Saturday, 16 February 2013

Live review: The Kerrang! Tour 2013, O2 Academy, Glasgow

You might be looking at this progressively and think "Did he go to two gigs at the O2 Academy in a row, then go back home to Blairgowrie only to wake up at 5:30 AM the next morning to get a train to Aberdeen then get on a bus straight to Uni after he got there?" And I would say you think too much.

You probably know by now that I have a lot to thank Kerrang! for. It's shaped a good portion of my music taste today while I was slipping up on knowing what to get into, while also reminding me that bands that I thought were uncool to listen to still actually kick ass. But it was a few years back that I formed that opinion on the magazine. Since then, there's quite an obvious argument that the quality of what appears in those pages has, well, declined (Save for a quite exceptional Biffy Clyro interview.) and receives slander from everyone. Everywhere. All the time. And it's genuinely heartbreaking to see it constantly proving itself unable to get back up on it's feet and publish an issue that isn't just silly and will shut everyone up. It is why things will change when I achieve my dream job of becoming editor. Some will probably say it was a poor idea and it was unsurprising that we went bankrupt when I stopped putting You Me at Six, Paramore and All Time Low began putting the likes Turbonegro, Obituary and King Crimson on the cover for no other reason than I like them, but we will die with honour. Probably.

But tonight, I am supporting the magazine in it's current state and I'm being a spectator of the magazine's annual tour, that sees four bands they have a lot of love for touring the country and tonight's bill has a solid selection of bands, although some people lurking on the internet would gladly explain in great detail why they disagree with me. One reason I've really been keen to come to tonight's gig is that it gives me a chance to reunite with two very good friends of mine from school who are in fact still in school, that I haven't met up with in ages and one of those people's younger sisters who is also extremely good company. A lot of catching up is had in the queue which is perhaps one of the longest queues I've been in and thankfully, it goes by quickly thanks to my friends' effortless charm and humour and nothing else. No substances involved, nope.

Moving swiftly on, it's a massive relief to be back at the O2 Academy's downstairs standing section following the tenure of spending last night watching The Summer Set, Lower Than Atlantis and All Time Low in the balcony with a bunch of people that really didn't seem to display much care. There's a feeling of excitement in tonight's crowd right from the moment of entry. Of course, it helps that this excitement is coming from the fact that opening act Fearless Vampire Killers are already onstage. I never actually found the time to listen to the band when they were on the lips of this magazine constantly throughout last year, so this is my first experience of the band as they parade around the stage in their gothic steampunk-esque get up. And to be honest, we were left impressed. The musical performance was high on distortion and blasts of energetic guitar melodies that often hit a solid beatdown that were it a headlining show of theirs would be the kind of thing that ought to be inciting mosh pits. There's some humour in the onstage presence of frontman Laurence Beveridge as someone experiencing them for the first time. Pictures and interviews suggest that this band would be deadly serious in questionably mythical ways, but no. He stumbles about the stage like me on a night out. NA d not in a tragic way. He clearly makes it part of his shtick, making himself like the Johnny Vegas of gothic alternative rock. He asks the crowd to make their best sex noises while the rest of the band provide an old school porn film soundtrack. It must be a delight to those who came with parents and if you know the headliners of tonight, you know damn well that there's a high chance of parents being there. But with a solid set of songs and a spiked up and fairly unique cover of Elton John's I'm Still Standing, they leave here with a few more friends than they started with.

The next band I did take the time to listen to right as they were on the cusp of being massive here in the UK. Tonight Alive's debut full length What Are You So Scared Of? was obviously available for streaming on Youtube long before it was released in the UK, so I got a good chance to embrace their massive pop punk hooks and melodies some time ago. I guess that's why it was so disheartening to see the Brisbane pop punk quintet tonight not really seeming like they were giving their all. of course, with so much of the crowd here for the headliners, pop punk is the last thing on the majority of the crowd's minds tonight, but those who are in the mood for three chord fun lap up the crowd's performance as mini circle pits begin emerging. For the rest of us, I guess we're not specifically in the mood for having fun at this point and with little willing to move in any way, there seems to be some kind of fear of coming out as the pop punk sheep in the crowd. But even in the face of widespread rejection, the band refuse to let anything get in the way of their good time vibes and frontwoman Jenna McDougall makes herself a powerful stage presence and certainly becomes one of the only musicians of the night to jump into the crowd, which is of course always asking for trouble in Glasgow. It's a bit gutting really. Tonight Alive are killer on record but that reputation doesn't seem to come out tonight. Maybe if it was sunny day and they were playing outdoors, it would be a better show. And that's why I always said as soon as I first heard them that they are a band with "Warped Tour" written all over them.

