Black Star Riders, 14th March 2017, Rock City, Nottingham – review by Martin Tillyer

Black Star Riders supported by Backyard Babies and Gun, Rock City, Nottingham,14th March 2017

Having been away for the weekend watching a selection of tribute bands at Legends of Rock ‘Yarmageddon’, I came home on Monday evening to a message offering me the chance to go see the Black Star Riders at one of my favourite venues. I knew I wouldn’t turn it down.

I had not seen either of the support bands before so it was going to be interesting to see what the build up to the headliners was going to be like.

Gun came on with the crowd already building up, they brought their own blend of traditional British rock (Scottish to be more precise).

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Their set had a good balance from their back catalogue including the cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” and a cracking new track “She Knows” from Gun’s forthcoming album.

Set:

Let It Shine

Word Up!

Don’t Say It’s Over

Better Days

She Knows

Steal Your Fire

Shame On You.

Band – Dante Gizzi, Vocals – Jools Gizzi, Guitar – Tommy Gentry, Guitar – Andy Carr, Bass – Paul McManus, Drums

Following these were Swedish rockers Backyard Babies, This was a band I hadn’t previously heard of. From the start they were into a set that had far more pace with a harder edged rock with a heavily Punk influenced sound, bringing to mind bands such as Hanoi Rocks.

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Set:

Th1rte3n or Nothing

Dysfunctional Professional

The Clash

Brand New Hate

Bloody Tears

Nomadic

Minus Celsius

Look At You

Band – Nicke Borg, Vocal – Dregen, Guitar – Johan Blomqvist, Bass – Peder Carlsson, Drums

Each of the support acts played for about 40 minutes, leaving about 30 mins until the Black Star Riders which soon went by. This was to be the third time I had seen them – the first was at Download. At that time I had not heard of them, but did initially think they sounded like a good Thin Lizzy covers band (we were not near enough to really see the stage and the weather was shocking)! I was so impressed with their original music, and when I returned home to investigate them and found that they had Scott Gorham on guitar it became a lot more obvious why! I bought the first album at that point. At that time the set was actually split 60 – 40 % of new tracks to the old Lizzy tracks.

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Tonight, they started off the set with the title track of the new album “Heavy Fire” before leading into “Bloodshot” and “The Killer Instinct”. It was then back to the new album for “Dancing with The Wrong Girl”.

It is becoming obvious that they are a really tight unit giving their own blend of rock still with Irish influences which you would expect with Ricky as a front man.

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“Soldierstown” and “Hey Judas” lead to two more of the new tracks, “When the Night Comes In” and “Cold War Love” which is a slower number, one of my favourites from the new album.

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“All Hell Breaks Loose” speeds it up again next, followed by a track that I, perhaps controversially, feel didn’t need to be in the set, “The Boys are Back in Town”. Time has moved on and now into their third album they are definitely a band in their own right and in my opinion they don’t need to keep the Lizzy Link going.

Back then to “Hoodoo Voodoo”, “Who Rides the Tiger”, another faster punchier number, followed by “Blindsided”.

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“Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” and “Testify or Say Goodbye” from “Heavy Fire” lead into penultimate tracks “Kingdom of the Lost” and “Bound for Glory”.

With the finale of “Finest Hour”, BSR had been on stage for well over an hour and I wish it could have lasted much longer – an amazing performance as I had expected.

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I did hear people saying at the end they wished they had played more Thin Lizzy… but to me, they are the BLACK STAR RIDERS and nothing else is required.

Thank you, until the next time…

Review and photos by Martin Tillyer

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Album Review: The Virginmarys – Divides (reviewed by Steve Rodriguez) @thevirginmarys

The Virginmarys – Divides – review written by Steve Rodriguez

1. Push the Pedal

2. For you my Love

3. Halo in her Silhouette

4. Free to do Whatever they Say

5. I Wanna Take You Home

6. Walk in my Shoes

7. Kill the Messenger

8. Into Dust

9. Moths to a Flame

10. Falling Down

11. Motherless Land

12. Living in my Peace

The Macclesfield trio’s second studio album to follow up 2013’s King Of Conflict. Divides was released 6th May 2016 on Cooking Vinyl.

The Virginmarys are: Ally Dickaty (lead vocals / guitar), Danny Dolan (drums / backing vocals), and newly recruited Ross (bass / backing vocals).

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It’s all too easy to pigeonhole bands into a particular genre and if you can’t find one then you make one up. Nu Metal, Punk Pop, Hardcore, Industrial . . . . etc. etc. For The Virginmarys, you could try and stick them in a category, or make one up, or just accept that they really do have a bit of everything going on and are very very good at doing it.

Push the Pedal kicks off this album and on the sound of the dirty bass intro you start to think it’s 1992 and Layne Staley is still alive, then, the drums and a vocal echo enters the fray and you’re in 1996 and listening to a new Oasis track. Precisely why this band can’t, and shouldn’t be, categorised. It’s a powerful guitar drum and bass driven track, but what would you expect from a 3 piece, and Ally gives it the rasping, powerful vocal treatment it deserves. In a very unsubtle way, it says play this album on 11 . . .

For you my Love follows where Push the Pedal left off but is more of an instant hit with an almost Flea/Frusciante intro and a Stipe vocal over the top. This quickly gives way to the more familiar vocal sound and again it’s a powerful riff driven track that keeps the album driving forward purposefully.

Halo in Her Silhouette is the most sing-a-long track so far and you just knew that chorus line was going to repeat in that tried and tested late 70’s punk style. Don’t be lead down a path of thinking this band are a 3 piece punk outfit pulling a 3 chord trick from their sleeve at every opportunity though, there’s a lot more going on here and it’s another affirmation that this band cover pretty much all musical bases.

More punk style sounds ensue on the next track, Free To Do Whatever They Say, with a snarling, spitting vocal and guitar fuelled intro that builds into a bridge and chorus with some perfectly placed repeated backing vocals. It’s a chant, a probable crowd pleaser and again has all the energy that the first 3 tracks set the bar for.

The energy doesn’t subside on I Wanna Take You Home, but things do slow down a little here and enables Walk In My Shoes to follow with it’s more sombre and deep feel. The piano comes to the fore much more prominently this time and compliments the almost haunting backing vocals perfectly.

