Timber Timbre at Union Chapel 1st Nov ’11

You will not see a mosh pit at the Union Chapel. The support act for tonight’s show was “evening hymns” which indicates the true leanings of this wonderful gothic church bang in the middle of Islington. Tones of reverence continued once Timber Timbre took the stage amidst hushed pews and bathed in a soft red light. Admirably they got straight down into it — no sound checking, no fiddling and totally wordless — how I wish all acts would make an entrance like this.
The words when they come however, are a balm for the ears. Taylor Kirk’s got a superb haunting voice which I suspect if placed in a more traditional rock n’ roll setting would lean towards Roy Orbison’s soulful wail. I spent the night longing for him to unleash it but he never did; like his hunched, cramped guitar style the vocals often seemed to be crammed up inside a bulging tin straining to keep the contents secure.
If you get uncomfortable with ambiguous song endings then these Candians might not be for you. Extended playouts mishing up quavering electric violin and humming guitar feedback were a running motif throughout the night’s set. The overall effect is soporific and as the candles placed high in the eaves of the chapel’s stunning octagonal chamber flickered out one by one I found myself lulled into a mild stupor. “Are you still with us?” chuckled the frontman mid-way through the set. I suspect he was only half-joking. Timber Timbre aren’t the kind of act to inspire wild convulsions and if Taylor Kirk sang any slower he’d stop, which in fact he does quite a lot of the time, leading to premature applause for those unfamiliar with the music.
Stop-time wake-up calls aside, variations in tempo were few and far between. The songs are pretty uniform, the strict adherence to a chugging low-end guitar line and bass drum bang punctuated ocassionaly by Kirk cracking out one of his mischevious barks.

You will not see a mosh pit at the Union Chapel. The preceding act on a chilly November night was “evening hymns” which indicates the true leanings of this wonderful gothic venue  bang in the middle of Islington. Tones of reverence continued once Timber Timbre took the stage amidst hushed pews and bathed in a soft red light. Admirably they got straight down into it — and how I wish all acts would make an entrance like this — no sound checking, no fiddling and totally wordless. Read more

We Were Promised JetPacks, In the Pit of the Stomach

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Sounding like they’ve plugged their guitars straight into a bunch of Marshall amps with nowt in between We Were Promised Jetpacks’ second album gets off to a rollicking start with Circles and Squares – a plaintive ode to confronting inner demons. The no-frills approach endures throughout with the four-piece making up for an occasional lack of tunes with bags of energy and self-belief pouring out of every track.

Medicine – rousing chorus and chuntering riffs – is the first single but Human Error is the belter of the bunch – strong musically and lyrically with soulful vocals and a juddering, bone crunching finale sure to go down a storm at festivals. I usually prefer vocals a bit higher in the mix but Adam Thompson’s gentle Edinburgh brogue – never more evident than during the stop-time on album closer Pear Tree –  cuts through; a soothing counterpoint to the harder Weegie edge of other Jock Rockers out there.

Shonen Knife, Free Time

Long time fans will be relieved to know lead singer Naoko’s English accent remains unchanged: just the right side of comprehensible but occasionally straying into that weird place where the hard Japanese consonants fade into vowels already mushier than a heartbroken Michael Bolton whereupon it all becomes a glorious balm for the ears. My copy of the CD booklet even contains the word ‘lSuxury’ and I’m not so sure it’s a misprint.
Subject matter is as wacky as ever: jellyfish, stationary and a lost guitar all feature as does a gem of a song about South American rodent beastie the Capybara: “roly-poly body shape/swimming very well”. Shonen Knife don’t do depth but they do literal like no other.
Shonen Knife are often said to be a cure for the blues and this album is no exception but they can do angry too. “Economic Crisis” is as close to venting spleen you’ll ever get from the Japanese. “Where’s the missing money?” cries Naoko in vain. Many will concur with the sentiment.

Long time fans will be relieved to know lead singer Naoko’s English accent remains unchanged: just the right side of comprehensible but occasionally straying into that weird place where the hard Japanese consonants fade into vowels already mushier than a heartbroken Michael Bolton whereupon it all becomes a glorious balm for the ears. My copy of the CD booklet even contains the word ‘lSuxury’ and I’m not so sure it’s a misprint.

Subject matter is as wacky as ever: jellyfish, stationery and a lost guitar all feature as does a gem of a song about South American rodent beastie the Capybara: “roly-poly body shape/swimming very well”. Shonen Knife don’t do depth but they do literal like no other.

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Shonen Knife are often said to be a cure for the blues and this album is no exception but they can do angry too. “Economic Crisis” is as close to venting spleen you’ll ever get from the Japanese.  “Where’s the missing money?” cries Naoko in vain. Many will concur with the sentiment.

This review appears in London Tour Dates issue 74:

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Egyptian Hip Hop, Jan 27th, Bush Hall: review

I always wondered what that guy who turned down the Beatles is doing now?  Legend has it he scribbled down “Guitar bands aren’t where it’s at” before disappearing off into a career in Mickey Ds. Kraut-rock on acid blurring the lines between on-stage tune ups, occasional grunting and and any normal recognisable song start indicators aren’t where it’s at” isn’t as snappy, but it certainly sprang to mind at the New to Q Sessions as soon as I set ears on Egyptian Hip Hop, Manchester’s freshest export that’s about as far from mono-browed dad-rock as you can get.

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Goldheart Assembly, ICA, 31st March

The following review appears in the latest edition of London’ premier music ‘zine, London Tour Dates

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The modern face of British folk-pop fandom is morphing and merging. These days at a gig you’re just as likely to see willowy Goldsmiths students called Francesca supping cocktails as a crusty holding a plastic pint glass, although to be sure there were a couple of beards on show at the ICA that would have impressed the Taliban. All united in the happy sound of Goldheart Assembly celebrating the launch of debut album “Wolves and Thieves”. Read more

PiL, Camden Electric Ballroom, 22nd Dec

It’s easy to mock a PiL gig. With an average age of about 41 the demographics on this cold Camden night just about matched the waistlines. Read more

Erland and the Carnival

The last time I saw folk music in action it was in a central London pizza parlour and the guy was dressed in pointy-hooded green medieval tabard with bells on one ankle and a foot-operated drum on his back. He actually used the words hey-nonny-no in one song. Read more

Juliette Lewis, Shep Bush Empire, 23rd Oct

Is Juliette Lewis an over-privileged Hollywood star just playing at being a rock star or is she for real? Read more

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