Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday Night - Leeds Festival 2011

The Strokes
-Leeds Festival 2011-

As the Leeds Festival 2011 line-up is announced on Radio1 back in the early days of Spring, I sat perplexed and anxious as to what one of Britain's most successful festivals had in store. Since hanging up my Leeds Festival boots in 2008 I do feel Leeds had struggled to establish itself away from the genre of simply 'anything mentioned in NME that particular year' (did I just make up a genre?), and so because of this hoped for a line-up of legendary stature. To some extent this happened. Despite the usual over-rated-big-this-year-but-dead-the-next acts plaguing the line-up like a bout of festival drizzle, Festival Republic did actually attract a small but highly respectable pool of artists. The most respected in my opinion, being Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr, Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture and Fab Moretti, AKA The Strokes.

For my three years as a Leeds Festival pilgrim, I hoped and prayed for The Strokes to headline, a band to which played through my teen years an unbelievable amount. From Is This It in 2001 to Angles being released ten years down the line, I still believe The Strokes to be one of the most influential and talented acts to ever grace our ear-holes. So when a chance came to see my boyhood heroes, for free, on Sunday night at Leeds Festival 2011, I took it and ran (literally...)

Arriving at 8PM was a mistake. With my wellies/skinny jeans combination attached, I found myself sprinting from Brown Car park - 1.5 miles away from the main arena - to Julian and Co. To be fair, my sprint speed was greatly increased by the odd encouraging yell and distant sound of New York City Cops.

Despite the early inconvenience of being parked literally at the other end of the festival, I soon found myself established in the mid-section of a tired and dreary eyed Leeds Festival crowd, roughly 50,000 in size. The crowd seemed pensive and still, often only singing the most easy of lyrics to which even the biggest musical invalid would or should know - 'Last Night, She Said....'
However, this did not deter me from the biggest nostalgia-trip of my still relatively short (aged now 21) life. Watching Julian, sunglasses on, holding the microphone whilst beginning (twice) one of The Strokes most relaxing and superbly fitting for a Sunday night festival atmosphere - Under Control -was a moment of beauty. Hearing Hard to Explain, 12:51, Someday, Juicebox and then finishing on Take It or Leave It took me back to mid-teenage years - to when music magazines replaced maths books and the quest to lose ones virginity became of detrimental importance.

As the lights of the Main Stage grew brighter as the sun began to fall on Leeds Festival for another year, The Strokes remained stationary, rarely communicating with the crowd and never, not once, jumping to a certain riff or chord. To some this may of appeared rude, almost arrogant, but to those who have followed Julian and Co through the years, this lack of energy only increased the experience - doing what they have done better than anyone else in the last decade, being iconic.

Note; For those who like their acts to jump around, perhaps try My Chemical Romance, The Offspring or Thirty Seconds to Mars. Do write to us in 10 years time and let us know how these chaps are getting on....

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Film Review.





Please welcome to the world of film directing, Richard Ayoade. Commonly known for his role in Channel 4's 'The IT Crowd', playing 'that guy' that simply saves the show from being completely dire- 'Moss'. Switching from the acting role to the directors chair, Ayoade makes a superb debut in 'Submarine'. Side-stepping the cliches of his past and creating an instant classic, we find Ayoade perhaps orchestrating a much more creative and alternative strand in his DNA. .
Oliver Tate, a brilliantly strange Welsh school boy who spends his days fantasising as many young men do but with a slight twist in his approach; despite the obvious (girls, the kissing of girls, and one girl in particular), Oliver pictures the mass depression which would hit Wales if he were to die. Oliver is a character who can make the audience laugh, although if ever asked, he would never understand why. He is often philosophical in his approach, whilst justifying his actions immediately with a humorous explanation (picture an intellectual Karl Pilkington if possible). At the forefront of master Tate's life are two things, Jordana Bevan and the intense fear that his mother is having an affair with their 'Ninja' neighbour. The former is a completely brilliant character; Jordana is cryptic, mysterious in personality and has a strange obsession with all things flammable. Oliver is smitten, but don't expect a relationship of the 'Romeo and Juliette' or 'Titanic' kind, Jordana hates intimacy constantly shrugging Oliver's hand off her red duffel coat whenever he attempts to comfort her. Oliver's family are also fabulous creations of Ayoades mind. Oliver's father Lloyd Tate is an ex-Open University presenter 'who never quite knew what to do with his hands', whilst his mother is a woman who believes Oliver has some sort of mental disorder - a superbly ironic stance.