Kill The Messenger keeps the keyboard but layers of distorted guitar and bass ride over the top and makes for a Pink Floyd-esque sound with it’s low chord changes ebbing and flowing through the chorus line of the song.

Although there’s a hell of a lot of energy in this album the band resist the obvious temptation to be more crude with their language and instead express their lyrics in a much more subtle and well crafted fashion. It’s a surprise then when Into Dust starts with the F word in the second line. This is not the recurring theme of the song however and it quickly develops into familiar expressive and well crafted lyrics.

Moths To A Flame is arguably the album’s standout track and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is a three piece band when you hear such a vast, complex sound all rolled into one song. It has emotion and expression in abundance and this carries throughout the whole track from the Kings Of Leon sounding intro to the Biffy Clyro-esque ending.

Sandwiched between Into Dust and Falling Down, Moths To A Flame would possibly sound completely out of place on any other album, but, as The Virginmarys have so many influences to draw from it’s no surprise that Falling Down starts with a vocal that’s everything Mick Jones in both its sound and delivery. More proof that not only the band have a range of sounds but Ally is equally adept at displaying his own vocal range to suit the songs, lines, syllables . . .

Motherless Land is a nostalgic trip back to the early 80’s and if John Cougar or Springsteen had written this one then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, although neither do we here and instead get caught up in the story of the song, listening intently as it builds and builds to a crescendo, a well placed clean sounding guitar solo and a very fitting sudden ending.

If Moths To A Flame was arguably the album’s standout track then it would be fighting with Living In My Peace for the title, and it would be a closely run thing. The album’s closing track, draws on everything that’s gone before, energy, haunting backing vocals, a big vocal range, guitar driven melodies with pounding drum fills and beats and an emotive, expansive and atmospheric crescendo. It typically rises and rises then drops in that well fitting sudden ending to leave you thinking about what may have happened next.

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If you’re a fan of music, listen to this album because I really think there’s something here for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. The north west seems to give us a lot of very respectable bands and The Virginmarys although not the typical shoe-gazing, jangly-sounding 60’s influenced mods that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this neck of the woods, they can undoubtedly claim to be part of the club if they wanted to, but then again they’re likely to be perfectly at home being slightly different, and not in any way pigeonholed . . .

* Photos are from Ally’s recent gig in Peterborough as part of The Virginmarys’ People Help the People tour in aid of local food banks. Photos taken by and copyright to Fi Stimpson.

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The music that changed my world… by @precenphix

Written by @precenphix

Prior to ever hearing the term “techno” or “industrial,” my exposure to electronic music was fairly limited. The pulsing arpeggios of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” from Dark Side of the Moon and McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary” from 1980’s McCartney II were my first taste. I loved The Cars album Heartbeat City and became an ardent Prince disciple a little while later. Both artists seemed to have a mastery of this sound I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but found captivating. Without some finagling, synthesizers were strange, frigid instruments I assumed you needed a degree to operate or play and they were used only sparingly in pop tunes, peppering the sonic landscape as an afterthought. You certainly couldn’t build an entire song with them, as far as my young mind was concerned. It wasn’t until 1984, when I heard the Beverly Hill Cop theme, that I became aware that these were actual, playable instruments. I had to have a copy of that record…and a dinky little Casio so I could play along. I begged my parents for both. As happenstance would have it, my dad mistakenly brought home a copy of Herbie Hancock’s “Rokit” on 45. The A-side was great, but the B-side “Megamix” was incredible. I was in love.

Flash forward to 1994. I was 15 years old when a friend let me borrow his copies of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP and newly released The Downward Spiral concept album. The summer was gone, the colors of autumn had faded and I had just been dumped by my then girlfriend of a whopping nine months. That’s a decent swathe of time in dog years and about twice as long for a teenager with a freshly broken heart. I was utterly shattered and needed something to quell my existential angst in a hurry.

My friends at the time were into metal, but it just wasn’t me. I craved a broader palate of sound beyond slappy bass drums and palm-muted guitars. Reznor’s work was right up my alley. The Broken EP hooked me, but I stayed for the fearless experimentalism of The Downward Spiral. Suddenly, everything I knew about the use of electronics in music was wrong. Here were the sounds I thought I knew having new, visceral life breathed into them. This was music that sounded remarkably heavy, academic, dark, sexy and vulnerable at the same time.

Fueled by a rearing on The Beatles’ groundbreaking production techniques while being an avid listener of dense hip-hop a la The Bomb Squad, I had an insatiable appetite for unique music. Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet – hip-hop meets musique concrète. Bob Power’s work on A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, with the rest of the crew taking notes for their third record, Midnight Marauders – this took the idea of constructing a tune solely from samples to a new level. Newcomers Wu-Tang Clan’s debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – there was a dirt and grit to the production that lent a hand to the subject matter. These were my real precursors to pure electronic music. Paired with a newfound love for the more guitar-driven work by then up-and-coming Seattle acts Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam; as well as the volcanic art-rock of Sonic Youth, the transition to Trent Reznor’s work as Nine Inch Nails was a natural progression for me.

Prior to this, my knowledge of sampling was constrained to hip-hop’s crate-digging culture, mining Motown records for breakbeats or cutting up old George Clinton tunes over deep, bass bin-shaking 808 drums. Downward Spiral opener “Mr. Self Destruct” sounded as if a microphone had been laid beside the tracks of an elevated train, acting as a texturizer to the song’s verses. The guitars of the chorus cleaved through the mix like the teeth of a saw blade. Just as the close of the song reached a fever pitch with white noise bucking and aliasing from my speakers’ tweeters, a bank of coarse feedback guitar loops and scrapes filled the void where the tune’s refrain dropped off – only to be interrupted moments later by the comparatively serene, slinky second track, “Piggy.” This was an artist who understood how to dress the set with aural contrast and certainly had a penchant for theatrics. It was exactly what I needed.

