WEEKLY UPDATES (with some special editions in between)



May 29, 2011

Album Review: WHITE DENIM - D

A rhetorical question to kick off this album review. Just how many good bands come out of Austin, TX? It's got to be a phenomenal amount. 'White Denim' is a band who immediately grabbed my attention when supporting Minnesota band, Tapes 'n' Tapes at Irving Plaza in April 2008. The headliners were decent that particular evening, but the then three man act that was, 'White Denim' stole the show with a refreshing and energy filled performance. Following which, I purchased their debut album release, 'Workout Holiday' on which songs like, 'Let’s Talk About It' and, 'Shake Shake Shake' epitomise this bands sound. With a raw sound, strong bass lines and somewhere between Robert Plant/Jimi Hendrix like vocals from lead, James Petralli, it makes for a very interesting listen. Live is where, White Denim really deliver with their percussive elements and drums rousing and boisterous, soulful wails from the lead man and a bass that is really encapsulating.

The release of, 'D' earlier this week marks the bands fourth studio album release in a busy five year spell for, White Denim. ‘D’ is their first offering since signing with Downtown Records in the US with all previous albums having been self released. This deal should certainly result in better distribution and perhaps more prospects for the band, but some of the compromises that this entails does not sit completely comfortably with the band who have gotten rather used to doing things their own way. Indeed, some feathers were ruffled when the band decided to provide a free 12 tracked MP3 titled, ‘Last Day of Summer’ via their website without the new record company’s consent. This relationship could be more intriguing to watch than that of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez (slight hint of sarcasm).

‘It’s Him’ is the opener and we are immediately reintroduced to the varied, complex sound structures that, White Denim utilise and have frequently provided in the past. ‘Burnished’ and ‘At The Farm’ remind me of an old favourite that is, Eric Clapton and Cream. Where the first is in the bluesy form of ‘White Room’, the latter is kind of prog instrumental abound with hurtling solos and a heavy bass line apparent throughout.

‘Street Joy’ is a profound, delightful little song and probably my favourite thus far. The generally frenetic, Petralli delivers in a calm and soothing manner which is not familiar, but extremely pleasant. ‘Anvil Everything’ takes us back to the norm, cramming a large amount of variety into one four minute trip. Their ability to cross multiple genres in the space of one short track is fantastic.

‘River to Consider’ using panpipes and even making a little room for some ripping flute solos is folky, fun and quirky. It almost gives us the sense that White Denim are jamming away in their bedroom, having fun and flatly refusing to get stuck in a rut.

‘Drug’ is a wonderful, heavily blues influence track and again oozes ‘Cream’ in my humble opinion. White Denim succeed here in mixing the best of blues with a significant tinge of psychedelic to great effect. ‘Bess St.’ follows with the more familiar White Denim sound…striking parallels with their debut, ‘Workout Holiday’

‘Is And Is And Is’ is a close second favourite and definitely has the opportunity to hit top spot. Very, ‘Led Zeppelin’ in the chorus for me…this track begins softly before the rocking finale of this track. The closer, ‘Keys’ is something of a surprise with a country themed end using steel guitar and other such influences.

White Denim are pretty tricky to pin down in terms of influences and touch points, with their consistent  garage rock drive that erupts in an exploding attack references, ‘Grateful Dead’, but many of these tunes border jazzy and bluesy, folky and psychedelic and as aforementioned, I hear a lot of Cream and a little Zeppelin in this offering.

