Album Review: The Yacht Club – “Fall” @bethshalomrecs

Words by Zoe Spencer

Introspective and melancholic, the EP “Fall” from London based The Yacht Club, is deeply cathartic – the musical equivalent of grabbing a quilt, taking the phone off the hook and having a damn good cry.

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Written in just a month by Marcus Gooda, and a change in pace from previous more toe-tapping releases, the record is full of emotion but also some very skilful composing, with band members pitching in in all areas, showing what a versatile lot they are.

Gooda’s vocals have a clarity that sits above the music akin to Death Cab for Cutie or Stephen Fretwell, but are very ably complemented with the multi-layering of instruments that is faintly reminiscent of Jose Gonzales’ Heartbeats or an unplugged Zero 7.

If you like your hearts bleeding but your music lovely, you won’t be disappointed.

Mouth of the Beast

The EP opens with Mouth of the Beast; arguably the most accomplished and rounded track on the EP. Lush layers that grow and swell and ebb with the gorgeous pulse of the drums, the subtle, only just there, harmonies and delicate acoustic guitar.

Afraid of the Dark

Slower and with less peaks and troughs than Mouth of the Beast, Afraid of the Dark is lulling and melancholic; the lack of drums, and lingering guitars and piano combined with the resonant vocals give the whole track an ethereal feel.

Be Happy and Love

The most stripped back of the songs of the EP, the opening phrases and lyrics bring home that this is a very personal record. On first listen, it was so personal they had me wanting to “look away”, there is something about putting names into songs that makes it harder to lose yourself in the music – how can you pretend this song is speaking to you, about you, if you don’t know a “Jessie” or a “Kathryn?” It was the musical equivalent of watching a stranger cry over a carton of milk in the supermarket – uncomfortable but strangely fascinating – however it is this kind of emotional nakedness that carries the rest of the EP through. They are making an art form of fragility and discomfort so to complain that an emo record is “too much” seems beside the point. That said, when the naivety of the vocal is teamed with the sophistication of beautiful piano accents and finger picked guitar, it becomes a more lovely thing.

Put Your Life in a Box

The final track is atmospheric and intimate. The lyrics drip with metaphor and analogy but the musical interludes have just as much to say – haunting and moody. The backing vocals in particular are beautifully done. Fans of Joanna Newsome’s chilling lilting guitar will find a lot to like here.

The Yacht Club’s newest offering is well worth a listen, and a wallow in the sadness.

Release date 25th November 2016 – you can buy the cassette here.

Beth Shalom Records

Marcus Gooda: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards

Alexander Esp: Drums, Keyboards, Piano, Percussion

Sam Rose: Guitar Jack Holland: Backing Vocals

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Dots Jukebox: “Return”, 29th October 2016

Elvis Presley – Return to Sender suggested by @staffs75

Dusty Springfield – Goin’ Back suggested by @skylarkingmatt

Jefferson Airplane – Comin’ Back to Me suggested by @instantkarma80

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street suggested by @musicvstheworld

Eurythmics – It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) suggested by @hungryhatter

McAlmont & Butler – Bring it Back suggested by @neilc79

U2 – A Sort of Homecoming suggested by @jamesoldham

Wire – On Returning suggested by @williemcalpine

Afghan Wings – I Keep Coming Back suggested by @_sandywishart

The Mighty Wah! – Come Back suggested by @durutti74

Half Man Half Biscuit – Paintball’s Coming Home suggested by @davidkbruce

Fugazi – Runaway Return suggested by @hodge_nufc

Nine Black Alps – Come Back Around suggested by @GLPNE73

Ash – Return of White Rabbit suggested by @hungryhatter

City and Colour – Lover Come Back suggested by @purpleink1310

Stone Roses – I Am the Resurrection suggested by @_indianajo

Embrace – Come Back to What You Know suggested by @anxiousflag

The Bluetones – Slight Return suggested by @_MM65_ @countessofgratz @miftin81

Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town suggested by @lindy_lou2

Jethro Tull – Home suggested by @musicvstheworld

Song of the Week:

Gig Review: The Divine Comedy at The Junction, Cambridge, 20th October 2016 @divinecomedyhq @lisaoneillmusic @cambjunction

At 5pm on a dreary Thursday evening, I received a message telling me that I had been added to the guest list with a photo pass for The Divine Comedy that very evening. A few panicked moments of organising childcare ensued, and I was then on the road to Cambridge to photograph one of my favourite ever bands! My car was filled with a frisson of excitement for the next hour and 15 minutes.

On arrival, The Junction was already pretty full, and it was very apparent that every person there felt exactly as I did.

Support act Lisa O’Neill was the perfect opener to The Divine Comedy.

