WEEKLY UPDATES (with some special editions in between)



April 26, 2012

GHOSTS OF EDEN – Gramercy Theater, NY – 24th March 2012

I hadn’t planned to review this show (given it was Mrs. ScoAustin and I’s first night out since the arrival of wee ScoAustin), but the performance compelled me to pen a short piece. Lead man, Pino promised me that, ‘Ghosts of Eden’ would be doing something a little different this time around, and he held to his word. The intro was absolutely fantastic in which drummer Benny joined the rest of the band on stage sporting an 80’s era guitar/piano/synth. Very dark and mellow with undertones of their song, ‘Dear Mary’ and a couple of other medley’s. If the intention was to build up the fervor, it certainly worked. Electronica is not an element I have seen, ‘Ghosts of Eden’ turn to in the past…wouldn’t mind seeing a little more on this showing.

It was back to the rocking and raucous in quick fashion with, ‘KMA’ kicking in after the scintillating intro. This was the GOE that the sold out Gramercy crowd had come to see. The ending was mind blowing with some heavy bass and deft drum beats. Some crowd interaction from the front man followed, enticing the crowd to “get your bodies moving and get all sexy”. Tom does a good job of keeping the crowd engaged without over doing the chat. One of the GOE originals in the form of, ‘Heartbreak Crutch’ up next as the crowd followed the advice of, Tom and got their bodies shaking.

Another wee surprise in the form of a cover song, Franki Valli’s, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’. For a band in the genre of, ‘Ghosts of Eden’, it seemed an odd choice and perhaps game a little early in the set. That said, it worked! Tom explaining that it’s his “secret dream in life to one day become a crooner”. The secret is out and there is potential here in the future. The crowd really got in to this accompanying the band with the lyrics and having a lot of fun with it. Credit to, Stephanie Azzarelli who accompanied on trumpet. 

From the crooning previously, the band change tact with, ‘Halo’ which is fast, frenetic and a little angry where Pino talks about waging war with his halo…perhaps a personal experience being referenced here. Benny’s drum skins need a break and they get something of a breather in the brand new, bass heavy, ‘Water’ that follows. Tom tunes his vocal chords and caresses the mic stand on this gentler number which is home to a brilliant bass line delivered expertly well by, Miles. Of course there can’t be a GOE song without a bit of a jam and some heaviness…the ending to this one is blistering.

Next up, the GOE classic that is, ‘Elliot Ness’ in which the front man suggests, “if you know the lyrics to this song, sing along”. This really is a track you would expect to hear on any good radio station and feel empowered to sing along. Some great lyrics and a fantastic opening guitar riff. I know the words to this one and I did sing along a little. From the bands, ‘Ignorance and Lies’ EP, this track has appeared on almost every GOE set list and for good reason.

Another new one in, ‘Ka-Pow!’ in which, Pino demonstrates his high kung-fu kickability (or not) when introducing the song. This is crazy fast and full of the energy that the title would suggest. There is a portion of this track which sounds a little like British 80’s rock band, ‘The Police’ when backing vocals couples with Tom’s combine…it reminds me of, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’. Rip-roaring and loud…my ears are tingling as the band go off pre encore to raptures of “GOE! GOE! GOE! GOE! GOE! GOE!”

One of the shows highlights is the appearance of, Pino for the encore and a solo in the form of, ‘Walls’ which shows an unlikely sensitive side. It’s a beautiful little ballad with heartfelt lyrics that are delivered in a serious and poignant manner by the lead man. The crowd utterly captivated. The mellow setting doesn’t last long as ‘Capsize’ thunders in with what I can only describe as a Tommy-gun type guitar riff and accompanying drum beat which really does have me thinking I’m in the middle of a warzone, not a NY gig venue.  