In between Tonight Alive's departure and the appearance of the next band, there's a noticeable increase of people in the downstairs standing area. A lot of people coming to the Kerrang! tour have been waiting for this show for a long time. There was some widespread excitement when Craig Owens announced he was re-joining Chiodos as frontman. I mean, not Jesse Leach re-joining Killswitch Engage excitement, but excitement nonetheless. So naturally, the band that has had quite an underrated but notified influence on many American post hardcore bands today receive something close to a heroes welcome when they come onstage. Of course, many Kerrang! readers will be more familiar with Mr. Owens when his side project Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, or D/R/U/G/S exploded over here and toured with tonight's headliners, and it's been good exposure for him at these shores and has made a lot of the crowd more familiar with the efforts of the band he has now returned to. And thus the likes of One Day Woman Will All Become Monsters and The Undertaker's Thirst for Revenge is Unquenchable get a highly enthusiastic comeback, while those less familiar with the band's material lose themselves in Pat McManaman and Thomas Erak's constant spiels of chuggy riffage. They're undoubtedly the heaviest band on the bill and it's that which makes them such a formidable highlight. I'm sure they'll be able to do their own headlining tour soon enough and it'll be like the upcoming Killswitch tour in a more compact form.

So, Chiodos exit the stage and all we need now is for the headliners to give it what they've got. Now, as good as all the bands have been, looking at everyone here and all the T Shirts being worn in the crowd, it's obvious that this is the only reason people turned up in thousands tonight. Its also the only reason that many people that haven't come out tonight will be instead finding any possible way to complain about the tour and mourn about how much of a sham the magazine hosting tonight's show has become. When it was announced that the Kerrang! Tour 2013 would be headlined by Black Veil Brides, it basically marked the moment that magazine pretty much stopped becoming Kerrang! and started becoming BVB Army Weekly. But when you see the size of tonight's crowd, it's clear why they do it. BVB sells, and everyone's buying. Of course, I managed to be quite the rarity in which I've managed to become a fan of the band, finding good moments in all their albums especially their latest bold opus Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones but it's the guitar work from Jake Pitts and Jeremy "Jinxx" Ferguson that has always been the highlight of the music, rather than the constantly prolific and constantly adored or slated figure that is their frontman Andy Biersack. It's what makes it so interesting and thought provoking to be in the same room as the man, to be so close to one of the most opinion dividing people in the room right now. But tonight he, Pitts, Jinxx, bassist Ashley Purdy and drummer Christian Coma are in the company of those that are showing them nothing but relentless amounts of love, which can easily be made out in the volumes of the screams from the crowd as they emerge on the stage and launch into a thundering rendition of I am Bulletproof. From there on, the screams remain at big volumes and massive hard rock riffs and hooks keep coming as they launch into a huge onslaught of new material and songs from 2011's Set the World On Fire as well as 2010's introducing single Perfect Weapon. Throughout the set we're treated to some ridiculously cheesy old school rock posing, I get the humour of wondering if many of the fans have any idea what the logo on Andy's Dead Kennedys T-shirt is meant to be, we're treated to the classic speeches of being proud of who you are and not letting anyone else get in your way, and there's even the very cool surprise of the band being joined onstage by Aiden frontman Wil Francis under his William Control guise during Shadows Die and the massive set closer of In the End. Many people came tonight knowing they were in for a great show and got it. I did as well, after a long time of not knowing whether it's respectable or not for me to admit to listening to them, I finally get the answer tonight. It is. They're a good band, no matter what the internet tries to tell me.

With that, we exit the Academy and I have some final chats with my friends and gather opinions on how they thought the show was. It's a positive response all round. And as I head home that night in preparation for an early wake up, I know I'll be seeing those crazy friends again. I need to more than anything. They're some of the most awesome people I know. The best part of this is I know that will actually meet again for a week at a Festival known as Download. And if a week with them can be as good as tonight, I'm probably the luckiest kid alive.

