like I was expecting the bands competing in a 14 – 19 year old Battle of the Bands to sound - I’d describe them as “metally metal”. Brilliantly, they apologise for their second vocalist’s absence – “he does the screams”. The lead vocalist does his best to make up for it though, foot up on the monitor he switches between singing and growling gutturally. But they’re good musicians into the bargain: the drummer and the lead guitarist are particularly noticeable - the rhythms are a barrage, and the widdly soloing produced by the little dude on lead is impressive. Despite the slightly muddy sound, I enjoyed the three songs, particularly the second one which contains a gothy circling riff.

Phil sez: "Dude, I totally missed them! I can't believe they started on time!"


The Abyss have a metal sound too, but it’s a more regimented yet melodic affair. Their mix seems better, their riffs heavier and more precise. I’m struggling to think which band they remind me of when on their fourth song they announce “this is our second System Of A Down cover tonight, this is Chop Suey”. Aha! Overall, their second track was their best, I don’t think that was a SOAD cover – though I did get a bit busy at the bar, so I didn’t see the whole set, just heard it. But there’s a nice balance to their loudness and quietness. Good stuff. Also, they’re all dressed in black except the guitarist on the left who clearly didn’t get the memo!

Phil sez: “Solid alterna-metal, I liked the second song best with the slightly more melodic feel that almost echoed My Bloody Valentine, and the final instrumental closer with the surfy guitar lead.”


Regular Monkey Kettle watchers will know that we have “previous” with the fantastic Project Wolverine, so hopefully this won’t sound too biased. As if already resigned to not winning – he later told us that if he’d got through to the final he’d have struggled to book the night off work! – Proj W is relaxed enough with the audience to banter away, yet also seemingly determined to get through as many songs as he can while he’s on the stage! He manages twelve choons, easily more than the other two bands put together! Many of his classic left-leaning anthems are included, along with a Billy Bragg cover - and he’s even stuck a “Vote Labour” poster on the front monitor! But I’m really pleased to hear his newer songs also contain some even more well-turned lyrics about life and love. In fact my “Tune Of The Night” combines both: “Socialism Is For Lovers”. There’s widespread singing along from the audience, plus a philosophical discussion on the nature of Metaphor. What more could you ask? Coming soon to an Open Mic near you!!! ;-)

Phil sez: “A brilliant almost-headline set from Project Wolverine, with intelligent song writing and a confident performance he won over the crowd with his tales of teenage woe in the Mirror City. If I could choose, he'd have been the winner.”


I don’t think it’ll surprise you that my vote (I made sure I got a voting slip this time!) was for Project Wolverine too, but the biggest army of fans was clearly brought by Hikaru – they join Knuckle*Down in Saturday’s final. Just one slot left – who will join them?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

TURN IT UP Battle of the Bands - Heat # 1

HEAT ONE – Wednesday night

I’m not sure of all the rules to “Turn It Up” – for example in Heat One each band played a different number of songs and were on stage for differing lengths of time! I do know that the acts have to be between 14 and 19, and that many of them hail from MADCAP’s ace Music Project – as do the technical crew, who did a great job with the lights, sound and smoke! Apart from some of the band’s parents and Gawaine who runs the Music Project, me Phil and DJ Mikey seemed to be the only grown-ups in the building! Cripes! Another brilliant example of the self-sufficiency which MADCAP instils in da kidz.

Oh, though I mustn’t forget (of course!) the legendary Baron Makabre who’s our compere for the duration of the competition. I’m sure he won’t mind me describing him as horrific, terrifying and blood-curdling – and the crowd seem to love him! He performs a set of his own while the votes are being counted, and manages to whip up a mosh-pit and a stage invasion!

One of the four acts scheduled to appear are now off the bill, so it’s down to a three-way fight for the first of the Final slots between Knuckle*Down, Soul Of A Kid and Apple And The Core. Let battle commence!


Opening the competition with a hefty funk-rock clatter, “We Are Knuckledown” sets out the band’s stall. The frontman sounds very much like he hails from America, and his semi-rap vocals are definitely the main attraction, he’s a charismatic focal point. They cleverly manage to give us their complete MySpace address in the intro to their first song - now that's media-savvy! But it’s their third and final song which is the stand-out, adding a dark melody to the beef.

