Category Archives: Review

Van Susans- 100 Club, July 22, 2011

With the feel of a working man’s club straight from Only Fools and Horses, the 100 Club fails to live up to its legendary status. It should have a wonky snooker table and a fuzzy wood effect TV high in the corner, permanently tuned in to the darts, or Corrie for the ladies. But legendary it is and the home of punk and jazz still has the kudos to impress-it’s still the venue to play.

Hosting an EP launch there is a bold step, and statement of Van Susans intent. They expect to be returning to the 100 Club for nostalgic fan-club only gigs after playing to huge crowds the world over; Wembley yeah we’ll have that. They are bold, and with tonight’s performance their confidence is not misplaced.

Echoing a lone piper, a single guitarist comes on stage and starts frantic wah-wah shredding in front of an already huge and appreciative fanbase, rapturous as the remaining five members come on stage. It’s a bit showy, but whacks of professionalism. The Van Susans opener, ‘Bricks not Sticks or Straw’ is a folky college rock take on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a catchy barnstorming track which kicks their melodic song writing straight to the fore.

As they continue it’s clear there’s a strong Waterboys and classic Celtic rock element to their music. There’s a feel of an early 90’s flouncy shirt and waistcoat to their songs, but with a gritty urbanism of a folk Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ mainstream moments can be heard on ‘Old Flames’ which panders towards, fellow New Jersey folk-punks, The Gaslight Anthem.

The South London six-piece can certainly bring folk into the stadium in a way Mumford and Sons would shun. They continue with the acoustic railroad of ‘Get Up Get out’ a track akin to Del Amitri jamming with Incubus with Olly’s infectious voice sweeping through the dancing crowd. Bizarrely they break for a guitar and fiddle duet, which although good and shows they can play fast just sounds like a cliché’d Riverdance novelty pleaser.

Melodic rock is a genre which often sounds tired and but with the lead track to the We Could Be Scenery EP- ‘Cha Cha Bang’ The Van Susans have given it a youthful vigour and a new hope. It’s incredibly catchy chorus and handclaps propels them to the arena anthems of the Levellers during their ‘One Way’ peak. The sell-out crowd, who have been rousing and dancing throughout, have been rewarded for showing early faith in The Van Susans.

At the end of their set the six piece join together of a bow at the front of the stage in unashamed rock pretentions which are fully deserved. The Van Susans have crafted the unique party atmosphere of The Commitments hell bent on kicking through the doors of Americana, which along with Frank Turner signals a revival of great British songs for the common man. Their brand of stadium Celtic folk is a brave move for a modern band, especially in one so young, but they pull it off with melodic aplomb. Tonight will surely be a milestone to a greater career.


Filed under Live

Brian Eno – Drums Between The Bells

Originally published on the Line of Best Fit

Poetry is the finest of art forms. It propels language to a realm beyond mere words and communication. Poetry gives imagination to the abstract, allows grammar to dance and creates colour within rhythm.  It’s the original multimedia; encompassing the aural, the visual and the sensual.

The power of poetry has been exploited to build nations; would Britain be the same country without William Blake’s rousing Jerusalem, Shakespear’s sonnets or the GCSE poetry of the First World War trenches? Yet it’s also aspirational at the personal level, whether that be a sixth former writing whimsical poems of a life outside of dying town, or a verse yelled from a roof top, pleading to a lover.

Intellectually, poetry is the pinnacle as it shows you are more than your subject.  An artist recites poetry to prove they can do more than paint pretty pictures, while an engineer will recall some words as his leviathan ship sails away.  So it is with musicians. As prolific and enigmatic as Brian Eno is, he still wants to push himself and to explore new art forms, and Drums Between The Bells is his opportunity to break new aural boundaries.

For his second album on Warp Records, Eno has teamed up with poet and multimedia artist Rick Holland to produce a spoken-word ambient record littered with spaced beats and urban imagery.  Despite being able to craft perfect pop with Roxy Music and Talking Heads, or shatter the global stratosphere with Coldplay and U2, Eno’s own records have always been insular and structured, so this collaboration sits somewhat uncomfortably with its outside influences. These are accentuated by the use of a range of unknown orators used throughout the record such as an accountant and health club worker that Eno stumbled across.

