Saturday, 26 December 2009

My Favourite Albums of 2009

Firstly, this list is purely based on what I think. It's entirely my own opinion and certainly doesn't match up to most "Albums of 2009" lists. There's no Humbug (Although I do think it's a brilliant album), no Primary Colours (Good album; very overrated) and no It's Blitz (I haven't even heard that album to be honest). I didn't exclude these albums to seem cool or obscure, they just didn't mean anything to me. The albums I've picked all had some sort of effect on me; they either relate back to a happy memory or just made me think about things differently. Anyway enough rambling...

Reverend and The Makers - A French Kiss in The Chaos
I think I made my opinion on this album pretty clear here. Reverend and The Makers were my definitive band of 2009. No doubt when I think back to this year it'll be them that will be at the forefront of my musical memories. It may surprise you to learn that, before this year, I wasn't the biggest R&TM fan. Like everyone, I enjoyed Heavyweight Champion Of The World when it was released back in 2007 but they were always just another throwaway band I could take or leave. Seeing them live for the first time back in July changed this. Ironically, it was a gig I wasn't even planning on going to until I got offered a spot on the guestlist. I've been to plenty of gigs over the last two years, some better than others, but that gig was a bit special. Maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere, the showmanship of Jon McClure, the enthusiasm of each band member or the outside acoustic set afterwards; whatever it was, it effectuated in the most enjoyable gig I've ever been to. Even so, when A French Kiss In The Chaos was released a few weeks later, I wasn't banking on it being quite so enticing. This is a big step up from The State of Things, R&TM take everything to a new psychedelic level and Jon's politically incisive lyrics prove that someone does care. There is hope in modern music, we have someone willing to stand up and try to make a difference about stuff that actually matters. It's just a shame not many people are inclined to listen. I've seen this band live three times now and each time I've left feeling fully satisfied and judging by their on stage antics (personal highlight: trapping the roadie on stage in Edinburgh which resulted in one very beer soaked man) the band enjoy every minute of it. And that's what Reverend and The Makers are; they're fun, they're talented and, most importantly, they're real.
Album Highlights; No Soap (In A Dirty War), Hard Time For Dreamers, No Wood Just Trees.

The Rifles - Great Escape
2009 was a year of transformations. The Horrors went new wave, Franz Ferdinand went electro (well, sort of) even Jack Penate tried his hand at incorporating some new genres into his sophomore record. But amongst all this, one band stayed true to themselves - step forward The Rifles. Great Escape is simply just 11 (well 12 if you count bonus track Lazy Bones) great rock anthems. From start to finish we’re met with strong melodies, catchy choruses and lyrics anyone can relate to. First track Science In Violence is a typical in-your-face opener with it’s punchy guitar chords, crashing symbols and catchy vocal chants. This gutsy style is continued for the next few tracks until we come to the gem that is Toe Rag, undeniably one of the best lyrical tales of mundane life since The Jam gave us Smithers-Jones. But for me the real high point of the album comes in the shape of the eerily evocative Out in The Past, in my opinion the best song The Rifles have ever written. Joel Stoker’s vocal talent really shines through in this song and the last “all I saw was you” is so hauntingly beautiful that all claims of The Rifles being another lad-rock band are blown right out of the water. This is further backed up by the lone ballad of the album, closer For The Meantime, a Beatles inspired track that sounds maybe a little too like Strawberry Fields Forever. Great Escape might not be a ground breaking album, it may not be anything we haven’t heard before; it’s simple but it’s brilliant.
Album Highlights; Out in The Past, Toe Rag, Sometimes.

Frank Turner - Poetry of The Deed
The first time I listened to this album I was disappointed. See, what initially attracted me to Frank Turner was the passion with which he delivered his vocals and Poetry of The Deed just seemed a whole lot less...angry than his previous two releases. But the truth is, Frank hasn't got any less passionate - he's just simply matured. So that's why, after a few listens, I learned to love Poetry of The Deed for what it is; a brilliant album by a brilliant artist, regardless of how it compares to Love Ire & Song and Sleep is For The Week. One thing that has remained constant throughout all three of Frank's albums is his lyrics, you'll be hard pushed to find any modern songwriter with lyrics as great as his. This is proven in the albums shining moment Try This At Home were Frank tells us "there's no such thing as rockstars/there's just people who play music/and some of them are just like us/and some of them are dicks". While this is the album's best track it's by no means isolated at the top. Poetry of The Deed is crammed full of emotive tracks that give us an insight into Frank's life and cement his place as a folk-punk troubadour well worthy of Billy Bragg comparisons. As well as his talent at producing fantastic albums, Frank also happens to be one of the best live acts I saw this year so I'd advise you to snap up tickets for his upcoming tour before it's too late!
Album Highlights; Try This At Home, Live Fast Die Old, The Road.