Live review: All Time Low - O2 Academy, Glasgow

As I began settling into life at university in Aberdeen and my sister began settling into her life at second year of uni in Edinburgh, we kind of realised something that we never really sussed out during years of living together in Blairgowrie. We missed each other. We were spending longer periods of time apart and it gets to a point where phone calls don't really do the job of spending quality time together. I knew that last weekend would be the first time that I'd get a chance to see my sister since leaving to start my second semester at the start of the year, and it meant I would like to hang out somewhere special, out of the norm for the night. Perhaps going to a gig for something very rare indeed. A gig for a band we both enjoy. And this is ultimately what prompted me to buy tickets for tonight's show. From our days of boredom spent watching Kerrang! TV, we both gained quite the affinity for Baltimore's pop punk sweethearts All Time Low, so when I found out they were playing at Glasgow's very fine branch of the O2 Academy, I knew I had to get a ticket.

Unfortunately, the timing taken to purchase said tickets results in us spending the night up in the balcony in the unreserved sitting section. Now, in case you weren't aware, I will advise you now, if you are passionate about going to gigs and seeing the crowd reaction, avoid unreserved seating tickets like supermarket meat. It will destroy your soul to see just how little care the majority of the crowd seem to have. And in some sense that will sound preposterous. I mean, they spent their money and stood in the major queue like everyone else, there's got to be some care somewhere. But as I manage to peer down on the people in the unreserved standing section, it's clear to see where the real fun is being had.

Before we focus solely on the gig details, it's worth examining the kind of reputation that All Time Low hold in their forms of touring, if you will. There's a divide in how they stand in your music collection. For some (me), they're like the glossier poppier band in a music collection championed by harder and rougher rock bands. For others (my sister), they're the rougher guitar playing band in a collection championed by glossy pop singers. Make sense? Maybe. In the US, the band clearly have a higher reputation of a band in the former position. More rock fans will see them as a relieving source of hooks and cheer. You just have to look at the fact that throughout April and May, they're embarking on a co-headline tour with Pierce the Veil, a band that are clearly made of harder stuff. Looking at much of tonight's crowd, I don't think they could possibly get away with something like that in the UK. We're in the latter category. We're a bunch of pop loving sissies. 

And so, tonight's lineup reflects the two ways that ATL's fans view them overall as a pop rock band. It means that the people that view them as the rock band in their pop collection go crazy for opening act The Summer Set hailing from Arizona, and not Somerset, to the surprise of my sister and I. 
Naturally, my sister falls for the sweet hooks and choruses covered in a radio friendly sheen, and much of the crowd manage to make some kind of effort to prove they're on the same page. But I am not like my sister and I can't really find myself falling in love with the band as so many around em effortlessly manage. In honesty, I had a bad start with the band as we arrived to them beginning a cover of Bruno Mars' Locked Out of Heaven and follow up with a performance of average pop rock songs leaving me thinking that this is nothing but really average and has me looking at bassist Stephen Gomez wondering "Is he even plugged in?" I mean, it's good for what it is, but hearing covers of Top 40 pop songs and hearing frontman Brian Dales' unleashing horribly forced lines of banter like "Hey, I got a hole in my shirt. I don't think it'll be the only piece of skin I have showing by the end of the night." isn't hearing the sound of a band that carries much ambition or integrity. But of course this is my life and that means everyone loves them and I am looked at a a boring bastard for not enjoying them. In fact they're so loved that later on, people fall over stairs for them. Fellow coursemate, if you are reading this, I'm sorry. I suck.