I bought both singles from The Downward Spiral and also flagged down a copy of the Broken EP’s remix disc, Fixed. It was around this time I balked at the naysayers’ idea that this was a self-indulgent process. These records introduced me to the idea that remixes weren’t reserved strictly for house tracks, club music or the occasional hip-hop re-work. Both the “March of the Pigs” and “Closer” singles were shining examples of taking a tune, re-shifting its direction and bludgeoning it into abstraction, yielding a barely recognizable version of the original. It was refreshing to hear an artist put a different spin on his own music as well as having other people the artist respected deconstruct the same work. It wasn’t an entirely foreign idea to me, yet the methods employed on these NIN records were. But it wasn’t until 1995’s Downward Spiral companion remix album Further Down the Spiral that I would once again have my eyes opened to what music (electronic or otherwise) could be. It was the recording that properly introduced me to the music of Richard D. James, otherwise known as Aphex Twin.

Further Down the Spiral went out of its way to be abrasive, focusing primarily on the tracks from The Downward Spiral album that had no earthly chance of becoming a single. Rick Rubin contributed a remix of “Piggy,” while Coil, an act I was only marginally familiar with at the time, reworked the album’s title track. But it was an instrumental track contributed by Aphex Twin that really turned my head. It seemed to fit the landscape of despair that created by the album, but no source material from the original record was used. “At the Heart of it All,” was a sprawling, 7-minute slab of industrial doom that sounded as if the seven horns of the apocalypse were bleating directly from within my sternum. It was a purely electronic composition that stood out from the rest of the pack yet retained this intangible organic feeling that elicited an almost overwhelming emotional response. I couldn’t explain it, but it just felt like “home.”

I had to have as much of this music as I could absorb, so I began working backwards, flagging down as much of the Aphex discography I could get my hands on. Distribution wasn’t what it is today, so it took some work finding shops that carried these records. I was able to pick up copies of …I Care Because You Do and the Ventolin EP. …I Care was more of a compendium of his work that was largely taking cues from the artist’s work in ambient electronic music. It wasn’t what I was expecting. While being marginally familiar with the work of Wendy Carlos, this was the first time I was hearing truly composed, contemporary experimental electronic music. The Ventolin EP was a stark contrast of much less polished garage techno that was playful yet caustic at the same time. I was almost loath to admit that I liked it so much. Prior to this, I was riding the good ship Indie Snob, a vessel where “techno” was dismissed as unemotional, push-button drivel that had very little value in terms of having something to say. But these records were proving that theory dead wrong. I had to have more.

Once I finally worked my way around to picking up Selected Ambient Works Volume II (commonly referred to as SAW2), I was curious as to what I would be getting. It was a double CD album with a foreign, weathered, almost alien-looking logo of some sort on the record’s cover. It spanned 23 untitled, largely beatless tracks that were represented by a color coded series of pie charts in the album art. Once again, I was taken aback. I knew who Brian Eno was and had heard enough of his production and music to understand what might have been an influence to James, but the music of SAW2 was so far into the abstract that the similarities were fleeting. One thing this wasn’t was “new age” music.

This music could be anything you wanted it to be. Warm, almost nostalgic tones on this expansive record could easily move one to tears in one breath while searing, glacial sheets of terror-inducing noise could send a shiver down the spine of even the most seasoned horror film veteran. This music ran the gamut of the human psyche without uttering a word. For a period of years, I would put SAW2 on the deck to concentrate on the music itself just as much as I would play it to study, sleep or get ready for the

day. It seemed as if it were custom built for my purposes and it was my go-to recording to unwind, meditate, brood, love, eat or sleep. It was a miraculous record in that it was my final gateway drug to so many artists I would have previously dismissed as “not my thing,” because “this music has no soul.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

If Nine Inch Nails introduced me to the work of Richard D. James, Richard D. James opened the door to a whole new world of sound for me. I found Autechre, Boards of Canada and Björk as well as a host of more obscure music by RDJ himself on his own record label, Rephlex. I began to take notice to Beck’s methods of production, DYI ethic and sample-mining. UK act Portishead showed up on the scene with an amalgam of jazzy, noir-infused beatnik soul, rife with layers of turntable antics. Drum ‘n bass was beginning to take hold with its frantic, skittery rhythms pushing the envelope of speed and micro programming. I discovered Jack Dangers’ act Meat Beat Manifesto who spent a short stint on Reznor’s Nothing Records imprint. All this was just the tip of the iceberg. Friends and I would trade mix tapes of the strangest music we could find.

The world was my oyster once these records changed my opinion of what music could or should be. And this is why I’d be doing myself a disservice to pick a favorite artist when the story of finding them all is so interwoven with personal milestones and moments growing up as a ravenous devourer of what was considered unusual music.

These two records, Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral and Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II opened my slumbering third eye to a world that had been quietly lying in wait. I’ve followed both artists since 1994-1995 and marveled at their output prior to those years and everything that has been released since. Not only were they pioneers back then, their music is just as relevant today. My life would be incomplete without it. Hearing the work of both artists gave me the confidence to try things with my own writing that I might have otherwise sloughed off. Most importantly, I had found two artists who used electronic and sample-based production techniques because they liked these sounds independently. They weren’t employing these methods to mimic more traditional, physical instruments. They took care to make sure these sounds stood on their own as a backbone to their compositions.

It wasn’t just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. These were artists who held a mastery of their craft while stepping firmly outside the Venn diagram of sounds typically used in popular music. But somehow they made their work accessible while simultaneously being influential zeitgeists in their respective genres of music. Reznor’s point of reference lay more in 80s post punk while James culled more influence from the rave culture in Detroit and UK scene. Yet both could produce music just as emotional and moving as any classical passage. But with their output, the studio became an instrument itself in the same way George Martin and EMI’s engineers had done with Beatles recordings of yesteryear. So if I were forced to pick a favorite artist of all time, both James and Reznor would receive the same accolades. They’ve changed my life for the better and I couldn’t imagine a world without their music.

Gig Review: @Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Written by Zoe Spencer

It’s been 11 years since I last saw Pixies, at the Aircraft-Hanger-esqe Alexandra Palace. It was the fulfilment of a childhood dream. We camped out for hours in the empty hall to be sure of a front row spot. My other half had never really heard of Pixies but he still describes that night as one of the best live gigs he has ever seen. I was the stereotypical fan girl, totally smitten from first note – utterly blown away – it was a real high point of my gig going career. So, to say my expectations were high would be a gigantic (get it?) understatement.