Yves Klein Blue - Ragged & Ecstatic
Yves Klein Blue are probably my favourite discovery of this year. The Brisbane four piece made such an impact on me live that I got their debut album shipped over from Australia. Ragged & Ecstatic is an eclectic collection of uplifting pop delights. It’s exactly what a debut album should be - fun, infectious and full of youthful energy, with Michael Tomlinson’s impassioned and witty lyricism at the forefront of it’s appeal. Songs such as Make Up Your Mind and Getting Wise showcase Tomlinson’s unique vocal style as well as allowing the band’s ebullient personalities to shine through before the album briefly loses control with the boldly named Digital Love, a much heavier number. That’s one of the most impressive aspects of this album; the band’s seemingly effortless capability of sliding between joyous and playful (the ska-tinged Summer Sheets) and dark and contemplative (Celebrity Death; a chilling ballad inspired by the media’s treatment of celebrities). Ragged & Ecstatic is as inventive and imaginative as anything you will have heard this year. Tomlinson’s lyrics manage to effectively convey his views on life, in both a personal and universal manner, and successfully prompt us Into considering our own place in this world. I don’t like to tempt fate but the sheer swagger and energy of this record is reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys or even, dare I say it, The Libertines.
Album Highlights: Polka, Make Up Your Mind, Reprise.

Fake Problems - It's Great To Be Alive
If the world has any sense Fake Problems will make it big in 2010. I really enjoyed their debut album, How Far Our Bodies, go but this is just something else! The aptly named It’s Great To Be Alive is a quirky collection of quality punk songs. In fact, no, better than that; punk songs that you can dance too. It’s obvious Fake Problems enjoy experimenting with their music. Take Dream Team for example, it has handclaps, cowbells AND xylophone, how many bands could comfortably pull that one off ?! The entire album is interspersed with unconventional little touches like this which help Fake Problems stand out a little from the crowd. Closing song, the uplifting indie-rock anthem Heart BPM is one of the greatest things I’ve heard all year and ends the album on an awesome singalong of “When you're young/ When you're dumb/ When you're drunk as hell and in love/When you're sad/When you're no on/ Pretend you're something more than you are/But your not”, a chorus which proves Fake Problems have progressed lyrically as well as musically. These guys are touring the UK in April and I can vouch that their live show is even more impressive than their recorded work so get involved!
Album Highlights: Heart BPM, Tabernacle Song, Dream Team.

Twin Atlantic - Vivarium
Okay, it’s a mini album…but I’m still counting it. I don’t download leaks, ever, so by the time this came out I was probably one of the only massive Twin Atlantic fans that hadn’t already heard it. And the reviews I’d heard from fellow devotees weren’t too positive. The main gripe appeared to be that there was only one song on the entire album (Better Weather) that we hadn’t already heard, whether that be live or recorded. For me, that isn’t a problem. Vivarium is a collection of Twin Atlantic’s best songs to date, it’s not aimed at hardcore fans, it’s a way of letting new listeners hear exactly what the band are all about. And for that purpose it’s perfect. The album immediately reels us in with the explosive Lightspeed and is essentially non stop catchy hooks and ferocious drums for the next six songs. A highlight comes in the form of Caribbean War Syndrome, starting off pretty mellow there’s always the threat of an explosion and it comes a minute from the end of this epic six minuter as Sam screams “This campaign is criminal, criminal scream fucking insane/Bring me the contract, sign me up to blow these fuckers away”. The boys manage to blend a bit of tranquillity in with all that ferocity with last song Better Weather, it was always a brave decision to leave out fan favourite Crash Land but this beautifully written rock ballad more than makes up for it!
Album Highlights: Human After All, Caribbean War Syndrome, Audience And Audio

Jersey Budd - Wonderlands
There’s been a fair bit of hype surrounding Leicester singer-songwriter Jersey Budd; he’s best mates with The Rifles, he attended the same school as Kasabian (Tom makes an appearance on She Came Back)…heck, he even received a Christmas present from Liam Gallagher! But for a change the hype is well justified. Wonderlands is a solid debut and has resulted in many declaring Jersey the “British Bruce Springsteen”. And it’d be hard to argue with that - he has the looks, the charm and, most importantly, the tunes to become just as big as The Boss. This may not be the most profound album of the year but Jersey’s optimistic take on life, which is displayed in the lyrics to most of the album, along with his wonderful voice and lovely instrumentation (organs, pianos, strings…Wonderlands has it all) combine for something nearing perfect. Each track has it’s place on the album and I wouldn’t class any of them as fillers, something which is quite rare these days. It’s also worth checking out his b-sides (Step Out of The Shadows and Long Way To Go) which also have something to offer.
Album Highlights: Visions of You, When We Shine, All In A Dream

Other Albums I Enjoyed This Year
Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top
Idlewild - Post Electric Blues
Dave House - Intersections
Maximo Park - Quicken The Heart
White Lies - To Lose My Life
Richard Hawley - True Love's Gutter
The Cribs - Ignore The Ignorant
Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
The Maccabees - Wall Of Arms
Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Julian Casablances - Phrazes For The Young
Florence + The Machine - Lungs
Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls

Thursday, 24 December 2009


As it's Christmas Eve and you're no doubt sick of hearing cheesy Christmas songs everywhere you go...have another one;

"The Magic of Christmas" was written by Bright Light, Bright Light's Rod Thomas and features a whole host of musicians such as; Copy Haho, Los Campesinos!, Slow Club, Sparky Deathcap, Sky Larkin, Dananananaykroyd + many more. It makes a nice change to hear a good, wholesome Christmas song by decent artists instead of the usual commercialised pop bands, I've listened to this non stop for the past few weeks and don't even feel guilty! Anyway you can download it for a mere 69p from here. All proceeds go to the RSPCA so support the cause.