With the frantic schedule of SXSW in March, I missed the opportunity to see them live for a second time. That, however, will be remedied when I see them in their forthcoming show in NYC on 25th June at Bowery Ballroom. Only two listens in on ‘D’, but it’s a solid offering that I look forward to seeing delivered in a live setting. With the increase of production, they lose a little of the raw sound they had with the low-fi recordings of previous albums, but every cloud has a silver lining, this sounds far more buttoned up. Rating 7/10

New York Times - “Rugged, fidgety, overdriven garage rock sweetened with a psychedelic swirl”

SPIN - “A quality dose of hearty garage rock and punk rock aesthetic”

May 24, 2011


From the moment that 'Arctic Monkeys' slammed on to the UK music scene back in late 2005 with debut single, 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' and subsequently, my first experience of their live credentials just a few months later, I was gripped. Since then I have had the pleasure of seeing the 'Arctic Monkeys' live at various venues and I certainly wasn't planning on missing this opportunity in New York's, Central Park (despite the grim weather forecast which thankfully never came to fruition at the outdoor event at Rumsey Playfield).

The 'Arctic Monkeys' have evolved little by little on each album release from 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' through 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' and 'Humbug'. Their latest effort 'Suck It and See' is slated for release on June 6th and seems to comprise the, Josh Homme inspired sounds of, 'Humbug' alongside the cheekiness and colloquial lyrical references of 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' and 'Favourite Worst Nightmare'. Where 'Humbug' was heavily produced, their forthcoming release 'Suck it And See' was recorded in live takes with producer James Ford in LA.

From what I heard a little earlier this evening, this album certainly has the potential to be up their with the best of them (and that is pretty exciting). They are very much senior citizens in the game now with four albums behind them and each band member tipping 25/26 years young. Expectations, like the fervour at Central Park this evening, are high.

On a muggy night in Manhattan's Central Park, normally an oasis for the cities inhabitants, this was not the evening for some piece and quiet or a tranquil stroll in the park. Following the hotly tipped support, 'The Vaccines', The 'Arctic Monkeys' took the stage to Canadian rock band, 'The Guess Who's', 'American Woman'. They didn't hang around before kicking off with new track, 'Library Pictures' which has some of the darker sounds of 'Humbug' as well as the clever drumbeats and softer tones of their first two albums. The Monkey's seem to love building songs with melodic little pieces before the songs emanate in to a rocking tune on the chorus. It's a formula that works on this track as it does on others.

Liking what I'd heard of the new, we soon flitted back to the old which is perfectly fine by me. In 'A View From The Afternoon' and 'Brainstorm' from 1st and 2nd albums respectively, we are not only treated to some fine lyrics and the Monkeys adorable sound, but most of all, Matt Helders leading the way on drums. Drummers are any bands lead, but in the case of, Helders, he is absolutely fundamental to the success of Arctic Monkeys. The speed and assurance of his hands on 'Brainstorm' in particular is out of this world.  

Next up of the new tracks was 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I Moved Your Chair'. This is going to be a massive hit from the new becoming my favourite from the four or five songs that I have heard to date. It sounds fantastic. Almost certainly an extension of some of the moody, dark sounds of, 'Humbug' with a grinding and hypnotising bass line. This track is in the 'My Propeller' and 'Crying Lightening' mold. Indeed the rhythms and reverberations can almost be mistaken for my current playlist toppers, 'The Black Angels'. They continued in this dark sound with another favourite of mine from 'Humbug', 'Pretty Visitors'.

The hits kept coming, but in the form of a much needed period of chill out tunes with the likes of 'Cornerstone', 'Crying Lightning' and 'Teddy Picker'. The latter of which has a great guitar riff throughout accompanied by some well selected lyrics by lead, Alex Turner. I have long wondered whether the "save it 'til the morning after" line is an ode to Duran Duran (from their 'Save a Prayer' on their 'Rio' album). It has to be.

Continuing to mix in the new with the old, 'She's Thunderstorms' was next up. A mellow song for the majority, the Monkeys again revert back to the calm melodic sound before the eruption of fine channeled noise in the chorus. Despite not being blown away after first listen, it could certainly be a grower. Firm favourite with the crowd and the bands first release, ' I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' followed to great acclaim before 'Potion Approaching' and next new offering, 'Brick by Brick'. This is a pretty simplistic little tune that succeeds in reacquainting us with the Monkeys sound and Alex Turner's sultry and effective vocals. It's one of those songs that really gets stuck in your head...on our walk home, the chap behind us certainly had it ingrained in his brain and was singing/humming along in his drunken stooper.  