After the spread of giddying cheer that came from The Summer Set, the natural follow up is the band that will appease more to those that see All Time Low as the pop band in their rock collection. A less-than-happy reaction from fans came about when Lower Than Atlantis first announced on their Facebook page that they would be the main support on this tour. I mean there are obvious reasons for it. Some just can't get over the fact that they've gotten huge over the past few years and aren't playing in front of 40 people while supporting Architects anymore, which is an argument I can never really get behind, after all a band should tour with who they want if they want more exposure. The other argument is that it shouldn't be worth LTA's time to play a brilliant set every night only to be unappreciated by a crowd only wanting one band. And judging by tonight's crowd, this is an argument I can get behind. Obviously, opening for a poppy band, they're needing to pull out all the hits, so as they come onstage to a blinding Love Someone Else and my sister discovers what it's like to hear a heavy breakdown live for the first time, they establish that they're the real rock band of the night, whether the audience want it or not. And so, it's hit after hit after hit. If the World Was to End, Go On StrikeDeadliest Catch, (Motor)Way of Life all performed with much solidity and something of an awareness that they're the heaviest band here and a revolving thought on whether this is something worth being proud or self-conscious about. It's the best they can do with this crowd, but the real rock fans are left smiling, especially during Mike Duce's decent onstage banter and command for everyone sitting downstairs to take part in a faux-Slipknot crazy test as everyone sits on the floor only to jump up in a single moment of derangement. Which as you could imagine... is so much fun... to watch... from the balcony. Yeah. And as I look at the crowd losing there mind while those around me on the balcony blankly stare on and gaze at their phones. Indeed, they might not be getting into the music but it seems like some respect should be shown to them. This is just rude. I suppose we'll have to wait for their own headlining tour to see them get the appreciation they fully deserve.

Fuck me, I'm actually embarrassed by my photography attempts.

Of course, the crowd immediately put their phones away and begin cheering emphatically once the main backdrop is removed to reveal a massive "ATL" written on separate circles and indeed, four young men from Baltimore emerge onstage, ready to give the crowd the full display of Lower Than Atlantis' riff-lead punk belters laced in Summer Set gloss that the crowd has been demanding all this time. Much of tonight's set is a masterclass lesson in how to get a room of girls screaming above everything else. With every line of Alex Gaskarth's onstage banter which is fully improvised unlike some, Mr. Dales, the crowd are cheering along in the sheer recklessness and surprises of the moment. And then of course, there's the songs themselves. All Time Low couldn't write a small chorus if they tried and they prove it with their latest offering Don't Panic which has seen them going back to basics and back to their best. Naturally the likes of For Baltimore and The Reckless and the Brave fit in perfectly with a long line of previous tunes like Lost in Stereo, Forget About It and Six Feet Under the Stars. Personally, 2009's Nothing Personal is for me their best album so I revel in the moments in which works from that album are played and even have a full moment of sudden clarity when Alex introduces Stella as being a song about beer. Man, that was smart of me. Of course, the most triumphant moment of the evening is the double whammy closing pair of Weightless (which definitely isn't one of my favourite songs ever, nope.) and Dear Maria, Count Me In, the audience lap it up. And genuine headbanging unfolds for the first time, thankfully. Of course, up in the balcony things are much less awesome. I'm the most enthusiastic person by some distance beyond the odd drunk dancing girl and enthusiastic 12 year old whose parents look on without much concern. Plus everyone keeps shouting out for songs that I don't know as well, which is kind of annoying. Maybe I'll see them again when they announce they're playing Nothing Personal in it's entirety.

Of course, as I've stated this is a crowd that for the most part view ATL as the rock band in their pop collection, so the overall reaction is mostly void of enjoyable rock show ethics that Lower Than Atlantis were so desperately in demand for. But in the face of this crowd All Time Low still put on a performance worthy of a strong reputation of a rock band, that means they can be put on the bill for Sonisphere festival to the dismay of those who will go to watch a different band on at the same time as them. The kind of order and slick perfection that you'd see at the shows of many of the band s that this audience also listens to is not present. And with that extra chaos comes extra fun. Really, tonight All Time Low prove at times of having a constantly unsure reaction from the public that they really do belong in the rock crowd. Even if much tonight's audience doesn't realise it.

And with that, the show is over and done. And when the weekend finishes, I'm back to Aberdeen and my sister is back to Edinburgh. Who knows if we'll ever be able to have a meetup like that again. Well actually, I do know when we're next going to a gig together, but that's another story for another day. Either way, we spend tonight watching a band we both love and having a great time in our own ways. Ironically, we leave with our spirits at an all time high.

By the way, bad seating also means bad photography.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: Bullet for My Valentine - Temper Temper

Seems like this album is the only natural follow up with the ever increasing approach of Valentines day, and the fact that we've recently been immersed within a Bloody Valentine, so let's keep up the theme of love hearts and flowers by looking at a band everybody loves to hate: Bullet for My Valentine.

