Virginmarys

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The Virginmarys spring tour appeared in Newcastle’s Think Tank as they brought their high level rock music to the north east. Before they return to the studio to record album no.3, the three piece rockers played a solid set compiled from ‘King of Conflict’ and ‘Divides’.

Support act ‘Death to Indie’ opened the evening with a buzzing set, taking to the stage with some post teen mayhem. Industrial drums left you feeling every hit of the snare as it echoed through the room. Some brilliant wailing guitar solos were standard issue from their encouraging performance. A good choice of support who appear to have the confidence to attack any crowd despite a couple of self admitted errors.

Virginmarys opened their set with the popular rifftastic ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, one of my favourites, firing the small crowd into some head banging and jumping around in enjoyment.

Leading the journey through a mix of debut album and ‘Divides’ tracks was Ally, clearly comfortable and appreciative of the crowd, thanking them regularly for the appearance and repeatedly mentioning his pleasure at performing on saturday night in the toon.

The typically boisterous drums of Danny thundered through the tight guitar and meaty bass loud enough that Ally’s fresh ear plugs weren’t quite doing the job for him. ‘Moths to a Flame’ slowed down the set briefly allowing for a quick breather, sounding as fresh and brilliant as it does on the album.

With nearly 2million plays on spotify (at the time of writing), ‘Motherless Land’ went down well with the crowd and created a brilliant atmosphere which I could see playing a huge part of any festival stage.

‘Just a Ride’, ‘Portrait of Red’ and ‘Lost Weekend’ proved the crowd had some voice as they sang along to the passionate lyrics which has created a good base for the band to grow from. The newer tracks from the latest release also sound great live and proves that this band can keep writing the tunes and they’re not just a one album wonder like so many punk bands before them.

After a quick return to the stage which barely allowed me time to create some more drinking space, the encore ended with an explosive ‘Bang Bang Bang’ leaving the crowd in an energised and appreciative mood as they headed into the corner to purchase an array of merchandise and to meet the band.

Another good performance from a quietly improving band who look very comfortable on stage and deserve every plaudit they receive in my opinion.

 

Virginmarys – ‘Divides’ album review

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Earlier in the year (6 May 2016), Alternative rock band The Virginmarys released the follow up to their impressive debut album, King of Conflict. The 3 piece seem to have used every minute of the last couple of years to construct this finely produced, 12 track masterpiece.

When I first heard the punchy bass line of ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ back in 2012, I was hooked with this band and as the debut album progressed minute by minute, it only improved. Exactly the sound I was looking for and I was not surprised at the publicity and excitement which ensued leading to them being awarded Best Breakthrough act at the 2013 Classic Rock Awards.

Ally Dickaty being the main driving force behind the band joined up with drummer Danny Dolan and bassist Chris Birdsall back in 2006 before Matt Rose took over the bass in 2009.

Having first seen them live at Leeds Festival 2013 followed by a trip to The Ritz in Manchester on their UK tour, I felt that they would have more to come, especially with their teaser new track which I think was ‘Kill the Messenger’. Fast forward 2 and a bit years and they have certainly delivered.

Capturing the talents of producer Gil Norton, a man with a great reputation amongst the rock world, has also aided in creating a polished sound for the Macclesfield trio.  A catalogue of credits to his name includes albums with bands such as Feeder (‘Echo Park’, ‘Comfort in Sound’, ‘Pushing the Senses’), Maximo Park (‘Our Earthly Pleasures’, ‘The National Health’) and Foo Fighters (‘Colour and The Shape’, ‘Echoes, Silence Patience & Grace’).

‘Divides’ generally keeps the punk, hard rock roots on show whilst progressing with some more mature tender songs such as ‘Moths to a flame’ and ‘Living in Peace’. The former is close to being one of my favourite tracks from the 2016 album. This versatility shows their songwriting strength in more ways than one.

Starting the album ‘Push the Pedal’ sticks to what I love about this band. A styled rolling bass draws you down the metaphorical steps into an explosion of electric noise before the hypnotic vocals kick in. An exciting but low key first chorus allows the noise of the subsequent choruses and big crescendo, as they lead you to the end, to create a powerful effect.