A couple more older ones in 'Do Me a Favour' and 'If You Were There, Beware' before the "shalalala" tune, ' The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala'. Another fun little track with finely constructed and well delivered lyrics from Turner (backed by, Helders). They left the stage briefly before being persuaded back to stage by a fervent New York crowd and Encore'd with 'When The Sun Goes Down' and 'Fluorescent Adolescent'.

Six years and four albums in to their musical career, the Arctic Monkeys again failed to disappoint at this live performance. I have enjoyed each of their albums and think 'Suck It And See' (out on June 6th) will build upon the successes they have had to date. Without moving too far away from their traditional sounds, the Arctic Monkeys experiment enough on each release to keep us interested. On stage, they are talented, laid back and oftentimes witty. I like their demeanour and love their music. Rumsey Playfield is not an easy venue in which to rouse the crowd, I think the Monkey men succeeded. Rating 8/10

Arctic Monkeys Set List

Library Pictures
The View From the Afternoon
This House Is A Circus

Still Take You Home
Don't Sit Down 'Cause I Moved Your Chair
Pretty Visitors
Teddy Picker
Crying Lightning
She's Thunderstorms
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Potion Approaching
Brick By Brick
If You Were There, Beware
Do Me A Favour
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
When The Sun Goes Down
Fluorescent Adolescent

A quick note on the widely touted and red hot in the UK right now support, 'The Vaccines'. This band's debut album 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?' was released in the UK in March of this year and has been received with wide praise. Owning the album myself which is released in the US next week (May 31st), it's an energetic and likeable album with a variety of familiar sounds throughout...from 'Coldplay's', Chris Martin to 'The Strokes' and even more punk sounds of 'The Ramones', 'Sex Pistols' and 'The Clash'.  

The accolades have been flooding in for this band of only a year or so old with 'Rolling Stone' placing them on their 'Band to Watch' list. I think they will certainly have a couple of hits on both sides of the pond and was keen to see a bit of them live.

They had a couple of sound problems initially, but the lead, Justin Young adapted well and finished off the first song, 'Under Your Thumb' on bass player, Árni Hjörvar's mic. Rumsey Playfield is not an ideal setting for a support band with the crowd sauntering in and for many, not really paying attention (not to mention they are opening for 'Arctic Monkeys'), but 'The Vaccines' done a solid job of it. Songs like 'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)' and 'If You Wanna' are quickfire tunes that are very much in 'The Ramones' style. 

'A Lack of Understanding' was delivered in a very 'Strokes' manner, and the clever 'Post Break-Up Sex' is along similar lines. The band also covered, 'Standells' song, 'Good Guys Don't Wear White' where they were joined by 'Minor Threat' guitarist, Lyle Preslar as something of a thank you to him for putting them in touch with this particular song. Preslar was then spotted next to us in the crowd bopping away to the Arctic Monkeys.

I like their debut album and plan to review that in full in the coming weeks. I would certainly like to see them next time they play live in the city at a venue that may better suit them i.e. Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, Terminal 5. One thing is for sure, you will hear a lot more of 'The Vaccines' this year. Rating 7/10
The Vaccines Set List

Under Your Thumb
Blow It Up
Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
All In White
A Lack Of Understanding
If You Wanna
Post Break-Up SexGood Guys Don't Wear White (Standells cover)

May 22, 2011

PLAN B – Should form part of your future playlist plans

This is neither an album review, nor a gig review…a bit of both in fact. I have wanted to write a piece on, Benjamin Drew and his ‘Plan B’ since the inception of this blog in March and with an off week in terms of gig going, this is the opportunity I have been waiting for.

When my friend, Mr. Ireland, whom I frequently exchange musical discussions and oftentimes, disagreements with emailed me last October with the following blurb, I was keen to learn a little more about Plan B– “His 2nd album has gone mainstream over here as he’s added a classic Smokey Robinson-type soul sound to his London rapping.  Not sure it’s for you with your preference of the blues and darker sounds but I love it”. Upon this recommendation, I went ahead and purchased ‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ as well as couple of tickets for the January 11th gig at Bowery Ballroom in New York ($15 a ticket, not much of a gamble). 

