Monthly Archives: November 2010

Oh hi, The Duke Spirit, good to have you back.

Fans of theirs may well have already noticed, but The Duke Spirit have been kicking back into action in recent weeks. First, they unleashed ‘Everybody’s Under Your Spell’ in a squall of guitar and typically alluring vocals from Leila Moss. You can get it as a free download from their website right now – or check it out below:

Then came the slower-paced – but no less punchy – sounds of ‘Northbound’, which is due to feature on the band’s forthcoming Kusama EP, due out in December:

And finally, they’ve teamed up with Levi’s to release another free track, a moody, sultry, fuzzed-up stomper called ‘Procession’. However, the link on their website doesn’t seem to work properly any more, so clicky here to get it instead, or have a listen below:

The band’s new album is due out in early 2011. As for live dates, they’re are joining Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for their English dates in December – if you’re going to any of these shows then I’m extremely jealous, because that’s a kick-ass lineup.

December 2010:

2nd – Portsmouth Pyramid Centre
3rd – Nottingham Rock City
5th – Manchester Academy
6th – Glasgow O2 Academy
7th – Birmingham O2 Academy
9th – Norwich U.E.A.
10th – Bristol O2 Academy
11th – London O2 Academy Brixton

They’re also playing a headline date at Heaven in London on February 3rd  2011- let’s hope that’s followed up with a full UK tour, eh?

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Constellations Festival Lights Up Leeds

I have no idea how the promoters pulled it off, but the line-up for the inaugural Constellations Festival was ridiculously good – so good that it was inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to see everyone I wanted to. But more on that later.

After getting slightly lost in the rabbit warren that is Leeds University’s union, I find my way to the Refectory, just in time to catch the first band. The band in question is Honour Before Glory, the new project of former ¡Forward, Russia! guitarist Whiskas. Don’t expect a re-hash of his old band though – Honour Before Glory have a more fleshed-out, widescreen post-rock sound, and it’s promising stuff. Next up are iLIKETRAiNS, and despite the fact that they’ve been around for what seems like an age, this is actually the first time I’ve ever seen them live. Well, I finally found out what I’ve been missing – stately, brooding rock, typified by epic set-closer ‘Sea Of Regrets’. I was impressed enough that I intended to pick up their new album before I left but their merch table had gone by the time I decided to commit to doing so. Fail.

Next up are Sky Larkin, whose upbeat indie-pop is as brilliant and always – the band are also full of praise for the festival, their label – Wichita records have eight bands playing today(!) –  and the city of Leeds itself. Following them are Esben And The Witch – the Brighton three-piece are suitably apocalyptic, with the likes of ‘Marching Song’ showcasing their foreboding, ominous sound.

After that, I head over to Stylus to watch Liars rip the place apart with their chaotic, vicious brand of experimental rock. ‘Scissor’ takes loud/quiet dynamics to their logical extreme, while punchy set-closer ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’ gets the crowd moving and even sees Tim from Les Savy Fav rocking out at the side of the stage. Speaking of Les Savy Fav, I would’ve liked to have seen them but unfortunately they clash with Los Campesinos! – and my shameless fanboyism must come first.

However, it soon turns out that I have chosen somewhat poorly – Los Campesinos! start fifteen minutes late because they’ve got about a billion pieces of equipment to soundcheck, so it turns out I could have caught a bit of Les Savy Fav after all. Happily, any ill-will I have towards them for being late has evaporated by the time they’re halfway through ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ – and that’s only two songs in, so I can spend the rest of the set getting slightly emotional and teary-eyed without any nagging doubts. They’re even given a generous time extension courtesy of Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, which means that ‘…And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison’ can get a rare live outing. Happy days!

Unfortunately, after that things start to go a bit pear-shaped. A combination of Drew’s earlier generosity and a ridiculously drawn-out soundcheck sees Broken Social Scene take to the stage half an hour late. By this point I’m kicking myself for not going to see Four Tet – especially as I should have probably seen the delay coming. The combination of their lateness, my own flagging spirits, and my unfamiliarity with most of their material means that they’ve got a mountain to climb to really impress me. And while their big, upbeat indie rock sound is in no way bad, I find myself not really getting into the show. I imagine if I was a massive Broken Social Scene fan then this would probably be a life-affirming experience for me – but I’m not, so it isn’t.

After half an hour I finally give up and do what I probably should have done in the first place – go see Four Tet. Unfortunately, by this time Stylus is only sparsely crowded, and those who are present are barely moving. This feels like the wrong time and the wrong atmosphere for his music – his electronic sounds feel like the kind of thing that wants to be heard (and danced to) late at night in a festival tent. I’m only there for about ten minutes before he decides to call it a night, thus compounding my poor decision-making.