'Submarine' is a film which will be adopted by the 'hipsters' who need something else to cling onto after years since 'Napoleon Dynamite' and 'Juno' hit the screens. However, unlike these films, 'Submarine' is much deeper and intelligent, almost a work of art - the photography and cinematography throughout are simply genius. Despite some arguing it to be 'too cool in places', 'Submarine' and Ayoade have every right to feel proud. From the acting to the directing, Ayoade's debut can be deemed an instant success and 'must see' for all young film enthusiasts.


Pulp Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Crystal Fighters. Live and Rising.

There are two things to bare in mind when attending a Crystal Fighters gig in 2011; they are bigger than you think, they will get bigger. Expecting Basque instruments, Spanish flair and a great sense of proud abnormality, this live spectacle was approached with a great sense of curiosity and inerement. With a hand full of Radio One playlist hits and a joint hosting session with Nick Grimshaw, Crystal Fighters find themselves rising (and rightly so) in Spring 2011.
Entering the stage in long shawls, Apache attire and scruffy, yet stylist long hair, Crystal Fighters immediately appear to be the band their music suggests; a 'hippyish' ensemble, powered by illegal substance with heavy Basque influence (we can only speculate as Sebastien - the bands front man - appears removed from reality, but totally in touch with the crowd of the Ruby Lounge). The set opens with Track No.1 from the debut album, 'Star Of Love', the rather basic pattern and layers of 'Solar System' appear to start things off relatively well for a fairly new outfit on the alternative scene. The crowd accept this and move with it - phase one. A decent opener. What happens next is not what was expected prior to the evenings entertainment. 'Follow' and the rather Dubstep inspired 'Swallow' (a great shame and by far the albums worst - unfitting track) pave the way for the eruption which occurs as 'I Love London' rips out of the small, but mighty P.A system. The crowd rush, bump and clobber into one another as no individual shape can be thrown into the pit of hipsters created- phase 2.
Throughout, the band appear at ease with this commotion, almost as if they are expectant, a true sign of confidence in a newly rising outfit. Any slight scream or highly pitched 'eeeeyyy' from Sebastien is met with riotous applause and lustful admiration. This marks the mid-point which is undoubtedly, and perhaps ideally placed, peak of the show. The trip to the end of the show is how one could imagine the band themselves are feeling, a 'coming down' situation - phase3. 'Plage' is an instant hit, an album favourite and definitely a song which should appear on even the most generic summertime playlist. Lyrically the band are maturing; chanting, wooden rhythmical backing which coincides and brilliant use of repetition make the band a unique and rather different experience to that experienced most years - moving towards a perhaps Basque and Balearic revolution in the alternative and underground music scene (remember nu-rave in 2007 anyone?). The highlight of this 'come down' period (excuse the pun), is 'At Home', the song Nick Grimshaw himself described as a 'definite summertime anthem'. The track is backed heavily by Laure and Mimi, both backing singers proving to be much more than the pretty faces of the stage, with vast contributions both in the studio and live alike (even if Sebastien is screaming most songs into his rag covered microphone). If you need a song to sponsor your spring/summer - Crystal Fighters; At Home should be a definite contender.
Predictably, the band finish with 'Xtatic Truth', a clear fan favourite and fitting end to what was as superb live spectacle. Ignore the hype which surrounds acts like 'Brother', and 'The Vaccines', and put your money in your pocket to join in some different, Basque and Balearic noise in Crystal Fighters 'Star Of Love'. An album which wreaks of summertime fearlessness, a cross between The Naked and Famous and Delorean, Crystal Fighters are becoming, and soon will be, one of the bands of 2011. You heard it hear first.
Gig Rating: 4.0/5

Album Rating 4.2/5
Alex Lester

Monday, 14 March 2011

Its no longer 2001.

Virginity Lost.


Album Review No; 1


2001. New York. Albert Hammond Jr, Nick Valensi, Nikolai Frature, Fab Moretti and Julian Casablancas. The Strokes. A band producing one of the decades best albums in the form of Is This It. (No there is no question mark). Hard To Explain, Someday and The Modern Age, influencing the likes of the Arctic Monkeys to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 10 years pass. Two more albums. A gap. And then this. ANGLES. The Strokes return. And the result.....
ANGLES opens strong. Machu Picchu is dominated by the White Fender Strat of Albert Hammond Jr jolting note to note, Julian enters, husked and gritty. The chorus bears witness to Valensi's rhythm twinned with Hammond's alternative distortion. It works well. It soon becomes clear that this is going to be a different ride to Is This It, Room on Fire and First Impressions. Even the artwork has changed. Change Change Change.
Easing past Under The Cover of Darkness (listen to Radio One, its on their main play list), Julian and the New Yorkers create two numbers which take us back to the 1980s. Almost grunge-esc in tempo and vocals, but it kind of works. Taken for a Fool, epic in introduction (albeit short), and classic in structure. This sees The Strokes revert back to the latter ends of First Impressions, before kicking into a chorus which suits this new image down to a tee. Its snappy and sharp. This really works. The guitars sound superb coinciding with Mr Casablancas lyrics.
The latter periods of the album see the best work. Gratisfaction is a must listen. Its so brilliantly new. The group harmonise on the chorus to back Julian, only slightly, but enough to make a serious impact and a definite sign of unity (forget the doubters). Just listen to the lyrics.
The moral of this tale; its not Is This It. Its not even close. But its not 2001. The Strokes have evolved, and too right. The context has changed, in ten years, they have all changed. ANGLES follows solo projects, marriages, kids! The Strokes are no longer the young men staying on each others sofas, no longer staying up all night in bars sipping down buds and smoking endless cigarettes (fair enough Albert still is). ANGLES signifies a return. It signifies brilliance reunited. And it works superbly well. Headlining festivals all over Europe this summer (put money on Reading & Leeds), The Strokes find themselves firmly back. Back in 2011. Not back to 2001. Moving forward with maybe the odd look back. Change is a good thing.