Eno’s  previous record, 2010’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea, was clearly influenced by the likes of Squarepusher and Luke Vibert and Drums Between the Bells starts of as an extension of this.  Opening track ‘Bless This Space’ is the younger trendier cousin of ‘Disturbed Being’ -off his 1992 album Nerve Net– with a looping jazzy beat under a jittering electronic bass. As the deep monotonic poem is delivered it develops the Tech House feel of early Layo and Bushwaka.  Second track ‘Glitch’ is the schizophrenic electronica that the name suggests.  A warped robotic voice narrates the tumble of two competing bass lines before exploding in to distorted, loading ZX Spectrum.

These two tracks show a 63-year-old man producing cutting edge electronica which puts a slew of young upstarts to shame. But, like your gran would say, for most men of that age it can’t last, and with ‘Dreambirds’ the album nestles itself within Eno’s comfort zone, that of textualised new age ambient. ‘The Real’ and ‘Pour It Out’ are merely frames for Holland poetry which takes itself too seriously and borders of the pretentious.  ’Dreambirds’’People the sky with your one strokes in the age of diminishing life/ Across the blank dioxins above us, invent new colours that fly” is a weak metaphor for birds and exemplifies the cringeworthy language of a non-poet.

As the record progresses it becomes even less of an ambient soundscape and reveals itself as a new age self-help CD. The kind peddled from shops selling crystals, magic eye pictures and bells on string. Had the spoken-word element been removed it would have been a reasonable Brian Eno record, comparable to anything from 1975’s Another Green World onwards. It’s well produced and layered perfectly but it’s precisely what we know Eno can do, and he’s done it better in the past.

A modern contemporary is Dustin O’Halloran. His album Luminaire is a wonderful example of ethereal cutting edge orchestration, but Eno’s ‘As If Your Eyes Were Partly Closed’ although similar feels empty and detached, a backing track to an incomplete movie. ‘Fierce Aisles of Light’ splices together three narrators reciting one word each over a muffled drum at the bottom of a swill tank which is worthy of a third from an ex Polytechnic’s multimedia department. ‘Sound Alien’ is a peak purely because it sounds like a track from Nine Inch Nails’ remix album Further Down the Spiral, a record that came out 16 years ago, but even this is spoilt by some perky horns.  ’Multimedia’ is a reasonable attempt at being a bit dusteppy. While ‘Silence’ is just that.

Drums Between the Bells is available as a variety of packages; vinyl with mp3, and CD with a hardback book of the poetry and art work, all of which are no doubt essential for the Eno collector to spend nearly £50 on, but unlikely to inspire a new generation. It’s a record which wants to be a piece of art, as if Eno is ashamed to be just a superstar record producer and needs to be more. If poetry is the finest of art forms then music is the greatest, and talent in this area is nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately anything gained from signing to Warp and releasing Small Craft on a Milk Sea has been quashed by a weak indulgent and unnecessary record.

Leave a comment

Filed under Album, Review

Wugazi- 13 Chambers

Mash-up’s really aren’t clever any more. The final curtain was drawn with the modern day Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers, Girl Talk,  at the twilight of 2010. It was already a dying art-from, Mash Up being a bye line for shit, unimaginative, wannabe DJ. It’s ok if you’re Soulwax, but you’re not are you? The artform was spoilt with DJ’s trying to mix wacky pop songs with something Zane Lowe would play, but luckily faith in remixing has been reclaimed.

Wugazi has dropped after months of rumour and teasers. Two brave souls have tackled the sacred and honoured it nobly. Wu Tang Clan and Fugazi are two perfect groups that should arguably never be touched, but they have been meticulously rearranged by Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy. These two men spent a year disseminating each Fugazi song into its bare constituents and endlessly testing them under Wu Tang acapellas.

13 Chambers isn’t merely spitting over a Fugazi track; each backing track has been created from scratch, utilising Fugazi’s ingredients, topped off with the appropriate Wu treat. Slow Like That and Nowhere to Wait, are two of the baddest tracks you’ll hear this year. Snare’s and bass are spliced with perfect precision, while hi hats and notes trckle around ODB’s howls.

It’s free to download it by clicking here and you must. This shit is the shit.

Wugazi-Slow Like That

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Review