Now BFMV's story is hardly one that needs re-telling. Make accessible heavy metal albums, become arena filling giants of the genre, become hated by all the troo metal fans of the world. Personally, I was never able to agree with this because wouldn't you know I got into them when I was at a younger age and still unaware of all the real metal metal bands hidden in the corners of thrash land and... Norway. So, I have a prolonged love for the first three albums of the Bridgend quartet, The Poison, Scream Aim Fire and Fever even though I'm fully aware of why they generate so much hatred. But I will still stand for this band. I love those albums, I'll be watching them at this year's Download Festival (albeit, mainly so I can get a good spot for when Slipknot follow them up) and I was convinced that they were of a quality that could make them fly the flag for the future of British metal. Note the fact that the phrase "Was" just got used there.

Last year, the band released a single titled Temper Temper which later revealed itself to be the camp sounding title of their fourth full length album. As I listened to it while looking at recent news stories to come from my Facebook news feed, the song became the soundtrack to me learning that Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence has been tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Needless to say, the quality of the music wasn't exactly the main thing on my mind when the song reached it's end. But as I began to listen to that single and follow up single Riot, it became obvious as to why people were saying that Bullet had gone through a metaphorical death themselves.

So naturally, as you walk into the Temper Temper, what you're expecting is to hear Bullet's quality in great decline. You're expecting to hear them fall from the top of their game to something of a cheaper band that don't sound like they care at all. So, when you come to the end of the album, what you're left with is, well, a three quarters-letdown experience really.

So when the album's good, it's a good chunky piece of infectiously melodic heavy metal that is clearly made to rouse voices from arenas and main stages of festivals. And I know the likes of Leech still isn't going to make BFMV a abnd that will appeal to Darkthrone or Mayhem fans, but for a piece of melodic metal that takes influences from latter day In Flames, it's a refreshing rush of heavy metal that will get you singing along effortlessly. If you like choruses that is. It would be highly cynical to suggest that the best of Bullet's songwriting only comes through the chorus, but if that is the case then they're definitely making the best of it. As heavy metal balladry goes P.O.W. bleeds out the perfect amount of emotion and makes a truly enjoyable song as a result, perfecting upon Bullet's always prominent emo element that has been there since 2006's The Poison, while they reach their heaviest point during the mid section of closer Livin' Life (On the Edge of a Knife) which is the sweet payoff of a long time waiting.

Of course, you shouldn't expect any parts to be truly heavy on a Bullet album. And this might surprise some people who thought that frontman Matt Tuck's time co-fronting metal supergroup AxeWound with Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier would make him want to bring the more genuinely heavy grooves to the table with this band. But then after Tuck's statement that doing what he did in that collective would be Commercial Suicide for BFMV, it really did reveal that with this band comes a formula of songwriting that keeps them at a level of headlining stadiums, playing big festival slots and, well, making money.

In this respect you could excuse the band for working the majority of their songwriting in a "give the fans what they want" sort of way, but a lot of times on Temper Temper they take this too far and come out with songs that sound like re-hashed versions of songs they've already done better. The album's title track sounds like a cross between a cheap version of Fever's title track and a cheaper version of Yashin's New Year or New York. And if you don't know that song, check it out, because it's wicked and you'll see that it's probably not the kind of band Bullet would want to be compared to. Meanwhile, Truth Hurts sounds like a re-hashed Your Betrayal and Riot takes rhythms that sound like they'd be perfected by Newport metallers Skindred. Basically, much of Temper Temper can easily be triumphed by other bands or by their own previous efforts.

In fact, Bullet for my Valentine effectively prove this by themselves by choosing to call a song Tears Don't Fall, Part 2. Now for proper BFMV fans, 2006's Tears Don't Fall is surely a fan favourite. It's the song that got one of my very good friends into metal. In a world where gateway metal bands gain more and more respect, it's a song held in quite high regard. So the choice to give it a Part 2 only does the band the disservice in allowing fans to look at the original song, compare it to this and ultimately witness how much the band's efforts and quality have truly declined. Guitar melodies are less memorable, Tuck's screams have weakened and the sense of passion the first song bled isn't so notable this time round.

And along with that, a collection of weak lyrics (Saints & Sinners just opens with "Welcome to this fucked up world!" Great.) and questionable Bon Jovi impersonations (Dead to the World) and a constant letdown in vocals that feel devoid of any care, there's no easy way to get into Temper Temper as you so easily could with The Poison, Scream Aim Fire or Fever. It has it's strong moments, without a doubt, but for the most part it really feels difficult to identify a sense of passion or musical freedom coming through these stadium filler anthems.Only the sound of a band trying to break America, keep making money and try to headline festivals. And I hate that it sounds this way, I really want to enjoy it. But with the disappointment of AxeWound and the dismal follow up in this, it seems like Matt Tuck's golden days may truly be behind him, not even a decade into his career. I think you should stick with My Bloody Valentine. They can still sound great after 22 years.