While you're at it check out one of my favourite Christmas songs; "It's Christmas So We'll Stop" by the wonderful Frightened Rabbit. This is 5 minutes of pure perfection. It may not be your typical cheery festive song but Scott Hutchinson's sheer passion mixed with heartfelt lyrics and a well placed string section and choir makes this a poignantly beautiful song. Obviously they only get to play it live once each year and I was lucky enough to catch their Christmas show at the ABC in Glasgow a few days back and I must say it was one of my favourite gig moments of 2009!

(credit to Susied89)

This year the newspaper The Sun ran their own "12 Days of Christmas" which involved 12 different artist covering festive classics. I haven't watched most of them (to be fair I'm not really interested in Mika or The Twang) but The Rifles and Jersey Budd were on fantastic form with their fun filled version of Sleigh Ride.

And finally, it may not be music but I think this is worth checking out. Jon McClure (Aka Reverend of Reverend and the Makers) has written a series of short films, the first one being about the lies children are told at Christmas etc. The main guy in the film also stars in R&TM's No Soap (In A Dirty War) video and there's also appearances from the lovely Laura Manuel and Andy Nicholson (former Arctic Monkey, current Book Club-er and soon to be Maker).

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Courteeners - Cross My Heart & Hope To Fly

The first time I heard this song, on Zane Lowe's first play naturally, I had to pause it to make sure there was no background music playing. In my defence the intro is just about as far away from anything on St Jude as possible. Only when Liam Fray's vocals kick in does this bare any resemblance to a Courteeners tune

To start with I wasn't too sure about all the "oooh's", it just didn't seem right. How could the band that gave us the rawness of Kimberly and the simplicity of Please Don't produce something so...grand. Two or three listens later and I loved it. Different doesn't always have to mean bad and in this case it certainly doesn't. Cross My Heart & Hope To Fly keeps all that's good from The Courteeners first album - danceable riffs, catchy hooks and Liam's fantastic lyrics - and then just takes everything up a notch (and it has handclaps, any song that includes handclaps is a winner to me!). Hearing this has given me high hopes for the tour in March. If this song's anything to go by then second album Falcon should be a stormer!

Download Cross My Heart & Hope To Fly
And Pre Order Falcon

Unsigned Band #2 - The Backhanded Compliments

Formed from the ashes of Milburn and Union City, The Backhanded Compliments are Tom Rowley (Vocals & Guitar), Ryan Sellars (Bass) and Joe Green (Drums). Being a massive Milburn fan I got into these guys pretty much as soon as they started. Fast forward a year and a bit later and I finally got to see them live supporting Reverend and The Makers at the HMV Picture House.

The Backhanded Compliments almost seem like a natural progression from Milburn - darker, heavier and more mature but still with the same Northern charm. The biggest difference lies in the nature of the lyrics. BHC's lyrics are more cryptic, even sinister at times, which sets them apart from most modern day indie bands. In fact only Tom's vocals, sung with a strong Sheffield accent, will give critics an excuse to label them "indie". That's not to say his voice is generic though. In fact it's pretty unique, harsher than Joe Carnall's, it suits the band's songs perfectly.

Unfortunately, thanks to a stupidly early stage time, not many people were inside the Picture House by the time The Backhanded Compliments took to the stage. Which is a shame considering they put in an exceptional performance. For being a three piece they make an insane amount of noise. To have a sound that fills an almost empty 1500 capacity venue is no mean feat but these guys make it look easy. It’s obvious that, individually, the three of them are outstanding musicians. Tom manages to produce layer upon layer of guitar work (which includes some superb riffs) and still pull off a perfect vocal performance whilst Ryan quietly holds everything together on bass. However the real star of the show has to be Greeny, I've genuinely never seen anyone drum with such ferocity and pace. He truly has to be one of the best drummers I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live.

My only complaint would be that their set was far too short, it felt like second support Yves Klein Blue (who also put on an impressive display) were on for twice as long as The Backhanded Compliments. Nonetheless, the six or seven songs they did play - which included my favourite, Master of Disguise, and the awesome The Devil Digs Down - showcased their ability and, if they conversation I overheard after they finished is anything to go by, managed to make a good few people take note.

I can honestly say that, even if Reverend and The Makers weren't fantastic as always, it would still have been worth the lonely journey to Edinburgh and the £18 (!) train fare just to see The Backhanded Compliments live. These guys are well worth checking out; imagine Milburn meets some of the songs from Humbug, only a lot more intricate. Add a hint of Queens of The Stone Age plus some Nick Cave inspired lyrics and you're almost there. Then again, as always, I'm biased.

