Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Forever!

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Almost 10 years ago lying on that trampoline dying in my mates back garden, I never thought I’d survive 10 minutes never mind 10 years. It was a severe hangover after one of the better gigs of my youth which put me in this position, under the Hartlepool sun.

The Cribs had just blown me away, admittedly fuelled by alcohol, in one of my favoured venues where my musical influences began – Middlesbrough Empire.

Following their signing of a major label deal with Warner Bros back in 2006, the release of their third album, ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ , sent them into the mainstream. This year, 10 years on, they decided to remember the impact of it on their careers by rewarding the faithful fans with a full live performance from ‘Our Bovine Public’ all the way through to ‘Shoot the Poets’. Luckily for me, I got tickets to the Glasgow show at the O2 Academy.

Opening the night for the trio were first support band ‘God Damn’ whose metal no holds barred sound was a great explosive start for the fortunate early birds. 2 songs into the set and I was already sold on their sound, two of the on stage trio swapped around from guitar and effects while the raging drums blasted out. The lead singer had a great presence and with a good crowd, sparks will fly with this band.

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4 piece Norwegian band Sløtface were the second support to grace the stage. They initially reminded me of bands such as Alphabeat and the Ting Tings but as their set progressed it appeared that they had their own style and attitude. Some funky basslines, choppy riffs and great vocals contributed to an easy listening indie pop sound, particularly their catchy first single ‘Magazine’.

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As the lights went down and the Jarmans entered the stage, the melody of ‘Another number’ having been chanted to death by the crowd, Our Bovine Public brought a renewed enthusiasm to the room. The play through of the album was as good as ever with a sweaty crowd singing and jumping throughout. The commonplace video appearance of Lee Ranaldo for ‘Be Safe’ and ‘I’m a Realist’ were my favourite moments because of my love for the latter and the uniqueness of the former.

Praise from Gary for the Glaswegian crowd was repeated as the band explained it had been a long time since their last Glasgow appearance and 7 months since their last gig.

Ryan with his traditional rock and roll passion held back his destruction of the stage as best he could but couldn’t prevent the occasional stumble to the floor and disregard for the mic as pints were flying and moshing filled the floor.

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Finishing the evening with a smattering of tunes such as ‘Another Number’ from debut album ‘The Cribs’, and ‘Mirror Kisses’ from my favourite Cribs albums ‘The New Fellas’ through to more recent tracks from ‘For All My Sisters’, including a number of the songs which have found their way onto ‘Payola’, their greatest hits album which also includes a number of rare unreleased tracks.

Ultimately it was a typically Cribs punk-like night which I did not regret attending one bit. It seems false to me that they’ve only been releasing albums for 13 years since they feel like a major part of my musical background. That is credit to their brilliant songwriting and talent for continuing to develop their generally raw sound into something that transcends time.

The Cribs-Men s Needs Women s Needs

 

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Royal Republic – Weekend Man Tour

DSC_0008_1Manchester, the scene of many great musicians, saw Royal Republic make the journey from Sweden to play the Manchester Academy 2, again, to a packed out audience as part of their newest album tour.

Support from the brilliant Tax the Heat opened the night, with their high energy powerful rock music. Hailing from Bristol, with a similar sound to Wolfmother pumping through the speakers, the enthusiastic drummer caught my eye. Classical rock riffs inspired by the 60s and effortless vocals combined in a gritty performance as they ploughed through tracks from their debut album ‘Fed to the Lions’. A busy April lies ahead for these guys including a slot at Download festival, proving they are already creating some waves amongst the rock scene.

Following on from Save the Nation, Royal Republic have taken a slightly different direction with their new album ‘Weekend Man’ as an alternate persona to the superhero or detective of old. A few surprise tracks appear on the album such as ‘Any Given Sunday’ and ‘Follow the Sun’ with a rather different sound to the usual ruthless rock of their recent past.

The scene was set with Lightning bolts and band name as the 4 piece emerged from the darkness, which they didn’t show any fear of, introducing themselves with ‘When I see you dance with another’.

A lively crowd filled the Academy 2, with many who had seen the same show in October attending again, proving that the band have a very passionate fan base. A couple of people were dressed for the occasion when ‘Everybody Wants to be an Astronaut’ was played by donning their space helmets to accompany their spacesuits. Their blow up Tommy Gun’s also came in handy when ‘Tommy Gun’ inevitably added more energy to the room.

The crowd was generally lacking in rowdiness (i.e. no mosh pits) however there was a lot of jumping and singing which was enough to keep the energy and enthusiasm of the band with numerous interludes of anecdotes from Adam Grahn (lead vocals). One particular break in the music included a rather comical story about some unadulterated fan fiction between Adam and Hannes (guitarist) following their Rock Am Ring performance several years previous.

After the wild ‘People Say That I’m Over The Top’, inspired by Adam’s crazy personality which makes him an ideal front man for most bands; the acoustic version of ‘Addictive’ calmed the crowd with their harmonious witty vocals.

‘Kung-Fu Lovin’, one of my favourites from the ‘Weekend Man’ album, followed the acoustic track as the night built up to a crescendo with ‘Tommy Gun’ before they exited the stage leading to chants of one more song.

Returning to the stage for an encore with much appreciation from the Manchester venue, included an unexpected cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Fear of the Dark’ in which Adam sang the lyrics from a handy mobile phone. A treat for the returning Mancunians who Adam preached to, in an attempt to make the show different from their earlier showing late last year. I think this track did the trick!

With a busy summer schedule ahead, Royal Republic left the stage to a very pleased room and if there were any people there who weren’t fans of the Swedes before this night, then I’m sure the band found some new ones.

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.