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?