Bullet for My Valentine's Temper Temper is out now via RCA. The band will tour the UK in March with Halestorm and Miss May I and will play at Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on 14th Jun.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Review: My Bloody Valentine - mbv

The early hours of the 4th were fun. I'm fairly confident that the words "403 Server is too busy" meant something to music fans the world over and there was some amazing reason for it. See, a few days ago, I was texting Patrick who hasn't received a reference on this blog for a while, but we were talking about our excitement of going to see one of the most influential bands on alternative music of the past 20 years My Bloody Valentine in Glasgow in March and I asked if he knew anything about the release of a new album yet, to which I was told back that they would probably just announce there was a new album shortly before it was released. And with that, we stopped talking and I got drunk.

Needless to say, Patrick's prediction came true late last night after the band posted on their website that they would be releasing their third album mbv, their first release as a band since 1991's Loveless, a true masterclass in guitar work, soundscaping and application of pure noise to create their own brand of pop music that you could dreamily sink yourself into and be lifted into new worlds as lead guitars joyfully scream in delight and pour all emotion into your senses. And any band that's made you feel that way ever since owes it's debts to Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig.

Until the band announced their reunion in 2007, I don't think anyone was expecting to hear them record anything together again and after five years, lots of people had just given up hope, so as I write this we are still living in the aftermath of a great shock of an announcement. It's the ind of announcement that can only be fully resolved if the music is, well, as good as Loveless. And that's no easy ask.

So, they've come back with mbv an album filled with quirky lower case song titles and a false sense of civility that progresses into the madness that we love to receive from My Bloody Valentine. Seriously.

But descent into madness isn't the kind of thing that would be on the mind of any listeners. Mostly, the sheer excitement of hearing a new sound from this Northern Irish collective for the first time in 22 years is enough to make the opening of the album that of a bona fied classic. And she found now does indeed open the album in a style that does express the entire "We've been away for a long time, but now it's time for us to come back to life" style of songwriting without being obnoxious as the walls of distortion we love rise to action slowly, intertwined with Shields' rarely comprehensible vocals in a way that couldn't be mistaken for any other band. Imagine if Guns N' Roses could do the same thing. Hahahahaha!

With that, we are in for what is largely an experience of the musically stunning, that marks the gradual and gripping return to form from that band that gave us Loveless all those years ago and it's beautiful. Songs like only tomorrow and who sees you clearly aren't even written in a way that's meant exclusively create an emotional response, they're born from jam sessions. But the band's craft and entire guitar work that builds up uplifting melodies through fuzzy overtones make the songs sound less like the making of guitar jams and more like the making of dreamscapes. And sure enough by the time who sees you ends, the band has fully come to life and you are trapped in their world of wonder. And obviously, this builds up great rock songs, whether they're more in the vain of slow burning jams are are more dramatic and big headed like if i am and the demented guitar squeals that build up in another way that literally sounds like Kevin's lead guitars screaming out as they burn.

After that, there's no real knowing of what's to come after that. The band's use of electronics in previous work have always been more subtle, so allowing synthesizers to set up the main backdrop on is this and yes is an unexpected and welcoming foray into new alt music territories that while new isn't surprising from the band in the slightest. But the embracing of intense '90's dance music allows the album to end in a truly chaotic form as the pulsing beats of nothing is and kinetic dance punk of wonder 2 leaves listeners entrapped in a feeling of hot headed chaos, devoid of any kind escape. It's quite a dramatic shift of tone to what has mostly existed as a charming experienced of breezily textured vibrancy. But it would never be in the band's nature to end on a high note. That would be far to obvious wouldn't it?