GOE finished another solid live performance with what has become their standard closer, ‘In Motion’. It’s a fitting choice with a song which goes a long way to characterizing this band. This is a band who has worked tirelessly hard on extending their reach by playing shows all over the east coast, not to mention they are constantly striving to improve. The hard work pays off every time I see them live. They exceed my high expectations each and every time…that can only be a good thing. Rating 8.5/10

Listen to the whole thing here. Note: this was recorded by an iPhone so probably doesn’t do the sound quality any justice, but it perhaps puts my word in to sound -

Set List:
Heartbreak Crutch
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli Cover)
Eliot Ness

Capsize/Sell My Skin medley
In Motion

March 14, 2012

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - Bowery Ballroom, NY, 5th March 2012

I have previously listed, Bombay Bicycle Club as the best sound of 2012 thus far ( Having now seen and heard them in the live setting, I have not wavered from that stance. Hailing from England and touted by the NME as "the hottest band to come from North London for quite some time", this is definitely a band worth getting acquainted with. Indeed, ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’ won the Best New Band award at the 2010 NME Awards which is an impressive feet given the competition - ‘The XX’, ‘La Roux’, and ‘Mumford & Sons’…the first of which were my personal favourites from that year.

Following a couple of solid warm up acts in Toronto indie kids, ‘The Darcy’s’ and English singer/songwriter, Lucy Rose, ‘Bombay Bicylce Club’ took to the stage at The Bowery Ballroom just shy of 10.30pm.

Kicking off with the haunting and tantalizing falsetto of lead man, Jack Steadman, a firm favorite from the bands most recent album, ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ got the show off to a good start in, 'How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. The song has something of a drum and bass beat in the background, yet sustains the ‘Manchester sound’ throughout. This is a common feature as the show develops. The one slight flaw on the opener was that the vocals needed upped a good wedge. Fortunately this adjustment was made half way through the track. On the plus side, the ability of drummer, de Saram was evident from the outset. A solid drummer is the key to any band. Following the promising start, it was straight in to, ‘Your Eyes’ also from the latest release. With an energetic ending to this slow meandering tune, Steadman howls “come-ing ba-a-ack” and the band displays a more animated live routine than I ever envisaged. I mean they are not doing choreographed dance moves, but they do display extreme enthusiasm and appear to be a young band who are caught in the moment of what they are doing right now. I couldn't quite put my finger on who Steadman sounds like at times, but I'm hearing a bit of Brian Molko of, 'Placebo' fame.    

The third track of their set and the second on. ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ is becoming another of my top tunes from that release. With chilling vocals and a great beat, this is a gripping tune and again the band rock out with fervor. Steadman often reverts to the delivery of almost sluggish, unhurried lyrics to good effect - “Why do you keep me back? With all your powers I am pushing at”. The lead man did not interact too much with the crowd in terms of chat, but rather, let the music do the talking. Personally, I prefer this approach. Bands and musicians are on stage to play and perform…if they wanted to talk, they should have become politicians.

We or rather, I was introduced to a couple of tracks from their previous album releases in, ‘Open House’ from debut album, ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ and, ‘Dust On The Ground’ from the purely acoustic follow up, ‘Flaws’. The former is very much in the same vein as the current album, only includes something of a, Strokes/Kings of Leon guitar riff throughout. ‘Dust On The Ground’ is quite the opposite. The beautiful, gentle vocals of the front man rush to the fore on this one. With an almost Johnny Cash guitar strum, Steadman’s quivering voice fits like a glove. In all truth, I only really got in to, Bombay Bicycle Club a few months ago and hadn’t really had the time to delve in to their past releases. I certainly made a point to do so following this impressive showing.

From the old, we’re back to the new in, ‘Leave It’. I mentioned the Manchester sound in my opening, none more than in this track is this emphasised. Definitely takes me back to the, ‘Stone Roses’, ’Happy Mondays’, ‘The Smiths’ of that era/genre.  ‘Take the Right One’ continues this theme with a ‘Joy Division’, ‘New Order’ kind of feel. Watching the bass player, Ed Nash (who looks like he’s barely old enough to be away from home, let alone be on stage at Bowery Ballroom in the latter hours of Monday night) and lead guitar, Jamie MacColl more closely, this is a band with talent in abundance. They have a confidence and fearlessness that exudes itself on stage. ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ lightens the mood somewhat with a steady chilled out track accompanied by support, Lucy Rose on vocals.