Upon arriving at the 02 Academy I was treated to a very thorough frisk (I’m not sure the third bottom squeeze was entirely necessary…) and a bag search – sadly there was nothing more exciting than a notepad and pen (much to my friend’s amusement at how “old school” I am). Looking around at my fellow concert goers, I was hit with a sense of my own impending middle age; where were the Grungers? The Punks? Where were the bloody teenagers? I was awash in a sea of hipsters and ridiculous moustaches. My sense of displacement was further deepened by catching sight of the tea towels on the Pixies merchandise stand… what every middle-aged rocker needs….

Taking my place in the 5000-strong throng, a shadowy Pixies took to the stage, and without so much as a “hello Brixton” pre-amble, they are straight into the good stuff with the anthemic sing-a-long, “Where is My Mind?” The band is on form this evening, Black Francis’ vocals are as strange and wonderful as ever as they motor from one classic to the next – the set is relentless and spans all seven albums with even a couple of b-sides and covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and Scottish veterans The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (featured on Pixies Trompe Le Monde Album) getting a look in.

The set sways from one decade to another, in a collection of songs spanning nearly 30 years. And yet, there are no songs that jar, of course the “Doolittle” and “Surfer Rosa” tracks are the ones that have the crowd singing along – the irresistible nod at a pop love song “Here comes your Man” is a particular highlight for me, and “Havalina” was beautiful. But newbies like “Tenement Song” from “Head Carrier” stand strong amongst the classics.

If I’m being completely honest there were times when the sound guys could have been working harder – bass and vocals were feeding back at several points in the first hour but Pixies have always had a rawness that can take a bit of buzz. I would have been disappointed to have left without a little bit of a headache!

The set motors on, song after song (although of course most Pixies songs come in short bursts) with not a peep in between – the stage is dark and back lit, full of smoke and the lack of banter adds to the surrealness they do so well… I was happy to see that guitarist Joey Santiago was completing the line-up after his recent stay in rehab with signature unpolished surfy tones. However, the real revelation for me was the wonderful Paz Lenchantin – having seen the original line up featuring Kim Deal, bringing a splash of colour to the monochrome stage with a large floppy red flower attached to the headstock of her bass. After so much time I wonder if the comparisons to Kim Deal become galling (Gigantic was a notable exception to the set – Monkey’s Gone to Heaven also sadly absent) however Paz stood her very leggy ground. The bass was deliciously punky and growly and her vocals strong – in that quirky way Pixies do so well.

When this 2-hour marathon draws to its tumultuous conclusion with a fantastic last run of “Hey”, “Gouge Away”, the magnificent “Debaser” and finally the throat wrenching “Tame”, the band take their bows in silence and leave the stage. Still not a word.

They return to the stage for their encore and the whole room is flooded with smoke – seriously it was like walking into a cloud – Pixies humour perhaps, because Paz then delivers a haunting version of “Into the White” before they disappear in the smoke screen like ghosts in the night.

In short as loud and weird and wonderful as you would come to expect although, next time guys, maybe say “hey” – after all we’ve been “trying to meet you”.

Set list;

Where is my mind?

Nimrod’s Son

Break my body

Brick is red

Winterlong (Neil Young)

Blown Away

Mr. Grieves

La La Love You

Ana

All the Saints

Here Comes your Man

Motorway to Roswell

Magdalena 318

Tenement Song

Classic Masher

Head on (The Jesus and Mary Chain)

U-Mass

I’ve Been Tired

Velouria

Havalina

Snakes

Caribou

Rock Music

Baal’s Back

Isla de Enchanta

Oona

Planet of Sound

All I Think About Now

Hey

Gouge Away

Debaser

Tame

Into the White

Gig Review: @wolfalicemusic by @jenbren1976 , O2 Forum, Kentish Town, 27th March 2016

Wolf Alice must have been feeling the weight of lofty expectations and quite a lot of pressure on night 2 of their sold-out 4-night residency in the O2 Forum, Kentish Town. This is their home territory, a 4-night sell-out and alas their bass player Theo Ellis was sick-noted due to a swollen elbow.  This resulted in a last-minute change to the support line-up where Kent duo Slaves were drafted in. Mercifully myself and my fellow attendee deliberately arrived too late to see them and got to the venue in time to see the final support act Bloody Knees. The young, grungy Cambridge quartet had no problem pleasing the crowd and filling the cavernous venue with their dirty guitar sounds amongst highly dextrous melody.

Thankfully the stage times and tour staff were quick and efficient in clearing the stage and the gap between BK and WA was very short, enabling Ellie and the boys to enter stage at precisely 9.30.   Strobic torch lighting was used beautifully, giving lead singer Ellie Rowsell a suitably iconic rock n’ roll silhouette.  Despite Theo’s absence, Gengahr’s bassist John Victor did a sterling job at standing in and there was no loss in power or audio quality. In fact, WA were impressive audibly, particularly drummer Joel Amey who performed superbly throughout.

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The first track performed was “Your Love’s Whore”, a staggering, climatic and mature track from a band who are unfairly labelled as “youth-only”.  It sets the scene nicely for those who are unfamiliar with the band’s work (as my partner-in-crime was).  If I was to generalise their sound, anyone familiar with sub-grunge bands of the first half of the 90s such as Belly, Lush, Veruca Salt, Breeders et al would be on to a good starting point. However, Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics and vocals show a sophistication and maturity as well as confidence beyond her years.  Her effortless stage presence is impressive – it almost feels as if the very idea of her being anything else other than her calm, ethereal self is ludicrous, no Gallagher-style uncouthness, no need to flash flesh – just sing or scream the songs and thank the audience.

Curiously, the band commence their set with 3 of their most popular tracks, following up with “You’re A Germ” which is a daft few minutes of screamy but enjoyable mosh pit nonsense – admittedly it’s my least favourite WA song and I was relieved to see them get this out of the way early. Wonderful summery Madchester-style pop followed in the form of “Freazy” – gloriously self-referencing the band name in its own chorus. Who needs marketing gimmicks when the music can do the talking? And indeed, as the song marvellously states – “You can hate us all you want but it don’t mean nothing at all”.