Benjamin Paul Ballance-Drew, principally known as Plan B or Ben Drew, was born in Forest Gate, North East London and is a mutli-talented British artist having turned his hand to rapping, singer-songwriting, acting and film directing. Plan B emerged as a hip hop artist who was critically acclaimed in 2006 with debut album, ‘Who Needs Actions When You Got Words’ in 2006. His second studio album, 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks' in 2010 (2011 in US) was something of a departure. It was a soul record and surprised many when it hit the top of the UK album chart on week one of release.

Drew has cited, Michael Jackson as his first real idol, before getting in to jungle music, hip hop, ‘The Prodigy’, punk and dreaming of becoming a rebel like, ‘Sex Pistols’, Johnny Rotten. Drew however always displayed a softer side in his passion for the first real music that he had heard and enjoyed at an early age - soul. Drew was faced with a dilemma. No one had any real desire to listen to some white boy from Forest Gate singing stupid little love songs, hence he chose rap which he now claims never rested well with him. He didn’t feel that he could write about being the pimp or the crack dealer that he was not. Clearly, Eminem’s presence had a massive impact on, Drew. “He (Eminem) was brilliant, he changed the whole game. He didn’t just influence white rappers, he influenced everyone. He showed that hip hop didn’t have to be about the rings and the money and the hos.”

Playing self taught guitar, rapping and singing in his own distinctive, North East London accent, Drew began to tell stories about the world in which he had grown up. His raw, provocative debut album, ‘Who Needs Actions When You Got Words’ broke new ground in UK hip hop. It was loud, coarse and riddled with an angry but truthful representation of life in modern day London estates. In addition to stoking the flames in Drew’s music career, the release also played a major part in providing him with an introduction to the acting world playing a hoodlum opposite, Michael Caine in thriller ‘Harry Brown’.

In early 2010, Plan B followed up with ‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ (this was only recently released in the US). In the story of, Strickland Banks, a sharp, well tailored British soul singer who finds success in singing bitter-sweet love songs such as, ‘Love Goes Down’ and ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ before losing everything when he ends up in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. Strickland Banks is the alter ego of Ben Drew. ”He’s a chance for me to not have to be so serious, to go with my love of soul music. It was about creating a character that I could destroy, as well. So that I could still do my whole storytelling thing.”

Opening track, ‘Love Goes Down’ really sets the scene with its delicate, soulful and powerful song. Drew is clearly comfortable in this soul setting and this is the ‘easy like Sunday morning’ tune. ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ is very Smokey Robinson themed and tells the story of a relationship that fights to survive, but ultimately won’t last. Ben Drew’s high pitched, but controlled voice and smart lyrics combines well with horns and a funky guitar and drumbeat. ‘Stay Too Long’ follows with a livelier, rock beat and provides our first introduction to Drew’s soul music with a twist of rap (which I thoroughly enjoy). There is both energy and sadness in this one. In many ways, this, Strickland character is the bad guy that you just can’t help liking. ‘She Said’ is a charming little number and harks back to the soul sounds of the 60’s, but also has that modern zest that sounds a little, Amy Winehouse (remember her) and ‘Back to Black’.

Although I highly doubt that, Drew did any church singing in the North East of London as a kid, ‘Welcome To Hell’ is oddly a little more gospel with a choir like backing sound. Following which, ‘Hard Times’ is a smooth soul song in every aspect of the track. ‘Recluse’ goes back to the energetic sound of ‘Stay Too Long’ and is probably my favourite on the album with violin strings providing a fast and furious pace and Drew doing well to tell the story of life in jail and being alone in the world. Again, I love the combination of soul and Drew’s distinctive rap style…it works very well.