The Devil Digs Down;

Master of Disguise;

Official Site

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Boxer Rebellion - Union

The Boxer Rebellion may not be a house hold name but they’ve certainly had their fair share of success. When second album Union was first released, digitally only, it briefly outsold both Coldplay and Kings of Leon on the US itunes chart. They’re hoping this physical release will propel them into the public eye proper and with a sound this grand it would be a travesty if they didn’t succeed.

Union opens with pounding drums and a simple acappella verse. By the end of first song "Flashing Red Light Means Go" we have an epic, atmospheric sound, fronted by singer Nathan Nicholson's breathtaking falsetto. And that's exactly what The Boxer Rebellion are all about. Starting off simple and low key, each song grows and grows until it transforms into a stadium filling anthem.

Unfortunately, not every song is as effective as "Flashing Red Light Means Go". On occasion the band seem to take advantage of Nathan's vocals, throwing them in when they're simply unnecessary. “Misplaced”, for example, could have been one of the stronger tracks on the album had it not been for the final minute or so of high pitched vocals that made it a relentlessly difficult listen.

However, when The Boxer Rebellion are on form, they’re REALLY on form. “Forces” is a definite highlight of the album, it’s almost Editors-esque with soaring guitars, Nathan’s perfect vocals and some truly impressive drumming from Piers Hewitt.

An unfortunate trend that seems to occur throughout the album is a lack of depth to the lyrics but to be honest with music like this the lyrics can easily be overlooked. This is a solid second album from The Boxer Rebellion with some flashes of genius thrown in for good measure. At times you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the album Coldplay have been trying to make for the past few years.

Official Site

Monday, 21 September 2009

Wave Machines - Punk Spirit

A song "dedicated to anyone who ever ran away from a fight, then daydreamed an epic victory from the safety of their bed" Punk Spirit is a far cry from anything else Wave Machines have to offer. And that's no bad thing.

Singer Tim Bruzon delivers lyrics full of anger and disappointment in an ironically calm and understated manner. Punk Spirit is a compellingly beautiful, and at times even delicate, song. There’s something truly sad about this song, even the charming “ahahs” don’t stop it from being a melancholy affair. But everyone needs a bit of depressing music in their life and I can’t think of a better song to soundtrack the bad times than this simple but effective number.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Twin Atlantic - 14th/15th September

I'm not going to do another proper Twin review, as I'm sure is obvious (check the title of the blog perhaps?) I like them a lot so it's hard not to be biased. Basically on Monday their mini album Vivarium was released (it's perfect - buy it ;]) and to celebrate they played a special secret gig in the Winter Gardens.

The idea was basically to get up at "stupid o'clock" as Ross put it and go down to HMV or Avalanche to get wristbands which would admit you to the gig. Thanks to school we couldn't go but Holly and Eilidh got us some wristbands so at 7 we found ourselves at Winter Gardens with 200 or so other fans. The venue was perfect (though extremely warm) as, with all its plants etc, it tied in with the album title. The gig itself was just fantastic, probably the best I've ever seen Twin, they played the full of Vivarium plus Crash Land, A Guidance From Colour, I Cave In and Time is The Enemy - in my opinion the best setlist possible. A great night was had by all and after a quick root about for anything we could find (we ended up with a setlist, a plectrum and a flower between us) we headed home.
(the result of not bringing a camera, but you get the idea)
Tuesday saw the guys do a signing at Avalanche Records. Firstly, apologies to anyone we annoyed in the queue, Shannon and Eilidh's birthdays were on Monday/Tuesday and we decided to celebrate by eating cake and playing with a bubble gun. Anyway the signing was pretty fun, had a nice chat with Barry and Ross about, well...everything really. Turns out Ross lives round the corner from me. After the signing Sam played a couple of acoustic songs outside which was a nice touch! Seriously these are some of the nicest guys you could ever meet, add that to the fact they're bloody awesome and you've got yourself a must see band. Roll on October 2nd!!!

(not my video, credit to connorsonfire)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Unsigned Band #1 - The Gap Year Riot!

The Gap Year Riot! are a five peice pop band from Glasgow. I first seen these guys last July and it's been a privelage to watch them grow into a brilliant live act. Over the past year we've become really good friends with them and it's clear no matter how many fans they get (and trust me, they're getting a lot) they'll always have time to speak to every single one of them. Taking influence from bands such as Kids In Glass Houses TGYR! have been gigging all round the UK playing their brand of charming pop punk and winning over legions of fans (admittedly a lot of them being young girls). I'd advise you to try catch this band live before they become the "next big thing". Anyway here's an interview myself and Shannon conducted with them a month or so ago. Read on to hear about pre gig rituals, Aberdeen nightmares and a rather scary Girls Aloud obsession...