Following on with ‘For You My Love’, the brilliant connection between bass and vocals in the verses flow over the ears with ease. Ally’s emotion being a mainstay in the chorus as with much of their music.

Danny Dolan introduces track 4 ‘Free to Do Whatever They Say’ with a disciplined rolling Tom-driven drum beat which builds momentum in exchange with the guitar and the progressively forceful Dickaty. A song which typifies their music following a common but well worked structure.

Dolan produces another brilliant drum beat on ‘Kill the Messenger’ which I think was previewed way back when I last watched this band live. The reason I remember this is probably due to the simple but effective rhythmic beat.

The opening lyrics to ‘Into Dust’ grab you by the arm spin you around and say “oi look at me and listen!” by the time it is finished you realise it is actually a brilliant track. From the obvious energetic Virginmarys guitar sound, to the growling vocals, it just keeps you hooked.

‘Moth To A Flame’ is as I said close to being my favourite track on this album, maybe due to its individuality, maybe due to its harmonic emotion that flows throughout but either way it shows a vulnerable side while still maintaining a high standard of rock music.

In comparison to its predecessor, track 10 ‘Falling Down’ erupts from start to finish with a high bpm which will no doubt create many mosh pits on the road. The storytelling of ‘Motherless Land’ and the lengthy,  magnificent ‘Living In My Peace’ create a smooth finish to the album.

I didn’t aim to write a track by track review but with such a quality album it was difficult not to comment on as many as I have. To me, that shows the trio have the songwriting talents needed for producing an endless stream of brilliant music. These guys are a band I will always keep an eye out for and they are definitely underrated since I know few people are aware of their existence, despite such an impressive entrance into the music scene.

The Specials

After many potential reforms and cameo collaborations through the years following their break up in 1984, The Specials finally reunited in 2008. More than 30 years on from the break up and their music still pulls the  crowds in with some of their lyrics just as meaningful now as they ever were.

Touring with them were General Roots who opened the night with their reggae sound filling the O2 Academy. An easy going sound to introduce the ska revivalists.

Once the stage was cleared and the eagerly anticipated setup was complete, the siren sounded and emerging through the smoke came Lynval Golding, Terry Hall and Horace Panter with their new lineup to greet the Newcastle  crowd with the 1981 hit ‘Ghost Town’.

As with many bands that began before my time, these Coventry rudeboys produced numerous songs which have stood the test of time. Their simple  lyrics with alternating basslines and rhythm make it difficult not to  move to.

A lively ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ followed with numerous popular  tracks from their repertoire such as ‘Nite Klub’ and its bright brass  breakdown, the cool groove of ‘Blank Expression’ and the lyrics of ‘Rat Race’ heartily sung back creating a whirlwind of energy on the floor.

Despite the unfortunate passing of John Bradbury in December 2015, Gary Powell of Libertines fame filled in comfortably on the drums as the backing strings duo completed the band.

One thing which impressed me about the signed 2 Tone Records band was their ability to sound much better live than they do on record.  The experienced band can certainly still enjoy the occasion with plenty of dancing on show especially from the spirited Lynval.

The Tyneside crowd also seemed to be enjoying the night by providing complimentary showers of beer in amongst the busy floor.

Before heading off the stage, the set came to a climax with the recognisable tracks of ‘A Message to You Rudy’, the popularised ‘Monkey Man’ after its original release by Toots and the Maytals and the UK chart topper ‘Too Much  Too Young’.

An ideal extended version of ‘Enjoy Yourself’ closed the encore, with the crowd applauding along very much like in a theatre where you are made to feel as much a part of the show as the band were. All in all it was a  fantastic gig which proved their music is still as enjoyable as ever.

The Amazons

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Tynemouth, generally known for its surfing and coastal activities, has started to create a buzz for its minute music scene. On the 6th October at the intimate venue of the Surf Cafe, The  Amazons headed to the stage with a lively set.