The set appeared to zoom by, only lasting an hour due to the band having one album’s worth of material.  However, this was an hour full of confidence, hypnotic and layered guitar sounds and the always-judgemental mosh pit were clearly in full approval. Mellow moments ensued during “Swallowtail”, crooned by drummer Amey and Ellie was happy to take a backseat at this point, again showing zero ego issues apparent within the band. The encore gave us a truly sublime version of “Turn to Dust”, an opiated softly strummed, hypnotic yet tender reflection on mortality, all the more touching from the mind of one so young.  Ellie’s vocals became more soprano-esque at this point and didn’t once waver. The final track was their previous set-opener Giant Peach which hugely satisfied the crowd, and towards the end the big guns were pulled out which confirmed Wolf Alice’s soon-to-be-mainstream status – the confetti guns, that is. This now appears to be not-so-secret record industry code for bands who are about to embark on the Big Time so no doubt arena tours will beckon once 2016’s festival season concludes.

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Overall, an incredibly impressive and quietly confident show where Wolf Alice have proven themselves to be a band who let the music do the talking.  I’m not known for my predictive skills but the US would no doubt welcome this band with open arms. World domination awaits… you have been warned.

Set List:

  1. Your Love’s Whore
  2. You’re a Germ
  3. Freazy
  4. Bros
  5. Lisbon
  6. 90 Mile Beach
  7. Silk
  8. The Wonderwhy
  9. Storms
  10. Swallowtail
  11. Fluffy
  12. She
  13. Moaning Lisa Smile

Encore:

  1. Turn to Dust
  2. Blush
  3. Giant Peach

Gig Review: Therapy? @therapyofficial at @rescuerooms , 12th March 2016 by @moff76

Words and pictures by Adam Moffat.

Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms saw the final date of Ireland’s alternative rock pioneers Therapy? playing their Infernal Love album tour.

“Infernal Love” is the band’s third album following on from “Nurse” and the massive “Troublegum”. It received mixed reviews on its release in 1995 as it showed a change in direction from the bouncier, punkier “Troublegum” to a more groove laden sound.

There was a big turn-out of Therapy?’s loyal following and the Rescue Rooms was packed out.

The band walked on to a rapturous reception and opened with “Infernal Love”’s title track “Epilepsy”. The heavy opening riffs and “I’ve Got a Problem” creating an instant sea of bouncing bodies and singing voices. The intro rolled straight into one of the album’s finest features, “Stories”.

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Andy Cairnes was his usual witty self, engaging the crowd between songs. From here the set blasted through for 35 minutes of dark twisting melancholy until the end of “Loose”, when Andy called an abrupt stop to proceedings as some unlucky punter in the pit was taken ill. Much puzzlement in the crowd as the band called for paramedics and the unfortunate fella was stretchered out.

45 minutes later the band came back to the stage and launched into their cover of Hüsker Dü’s “Diane”, leading the crowd in a massive sing song, it was as though the band had never left the stage. With “30 Seconds” closing the Infernal Love set we rolled straight into a best of the rest set.

New songs “Still Hurts”, “Tides” and “Deathstimate” were plugged into the set next to classics like “Nausea” and “Teethgrinder” from the album “Nurse”. What came next was “Potato Junkie” with the crowd screaming the “James Joyce is fucking my sister” refrain so loud it threatened to drown the band themselves out. When the crowd’s singing died down we were reminded of a legend lost late last year Mr Lemmy Kilminster with a pit filling “Ace of Spades”, which they segued perfectly back into the end of “Potato Junkie”, the audience an ecstatic mass of sweaty flailing limbs.

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You couldn’t wipe the shit eating grin off of Michael McKeegan’s face with a Brillo pad as he played his winding bass lines. Therapy? had some extra help tonight as guitar tech Stevie Firth filled in on second guitar and keyboard duties giving the music an extra dimension.

The closing finale of “Troublegum” trio “Screamager”, “Knives” and “Nowhere” showed Neil Cooper’s amazing drumming; he was hitting his drums so hard that it threatened to break the skins with every beat. The crowd was sent off into the cold night with croaky throats and massive smiles.

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All in, an excellent end to the Infernal Love tour and a fantastic performance despite the earlier incident. The band took it in their stride and showed why they are one of the best live bands in the world and I for one can’t wait for the next chapter in the dark twisted world that is THERAPY?

Why I Love Slagerij by Kate @lovelybarmy

There’s a What’s On magazine locally called The Ocelot. On 24th June 2011, it celebrated its fifth birthday at Riff’s Bar, Swindon. There were three acts. I had vaguely heard of the main one, Evaline. The supporting acts were Gaz Brookfield and Slagerij, and I had never heard of either.

Gaz Brookfield kicked it off. He is great. Google him and see if he’s still going. At the time he was similar to a young, modern day Billy Bragg, touring the country with his guitar.

The next band were Slagerij. I remember Jamie from The Ocelot announcing them and saying something along the lines of, “and now for some skanking!” The person I was with looked at me with horror, as if I was going to be mortally offended but they never did know me very well. It was exactly my taste in music!

Three guys came on stage. I felt quite protective towards them – they looked like the nerds from school had started a band to be cool. I had the feeling they were going to be mediocre but decided I would cheer and clap them in any case for encouragement.

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Well, there is no way to say how completely wrong I was. They blew me and everyone there, away. All their music was original apart from one (awesome) cover at the end. It was powerful music – raw energy emanating from every pore. I skanked and danced for the whole set and whooped, clapped and cheered every song, as did everyone there. Evaline followed and I think they felt the effect of having to follow a band that had energised the whole venue and not being able to match them.

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I met Slagerij afterwards and was quite drunk so probably told them I loved them… a lot. I saw them live a few times afterwards and it wasn’t a fluke – they were awesome each time and I can’t wait to see them again when they come back to their home town, Swindon. It is THE BEST place to see them live.

That’s just a bit of background as to how I discovered them. Why do I love Slagerij?

I think it’s fair to say my life is quite hard sometimes (insert violins here). Without going into detail I get frustrated, upset and angry about many of the things that adversely affect my family. As a mother I’m expected to behave a certain way and be a certain person which is constraining sometimes, to say the least. I can’t play my music loudly at home – my children complain. I know right? It’s meant to be the other way around! So when driving, on my own in the car, I play my music so loud that I can feel it vibrating through my whole body.