‘Traded In My Cigarettes’ is a decent slow burner (no pun intended) and ‘Prayin’’ that follows sounds so familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s again a reminder of the soul music of the past with a huge flavour of modern beats and sounds. ‘Darkest Place’ is the most rap themed track on the album, but contains soulful chorus lines and again a plethora of strings accompanying this track. ‘Free’ is a happy little track which makes us feel good about things. I think back to ‘The Commitments’ album on this funky, jazzy little number with the “doo wah, doo wah’s” fitting brilliantly. “I aint guilty of these crimes, get these chains of me…”

I feel like the sweet and delightful, ‘I Know a Song’ would be an apt closer to this album, but, Drew instead plumps for the more aggressive and rebellious, ‘What You Gonna Do?’ which is plausible and sends the message that Strickland won’t back down regardless of what fate he faces.    

‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ is the sound of Motown coupled with murky Northern Soul, filtered through the rough edge of modern-day East London. It is the strange, but successful marriage of Smokey Robinson and Eminem. It’s a compelling and sad story of a man who finds success hard to handle before hitting rock bottom.

Mrs ScoAustin and I went to see Plan B at the Bowery Ballroom on a snow laden New York City Tuesday evening and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Despite not necessarily being my genre of choice it was a very solid show in which Ben Drew displayed a variety of talents in rapping, soul, hip hop and funk. The human beat box that accompanied Drew, Faith SFX was absolutely fantastic entertainment and generated something a little different to the norm. Playing the album in its entirety before finishing up with a medley of Smokey Robinson, Ben E King, Paolo Nutini, Seal and Dr Dre this was a more than decent first show of the year.

From rap and hip hop to more soulful sounds, the talented and ambitious, Drew has recently informed us that his next project could entail a reggae album…I am already intrigued.

May 18, 2011


Five years in the making, ‘Rome’ is the brainchild of, Danger Mouse and Italian composer, Daniele Luppis who together share an obsession for classical Italian movie music. On the back of an intensive period of songwriting, they traveled to Rome where they sought some of the original musicians (one example, Ennio Morricone
) who performed on scores for films such as ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.
Played and recorded live, straight to tape and maintaining the recording values and traditions of the 1960s-70s, this ambitious creation of a record seals it with vocal contributions from Jack White and Norah Jones. With such an amazing cast, expectations are high. The combination of such a group of talented composer/arrangers/producers/vocals is incredibly exciting in theory and thankfully it does not disappoint in practice. It alternates brilliantly between old school cinematic sounds and instrumentals with some wonderful cameos from, White and Jones.

Jack White is undoubtedly a musical leader of his time and I haven’t been shy in showing my admiration for what he has given to modern music thus far on this blog. Since, ‘The White Stripes’, ‘Elephant’ sent shock waves across the UK, I have been an avid fan of him and pretty much everything he’s been involved in musically (including his extensive back catalog with the White Stripes). With tens of millions of records sold (complimented with a number of Grammy’s), Norah Jones is clearly talented. This album may well provide the facelift her vocal qualities required and deserve. She channels the wounded hostility similar to that of ‘Portishead's’, Beth Gibbons, but maintains her own softer and more subtle approach.

Well worthy of a mention also is, Edda Dell'Orso who crops up on the fantastic opening track, ‘Theme of Rome’. Dell’Orso provided her quaint and beautiful sounds to, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ soundtrack back in ‘66.

With fifteen tracks comprising this album, some of which are interludes, I will hand pick my top several tracks. ‘Theme of Rome’ really does set the scene…listening to this track, I immediately envisage scenes from historic movies and in particular, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, but also Tarrentino movies, such as, ‘Sin City’ and ‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ as well as perhaps, to a lesser extent, Coen Brothers, ‘No Country for Old Men’. Immediately following this solid opener, we are provided our with our first, Jack White track. Continuing to set the theme, his vocals compliment, ‘The Rose With The Broken Neck’ perfectly. Accompanied by harpsichord and twinkling celesta, the quivering and unique voice of, White work a dream on this track.