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With her far-fetched tales (including one where she ended up making Irish stew for Elvis Presley), and her voice that made me imagine she only consumes the most luxurious chocolate and nothing else, she impressed, captivated and tickled the fancy of her audience.

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She was utterly delightful, and nicely set the tone for what was to come.

Setlist:

The Galway Shawl

Nasty

Elvis, I Give You Irish Stew

Pothole in the Sky

Planets

Sparkle

The time soon arrived for Neil Hannon and his band of quirky men to grace the stage. Hannon’s droll wit was immediately evident, just as I had hoped.

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I have always listened to The Divine Comedy’s intricate, classy tunes with fondness. To witness them live was beyond what I could have expected. Their fresh, lively compositions speaking of romance, laced with comedy and regaling the history of 18th century Russia both entertain and charm the audience in equal measure.

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Hannon himself is the ever-present member of the band when others have come and gone. He is the design behind the output. He may be small of stature, but he is superhuman in personality. Without his intelligent, odd, gentlemanly, mischievous, sincere, kooky ways, there would be no such music in the world.

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That evening, I was enchanted, bedazzled and fascinated, and left wanting more… there is no better sign of a great gig than that!

Setlist:

Down in the Street Below

Assume the Perpendicular

Bad Ambassador

Bang Goes the Knighthood

The Complete Banker

Generation Sex

Our Mutual Friend

Alfie (Cilla Black cover)

The Certainty of Chance

Sweden

How Can You Leave Me on My Own

To the Rescue

Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont

The Frog Princess

A Lady of a Certain Age

Catherine the Great

Funny Peculiar (with Lisa O’Neill)

At the Indie Disco

Something for the Weekend

Becoming More Like Alfie

I Like

National Express

Encore:

Absent Friends

Songs of Love

Tonight We Fly

Gig Review: Mark Morriss at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 22nd October 2016 @TheQuill

Words by Mitch Spearing

Photos by Fi Stimpson Photography

For quite a few months now I’ve been threatening to turn up at a gig that Fi was attending. When she told me that she had played a part in arranging to get Mark Morriss to play at a venue in her local town, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Had I known I’d be asked to review it, I might have paid more attention to the song order and content both artists played, rather than simply turning up and enjoying what turned out to be a very pleasant evening.

Let’s start with the venue. The Voodoo Lounge, downstairs at Mama Liz’s in Stamford…  I had only been to Stamford once before on a dreary Sunday afternoon about 25 or so years ago where I recall visiting an antiques fair. Someone I spoke to on Saturday evening told me that Stamford itself hadn’t changed much!

The Voodoo Lounge is a cellar bar which to me was reminiscent of downstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith, if anyone has ever been, or remembers it…  that was certainly somewhere that I spent many a drunken Saturday night before dashing to get the last train home. But anyway, I digress. The staff at the venue were friendly and bar prices seemed reasonable for the couple of drinks I had.

The first act up for the evening was a fella called Richard Gombault.  I was told that he was local and that in a previous life he had been in a band called Midget. His set was entertaining with a little bit of banter with the crowd.

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He did make mention of being in Midget, and played a song which he said was a hit of theirs in Japan, which he’d had to extend for the purposes of a solo play. He impressed me enough to enquire with Fi as to who he was, so that I could try and find out if he any music available on that well-known fruit based online store.

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Setlist:

Queue-Jumping

The Reflection Stared

Twice as Shy

Some Stars Never Fade

Wendyhouse

God Only Knows (very good beach boys cover)

Shackles

All Fall Down

Optimism

Richard was well received and seemed comfortable playing in front of this type of audience.

We didn’t have to wait long before Mark took to the stage. I’m sure that most of you will know Mark as the lead singer of The Bluetones, and possibly like me, know very little of his solo work.

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If you attended hoping for a succession of the better known Bluetones songs, you would be disappointed.  If you went with an open mind, then in my opinion, you would have left feeling happy with what you had seen and looking forward to the next time you might get to see Mark play.

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I had seen Mark play with the Bluetones a couple of times before and knew that he was an excellent front man.  What I didn’t know was how good he was with his own ability to play guitar, and keep the audience amused with a witty dialogue throughout the whole show.

As the evening went on, it was obvious that Mark was enjoying himself, but I did find myself wondering where he felt more at home… here, on a small stage playing to a crowd of probably no more than 100… Or the previous Saturday evening, playing in front of a few thousand when The Bluetones were a support act for The Happy Mondays at the Derby Arena.

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One little tip, should you decide to go and see Mark play, is that if you buy him a drink (I believe Jack Daniels and coke is his tipple of choice…) you might even get to request a song.  We got treated to half a version of “Benny and the Jets” after a young lady in the crowd handed him a drink.

Highlights for me were half a version of “Slight Return” done in a reggae styley and a song that I think was called “Travelodge Breakfast in a Bag” which, although short on lyrics, was what Mark said it was really like for a solo artist living life on the road.