When I listen to Slagerij’s “Swim for Shore” album at said volume in the car, it gives me a release in so many ways.

There is enough powerful RAAAAWWWRR for me to empty any anger by the time I reach my destination. With the music so loud I feel like I’m flipping the bird to all the people who annoy me – all the cliquey parents on school runs, teachers who’ve irritated me, anyone who’s judged me or my children unfairly, people who have preconceived ideas of who I am or should be. In fact, it’s like flipping the bird to the whole world in general. The sense of satisfaction this brings is immense.

Not only do Slagerij discharge my anger, they make me smile. There’s a cheekiness to many of their songs which never fails to bring a grin to my face. The fact that one song on the album is called, “I Wish There Was a Party so We Can Invite the Whole World/Universe…’cause That’d Be Ace!!!” kind of encapsulates this! So, on top of flipping the bird to the whole human race and grinning like a loon, listening to Slagerij puts me in the best frame of mind you can imagine. I feel on top of the world, cleansed and invigorated! The power of music at its best.

I’d just like to say that my favourite song is “Girls got Rhythm”. There is a video of me somewhere dancing to it at a gig, a bit like Animal from the Muppets – so much enthusiasm, very little rhythm. Unfortunately, it is not in my possession or I would post it. Despite the fact I don’t have much rhythm, I always imagine that it is written for me which makes me happy. When it ends with “Go home with me, baby” I, without fail, say to myself, “Oh, go on then” with a big grin. Music doesn’t get much better than this.

Editor’s note: I was intrigued about the meaning of the word “Slagerij” – incase anyone else is wondering, google tells me it’s Dutch for butcher.

Gig Review: @Foals, 20th Feb 2016, Leeds – by @jenbren1976 #Foals #MusicIsEverything

Foals at First Direct Arena, Leeds, 20th February 2016. Words by Jen.

So the gradually snowballing juggernaut that is Foals’ ongoing career trajectory rolls on, into Leeds on Saturday February 20th for their final date on their first UK arena tour. Given that they’ve had a strong presence on the UK music scene since 2007, it seems strange that they’re finally embarking on an arena tour, however the powerful right hook that current album “What Went Down” provides sets an appropriate scene for a band who are very self-aware of their live capabilities, well-practiced and skilled at same, and yet want to present an intense experience to paying punters.

And Warner Brothers haven’t been tight with the cash either. The stage set is admirably impressive and yet gimmick-free. Strobe laser bars of all colours surround numerous square screens displaying both images of the band at work and superb, elaborate, high-resolution light shows. This is a long way from playing their local sweaty teenage indie armpit joint in Oxford when they had just emerged from being the Edmund Fitzgerald 10 years ago, fresh out of adolescence.

It’s very fair to say that Foals have now well & truly hit the mainstream, however it’s also through hard, honest work and musical integrity (as opposed to managerial harassment, OTT PR and attention deficit disorder of the band members). The Leeds date was an 8,000 ticket sell-out and admittedly, support act Everything Everything looked daunted and unable to meet the expectant atmosphere of intensity that the crowd had taken in with them.

Emerging to what sounded like a more violent version of the opening chords to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, they move straight into “Snake Oil”, a song that initially sounds like Kasabian’s “Reason Is Treason” but becomes more violent, powerful and sexual in its lyrical bent. Stage intros are very important to Foals, on the “Holy Fire” tours they introduced the band teasingly one by one, and the approach is similar on this tour but to a different track. Traditional crowd-pleaser “Olympic Airways” is then run through, which then leads via a drum build up from rhythm colossus Jack Bevan into the uber-funky “My Number”, then elegantly moving into new WWD album track “Birch Tree”, a delicious note of 80s hip hop inspired pop.

It’s pretty apparent via their set list that the band are very confident in their material, and in the mix of tracks both old and new that please the crowd and yet serve a good 2 hours of musical pleasure, sustained excitement, mellow moments and eventual climax. Each member of the band is very audibly musically talented.

My only argument is the absence and presence of a limited few tracks. I’m not sure why they run through “Red Socks Pugie anymore”, as it seems slightly overplayed, and “Milk & Black Spiders” would have been a suitably epic inclusion. Yannis’ vocals on the musically panoramic “A Knife in the Ocean” are clearly strained, and have been on numerous previous live outings. Also, “Albatross” is a very strong & powerful track from the current album that could leave an arena throbbing & hungry for more and its absence from their current live set is puzzling to say the least. But, time is money, and four albums into their career sacrifices need to be made, after all, they’re not a Bruce Springsteen type of act.

The mixture of different musical emotions in Foals’ canon truly is their USP. “Late Night” & “London Thunder” are mellow, emotional, melancholic and laconic. “Providence”, “Two Steps Twice” and “Inhaler” are hysterically orgasmic and “What Went Down” and “Snake Oil” are menacing and threatening tracks. Their early math-rock incarnation is also nodded to thanks to “Balloons” (the superb student disco classic “Hummer” has also been trotted out on this tour) and of course, the much-adored “Spanish Sahara” is the people-pleaser that sends the crowd into a frenzy.

All in all, their previously intense live show has translated effortlessly from smaller venues to arenas, where the sound and intensity is astronomical enough to fill the walls and people’s hearts and ears.

“Leeds, you’re fucking awesome,” announces Yannis Philippakis, returning warmly & enthusiastically for an encore. “Seriously, you guys are mint.” Well Yannis, it takes one to know one. Headlining Reading & Leeds suddenly seems insufficient for a band of their might. Why not Glastonbury?

Set list:

Snake Oil

Olympic Airways

My Number

Birch Tree

Give It All

Mountain at My Gates

Balloons

Providence

Spanish Sahara

Red Socks Pugie

Late Night

A Knife in the Ocean

Inhaler

Encore:

London Thunder

What Went Down

Two Steps Twice

Jen recently told us about her love for Foals. You can read her article here.

Why I Love Dexys by @BeatCityTone #Dexys #MusicIsEverything

They don’t make songs like that anymore …

So many folks are absolutely convinced, with a certainty eclipsing any religious belief, that music isn’t as good as it was in the 60s, or the 70s, the 90s or the zeros.

Truth is, it’s all subjective.