Phil sez: “Down tuned funk metal with attitude! Every song stands out on its own but its their last song that really shines and grooves with an unlikely Joy Division vibe.”


Soul Of A Kid are an acoustic duo, George & Manny. Both have genuinely touching soul-infused voices, and while George strums Manny sings and jerks his arms seemingly uncontrollably – like he’s got Tourettes of the limbs! Their second song is a cover of Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved”, which goes down really well with the crowd, who sing along so enthusiastically I’m moved to ask Phil “dude… when did it become okay to like Maroon 5 again? Did I miss a meeting?” Their best song is their third one too, “Hope”, where Manny (hopefully I’ve got the two the right way round) raps the verses, it’s an effective mix.

Phil sez: “Intelligent, emotional and quite beautiful, they certainly bring some soul to the evening.”


Remarkably, this is Apple And The Core’s first ever gig – having amalgamated together as a band specifically for this competition and the few months they have left before they all leave for University! Their main skill is their multi-instrumentalism: between the five of them over their five-song set they incorporate: vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, beatboxing, bongos, violin, flute, oboe, piano-keyboard and the ukulele! The resulting mix is a refreshing folky orchestral pop sound, and lead singer & songwriter Philippa’s voice is very strong. The best track of the entire night comes on their second song, “Sirens”, apparently based on her A Level History homework! The only quibble you could have is that their sheer variety of instrument playing makes for a few gaps while they all switch around – but otherwise an impressively mature sound. I wish them all well in their Higher Education! :-D

Phil sez: “If I could choose the winner it'd be these guys! The songs are more engaging than Bat For Lashes… this is intelligent pop music backed by staggeringly talented multi-instrumentalists.”

The winners are... Knuckle*Down! I think I personally preferred Apple And The Core too, but you can’t argue with Democracy!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Venue: Scala, London.
Support: Anna Calvi.
Words: Phil W.

Standing alone between metal barriers at the entrance of the Scala in Kings Cross I began to suspect I may be Kaki King’s biggest fan. I had a whole twenty minutes to ponder this before anyone else joined me in the queue.

First one inside, I eagerly ascended the stairs and being a seasoned veteran of the front row, my first port of call was the bathroom. Last stop before I spend the night pressed up against the front of the stage with no room for escape! As I leave the bathroom, Kaki walks past me down the corridor and we share a momentary glance. I wonder if she recognises me from the Jazz Café. No, it’s unlikely; there must have been hundreds of gigs and hundreds of fans since then. I watch her glide away like a spectra into the bowls of the building.

There’s still no one in the main hall, everyone’s still at the bar and I take my place at the front centre of the stage. There’s no barrier tonight between the audience and the stage and I’m able to perch on the stage to chat with the people that join the audience behind me. We talk music and musicians - we’re music geeks, that’s the kind of gig this is, the kind of fans Kaki’s stuck with. We talk guitars, effects pedals, session musicians and obscure albums.

Once again Kaki is supported by the superb Anna Calvi. She opens with a massive five-minute guitar solo and it’s all up from there. Deep reverb guitar solos and passionate Latin infused vocals. As Anna’s packing away her effects pedals after the set I lean over the stage to her and ask her about CDs; there’s an album out in August apparently. It’s long overdue.

Kaki open’s with ukulele driven Spit It Back In My Mouth from the new album Junior before ploughing through a two hour set of material from all five albums. There’s a beautiful full band version of Jessica. Part way through the gig Dan and the new drummer leave the stage and Kaki dazzles us with her solo instrumental work including the epic All The Landslides Birds Have Seen Since The Beginning Of The World and the fantastic Carmine Street from her first album. “Its been a long time since I played that one!” she tells us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched footage of her playing that song on YouTube but to see her play it live now is mesmerising. Other highlights include a full band version of Pull Me Out Alive and an epic version of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid. For an encore she performs Gay Sons Of Lesbian Mothers on the lap steel and then closes with the heartbroken Sunnyside from the new album.

After the show I said hi again (I’d meet Kaki King again in July). It was another superb gig from the guitar wondergirl but what can I say, I’m a fan! Can she really be the artist I’ve been waiting for all these years? Just when I thought I was done with being a fan, an artist comes along that truly is everything I’ve been looking for. The answer may well be yes.