2013 may have seen Pure Love unceremoniously dumped from their label and frontman Frank Carter grow a rather unsightly and incredibly hipster ginger beard. But Pure Love are nonetheless one of easiest to recommend live acts doing the rounds at the moment. (And quite nice in person too:read my interview with Carter and musical partner Jim Carroll from last year here.)
Anybody familiar with Mr Carter knows that any live show – whether it’s The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, The Engine Shed in Lincoln or the NME tent at Reading/Leeds Festival – carries with it a warning, that warning being “at any point Frank Carter may punch you in your face and make you look like a dick”. Yeah, so he is singing songs about being “sick of all the hate”, but that won’t stop the ex-Gallows man slugging you in the chops if you act like a mug in the crowd. Add in to that equation that he spends 90% of the gig in the crowd, singing, screaming and scrapping while also having his photo taken numerous times, and it’s a pretty volatile situation.
A volatile situation, but one that is at least 99% rock and roll.
I mean, for example he got the entire drum kit in the crowd, and started a circle pit around it. That’s fucking cool.
For the epitome of a total live experience, it’s difficult to look any further than Pure Love – and in the searing heat of Austin, Texas, Jonny and Frank are going to cause the kind of sweaty catastrophe of bodies that you would only really expect to find at a really good orgy.
That’s right: a Pure Love gig is like an orgy – sort of. [The kind of orgy that might involve inflatable dingeys; watch below - Ed.]
We continue our SXSW 2014 preview with Martin’s thoughts on a man who reinvented himself, to us music lovers’ delight…
To Be Frank is the pseudonym of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Frank Pescod, who, after a period writing contract music for TV and film, and brands as prestigious as Louis Vuitton, found the desire for the limelight was too strong; To Be Frank was created as a platform to spread his music to a wider audience. Things kicked off with single ‘If You Love Her’, a tender piece of whimsical electronica that showcased Pescod’s delicate, soulful voice and neat way with a minimalist arrangement, but didn’t really go much further. Sophomore release ‘Nothing’ introduced glitchy beats and a more insistent groove, playing on urban r‘n’b stylings but still remaining resolutely downtempo.
Third single ‘Half the Man’ (video at the end of this post), out today, is the sound of Frank really hitting his stride. A more pacey number than previously, with jumpy synth stabs and handclaps keeping things moving, Frank’s dreamy vocal remains the primary attraction, along with a further helping of romantic, almost saccharine, lyrical sentiment. All in all, a tasteful slice of electronic soul. But all this synth-centricity belies a sneaking suspicion that, at heart, Frank is essentially a traditional songwriter, and some of his lesser-known pieces pay testament to his love of simpler instrumentation. ‘Big Frank’, in particular, is a delicate confection of distant acoustic piano and sombre violin, adorned with the just the lightest touches of ambient electronica; in many ways a more interesting listen than his more mainstream efforts.
It’s clear that this is a project in its early stages; the benefit of which is that every release tells us something new about the artist concerned. And with such an intriguing combination of chartbait and esoterica at his fingertips, To Be Frank really is one to keep an eye on.
Yes, you read that right. We may still only be in 2013, but we’re already looking ahead to SXSW 2014, which happens in less than 5 months. In addition to our normal Bands to Watch features, we’ll also be previewing the best bands who have received shouts for the big event. First up are a band from Oxford that Martin will tell you more about…
Glass Animals are experts at downtempo, atmospheric, bass-heavy songs – think Portishead having coffee with Morcheeba – while the coffee’s a tangy roast by James Blake. The Morcheeba comparison is most apt (don’t laugh at the back – Morcheeba survived Britpop, have just released their eighth album, and celebrate their 20th birthday in a couple of years – pretty impressive stuff): recent single ‘Black Mambo’ echoes their lazy drum sound, their melodic approach to a vocal line, and a raft of decent lyrical similes. Things are considerably darker here, however – this isn’t exactly party music, although there is a certain sleaziness in the snaking groove and massed crescendo, which could get a certain type of too-cool-for-school crowd in the mood for a gentle grind.