‘Season’s Trees’ is track four and the first appearance of, Norah Jones. She is smooth, sultry, moody and chilled on this heavily strings backed track. Parallels to, Dido, Gibbons and ‘Metric’s’, Emily Haines can easily be drawn on this enjoyable little number. ‘Two Against One’ is the second track featuring, White and probably my favourite on the album (‘though I need to give the album a few more listens in its entirety to confirm this). This is more like the, White of, ‘The Dead Weather’. Delightful in the delivery of his lyrics, “I get the feeling that it’s two against one…I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?” Love the clever little guitar riff that features cunningly during this one.

‘The Gambling Priest’ is an instrumental with a devilish riff accompanied by softer celestial sounds. It triggers the imagination. In my mind, it’s the quiet, riding away on ones horse scene following a mass massacre at the local town, sound. ‘Black’ is the second of, Jones’s tunes and this one is far darker (no pun intended) than ‘Season’s Tress’. It’s dreamy, yet powerful. Her final vocal offering on the album comes in the more fun and upbeat, ‘Problem Queen’ which at times is a bit of a diversion from the rest of the albums tone. I do however enjoy the slick, more psychedelic sound of this track.

In the curtain call, ‘The World’, White takes us home on this album in a manner that only, Jack White can. This track does well to provide us with flashbacks to rolling credits at the films end.  

I highly recommend you take a walk in the past and enjoy the amazing collaboration of a group of today’s musical legends. Prior to picking this record up, I really didn’t have an album that I can readily compare to this offering (Portishead’s, ‘Dummy’ coming a distant, closest). It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s chilled and it’s gruesome. The orchestral and theme variation coupled with the musical talent and epic vocals is deeply compelling. 

From ‘Gorillaz’ and ‘Gnarls Barkley’ to ‘The Black Keys’ and ‘Beck’, Danger Mouse is the gift that keeps giving. The inclusion of such high profile acts in the cast in, White and, Jones were arguably something of a gamble…it’s a gamble that I suggest has paid dividends to the style of this album. Rating 8/10

The entire album can be streamed here -

May 15, 2011

SURFER BLOOD/TRAIL OF DEAD - Music Hall of Williamsburg, NY - 13th May 2011

Having seen, or rather heard, ‘Surfer Blood’ from a line behind a food truck in Austin, TX at SXSW, I was keen to hear and perhaps see a little more of them. As the band took the stage, I was thinking, these guys look about 16 years old. Isn't this an over 18s show?

The band have cited, ‘Modest Mouse’, ‘Pavement’ and, ‘Dinosaur Jr.’ as influences and are probably too young to remember, ‘The Smiths’, but the vocals of front man, John Paul Pitts draws distinct comparisons to, ‘Morrissey’. The band released debut album, ‘Astro Coast’ in early 2010 and have been touring pretty much nonstop since then. The sound of the album is not amazing, but to be fair, this is very much due to the limited budget the band had...basically recording the album in a bedroom.

Despite having to start over on their 1st song, ‘Floating Vibes’, due to some cable issues, lead, Pitts made light of the situation stating that their music career was done and this would be the last show ever. The drumbeat was solid and loud and the vocals instantly struck me as, Morrissey, or, ‘Housemartins’, Paul Healy. The opener was followed by, ‘Twin Peaks’ which was a little more on the poppy side. Perhaps even a little bit, ‘Weezer’.

The bands first new track of the evening was poetic and soft with a hard line message – “Now I'm alone like Salmon Rushdie”. No idea what the song was called, but it was good. JP is charismatic beyond his tender years on stage and struts around like a ballroom dancer with his guitar saddled like he's going to shoot a target (in most cases, bass player, Kevin Williams).

‘Harmonix’ was more along the lines of a, ‘Phoenix’ or, ‘Passion Pit’ sound and a slight diversion from the norm for, ‘Surfer Blood’. While the second new track, 'Miranda' was more rockin' and very mod. This one a story of a bad break up where the injured party “can’t let go”.