So The Gap Year Riot! Introduce yourselves and tell us what you do in the band.
I am Fraser, I don't know why I'm waving cause there's no camera, and I sing.
Neil: Hi, I'm Neil I play keys.
Ian: I'm Ian and I play bass guitar

How did the band form and where did you get your name from?
Myself, Neil and Franky were in an old band and we got together with Cruise to play a couple of shows when our old bass player left, we quite liked him, he was a nice gentleman so we asked him to join! And our old guitarist left as well so we got Dave cause we knew him through work and we asked him to come along.
Ian: We got the name travelling back from recording and we needed a name and we thought that we had such fun on our way up from recording that it was a wee bit like being on holiday so we decided that being in the band was just like being on a big holiday so we named our band after that.
Fraser: A big gap year, just basically having a good time and not worrying about the consequences of your actions. Yeah so that's how The Gap Year Riot came about, it was Ian Cruise's name but...he shares it with us.
Ian: Yeah that's why I had to change my name to Ian Cruise, cause I was called The Gap Year Riot!

So describe the bands sound:
Fraser: I don't know how you'd describe it...I think that we are influenced by quite a lot of American bands as well as British bands, the fact that we have keyboard and use piano sounds sets us apart from a lot of bands that just have the two guitars. We have very much a sort of pop influence I would say, bands like Kids In Glass Houses, we like to make sure we've got a lot of melody in our songs and just try and write songs that are catchy and folk are going to enjoy listening to. What do you think Neil?
Neil: I think that pretty much sums it up.
Ian: Rockpopular!
Fraser: Rockpopular...because we're rock but we want to be popular!
Neil: You can cut that bit out...

Have you released anything so far?
Fraser: Yeah we brought a single out in March
Ian: Hush Hush, it's available on itunes to this day!
Fraser: Ian! Don't plug it!
Ian: I can't help it, it's on my notes I have to plug it!
Fraser: Yeah so we brought out Hush Hush as a single mid march and we have another single coming out towards the end of the year and we just released a free download a couple of weeks ago called Throwing Shapes which you can get on our myspace page so just head along there and check it out!

What's the songwriting process and who writes most of the songs?
Mainly shared between Neil and I, I'd say it was 50/50 at the moment. Generally either Neil or I will come into the studio with the basic idea, like Neil will have the piano part written or I'll have the bass part written and then we'll just kinda build it from there. Everybody writes their own parts.
Fraser: Yeah we just sort of throw ideas around and then lyrically myself, Franky and Cruise sort of take turns about writing songs.
Ian: So what that means is that Neil and I turn up with something and they say that's no good try again and we keep having to come back and come back until it suits!
Fraser: That is quite true!

Would you say that you have any idols? Anyone you look up to musically?
Fraser: My favourite frontman is Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday just because I like the way he commands the stage so he's certainly someone I take influence from in terms of charisma and stage presence. *thinks* Cruise reminds me of Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers..nah, I'm kidding on!
Ian: I really like Biffy Clyro, besides from the fact I like their music, I like the way they went around getting the way they are. They just gigged constantly making sure they built their fanbase up instead of just getting really big quickly. So they give a lot back to their fans like going up North and playing Skye and places so I really appreciate that sort of stuff.
Neil: My biggest influence is a band called Jack's Mannequin from America . I just really like their sound and I can relate to it because I also play piano.

How important are your fans to you and what involvement do they have in the band?
Fans are probably the most important part of being in a band for us because there's nothing worse than playing an empty show and the people that come along and sort of clap and sing along make the shows for us. It's the reason why we wanted to be in a band in the first place .
Ian: It's the sole reason that we do it. I think it shows how much time we spend on myspace as well. We're always on myspace, people keep commenting on how we're such a busy myspace band. We don't sleep, we've got rotas! No, I mean like they are the most important thing about being in the band, making sure we're doing things that keep the people that come see us happy, there's no point in having a big head or anything.
Fraser: Yeah I think it is, as I said, the most important thing. At shows we'll spend more time talking to folk than playing the show or sitting backstage. We're not one of those bands that'll just sit backstage and play and then go away, we like to make sure we can talk to the folk because if they make the effort to come see us it's the least we can do.

Have you got any funny tour stories?
Ian: They left me in Aberdeen once!
Fraser: We have quite a lot of strange stories, we went to Aberdeen once and Ian Cruise got quite drunk and there was a breakdown in communication, we ended up leaving without him which wasn't good! But we also broke down that day and had to spend an hour at the M73 at Stirling. Because we didn't have any breakdown cover we had to phone one of our drummer's dad's friends and he picked us up in a fruit and veg van and we had to sleep on packs of potatoes, we got home at like 7 in the morning! The next time we went to Aberdeen we got stuck in the snow, we didn't get home till again about 6 or 7 in the morning and when we got home and dumped our van Dave tried to take his car our of Franky's house were we'd all left our cars and got stuck in the snow to Neil's annoyance because he was working at 9 o'clock (Cruise: that still makes him angry!) so he couldn't get home. We were talking about that in the car in the way in today..
Neil: Yeah, I don't like to talk about it..
Fraser: It gets Neil really angry so we'll brush over that! Emm, and one of the last times we played Edinburgh Ian Cruise hit a pedestrian with his van!
Cruise: I'd just like to say on record, the sound on that video is greatly enhanced!
Fraser: Yeah so there's never a dull moment with The Gap Year Riot! But fortunately the police haven't been called...yet and we're still together so can't be anything too bad as of yet!