Fellow AA-side ‘Exxus’ kicks off with a menacing, oily bassline, overlaid with Dave Bayley’s smooth yet gently threatening vocals, electronica ebbing, flowing and bleeping around him. “Wake up with a hatchet over your head,” he warns, before mellifluous mellotron mixes with otherworldly, disembodied voices, as if Gyorgy Ligeti and Edgar Froese were having a bromance right there in one’s Eustachian tube. Recently signed to producer du jour Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label, surely a sign of approval in itself, Glass Animals are currently working on their début album, which, if it turns out as well as ‘Black Mambo’/'Exxus’ promise, should be an essential purchase of 2014.
By Mary Chang on Friday, 30th August 2013 at 12:00 pm
I’ve had a Sheffield hangover for months now. No, I wasn’t at Tramlines. It was a product of an incredibly short, 24-hour flying visit to the City of Steel to see some guys I’ve come to know. I always say that fate must exist and it works in mysterious ways, because the afternoon I spent in Sheff, I was skulking around the town centre trying to find a copy of the local and beloved Sheffield Exposed free entertainment magazine. It took looking into and inquiring at some 15 different establishments until I finally chanced upon what I was looking for at Bungalows and Bears bar on Division Street.
Maybe such a magazine exists in Washington but since I don’t live in the city proper, I’ve never seen anything like Exposed. I imagine if you’re young and you happen to live in a hip, happening place like Sheffield, this is the kind of thing that becomes your regular bible, especially if you are into music, as there are always features on local bands, giving them their due. This kind of grass roots, region-specific focus strikes me as something very English (or is it something very British?), an appreciation of what is local, great and under your noses, and it was through this copy of Exposed that I learned of The Hosts. You couldn’t miss them. There was a huge, full page photo spread on the band, opposite to a very funny Q&A.
Though I’ve been advised that at least one of the Hosts’ members has alighted for Coventry, the Hosts appear to have been cut from a similar cloth to city brethren High Hazels (who I profiled in July in this Bands to Watch) and the Crookes. Something very peculiar to the city is that for much better than worse, Sheffield’s music scene has pockets that feel like they’ve been stuck in a time warp. I say this lovingly, because the bands I’ve mentioned have taken all that was good from what I have always considered the golden age of pop music songwriting – the ’50s and ’60s – and renewed my faith in music today by turning into something of their very own. The 8-year old version of myself, the one that was in love with the Beatles and ‘Please Please Me’-era Paul McCartney, would never have believed that years later I would have the chance to witness such an embracing of what went before, but with a fresh twist.
One listen to the Hosts’ ‘Give Your Love to Her’ (a live performance – in suits! – courtesy of Exposed is above), their current single on indie band champions Fierce Panda and related Label Fandango, and you will agree with their press release that this five-piece is “the missing link between Roy Orbison and Richard Hawley“. The latter is a quite apt comparison, with the Hosts sounding not unlike solo Hawley’s pre-’Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ output: brilliant grandeur in orchestration, with a sweeping lead vocal ready made to overwhelm you in a warm cuddle. Quite literally, with the words, “take her in your arms, don’t let go…take your love to her…”
Further, the godfather of Sheffield cool himself must be an unwavering supporter to the band, having produced earlier song ‘September Song’ (promo video below), which is quite appropriate since we usher in the new month on Sunday. “So I was waiting for you to close your eyes / so I could say goodbye”: you hear that noise? That is the sound of me sobbing. Two simple lines placed in a chorus, and yet so powerful in emotion. These days, you can guarantee whatever you find is on Radio1 and MTV being sold as a “love song” (note I used quotation marks) is oversexed and cringe-inducing. It’s like the men doing the songwriting have forgotten that the way to a woman’s heart is not by being vulgar but by appealing instead to appeal to the fairer sex’s love of beauty, and that includes in song. But not everyone has fallen prey to this disease. The Hosts, along with evidence from other Sheffield bands of late, show everyone else how it’s done. There is an art to this. And when it’s done well, it’s gorgeous.
The Hosts’ debut album with a title yet to be revealed is due to be out on Fierce Panda later this year, so we’re told, so there’s nothing left to do but wait. This is one music fan and editor who can’t wait for that release. The fact that all three bands – the Hosts, High Hazels and the Crookes – appear already to be mates makes it all less pie in the sky that maybe there will be some amazing Sheffield band tour in the future as well.