Change is essential.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Sleigh Bells Ring.

S l e i g h B e l ls.

N o t t i n g h a m R e s c u e R o o m s.


New York. Home to The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Sex and the City, The Drums, yellow cabs, Wall Street, knife crime and more recently, Sleigh Bells. Derek Miller, formerly of Poison the Well (he has clearly gone on the better things since his teen angst) and Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells are a dynamic and exciting alternative electronic outfit. With debut album treats coming out in 2010, and unexpected success, Sleigh Bells embarked upon a UK and European tour, which is where we caught up with the intensely anticipated act, queue Nottingham Rescue Rooms.


Rumoured in NME to 'destroy PA systems' and ruin music venues, Sleigh Bells carry a certain expectation which can only be matched by that of perhaps a more metallic scene (when was the last time Everything Everything blew a PA system lets be honest?). As the duet approach the stage, an electric guitar with distortion turned up to 100 rips the intro to their latest single 'Infinity Guitars'. The vocals from Alexis are not album quality, and who knows where the beat is coming from, but Nottingham does not even batter the metaphorical eyelid. The crowd is a hybrid of demographics. Middle ages men bounce like its 1993, whilst students get sweaty amongst the working class, its a sociologists wet dream.


A/B Machines follows up as the crowd get a little more loose, shirts are flung off as the front end of the Rescue Rooms is simply becoming a malaise of arms and fists throwing up at the ceiling. As the distortion is turned down for Rill Rill (actually recall Derek leaving the stage for the one), it becomes apparent that the New Yorkers are already half way through the set. Time flies.


The last song on the album and the title of the album itself, 'Treats', is the highlight of the show. Album perfect quality and ear-jizzingly good. Its a heavy number started with classic sleigh bells distortion, followed up by a superb bass drum which could pierce the ears of those associated with the hardest of bands (poison the well.....). It all comes to the front before 'Crown on the Ground' is unleashed as the finale. Strobe lighting as Derek swings and Alexis struts is pure magic. Its a short gig in time, but monstrous in terms of excitement and appeal. Sleigh Bells get the highest mark. A-. Oh and Alexis.....would we?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Yeasayer Interview

(Interview with Ira Wolf Tuton, right)

With songs on computer games, slots in this years top festivals and now a headline tour across the world, we feel it only right to say 'we told you so' about Yeasayer.
2010 has been the kindest of years for the band since starting out in 2006, rapidly climbing from the basement venues (Sheffield Plug, check July's blog) to venues which have seen the likes of Crystal Castles and The Drums headlining in the last 12 months. However we are not here to discuss the rise and rise of Yeasayer, we are here to dig deeper. To ask the questions we hope they possess the answers to.