Back now to a more extended run of five songs from their previous albums. ‘Rinse Me Down’ was like a country version of a, ‘Stone Roses’ oldie. In the easy listening bracket, but not really in line with the previous tracks. What followed was an odd selection for the set in ‘Ivy & Gold’. It was completely different to anything else played with a rockabilly sound to it…something I would expect from a ‘Pogues’ gig with an Irish folk feel. A good track with a nice little drum solo in which, MacColl held up a cowbell for, de Saram to play while their touring keyboardist jokingly picked up a fan from the stage to cool him off as he banged away. That said, the tune was slightly misplaced on this set I think.

‘Evening/Morning’ from the band’s debut had us back on track with some heavy synth and a spine tingling base. This was the surprise package for me and probably one of the standout tracks of the evening. I can’t quite put my finger who the lead man sounds like, but the vocals that ooze out of his slight frame continues to impress me as he belts out, “I am ready to owe you anything”. MacColl intros the next song, ‘Cancel On Me’ with a cute little guitar solo which has a Radiohead/Red Hot Chilli Peppers twang. If the past couple of tracks hadn’t warmed the crowd up following a mid-show fall off, the next couple certainly did. ‘Lamplight’ was rocking and definitely their most raucous of this set. Again the band, to a man displayed an aggression and liveliness that I never anticipated when they jammed out for a few solid minutes to close this one. ‘Always Like This’ starts of very mellow with a reggae style beat and a bit of trumpet (the trumpet player allegedly someone the band met on the day of their Williamsburg show a couple of days prior), but it went from soft to hard like an impotent man on Viagra. Concluding with the lyrics, “I’m not whole, I’m not whole, You waste it all” the excited Bowery crowd joined in as Steadman took pleasure in the interaction…great atmosphere for a gig in New York City.

They closed the main piece of their Bowery set with ‘What You Want’ which begins with an echoing harmony of “your flesh and bone, your flesh and bone”…this track again in the ‘Joy Division’ realm with its insk, insk beat and an element of electronica with some synthesizers. There was no way the New York crowd were letting them go just yet, and following a very short intermission, BBC were back with a two song encore. The popular and poppy, ‘Shuffle’ the first of the closers. A few simple piano chords open and then the pop does the rest. Lucy Rose again joins to assist with backing vocals to this straight up, uncomplicated, catchy number. It has a small component to it that reminds me of some of tracks from, Moby’s, Play’. I need to admit to dancing with my newborn ‘wee ScoAustin’ almost every night to this one. She seems to like it, and in all honestly, who wouldn’t?  ‘What If’ closes with an arse kicking drum beat which is something similar to their London predecessors, Bloc Party. This is a band that I just can’t stop listening to and on this evidence, we’ll be listening for quite a while longer. Rating: 8/10

Set List:
How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
Your Eyes
Bad Timing
Open House
Dust on the Ground
Leave It
Take the Right One
Lights Out, Words Gone
Rinse Me Down
Ivy And Gold
Cancel On Me
Always Like This
What You Want

What If

February 21, 2012

Album Review - BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - A Different Kind Of Fix

Bombay Bicycle Club are an English Indie rock band hailing from London, England. The band comprises Jack Steadman (vocals, guitar), Jamie MacColl (guitar), Ed Nash (bass) and Suren de Saram (drums). Steadman, MacColl and de Saram met at secondary school and began playing under the guise of ‘The Canals’ at the age of just fifteen. They later changed their name to ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’, after a chain of Indian restaurants in London and the bands line-up altered regularly until the summer of 2006 when, Nash joined.