‘Fast Jabroni’ from the album followed and then, Pitts self confessed favourite song to play live, 'Take it easy'. This track seems like it belongs in a cowboy movie or even, 'Bonanza' (damn I’m old). The front man got a little carried away on this one and joined the crowd for a spell. Surfer Blood certainly seem to have fun on stage and I do like their satirical humour.

Catholic Pagans starts with Tom playing a mandolin like, Spanish guitar riff on lead. With the chorus line of “I don't wanna be no catholic pagan”, this is so 'Morrissey' it's unreal. This is fast becoming my favourite track from the band. An instrumental in, ‘Neighbour Riffs’ follows before we are hit with, ‘Swim’ which is undoubtedly the bands most successful track to date. A little more in the ballad theme, the crowd truly appreciated this one. Reminds me of some older, ‘Manic Street Preachers’ tunes.

The band finished up with, ‘Anchorage’ where to this point, the quiet and unassuming lead guitar, ‘Tom Fekete’ wrecks (more like bludgeons) his brand new guitar to finish.  Clearly he lost his mind at the close. This band have a way to go, but it was an impressive performance from the young quartet and I do like their live sound. Rating 7/10

Set List
Floating Vibes
Twin Peaks
Unknown title
Fast Jabroni
Take it Easy
Neighbour Riffs

A little sub line about headline act, ‘And You Will Know Us as the Trail of Dead’ (from this point forward to be known as ‘Trail of Dead’) were much anticipated, so I stuck around to see what all the fuss was about. Excuse my ignorance, but I had never heard of this band from Austin, who have been in the business since 1994. It’s sometimes difficult to get in to a band that you don't know and have heard nothing of (which is my status on, 'Trail of Dead'). Despite lead singer, Conrad Keely having a face that you wouldn't get tired of slapping, it didn't take long to appreciate the musical attributes of ‘Trail of Dead’.

Good jamming out from the outset, drummer, Jamie Miller was excellent and the band sounded super tight. Really liked, ‘Will You Smile Again?’ which has a ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ like baseline and a chorus of “Remember all the bad dreams, not far from reality”. Despite, Feely not having a hugely distinctive voice, his general delivery of clever lyrics is profound.

The band switched drummer and lead guitar, before then switching new drummer and lead vocals, highlighting the diversity of this group. Their debut album was in 1998 and they flitted back and forth between the old and new. Some of the older stuff was almost like INXS.

There were some high octane rock tunes going on and the pit was going radio rental (mental) with one girl on the balcony moshing her head back and forth for several minutes. I seriously thought either her head was going to fall off or she was going to hurtle over the balcony.

When second guy jumped on stage to prance/mosh around with the band, it was time to call it a night/early morning for me and I headed for the hills of home. I had however seen enough by this point to know that I need to go and find out a little more about ‘Trail of Dead’.

May 14, 2011



I am a fairly recent proponent of, Raphael Saadiq and his soulful sound. Isn’t it amazing how such a great musician can go relatively unnoticed for so long? I mean, Saadiq has been putting out music for the past decade and a half, but until his critically acclaimed album, ‘The Way I See It’ dropped in late 2008, Saadiq largely flew under the radar. An album of 1960s Motown Sound-inspired songs with classicist soul music influences, much of the albums success was certainly done no harm by the strength of featured artists, Jay-Z, Joss Stone and Stevie Wonder. The latter of which has certainly proved a huge influence on Saadiq’s music. He has also spent much of musical career producing artists such as TLC, D’Angelo, John Legend and Mary J Blige to name but a few.