It’s the music you were really into when you turn eighteen that’s the best. That’s the time when you’re leaving home, getting a job or off to college, learning to get by on your own and falling in love for the first time – and if you’re really lucky, the last time.

1980 was the year I turned eighteen. 2-Tone had occupied most of my attention during the previous year – The Specials, Madness, Selecter had all released stunning debut albums that had been on my turntable constantly.

I’d heard about this band with a stupid long name who’d been supporting The Specials on the last leg of the 2-Tone tour, replacing Madness, which annoyed me as I didn’t consider it was worth shelling out a fiver for The Specials, The Selecter and the band with the stupid long name.

I actually bought my first Dexys record unheard. I was with my girlfriend in Charing Cross Road just after New Year and walking past Our Price I saw the Dance Stance single with its distinctive cover, with what looked like a gang of football casuals staring out from it.

More to the point it was reduced to 50 pence. Tessa, my significant other, was bemused that I would spend money on a record I hadn’t heard.

I got the record home late that night and put it on. Right from the first horn stabs, it got me.

Five months later, Tessa was impressed at my ability to spot the hit-makers of tomorrow when Geno went to Number One.

“Searching for the Young Soul Rebels” soundtracked every mood for eighteen-year-old me – there’s songs that take you up, songs that you can dance to and songs that are there for you when nobody else is, when you’re eighteen and your problems seem insurmountable, you have all these hormones raging and you can’t talk about it to anybody.

It became the go-to record, all the time.

One song in particular stands out. Used to lose myself in it on a regular basis.

I still have the original vinyl copy with key lyrics underlined (“If There Is Someone …”) from when I lent it to a girl. (It didn’t last btw)

The sleeve notes were a work of genius. It’s worth reading them in full, and bearing in mind that the band had stopped giving any interviews at the time, so this was their only communication with what was becoming a passionate and devoted fanbase:

“On a hot night in July 78 two men, Kevin Rowland and Al Archer left their Iow profile Birmingham hide-out to round up a firm of boys. Fed up with petty spoils from their previous team – a small-time new wave group – and disillusioned by the lack of response from the major fences, they knew this one was going to be the big one and if they were going to have it off they would have to be eight handed. . . with the hardest hitting men in town.

First stop was a rundown nightclub on the edge of town, well known for its clientele of hard rock villains from the last generation. The band were in full swing as the two men strolled in. They were a bunch of smash and grab artists thumping away and rolling over on the floor, as if expecting a punk revival – all apart from the drummer, Andy Growcott, who was exceptional and was recruited immediately. A week later, young Pete Saunders armed with a Hammond organ, was instated. His only form was having played with a local pop group. The following day tenor sax player JB was kidnapped from the late great “Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band.” Then there were five.

The rest of the team took a bit longer to recruit and some of the boys got impatient. Rowland and Archer assured them that this sound was the big one and was well worth waiting for. The boys cooled down and consoled themselves by listening to records of Cliff Bennett, Zoot Money, Sam and Dave, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. etc

Soon after a young bass driver by the name of Pete Williams walked into the hideout carrying his tool under one arm and the complete Stax collection under the other. Disillusioned with new muzak, he put his soul records on the table and shouted “I want to do something as good as these – only better.” The boys knew exactly what he meant and welcomed him with open arms.

The team was completed by the inclusion of Steve “Babyface” Spooner, the alto who got the word from a local snout and Big Jimmy Paterson who had been laying low in the north of Scotland. He got wind of a big one going off in the Midlands, grabbed his trombone and jumped on the next train. The firm was complete – now for the caper…”

One of my major regrets is never having seen the original lineup live – Kevin Rowland singing, Al Archer on guitar, Pete Williams on bass, Pete Saunders playing the organ, JB Blythe, Steve Spooner on saxaphones, Big Jimmy Paterson on trombone and Andy “Stoker” Growcott on drums. You think I had to look that up? Gimme a minute and I’ll list every musician who was ever a Dexys Midnight Runner. Actually, don’t. You’ll lose the will to live.

I’ve followed Dexys through every incarnation since then, and I can’t say, hand on heart, that I’ve loved everything they’ve ever done.

I’m with Kevin Rowland when he says the songs on the follow up album “Too-Rye-Ay” were better but the production is too commercial. I’m guessing producer Pete Sinfield wouldn’t have fancied the production chair second time round after the band kidnapped the master tapes of “Young Soul Rebels” in order to negotiate a better deal with EMI.

(btw I was in the crowd at this gig. A CD to the first person who can correctly identify me at 0:03)

I think Kevin Rowland’s unrelenting emphasis on the way the band looks is a distraction from the music – although I understand its function as a way of attracting media attention, it’s not for me.

The 2012 rebirth of the band with the release of “One Day I’m Going to Soar” with three original members, albeit in a very different configuration, was a triumph.

Three and a half years on an I’d rate the album their best since Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (in my estimation – I know I’m in a minority here as most hardcore Dexys fans go for “Don’t Stand Me Down”)

The record is focussed, tight, emotional and funny, and the live shows have netted them a fair few new fans, while delighting the old fans.

We’ve really got no right to expect an album as good as this from a band 44 years into its career, and with a 27-year gap between albums three and four.

By my reckoning the next Dexys album will be released in 2039.

As the chorus of the climactic song on “One Day I’m Going to Soar” goes… I can’t fucking wait!

I’m on Twitter @BeatCityTone and I also do a couple of hour-long music shows every week to listen to / download.

Beat City New Music Podcast

Retro Beat ’66 – the alternative sounds of this week in 1966

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Why I Love Feeder by @Pyfbrown #Feeder #MusicIsEverything

The year is 1997 and I’m going to my first ever festival, true I attended what became known as Britstock in 1995, but that was only one day and not the full camping experience. The venue was Reading, being a northerner this was in the days before there was a Leeds equivalent so it was a long trek, and the weekend promised a lot of good bands.

Friday was mostly a happy-go-lucky day for me, where I saw A, Symposium, Silver Sun, Carrie and James amongst others, with a bit more power provided by Sick of it All and Incubus on whatever the punky/skatey stage was called that year.

Saturday was a bit more of an indie day but highlights were provided by that new band Stereophonics (opening up on the main stage) and Republica while I was waiting to see my favourite band Manic Street Preachers for the third time. This being the one with Nicky in his infamous camo-dress.