Its a grey in Manchester. The band are doing a sound check at Manchester Academy II, a venue twice the size of that experienced in Sheffield. Enter PULP.
We are greeted by the band manager, who then passes us on to the bands bass player; Ira Wolf Tuton. Ira stands in stark comparison to his band mates, tall, muscular with shaved back and sides accompanied by a mass of tight curls. He looks tired. When told that PULP saw the band back in early summer, he seems gratuitous and appreciates the admiration we hold for the Brooklyn three.
Ira answers the questions thrust at him modestly, often downplaying the hype which surrounds the outfit he is a part of. "I'm constantly surprised and my eyes are always opened as to why people listen to us" states the man from Philadelphia. He seems cautious and asks if I'm taking notes so no mis-quotes can occur, i reassure him my pen is working and carry on. I then ask Ira what was the main influence behind the obvious change Yeasayer undertook from the '2006 long hair, hippy moustaches and general All Our Cymbals' look to the '2010 short hair, alternative chic, general Oddblood' look. "Is our look meant to affect our sound" he sarcastically laughs, "stagnation leads to a very early grave" is shortly followed, giving us a clue that the 2011 Yeasayer may be completely different once again. Maybe the band will indulge is leather, feathers, neon? "Motivation comes when you continually change" finishes a philosophical bassist.
The mid point of the interview and the conversation is flowing. Ira is more relaxed and describes the differences between the creating and performing, more hidden side of the music industry; "Writing and creating are very different from performing, we are continually looking to challenge ourselves". Ira then jokes that his favourite Yeasayer song "is the ones we haven't written yet", more to come? Yes. Excellent.
Yeasayer first hit the music scene in the USA at the South by South West festivals (SXSW), but this year has seen them play Reading and Leeds, Latitude and T in the Park. Surely this must be more exciting? "No, its completely different" answers Ira almost immediately. "You start to see this as more than just a vacation from your job" with a "really intense emotional vibe as time passes". Ira cannot resist however to mention the experience of Leeds and Reading, stating that "it was the best thing, it was at a time when everyone was ending their summer tours, it felt like the end of summer camp" - adding to the argument that Leeds and Reading are replacing the summer classics as Britain's best festivals.
The whole interview has a feel that Yeasayer are set on moving. Not in a literal sense but in the context of music. Moving upwards and becoming recognised for what they are. Moving from a experimental to a more realistic and electronic sound. Growing up together as a band and enjoying the success this is bringing them. But what about 2011 Yeasayer? Can they recreate the beauty of 'Madder Red', can they bring the sound of 'ONE' to the dance floors of Manchester? I think everyone hopes so. We don't want to eat our words.

Keep your eyes open your ear hair ready for the word 'Yeasayer' in 2011.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Yeasayer Live 6/7/2010


With a hefty amount of radio air time, festival confirmations (Leeds&Reading, T in the Park, Lattitude) and hype surrounding Brooklyn's Yeasayer, a gig at a small
venue such as Sheffield Plug seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. Yeasayer have been creating atmospheric music dominated by synthesisers and harmonic vocals
since early 2006, but have only recently been thrust into the lime light of the British alternative scene. The latest album, ODD BLOOD, witnesses Yeasayer growing as a band. Songs including Ambling Alp, Madder Red and the heavily played ONE show Yeasayer to be moving on from their debut album All Hour Cymbals to a more playable rather than experimental level. Not that the debut is to be neglected any glory.

The Mission: to see if Yeasayer can take what they made so succesfully in New York to the stage in South Yorkshire successfully.

Before starting, it must be said that the support act for tonights show, Clock Opera, deserved their applause. Seriously, treat yourself to the songs; Belongings and A Piece of String if you fancy giving your ears a metaphorical massage.

Now, the main show. GO.

The stage is covered in a white sheet, instruments are rested upon white narrow tables and it all seems a touch blank for one of 2010s most hotly tipped acts.
Enter Yeasayer. The white tables become neon lit pillars as the white cloth covering the stage flashes with more colours than Joseph and that dream coat he loved.
More like it. The Children, song numero uno from the new album is how the band introduce themselves to Sheffield. Robotic vocals and lights to make a epileptic spasm for days create a surreal and futuristic vibe. As the songs fade out, another fades in. A superb blend of skill and musical euphoria. Grizelda, and older tracks such as 2080 are soon followed by I Remember, a slower song on the album, but more zesty and pop locking live. Lyrically its not as sound as the album, but give the track a listen and i think you would agree that such a feat would be hard to achieve.

Madder Red is a spectacular event in the night. The white columns and whole stage become lit with the colour mentioned in the title and the harmonic vocals are
if not better than on the album, perhaps aided by the voices within the venue. One thing lacks. The Plug dancefloor is as stiff and motionless as a steel once made in
Sheffield. Yeasayer then bring out the big guns. ONE gets the crowd bouncing a little more, before the final track Ambling Alp finishes the job. The live version
of the latter differs from that of the album. More twangy and guitar-based but with that familiar drum pounding still ever present. Definately worth a listen if you
ever run out of pointless piano playing cats to watch on Youtube (at the bottom for your pleasure just in case).

The band thank Sheffield, before "dying in Serbia" the next day explains joint frontman Chris Keating, having already asked the question; "they're not at war anymore right?".
Americans eh?

All in all a splendid spread.
Live sounds album quality? If not better.
Visually spectacular? Yes. If this was a DVD i could happily watch it in mute drunk.
Awesome crowd? No. Mild and tepid.
Worth £15? Without a doubt.

You can see Yeasayer on tour this summer:
LoveBox Victoria Park, London.17/7/2010
Lattitude Festival, Suffolk. 18/7/2010
Reading Festival: 27/8/2010
Leeds Festival: 28/8/2010