So have you got any pre-gig rituals?
I don't really think we do...
Ian: I like to stop all pre-gig rituals before they become too much of a habit, like singing Metro Station whilst holding hands!
Fraser: We did that once!
Ian: *looks at Fraser* yeah but certain people tried to make it a ritual..
Fraser: When Shake It came out, I mean you've got to admit it's a great song! So we sang that before we played an ABC show, I think because everybody was quite drunk to be honest! And it seemed like a good idea at the was a good idea when the music was playing through the PA but then that sorta stopped and the crowd were just waiting, I'm pretty sure folk could here us in our dressing room just singing *starts singing* "and she does it like this". Before a show we'll all just get together and maybe have a quick huddle and just wish everybody luck but other than that we don't really do anything too weird.

If you could cover one song by any band what would it be?
Ian: I'd probably like to cover a Lostprophets song I'm quite a big fan of them.
Fraser: I think we're all quite big Lostprophets fans.
Neil: Aye, I like Lostprophets.
Ian: Don't really know what song it would be though.
Fraser: Maybe Rooftops or Last Summer or something like that, good tunes. I'd quite like to cover MakeDamnSure (Taking Back Sunday song)
Ian: Or something by Girls Aloud, I'm pretty fond of them as well.
Fraser: Yeah, we've done some strange covers in our time, we've done..
Ian: Katy Perry!
Fraser: We've done Katy Perry, We've done Rihanna, some Killers, we did Lou Bega one day..
Ian: That wasn't for people, we just did that!
Fraser: We just did that practising one day, we spent three weeks learning Mambo No. 5! No I don't know, I'd like to cover Konstantine which is a song by Something Corporate which is a very much a sort of piano and vocal song that Neil and I both really like. Problem is it's like nine minutes long so I don't know whether or not we'll ever get to do that, you never know!
Ian: In a half hour set!
Fraser: Yeah if people are patient and they give us an hour to play then we might burst that out one day!

What's your dream festival line up?
Fraser: I would like to see Taking Back Sunday, one hundred percent.
Ian: Lostprophets, Kids In Glass Houses...
Fraser: You Me At Six.
Ian: Alphabeat.
Fraser: Nah we're too much like Alphabeat, I think there'd be a clash there!
Ian: True, people would get confused!
Fraser: We need to be careful that we don't name too many good bands otherwise we won't get a slot on the bill.
Ian: That's true, we might just end up being the sound guys.
Fraser: Yeah we'll just watch and seals! *does seal impression* Emm...Biffy Clyro I'd imagine you'd like to be on there Cruise, Jack's Mannequin, the list is endless.
Ian: There's quite a lot of bands we'd like to play with to be honest with you.
Fraser: We'd be quite high up on the bill though, probably main support to Taking Back Sunday!
Ian: I'd quite like Twenty Twenty to be in that gig.
Fraser: Yeah...he would as well!

Who should never have been allowed to make music?
: Probably me!
Ian: Dave Boom! (bands guitarist)
Fraser: Don't want to name a local band! *everyone laughs* We don't want to say that, that'll get us into some hot water!
Ian: I'll go get the list out!
Fraser: Eh, I don't know, who really annoys me? I don't like Glasvegas, I really really don't rate them, I don't think they do anything worthwhile whatsoever.
Ian: The View.
Fraser: The View have got some catchy songs to be honest. I quite like Skag Trendy.
Ian: Oh dear..
Fraser: We'll not go into that! I'm not really a big fan of indie music so bands like Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things are a bit of a waste of time, I'm not a big fan of them. Other than that I don't really think there's...oh the Red Hot Chilli Peppers! I can't handle them and I know that Franky hates Nickelback so I'll just put that in there. Franky's got a real problem with Chad Kroeger.
Ian: He's got a genuine big issue with him!
Fraser: Another problem is that Cruise looks kinda like Chad Kroeger so sometimes Franky has to battle that demon when we're at practice, especially when Cruise had his long blonde hair and was bursting out a bass solo. Franky was like that *mimes throwing drumstick* trying to throw a stick at him! Other than that I don't really think there's anyone that gets my goat up, what about you Neil?
Neil: Nah, I'm fine with everybody.
Ian: You're just happy with all bands ever!
Neil: There's local bands but I don't want to talk about them...
Fraser: Don't want to get into that because if this gets published...
Ian: We'll get into a turf war!
Fraser: Yeah it’ll be like Tupac and Biggie, I don't want to get shot before my time!