In May of 2007, NME wrote an article naming, Bombay Bicycle Club "the hottest band to come from North London for quite some time". In June 2008, the band officially finished higher secondary school education, which meant that they could commit fully to music instead of having to juggle being in a band and studies. Bombay Bicycle Club's debut album was recorded between late October and late November 2008 at Konk Studios in London. The album was produced by Jim Abbiss who is responsible for perhaps the most significant British debut of the 21st century - Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. It’s fair to say that this band face quite the challenge to reach the heights that the Sheffield rockers have over the past several years.

‘Bombay Bicycle Club’ won the Best New Band award at the 2010 NME Awards which is an impressive feet given the competition - ‘The XX’, ‘La Roux’, and ‘Mumford & Sons’…the first of which were my personal favourites from 2010. The band released their second studio album, ‘Flaws’ in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2010 and made its entrance on the UK Albums Chart at number 8; beating the debut's peak of number 46. The album included eleven acoustically recorded tracks. On 19 April 2011 it was announced that 'Flaws' has been nominated for the 2011 Ivor Novello award for best album.

In September 2010, the band announced that they had begun working on their third studio album, once again returning to electric guitars following acoustic recordings for "Flaws". On 7 June 2011 Zane Lowe revealed on BBC Radio 1 that their new album would be called ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’. The album was released on 29 August 2011.

‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ gets this album underway with the haunting hums of Steadman accompanied by Tubular Bells type guitar that make for a blindingly clear guitar, before he begs, “Can I wake you up? Can I wake you up? Is it late enough?” and a crashing drum and beat drum rocks in. The composition of this track follows some early, ‘Stone Roses’ tunes. Promising stuff and this is to be released as a single on 5th March.  In ‘Bad Timing’, Steadman again comes to the fore with his quivering, Morrisseyesque vocals. The synths that join in make for a compelling track. The aggressively delivered choruses match in perfectly.  
‘Your Eyes’ is, for lack of a better word, basic. It really follows a simplistic drumbeat and structure, yet somehow gets buried deep in the bows of one’s consciousness. I like the air raid sound worked in towards the end of the track. In ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ it’s very easy to get lost amidst the bands hazy harmonies and glazed riffs which carry a great deal of funk…another in the “catchy” realm. ‘Take The Right One’ emphasizes that, like The Stone Roses earlier records, bass lines are catchier than the songs choruses. This track definitely puts me in mind of that Manchester vibe.

‘Shuffle’ is a happy go lucky tune with a trippy piano loop and gentle crescendos in which lead man Jack Steadman’s delicate voice chimes over bouncing drums. Indeed, Steadman's vocals tumble over handclaps and layered harmonies in a manner that becomes subtly unstoppable instead of mawkish. Towards the end of the tune, my memory harks back to, Moby’s, ‘Play’. Much of the band’s music isn’t far away from that particular Moby album in terms of mood and feel. ‘In ‘Beggars’ that follows, the band have clearly drawn some inspiration from their past endeavours with the acoustic plucking and Jack’s vulnerable vocal warbling recalling previous release, ‘Flaws’.

‘Leave It’ is most certainly home to the bands biggest chorus yet. It’s a confident, gliding groove that slides through everything. Oftentimes, when British guitar bands attempt to get groovy, they can end up sounding flat and about as funky as The Three Tenors, but this doesn’t work out too bad at all. ‘Fracture’ is extremely tranquil and chilled. Enjoyable, but not a great deal to write home about…probably one of the weaker tracks on the album. The dip doesn’t last long and ‘What You Want’ brings is back with an intro reminding me of, ‘New Order’ and an incessant drumbeat that is hard to shift. Guitar riffs are similar to early, ‘Coldplay’ and again the front man’s vocals are chillingly good. 

‘Favourite Day’ follows a marching band beat and is supplemented by a variety of strings, keys, guitar and other percussion. The closer, ‘Still’ manages to recall ‘Amnesiac’ era Radiohead. With a partiality to piano based tracks, this piano howler "Still" that quivers to the end serves notice that the this band have the ability to transition in many different ways. 