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Summing up, Mark is very good value and provides an enjoyable evening’s entertainment… Whether he uses the same stories every night, or whether he has a locker full of tales that he can draw on depending on the time /venue /crowd, I don’t know. I guess I’ll get to find that out the next time I see him.  The obligatory encore was taken as a request from the crowd though I suspect it was going to be played anyway, once it had been called out.

Setlist:

Digging a Hole

It’s Hard to be Good All the Time

Bluetonic

This is the Lie (and That’s the Truth)

Marblehead Johnson

Duchess

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Pink Bullets

Unwanted Friend

Cut Some Rug

(encore)

Consuela

Sleazy Bed Track

Gig Review: @WilkoJohnson at @CambridgeCornEx , 14th October 2016

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There’s very little I can say about a Wilko Johnson gig that hasn’t already been said in the majority of reviews. We all know he’s returned from the brink, against all the odds, and is still going strong. We all know what an incredible musician and songwriter he is, both with Dr Feelgood and as a solo artist. We all know that his loyal band members Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe have been chosen because they are faultless, have impressive stage presence and are exciting to listen to. I don’t really need to tell you any of that though, do I.

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Sometimes, though, even knowing all of the details like those above can’t prepare you for attending a gig which culminates in everything being resolved in your mind, where you feel perfectly relaxed to be yourself and like you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

First off, he selected a wonderful support act in the shape of Aaron Keylock, a young Blues Prog Rock guitarist and singer with his trusty bassist and drummer by his side.

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I was blown away by this guy – he is seriously worth checking out. Here’s his new single “Against the Grain”:

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Wilko with his wild duck walk, wild eyes and even wilder guitar playing, Norman’s bass solos that make you shiver both inside and out and Howe’s bombastic, full-bodied beat tightly melded together to form a musical force that got people rising from their seats to move every muscle, pore and follicle. A good old boogie-woogie to classic blues and rock n’ roll, and all is right with the world.

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Video by Alien Outback on YouTube:

Until next time, “Bye Bye…”!

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Gig Review: Jean Michel Jarre, Birmingham, 8th October 2016 @jeanmicheljarre @Bcardarena

I had been waiting for that night since I was 10 years old. That was the last time I saw Jean Michel Jarre live, at one of his two Destination Docklands gigs in London on 8th October 1988. Exactly 28 years later to the very day, I was getting to see him again, this time at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.

At last, the time came, and commencing with “The Heart of Noise”, the sound of electronica expanded to fill every square millimetre of that arena.

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My 13-year-old daughter was immediately transfixed by the light themes, and was suitably impressed with both the creative, scientific patterns produced, and the stories told with lights and lasers. Considering she’s not an easy girl to please, I breathed a sigh of relief that she was to enjoy this gig as much as I would!

JMJ told us quite early on that he was glad to be starting his tour in the UK – he went on to say that this is his second home, with or without Brexit. He then performed his collaboration with Edward Snowden from 2015, entitled “Exit”. I love the haphazard drum beat in this tune, and of course what Snowden says mid-track… “What may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population, an entire people, an entire way of life tomorrow, and if you don’t stand up for it I will.”

Looking around me, there was a constant joint nodding of heads and dancing in seats going on. Just one guy in row 11 was losing his inhibitions to the music from the start. I like that guy.

It wasn’t long, though, before JMJ invited us to get up, dance and enjoy ourselves. He also requested that security relax for once… that was sadly largely ignored. However, there was suddenly a festival atmosphere – people flocked to the floor instead of staying in their seats, and it was an absolute joy to be part of that.

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Even now, it feels like he is ahead of his time, but don’t forget that he was doing this 40 years ago and it sounded equally as good then, if not better, as no-one had approached music in quite the same way before.

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Jean Michel Jarre’s music is nothing short of euphoric. Many people consider electronica tunes to all be the same, but he is no one trick pony – he continues to explore style and genre with flair and passion, and the result is an infectious gathering of unforgettable tunes.

Another recent collaboration was with Pet Shop Boys and is entitled “Brick England”, which almost conceals its poetic lyrics under the music. A stunning track, and such a pleasure to hear it live.

Of course, old favourites weren’t forgotten, and to the entire crowd’s delight, JMJ performed “Oxygѐne” 2, 4 & 8 and “Équinoxe” 4 & 7. He then finished off by treating us to a wonderful surprise – new track “Oxygѐne 17”! This is to be on the upcoming album which will be released in December to mark 40 years since “Oxygѐne” was released.

Jean Michel Jarre finished off the evening with “Stardust”, which he produced with Armin van Buuren in 2015. This is a superb collaboration and proves that classic electronica can be melded with the more modern. The perfect end to a dreamy, magical evening.

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