Raphael Saadiq is the second youngest of fourteen siblings and similar to the recently reviewed, ‘Charles Bradley’, faced horrific tragedies in his young upbringing. From the murder of one brother, the heroin addiction of another and the suicide of another to the death of his sister who died in a car crash, it was a harrowing start to life for Saadiq. Unlike, Bradley, who largely used the tough circumstances that he faced as a catalyst for his music, Saadiq recently told the UK’s Guardian newspaper, “through all of that I was makin' records, but it wasn't comin' out in the music. I did it to kinda show people you can have some real tough things happen in your life, but you don't have to wear it on your sleeve." 
Saadiq released his debut album, ‘Instant Vintage’ in 2002. This earned five Grammy nominations. Two years later, ‘RayRay’ was released prior to the aforementioned, ‘The Way I See it’ in 2008. His fourth studio album, Stone Rollin', was released on March 25 in the UK and a day later in the US.

His major influences include early rock and roll artists like, Chuck Berry and Saadiq has also cited blues musician, 'Howlin' Wolf' as a major influence on new album, 'Stone Rollin’s’ sound. The production of this album certainly includes some additional distortion which helps produce a grittier, heavier guitar sound. This is a style preference for for both producer, Chuck Brungardt and Saadiq having recently gotten in to a lot of indie sounds. This album expands on the Motown-inspired material of Saadiq's previous album as well as includes various additional rhythm and blues vibes.

The opening track, 'Heart Attack' is as lively, energetic and funky an opener as you will find. A driving baseline with accompanying deep drum beat and somewhat groovy tambourine featuring in this rock and roll comprising soul sound. This track was apparently in honour of one of Saadiq's idols, Sly Stone, and inspired by his songs, 'Dance to the Music' and 'M'Lady'. Saadiq certainly succeeds in replicating the high octane impact and energy of 'Sly & The Family Stone'.

A more soulful side of Saadiq shines through on the somewhat gospel sounding, with the choir provinding backing vocals, 'Go to Hell'. The Mellotron keyboard which features heavily throughout this album is also a constant on this track.

'Radio' is, Chuck Berry inspired and features rockabilly guitar riffs and twelve-bar blues, but some of the delivery for me is synonymous with, Stevie Wonder. Great lyrics and drumbeat to this one - "I met this girl named Radio, said her signal was low, she wasn't getting my sound".

The more sultry, 'Over You' is a ballad encompassing some psychedelic influences. I love the violin strings, persistent keyboard melody and crashing drumbeats on this track. 

The title track from this album is quite simply, an amazing track. Rhythm and blues that makes me want to get down and dance (and those who know me will attest that I am not keen on dancing). 'Stone Rollin' is an ode to the more curvaceous, full-figured woman. It really is a bone chilling track with funky guitar chords, harmonica and almost MJesque style delivery from Saadiq.

'Day Dreams' is a little more jazzy and is said to have been inspired by Ray Charles and Johnny Cash. I certainly here the, Charles element coming through in this pleasant, fun sounding track.

'Movin' Down the Line' is extremely chilled out and soulful. Again my mind harks back to, Stevie Wonder in the classical/soul track with brass and horns playing their part. Following this track comes something of a transition to the
psychedelic funk sound, of 'Just Don't' featuring vocals from Yukimi Nagano.

My second (and it's a very close second behind, 'Stone Rollin') favourite track on this album, 'Good Man' is sexy, slow and soulful. Almost more in the Al Green, Marvin Gaye mold, this song is home to simple but effective lyrics and a great hook co-written and sung by vocalist Taura Stinson - "I'm a good man, food on the table, working two jobs, Ready, willing, and able'. The contrast to this hook is Saadiq's tale of a man mourning his unfaithful partner's betrayal.

The album's closing track, 'The Answer', hosts something of a plea from Saadiq for collective and individual responsibility in society and to listen to ones answers (as he did). It's powerful, strong and well accompanied by an almost military drumbeat and string quartet.

It is already looking like its acclaim will surpass that of his previous offering:

“He doesn’t just rediscover the past, he remakes it” – Rolling Stone

“Mixing soul and classic rock, guitar-toting singer, Raphael Saadiq is the new face of a musical revival” – Aol Music

“A virtuoso stylist whose finest flourishes lie in the details” - SPIN

I can't really add much to the above, this is a fairly good representation of my feelings for the album. A great one to have in your musical arsenal. Rating 8/10