Bombay Bicycle Club has established a large and devoted following in the three short years since their first album. They’ve maintained such a following with three albums that are vastly different, from the alternative rock to the entirely acoustic album, right up to this album, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, which is back to electric but more restful. They have arguably created the most poignant anthology of what it means to be young and agitated in the city since fellow Londoner band, Bloc Party’s,  ‘Silent Alarm’. It’s the best album I have heard this year (even though it was released last). Rating 8.5/10

February 15, 2012


This is the band that I have started reviewing, but not quite finished.  I did however at least want to give you a taste of the band I am loving right now. Certain bands grab you by the bollocks and take you for a ride. For me, they have included Oasis, Kings of Leon (early stuff), Arctic Monkeys, Black Keys, Black Angels and Cage The Elephant. Add these English indie kids to the list. Going to see them play Bowery on March 5th and simply can't wait. Give them a go. Full album review to come (when I get a spare hour or so).

Video - Bombay Bicycle Club: The band I am desperately trying to review

January 19, 2012

Album Review: CHILDISH GAMBINO - Camp

I only learned of this, Childish Gambino character in mid November when his album dropped in the US and my good friend, Gillis in Albuquerque gave me a heads up on this ‘comedians’ musical foray.  Most are familiar with, Donald Glover through his role on NBC’s TV show, ‘Community’, but under the rap moniker of, Childish Gambino (created through a Wu-Tang name generator), he released his first commercial release, ‘Camp’ on November 15th 2011. Numerous actors and actresses have attempted to make the transition from acting and performing in front of the camera to a life behind the mic, only to fail wretchedly. There are however a small band who enjoyed elements of success in acting to music transition - Jamie Foxx, Drake, J-Lo etc. It’s already safe to say, we can now add, Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) to that list with, ‘Camp’ a fine piece of work.

In the thirteen track album, Childish Gambino works to address criticism that he has received from his “haters” on topics ranging from not being “black” or “’hood” enough to being referred to as “gay” and “soft” due largely to his career as a comedian and actor. Instead of striving to fit in with the rap/hip hop community, he talks to his differences from the pack and embraces them to his credit and great advantage. Quite refreshing when you consider some of the lyrics and content of mainstream rap, a lot of which probably better fits the comedy world from which Gambino has risen.

The opening track on ‘Camp’, ‘Outside’ establishes one of the most admirable aspects this album from the very outset - Childish Gambino is able to touch on a wide range of subject matters ranging from family and relationships to race and growth of character. All of this while remaining inside the confines of the album theme - summer camp. He addressed these topics on this track with superb lyrics and guile. ‘Fire Fly’ that follows is probably as close to mainstream as, Gambino will’ like a step back to old school boom box rap. It is home to a glowing, synth beat similar to that of, Kanye West in ‘808’s and Heartbreak’. Even his frustrations are decidedly more pop in rhymes like “These black kids want something new, I swear it/Something they wanna say but couldn’t cause they embarrassed/All I do is make the stuff I wanna write/Reference shows I wanna watch, reference girls I wanna bite.”

Opening with an air siren, ‘Bonfire’ is the first track I had heard from, Gambino and is also the first release from this album. It is one of the tracks that he produced (more than half of the album fall under this realm). It has a raw aggression about it that puts me in mind of, Lil Wayne or, Busta Rhymes and this aggression is met with an onslaught of guitar and snare drums throughout. ‘Bonfire’ contains a raucous beat consisting of loud electric guitars and an air horn that is sure to get you hyped when Gambino spits heavy hitting punch lines like “You know these rapper dudes talk shit, start killin’/Fuck that, got goons like an arch-villain/I’m from the South, ain’t got no accent, don’t know why/So this rap is child’s play, I do my name like Princess Di”. It’s the ideal lead single from, Gambino and a fine blend of his attitude and charm underlining his fondness for unconventional beats and referencing a glut of pop culture.