So, being one of those albums you can't really describe with words, My Bloody Valentine have made what is a stunning comeback album with mbv. While you still can't fully make out Kevin Shield's lyrics, the music itself still speaks a thousand words and it makes out something delicate and very beautiful for the most part, with enough shifts in tone to keep you gripped in the entire spectrum. Yeah, it's awesome. It's a great album to listen to as an album for the moment, but if we put it into a wider context, questions need to be asked? Is this album set to be a guaranteed classic in the same way that Loveless is? Probably not, to be honest and I think much of the buzz about this album will always come from the fact that it is the first album in 22 years, and the extremely sudden announcement of it's release and the subsequent website crash. But I seriously doubt the abnd were all that concerned about making an album that silenced all the critics and made this album more out of love of performing together and to make themselves happy and I know that many fans will be fully able to embrace that with the band. This album's been along time coming and I suppose it's been worth the wait of 22 years and several hours of servers being too busy. And soon, I'll get to experience this comeback in a live setting. Where are my earplugs?

My Bloody Valentine's mbv is out now via Self Release. The abnd will tour the UK in March.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

January: Ten forgotten gems.

Hey there! How's February been so far? I should have written some words on this blog a long time ago, however, I've began my second semester at University now and as you could imagine, it's somewhat time consuming. That and on Friday night, I went to a party and have discovered the way of University parties which is after said party it takes a good 24 hours to recover. Have I cleared things up? No? Thought not.

Anyway, January proved itself to be a very good start for the world of rock music in it's releases. Both Biffy Clyro and The Joy Formidable unleashed absolute knockouts of albums with Opposites and Wolf's Law, albums that revealed an expert craft for massive stadium filling rock anthems that also showed off a progressive intelligence. Meanwhile Mallory Knox proved themselves new players in the ever-growing empire of great British rock with their debut full length Signals and the internet's sweethearts Black Veil Brides continued to tarnish my reputation as a respectable online music reviewer by releasing another enjoyable album with Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

Of course, as I said at the start of the year, I've been very busy and missed the chance to review a lot of fairly major albums of the year, so I'd like this time to make up for those missed albums in a miniature review form. Here are ten albums from January I never got to write full reviews of.

Funeral for a Friend - Conduit (Distiller Records)
The limelight faded a long time ago on Bridgend quintet Funeral for a Friend. Through various shifts in lineup and attempts to get big by abandoning their hardcore roots for stadium anthems, they really did lose the widespread attention that they so effortlessly achieved in the early 2000's. That said, if you are one of the people that still paid attention to them since then, you'll be in for a treat with their sixth full length Conduit, the sound of a band fully committed to delivering music once more with an emotional intensity and a set of claws attached to razor blade riffs and fiery drumming. While there's still hooks and anthemic melodies to be found, this album sees FFAF find themselves aware that their time as British rock's big thing is over and saying "Fuck it, let's make a wicked hardcore album then!"

Yo La Tengo - Fade (Matador)
In my veering journeys into more dreamy hipster music territory because I'm such a dude, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo have always had a place in my heart as being one of the first indie bands that make excessive use of distortion pedals and vibrant boards of sound that I really got into, embracing their ability to summon up a real feeling of beauty at a time when my music taste... wasn't exactly brilliant. And they manage it again thirteenth album Fade, which invites you to lay within it's slow burning sweeping melodies gently passed out with rattling percussion and delicate patterns of acoustic rhythms taken from the 60's and given a grand modern makeover. It really is quite lovely and not even a complex hipster fest as I used to think it was. Anyone can fall in love with Yo La Tengo.

Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose (Nuclear Blast)
It was never going to be an easy task to write a full length review of a Hatebreed album because let's not kid ourselves here. They're not Porcupine Tree. You know exactly what you're getting with a Hatebreed album and you know fine you'd be extremely disappointed if you heard anything more or less on it. And so we have  The Divinity of Purpose, the seventh album from the world's greatest crossover band right now. It's got anthemic scream-alongs and gang vocals, chunky riffs delivered in pulsing breakdowns and sees Jamey Jasta deliver the powerful vocals and lyrics that make you want to pump your fist in defiance and start a moshpit in your own room. Basically, it's an album you should learn before getting slaughtered by it live. Please don't tell us you expected more from them.

Bad Religion - True North (Epitaph)
I should probably be hung as a punishment for not giving my time to Bad Religion after everything that Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz have done for my music taste with their influence and record label owning. But indeed, they've returned with their sixteenth album True North that still shows them to be torchbearers for modern punk music awash with thundering hooks and sing along choruses battered out by crunchy riffs riding along blitzing basslines. Maybe a day will come when the band are well into their old ages and can't carry the kind of energy they have here, but until that day comes we can do nothing but celebrate what they're capable of summoning on albums like this one. And I'm sorry I never gave my full time to it. I suck at being a human.