Have you got any guilty pleasures?
Guilty pleasures? I'm a big fan of midget gems.
Ian: And your appearance!
Fraser: And my appearance, I spend too long on my appearance which is a bit sad isn't it? It's strange actually because I never leave the house unless I've done my hair but after the first half of a song on stage my hair is an absolute riot because we're jumping around a lot so it's quite an ironic thing! No, I do eat a lot of midget gems. Bandwise? Girls Aloud!
Neil: I agree with that!
Fraser: I think that's a Gap Year Riot guilty pleasure to be honest, we are big, big fans of the girls.
Neil: Favourite song?
Fraser: Hmm I would probably have to say..
Ian: Biology.
Neil: Can't Speak French.
Fraser: I'd say Jump, I like what they did with Jump. They took a classic and they made it their own.
Neil: I'd probably say Can't Speak French or Sexy No No, that's up their with the best of them!
Cruise: I'm a fan of the early stuff...
Fraser: What's that one that goes *starts singing* something kinda ooh?
Ian: That's called Something Kinda Ooh..
Fraser: Oh is it? Well I like that one!
Neil: I like that one.
Ian: Enough Girls Aloud!

So now on to the quickfire round! Favourite breakfast food?
Fraser: Cereal..lucky charms!
Neil: Cornflakes.
Ian: Coco pops.
Fraser: That wasn't a quickfire, he needs to be faster than that surely!
Ian: Am I out?

Favourite band?
Ian: Gap Year Riot!
Neil: Jack's Mannequin.
Fraser: Taking Back Sunday.

TV Programme?
Hollyoaks...can I take that back?
Fraser: I've got Neighbours in my head and I don't even watch it!
Ian: The Hour show!
Fraser: Mighty Boosh, Mighty Boosh is definitely mine.

Fraser: Midget gems.
Neil: *thinks*'s not..
Ian: Twix's.

Favourite gig you've ever attended?
Probably Taking Back Sunday at the Barrowlands in 2005.
Neil: Mayday Parade at King Tuts.
Ian: Foo Fighters at SECCCCCC...
Fraser and Neil: CCCCC...

And, last question, where do you see yourselves in the next year?
Ian: On myspace!
Fraser: We'll certainly still be on myspace yeah, I don't know, we've got a tour coming up with Twenty Twenty and if things go well there we're hoping we can get a few more tours in the new year through them. We've got a headline tour coming up in October so we'll be announcing the dates for that in the next week or so. And just sort of playing as many shows as we can, meeting new people, picking up new fans and anything else that comes other than that would be a big bonus. So as long as we keep doing what we're doing and enjoy what we're doing and as long as folk like you guys enjoy what we're doing then that's really all that matters to us I would say!
Ian: As long as people keep coming to the gigs we'll keep playing gigs.
Fraser: Indeed!

The Gap Year Riot! are;
Fraser Binnie - Vocals
Ian Cruise - Bass
Dave Lennon - Guitar and Backing Vocals
Neil Sharkey - Keys and Guitar
Stuart *Franky* Hamilton - Drums

Catch the guys live in Glasgow at the Garage on December 5th with Yashin. Their new single Vanity Kills should be out sometime in the near future and you can also see them play;

17th October - The Cell, Kilmarnock
18th October - Harleys, Bathgate
20th October - Rios, Leeds
22nd October - Madhatters, Inverness
23rd October - Tunnels, Aberdeen
25th October - Mondos, Perth
4th December - Z1, Girvan


Saturday, 5 September 2009

UUVVWWZ - UUVVWWZ, Released - 21st September

It took me three attempts to listen to this album all the way through. Actually, I found it difficult just to get past opener “Berry Can.” With it’s hypnotic repetition and muted instrumentation it left me wanting to get as far away from this band as possible.

In a strange way their name (pronounced double-yoo, double-vee, double double-yoo, zee) is a bit of a warning. If you're not patient enough to say it properly then don't bother even trying to listen to the album. Fans of simple music with sensible lyrics should also stay away. For, as their choice of name would suggest, UUVVWWZ are anything but simple. Infact they're down right weird. I must admit, I am partial to a bit of weirdness but this is just too much. At times it's unnatural, forced even, many of the songs feel as if they're weird just for the sake of it.

Take "Jap Dad" for example. It takes a good 40 seconds of her singing, or should that be shrieking, before any of Teal Gardner's lyrics are recognisable as English and even then her chant of "M.A.K.E.M.E.L.O.V.E.Y.O.U" isn't exactly intelligible. But this isn't just a one off, most of her lyrics are either nonsensical or simply undecipherable. Teal’s vocals are also a bit of an acquired taste. Ranging from smooth and delicate to shrill and tuneless they’re definitely the main talking point of the album.

For a band who claim they’re “a rare bird” UUVVWWZ remind me quite a bit of a poorer version of Deerhoof. And who wants an inferior imitation when you can have the real thing? That said, there's no doubt they will appeal to some people. Fans of "avant-rock" will love this album, as will those who consider anything unconventional to be "art". But unfortunately it's just not for me, I'll take straight forward rock and roll anyday!

Gemma Barnes


Saturday, 15 August 2009

Reverend and The Makers - A French Kiss In The Chaos

Reverend and The Makers seem to be one of those bands that everyone loves to hate. Despite the commercial success of debut album "The State of Things" the band are still consistently getting bad press. Most of this has nothing to do with their music and is, in fact, due to singer Jon "Reverend" McClure's outspoken and opinionated ways. "A French Kiss In The Chaos" gives Jon a chance to transfer his opinions into his music and as a result we're left with a politically charged second album.