The support slot was filled by the brilliant Tibet, a welsh indie 4 piece filled with energy  and confidence. Backed by a frantic drummer, they opened with ‘I’ll put you in my pocket’, a catchy tune with quirky lyrics which I can’t stop listening to.

The excitement increased when they realised they were playing live on the TV screens above, which seemed to add an extra gear to their already lively performance.

‘Fridge’ continued the quirkiness where they found some answers (as the lyrics go) as to  whether they may have some appealing music, while their catchy riffs got the crowd moving to the penultimate track ‘New York City’. The short but sweet set ended with the vocal filled chorus and steady rhythm of ‘In My Head’, a surf indie sound fit for this  unique venue.

Once the pedals were plugged in and the floor set, The Amazons squeezed through the  crowd onto the carpet. Opening with the strong party riff in ‘Millions’ under the  hanging bicycles and surfboards, the quartet introduced their indie alternative sound.

The performance of last years EP ‘Don’t You Wanna’, got a great reception particularly  for ‘Ultraviolet’ with their lyrics being sang back by the lively crowd. The Reading based  band were clearly pleased and surprised at the knowledge of the crowd with gratification  and smiles all round. Resounding guitar hooks followed in ‘Nightdriving’, creating a perfect atmospheric  sound giving that reminiscent feeling.

The brilliantly new hard hitting single ‘In My Mind’, which I first heard played on Radio 1, will probably stay as the title may suggest in most people’s minds. A well crafted indie  tune with a big chorus and fantastic wailing guitar solo played with good energy.

Warm tones of ‘Junk Food Forever’ with its stylish vocals and the crescendo of  ‘Something in The Water’ ended the evening as the now sweaty crowd could finally  draw breath outside of the intimate cafe bar. With a sound similar to The Wombats, which brought them success, the new single being given some air time and the support they  seem to have so far from home, it appears this band are gaining some respect for  their musical talents. Their debut album is well worth watching out for.

Pretty Vicious

 

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This Welsh band consisting of Elliot Jones on the drums, Tom McCarthy on guitar, Jarvis Morgan on Bass and lead singer and guitar Brad Griffiths, have began building a reputation to precede them by forcing their boisterous sound into the limelight. I went to check out what they were bringing in Newcastle’s Think Tank.

Having already performed at Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing stage, declined a Muse support slot, supported Manic Street Preachers and signed with Virgin EMI records in less than 2 years of their first gig, these fresh rockers have been creating some excitement among the rock scene.

Support from inexperienced indie boys The Gallery, kicked off the night with a heavy guitar riff reverberating around the walls of Think Tank. Their lyrical references of minimum wages and working class attitudes with songs such as ‘Ashley’ and ‘50p mix and match’ compliment their melodic sound. A positive performance with some catchy tunes and hooks from the 5 piece.

Pedal effects, drum beats to blow your head off and an industrial bass were the opening soundwaves from Fang Club. The well tuned Irish 3 piece had a similar sound of Nirvana to them with heavy choruses in ‘Psycho’ and ‘Bullet Head’ accompanied by some brilliant bass lines and a wall of hard rock demanding you to head bang with your ripped jeans and loose fitted t shirt.

With a youthful crowd giving the headline band an older appearance, despite their age totalling somewhere around Billie Joe Armstrong’s years, there was only really going to be one result once Pretty Vicious struck the first note of ‘Its Always There’.

A bright intro to their set, with the hooks of ‘Always there’, created the driving force behind the heavily anticipated mosh pits as the lyrics fuelled by teenage angst pummeled the microphone.

The constant energetic rhythm and howling lyrics from Brad, combine with these youngsters creating a fantastically tight sound which sounded as good as on their recorded EP, something that some bands may struggle to achieve.

Despite a currently limited catalogue of tracks, the band kept on showing their talent creating a mixed set which included a brilliant cover of The Stooges ‘I wanna be your dog’. Quite aptly in true Iggy Pop style, the crowd joined the band on stage as their appearance headed to a close with ‘Cave Song‘. The rowdy boys put on a great show which even included a bit of crowd surfing from bassist Jarvis leaving the crowd hoping for more.