Every so often one comes across a band that so perfectly defies expectation – and, occasionally, reason – that they deserve to be written about just for that. The Oreoh!s are just such an act. Comprising sisters Esme and Sid Hand-Halford on bass and drums, respectively, and Henry Wade on guitar, this Halifax-based three-piece are notable for being the youngest in age I have ever seen on the professional circuit: we’re talking between 15 and 17 years of age here, folks. Not even old enough for a refreshing post-gig lager. Which in itself isn’t a special talent – after all, we were all young once – but what’s more intriguing is that they’re actually a really good band. My thoughts on their appearance at Liverpool Sound City are already out there, but after the buzz of that weekend had died down I had the opportunity to sit down and have a listen to their independently-recorded EP ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’. [Our copy was handed to me personally by the band themselves at Brink cafe on the third day of Sound City 2013. Eat your heart out, Lammo, with your Bloc Party demo at the Franz Ferdinand gig outside the toilets at the ICA. - Ed.]
Slightly dodgy puns aside, this recording really shows the depth of ability that these three West Yorkshire youngsters display. ‘Truth Be Told’ (stream above) is the opener – after the riffing builds into a decent garage-band groove, the beautiful crystal-clear voice of Esme is introduced, at once powerful and delicate, with a fine knack for a catchy melody. The lyrics advise, “do it all before you get old”, a surprisingly mature sentiment considering the singer’s tender years. ‘Deduce’ (video at the end of this post) is the standout track, and one that rollicks along at a fine pace, with a massive serving of fizzy guitars, tinny drums, and Esme’s lovely vocal. This could genuinely be an underground garage-rock classic – slightly lo-fi, incredibly catchy chorus that comes round exactly the correct number of times, deceptively basic yet heartfelt musicianship. A real triumph. And just to show they can do downtempo as well as up, ‘Midnight In Paris’ is a delicate ballad based around squeezebox rather than guitar, and again that surprisingly mature sentiment is clear to hear.
The Oreoh!s have been a pleasure to discover. All four songs on this EP are great and show incredible potential. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating here – if they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years’ time? Let’s hope that they’ve got the staying power to properly realise their potential.
Drenge have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently.* But opportunistic recommendations from politicians aside, what’s all the fuss about Drenge? With a slender lineup consisting of brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless and nobody else, the Sheffield pair conjure a mighty brick wall of distorted guitars and scarily thrashed drums. If vocal styles could be patented, Nick Cave would be filing a suit against Drenge for his singing on latest single ‘Backwaters’ (video below): the drawled, echoed vocal will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, but the portentous riffing belongs firmly to 2013’s post-punk scene. The lyrics are pretty impenetrable, but the disturbing video evokes the violent energy of disenfranchised youth: all vandalism, alcohol, and casual violence, to the incongruous backdrop of dry stone walled countryside.
There’s to be an eponymous album in August, featuring both singles and their B-sides. Lead-off track ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ can be previewed on Soundcloud (play it in the widget below); it’s funkier than either of the singles, and perhaps the closest Drenge have yet come to a love song (although apparently the album will showcase their tender side in a track improbably called ‘Fuckabout’). ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’ is perhaps the most outrageous recording yet, boiling over with bile (“If you had a soul I’d like to eat it”) and monstrous guitars. Drenge do what they do very well – the question is whether their schtick can be extended over the course of an album without becoming repetitive or stale. However, there can be no doubt that this will be spectacular live, and in this, Tom Watson does indeed have a point. Drenge have a headline tour scheduled for late August onwards, and are playing countless summer festivals before then, notably the main stage of Kendal Calling in just a couple of weekends’ time.
‘Drenge’ by Drenge is released on the 19th of August.
*Tom Watson MP, the self-appointed policeman of the country’s free press, was forced to resign his position as general election co-ordinator of Her Majesty’s Opposition over the union seat-fixing scandal, when it was revealed that the union-backed candidate for the allegedly Unite-rigged Falkirk seat was his personal office manager. In his resignation letter, Watson argued wrongly that it should be acceptable for party leaders (and therefore, presumably, prime ministers) to attend Glastonbury, before recommending Drenge as an “awesome band”. He was correct in his recommendation, as he was in his selection of Glastonbury headline band in this article for Noisey. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that political resignation letters are for resignation, not discussions of popular music. The Drenge reference in this context is one part vanity, and one part attempt to deflect attention from the far more serious hot water that Watson finds himself in, a tactic that has been partly successful in the short term. In that way Drenge have found themselves being “used” for political purposes, something that bands rarely appreciate. No wonder they were so underwhelmed.