Adam Ant - Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter (BlueBlack Hussar)
That's right! Adam Ant has new stuff out. You remember Adam Ant probably through people trying to impersonate his screams from Adam and the Ants' Stand and Deliver. And because of that, his legacy on many great names in alternative music today is greatly undermined and no one becomes aware of the fact that he can still release something brilliant today in the form of the dubiously titled Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. Indeed the man returns after twenty years of music changing and receiving various forms of tabloid slander but he's still able to return with something wonderfully off-the-wall and purely chaotic in it's outlook. It's a charming and delirious statement from an artist you probably thought was destined for cheap imitation.

Blockheads - This World is Dead (Relapse)
No ladies and gentleman. Ian Dury's backing band haven't returned with their own project. Although if they have, it's certainly gone from Dury to Fury with them. This is grindcore with a heart of pure black in the vain of Pig Destroyer and on their fifth album This World is Dead the French crew are taking no prisoners with their wide collection of songs that choose not to pass the 3 minute mark and choose to obliterate listeners with the time that they have. This is effectively annihilation in musical form that has come from in influence of 30 good years of pain and brutality. Keep it coming boys, we need all the pain we can get! It makes a change from sex, drugs and rock and roll, right?

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)
Looking for something groundbreaking? No? You may as well stick around with Californian duo Foxygen then, because their second full length We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is basically the sound of your cool middle aged parents record collection coming back to life, as the band tear through their Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones influences, making a raucous noise as they do it. All they do carries a vibe of "tried and tested" yes, but as they go onward it's so gleeful and done with such a belief that they could get as big as the Brian Jonestown Massacre that you can't help but chill, smile and laugh with them as they go along. And chilling on the ground can sometimes be more desirable than breaking it.

Dutch Uncles - Out of Touch in the Wild (Memphis Industries)
Many reviewers have looked at the current state of alternative music and have realised to some extent, we're coming back to popularize that musical sound that existed in British music of the '90's when bands belonged to a ridiculous collective name based on where they come from. In the case of Dutch Uncles, the "Madchester" sound has been re-popularized albeit under a more subtle layer with a modern indie sophistication, as heard on their third album Out of Touch In the Wild. There's massive choruses built up around arty synthesizers and jangly guitars lifted to a higher level of grace by Duncan Wallis' airy vocals. It's the Madchester scene returning only the simple madness has matured. It's delightfully mad Chester. What??

Midnight Spin - Don't Let Me Sleep (Self Release)
This is probably my favourite out of the pack just for the reason that it's good to just have a proper example of a modern rock band around the place. Midnight Spin aren't a band that deal in bullshit. They're five guys from New York armed only with guitars drums, rough vocals and a lot of time spent playing in garages. And it reflects in the straight pilings of attitude and grit that goes into their debut offering Don't Let Me Sleep. It spits out servings of blistering punk venom through grungy distortion that only wants it rough while exploring enough themes and tones in their songwriting to make it a more diverse and thoughtful listen than having some cool riffs to headbang to. It's an album for late night times of restlessness, most likely written by those that experience late night restlessness. A good accompanying piece for Uni life I suppose.

The Plot in You - Could You Watch Your Children Burn (Rise)
We'll stick this one in at the end because Rise Records metalcore bands can be so much fun, even when they don't mean to. Bands like early Attack Attack! and Upon This Dawning have provided me with endless amounts of entertainment and amusement whether that was their intention or not. But Ohio quintet The Plot In You are leagues above those two with a real emphasis on making their stuff genuinely heavy fitted into their second album Could You Watch Your Children Burn which means the moshpits fitted to songs of personal anguish are going to be off the wall. What were you expecting? It's chuggy, the vocals are whiny, in the best way possible and the main parts of the song are always when the breakdowns kick in. And actually, that's cool sometimes.

Okay, that's ten good albums I would have loved to have written full reviews for from January but never got the chance to. Obviously there are lots of other albums as well, and I'm sure they'll all manage to make an appearance sometime, but I promise nothing. The idea is to do this every month because I'm guaranteed to miss several albums out per month. I've probably missed out several from February already. But after this, I'm going to make up for it.

I have to deal with the only Valentine that matters this month. My Bloody one.