The album starts off in the strongest way possible with the psychedelic sounding "Silence Is Talking". Built around a sample of War's "Low Rider" it's a triumphant attempt at creating what should have been a summer anthem. Of course this isn't just a catchy dance tune, the lyrics are a clear dig at British culture, condemning the fact it's near impossible to make a political statement without getting derided.

The rest of the album has a lot to live up to but Reverend and co. aren't up for dropping their standards. Songs such as "Hidden Persuaders" and the high tempo-ed "No Wood Just Trees" continue the trend of cleverly disguising political messages amongst memorable melodies. The album falters slightly at "Professor Pickles" but despite being a drop in quality from the rest of the album, this track is still better than what most indie bands can manage. Things quickly turn brilliant again with the movingly simplistic yet delightful "Long Long Time". This demonstrates Jon's sensitive side and gives him a chance to show off just how much the band have matured since their debut album.

Unlike The State of Things, which included collaborations with Alex Turner amongst others, almost all of the tracks on A French Kiss In The Chaos are written entirely by the band themselves. The only notable exception is "No Soap In A Dirty War" which was co-written with Backhanded Compliment's front man and former Milburn guitarist Tom Rowley. Ironically Rowley's now a member of Reverend and The Makers, taking the place of Tom Jarvis on guitar. And it's fair to say if Jon and Tom continue writing in this fashion then the next Reverend and The Makers album may be even better than this one! For me this track is the clear highlight of the album, taking everything that's good about the band and putting it into one glorious song. Starting off simply with just an acoustic guitar and Jon’s vocals the track accumulates to a sublime multi vocalist and multi instrumental chant of ''I don't wanna die in the same hole I was born/ I don't wanna get married in the same church as you all'', a line anyone that's ever had ambition in life can relate to.

Compared to the grandness of the track before it “People Shapers/Manifesto” is almost understated. It takes a while to get used to the sudden change in tone from “No Soap In A Dirty War” but this scathing attack on the BNP is another noteworthy number.

All great albums must have a memorable closing track and that’s precisely what “Hard Time For Dreamers” is. As a matter of fact it very nearly hits the dizzy heights that “No Soap In A Dirty War" managed. It's quiet emotional intensity reiterates the fact that, despite supporting Oasis, Reverend and The Makers aren't just another lad rock band and do have something different to offer if given a chance.

I urge people to listen to A French Kiss In The Chaos with an open mind and not allow any bad reviews or Jon's reputation get in the way of the fact that this is a captivating and frequently beautiful album.

Download: No Soap In A Dirty War, Silence Is Talking, Hard Time For Dreamers, People Shapers/Manifesto

Gemma Barnes

Official Site

Monday, 3 August 2009

Twin Atlantic (Supporting Taking Back Sunday) @ ABC Glasgow, 29/7/2009

When I got told I was to review this I knew straight away I'd find it tough not to be biased. Twin Atlantic are one of my favourite bands and I won't hear a bad word spoke about them. But the truth is they're THAT good live it's hard not to give them a perfect review.

Playing to another band's crowd is never easy, especially when it's a band as rightfully popular as Taking Back Sunday. From the moment Twin Atlantic took to the stage it was evident that 90% of the crowd were more interested in what was coming next as opposed to what was in front of them. However the subdued crowd failed to dishearten the Glasgow fourpeice as they kicked off with the explosive "Lightspeed" which involved singer Sam McTrusty delivering his distinctive vocals with the kind of passion that's already made his band Scotland's hottest prospect.

Despite a few technical difficulties, namely guitarist Barry McKenna managing to pull his lead out at least twice, Twin continued their set in a blistering fashion. Demonstrating not only fantastic musical talent but also the kind of confidence and stage presence that's normally reserved for the headlining band.

A superb rendition of "What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?" was followed by new single "You're Turning Into John Wayne", an edgy song which proves that despite their imminent success the band aren't about to succumb to a more commercial sound.

Remarkably, neither of these, nor promising new track "Old Grey Face", succeeded in livening up the majority of the crowd. Being more used to seeing Twin in a hall full of adoring fans it was strange watching them having to try and impress but they done just that with the spine tingling "A Guidance From Colour". Even the most die hard of Taking Back Sunday fans couldn't help but take note as Barry swapped his guitar for an electric cello and the band demonstrated their softer side with this atmospheric number.

However it was final song, "Audience And Audio" that eventually roused the crowd, it's soaring vocals and infectious melody forcing people to give the band the attention they deserved. Their fate as a pretty much perfect support band was sealed towards the end of the song when Taking Back Sunday frontman, Adam Lazzara, joined them on stage to sing the final few lines.

As the guys finished up a small group of us departed the main area and headed towards the merch stall, safe with the knowledge that in not many months time Twin Atlantic will most certainly be headlining, if not this venue, then one even bigger. And this time in front of fans that fully appreciate them.

Gemma Barnes

Offical Site