But having said that, Sunday was the ROCK day. Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Bush, 3 Colours Red and Dog Eat Dog all put on great sets, meaning that this definitely lived up to my expectations of being the best day. But tucked away second on the main stage bill (only above those contenders for the where are they now file, Radish) were Feeder.

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I can’t recall exactly whether I’d heard anything by them beforehand, free CDs would have been my only option back then, but I knew them in the same way that everyone else knew them. That band with the orange boiler suits, the band with the weird hair, the British Smashing Pumpkins.

Looking back now, Setlist.fm tells me they played a 5 song set, which seems a little short despite their billing. All I remember is that I enjoyed their set and made a mental note to check them out when I got home. If that setlist is right then “Cement”, “High”, “Shade”, “Stereo World” and one of my all time favourites “Descend” would definitely have had that effect.

And check them out I did, buying “Polythene” soon after. The aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins comparisons were warranted in terms of some of the riffs and rhythms, but there was none of the excess, none of the fat, just the songs and nothing else. They were also far too British-sounding for that comparison to ever hold too much water. Their appearance on the Gran Turismo soundtrack only cemented the impact of that first album in my head (not forgetting the earlier mini-album “Swim” which I revisited at a later date).

By the time the next album came around with its accompanying singles I would be kicking off a run of buying pretty much every single and album from that point on, in terms of volume my Feeder collection is second only to my Manics collection.

The singles that preceded that album, “Day In Day Out” and “Insomnia”, showed a different side to the band, the guitars had kind of thinned out a little, there was a leaning less toward the rock world and more towards indie, or even a break towards the mainstream. Regardless, the songs were strong and the title track of the second album in particular, “Yesterday Went Too Soon”, remains one of my favourite songs by any band.

I saw them twice around the time of the release of the album, firstly at my second ever festival (and the last time I camped), Leeds 1999, this time being halfway up the bill on the final day and a month later at Middlesbrough Arena, the first Feeder headlining show I saw. History has moved “Yesterday Went Too Soon” a bit further down in the Feeder album pecking order, but familiarity in terms of single and album releases and also live shows was fast establishing them in the upper echelons of my favourite bands.

“Buck Rogers” a couple of years later certainly didn’t do that any harm. Yes, the lyrics are complete drivel, yes it’s a long way from the likes of “Descend”, but it’s a fantastically brilliant and simplistic song and another one of my Feeder favourites. It firmly launched them into the ears of mainstream music listeners and all the positive and negative press that that might bring them. In quite possibly the most ill-judged move of all time they also threw out “Just a Day” as the B-side to “Seven Days in the Sun”. Now they always did have an embarrassment of riches among their B-sides but that was just ridiculous. Locking horns with “Motown Junk”, it’s a contender for my favourite song of all time, A-side status (and accompanying cult fan video) soon redressed the balance.

The album the singles came from, “Echo Park”, was a huge hit and along with those songs contained other minor classics in “We Can’t Rewind” and “Turn”. These days it’s not necessarily an album that jumps off my shelf and screams “Play Me!” due to some of the more understated numbers, but once I do give it a spin it never disappoints. It was also time for another regular Leeds festival encounter, slowly creeping up the main stage bill again in 2001 and notable for being a day that I saw what were now my two favourite bands on the same stage.

Little did I know that 5 months later, drummer Jon Lee would be dead. Now I don’t really create attachments to famous people, I don’t know them and in my mind their passing simply means I won’t see any further work by them in the future. Of course it’s sad but not necessarily any more sad than if it were someone who lives down the road. Jon Lee seemed different. Everyone said it was a total shock, he didn’t seem the type to take his own life (if such a thing existed). Grant Nicholas’ subsequent story of how Jon phoned him at a restaurant that day and how he ignored the call because he thought he would just be messing around was utterly heartbreaking. To me it seemed like it would be touch and go whether they would carry on, he seemed an integral part of the band. But just like my beloved Manics after Richey Edwards’ disappearance, a similar comeback was on the cards.

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24th August 2002 and Feeder re-emerged into the spotlight with new drummer Mark Richardson in tow. They had headlined the second stage at the Reading festival the day before and now I was at Leeds to see a repeat. It remains my favourite gig ever. The sentiment within the crowd was palpable as the chants of “FEE-DER FEE-DER FEE-DER” echoed around the tent and I took my place just inside. Opening with “We Can’t Rewind” was an absolute stroke of genius. It’s a brilliant song anyway but the title alone said it all, like their own “Everything Must Go”-style statement.

The crowd chant remained between every single song, it was an awe-inspiring atmosphere coupled with a great set of tunes. By the time “Just a Day” closed proceedings, possibly my favourite song of all time remember, the triumphant feel of the whole event really hit home. I’m not an outwardly emotional person at all, but while belting out the words at the top of my voice it happened – the only time I’ve ever been moved to tears at a gig. They were well and truly back.

“Come Back Around”, the, er, comeback single, was also awesome. The most Foo Fighters it’s possible to be without actually being the Foo Fighters, it was a stormer with one of my favourite drum fills of all time (ok, maybe that is a bit geeky but you get the idea). The album itself was poignant and strong without necessarily always hitting the heights of previous albums.

A B-side collection and quite possibly the best ‘Best Of’ ever sandwiched the next album, “Pushing the Senses”, and it was another solid set of songs. “Tumble and Fall” was the resident classic this time, fragile and towering at the same time.

As my record collection increased, the time spent with new releases reduced, meaning that later albums “Silent Cry”, “Renegades” and “Generation Freakshow” haven’t quite been given the airtime they deserve. Needless to say though, Feeder have never released even an average album and the high quality of the songs kept on coming. In February 2011 I saw them for the sixth time, at Middlesbrough Empire, meaning that they held the joint record for the number of times I’ve seen a band with the Manics, China Drum and Symposium (the latter two more through playing Middlesbrough plenty of times than being a massive fan like with the others!).

If you haven’t really listened to Feeder, or maybe you only know them through “Buck Rogers”, and this blog has intrigued you then give Polythene a listen like I did back in 1997. You never know, you might then find yourself taking a shortcut through my journey.

Editor adds: Check out Ian’s Top 50 Feeder songs here for a start!