As an actor, Donald Glover plays a foolish character on, ‘Community’ and was previously a member of the comedy cast, ‘Derrick Comedy’. He addresses both his past and his peculiarity on “All The Shine” when he inquires, “Is there room in the game/ For a lame who rhymes?/ Who wears short-shorts/ And makes jokes sometimes?” He is comfortable within himself despite being ‘different’. The music industry is laden with people who alter appearances and attitude to fit in with social expectations, but his music comes over like a breath of fresh air and his liberation make for appealing and enjoyable songs. ‘Letter Home’ is certainly in the lighter of, Gambino’s ensemble.  His voice fits this one like a glove and it’s perfectly produced. ‘Heartbeat’ is one of my favourites from the album. It is extremely catchy with its solemn sounding piano tune developing into a synth-induced electronic beat accompanied by buoyant drum beats. This is yet another illustration of the diversity of Camp’s production. ‘Backpackers’ is a simple sounding track with warbled backing lyrics and a sound comparable to Jay-Z’s, ‘Hard Knock Life”. It’s clear that, Gambino has little time for backpackers. 

Living in New York city and enjoying this particular part of town, ‘L.E.S.’ is an enjoyable ode to the hipster mecca of NYC, the lower east side of Manhattan. People have said that, Gambino isn’t hood at all and he proves this here by referencing the hipster scene as opposed to the streets. He paints a very accurate picture of the neighbourhoods’ growing population of young people that think they are too cool for school in lyrics like “you’s a hipster bitch/but not in the lame way/like you aint living out in BK/like you aint working on a screenplay/like your baby daddy aint a DJ/like she listens to old freeway/cuz everybody listens to biggie, but she different”.

On a few tracks, Gambinio addresses the criticism on whether he is “black enough” where he shares how “This one kid said somethin’/ That was really bad / He said I wasn’t really Black/ Because I had a dad.” This track deals with the subject of racism in a very aware manor when Gambino delivers honest lyrics that speak for them self. Again props for production here with the track starting out with a begins with a positive piano, followed by a well orchestrated handclap, complemented forty five seconds in when the quiet drum that kicks in. ‘Kids’ slows things down a touch and is one of the few ‘romantic’ tracks on the album on which he sings on the chorus – “if we were kids/I'd want to give you everything that you would want/those other boys/they gave you toys, but all they wanna do is/keep up, keep up, keep up, keep up” over a scintillating violin instrumental.

‘You See Me’ hosts another of the popular topics on this album…Gambino’s fetish for Asian girls, “Forget these white girls / I need some variation / Especially if she very Asian”. The track is of the drum heavy variety with the bass turned up to the maximum. ‘Sunrise’ is possibly the weakest on the album from a lyrical perspective, but hosts misty synth, clapping in abundance, and a grand chorus sample that embraces the power of pure music over vocals.
On the last track of the album, “The Power,” he tells the story of his bus trip home from summer camp as a kid. In the story, he shares his feelings of a girl that he liked and had spent the summer with at camp. She then goes on to share everything he said with her friends, who naturally make fun of him as they exit the bus. He spills how that experience aided him in learning to tell everybody his secrets, so nobody can go around gossiping, because everyone already knows. Home to gigantic pounds, the track’s most appealing quality is the ending monologue - “I wish I could say this was a story about how I got on the bus a boy and got off a man more cynical, hardened, and mature and shit. But that’s not true. The truth is I got on the bus a boy. And I never got off the bus. I still haven’t.”

Childish Gambino’s first commercial foray highlights that he isn’t just an actor rapping for kicks. He’s been taking music seriously for years, and ‘Camp’ goes a long way in displaying Glover’s ability as a rapper. By embracing his differences, he crafts lyrically unique tracks…through his effort, he has managed to establish himself as a rising artist in the genre in which he now operates. From a production standpoint, the album is all over the shop, however it works in, Gambino’s favour in some sense, as it allows him to exhibit his versatility as a rapper. In many respects, the production of this album is as diverse as the lyrical content and themes. No matter what mood you find yourself in, there is a song or two for everyone in this offering. Hungry for more and hope, Gambino never does get off the bus. Rating 8/10.