There is a silver lining to my headliner-related cloud, however – on a whim, I decide to head to Mine to catch a bit of Sleigh Bells. If you’ve ever wondered what an unholy fusion of Crystal Castles and Test Icicles would sound like, then this is pretty much it – their insane noise pop turns out to be pretty entertaining, and I probably did enjoy the two or three tracks I saw more than I enjoyed watching Broken Social Scene. I’m not really sure what it says about my musical tastes… I do, however, decide to give BSS one last shot. But there is no epiphany for me, and I leave feeling a little underwhelmed. However, that shouldn’t take the shine off what has otherwise been an awesome day. Let’s hope the promoters behind Constellations can pull off some similarly stellar events in the future.

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My So Called Live

In which I attempt to breathe some life into my poor, neglected blog by talking about some gigs I’ve been to in the past couple of weeks or so.

23/10/10: Yeasayer @ Newcastle Academy

Trying to guess gig timings can be a crapshoot at the best of times, but Pete and I thought that there would be no way we’d miss Yeasayer if we turned up at about half 8. Apparently not! They’re halfway through their first song by the time we get into the building, which has to make this one of the earliest headline sets I’ve seen in a long time. There’s also the problem that the band don’t really seem like they can be arsed – sure, they’re good enough, and the closing one-two of ‘O.N.E’ and ‘Ambling Alp’ is admittedly brilliant, but overall the show is lacking something to make it feel really spectacular.

30/10/10: Hotter Than Hell (KISS Tribute) @ The Duchess, York

As you may have guessed, I certainly wasn’t at this show of my own volition. You may already have read about how much I hate tribute bands in general, and these guys proved to be no exception. Here’s a list of things that were wrong with them.

– They were 45 minutes late on stage.
– The lead singer attempted to disguise his Northern Irish accent with an increasingly squeaky American one.
– They played 30 minutes over their curfew.
– They were unrelentingly shit, utterly cringeworthy and completely unforgivable. GIVE UP.

31/10/10: The Black Keys & The Walkmen @ Leeds Academy

This was the first time I’d ever been in the seated area of Leeds Academy, and it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Sure, you lose a bit of the atmosphere but it still sounds good, and I didn’t mind not having to stand the whole time (clearly I am getting old). The Walkmen are first up and manage to play for over half an hour before someone shouts “PLAY THE RAT!” – then when they do play it, the same person shouts “PLAY IT AGAIN!” This is indicative of the problem with The Walkmen – namely, that ‘The Rat’ stands head and shoulders over everything else they play. Not that everything else they play is bad, it’s just not as good as those 4 minutes of howling vitriol.

The Black Keys suffer from no such problems, however. On many of their new songs, their sound is augmented by additional keyboards and bass – but even when it’s just the two of them the combination of searing guitar riffs and big, booming drums make them instantly appealing. I didn’t know all that many songs going into the show, but I left thoroughly impressed with the band’s heavy, intense rock ‘n’ roll style.

01/11/10: !!! & The Hundred In The Hands @ The Cockpit, Leeds

This is one of those instances of “come for the support band, stay for the headliner” – I saw The Hundred In The Hands at Green Man and was impressed enough to want to see them again. Unfortunately, they appear have been mugged by the soundman – their drum machine and synths are completely overpowering, while the guitar and vocals are barely audible. It’s a shame, because the likes of ‘Pigeons’ and ‘Commotion’ are brilliant on record, but they have any subtlety and nuance stripped from them tonight. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ seems to be the only song to break free of the heavy-handed mixing, giving us at least some indication of what the band *should* sound like.

!!! (aka chk chk chk) quickly blow that disappointment away with their energetic slices of punk-funk. Frontman Nick Offer’s enthusiastic dancing is infectious, and soon the whole room is moving in time to the band’s silky-smooth rhythms – this is dirty, sexy music and to be honest if you’re not dancing or otherwise moving in some shape or form then you probably don’t have a pulse. !!! don’t just make me glad that I showed up – they make me glad to be alive.

06/11/10: Peter Kay & Rick Astley @ The O2 Arena, London

I had been told to keep the 6th November free for a (post-)birthday surprise in London. I figured out that we were going to the O2 Arena while we were on the tube, but I still didn’t know that I was going to see Peter Kay until I walked inside. The tickets say that we should be in our seats at 7:30 pm prompt, so we dutifully make our way there in good time. The lights go down, and… Rick Astley walks on stage. I feel like I’ve been Rickrolled in real life. Astley makes his way through some lesser-known hits(?) from his back catalogue before performing a medley of London-based hits, including the likes of The Who, The Clash, The Rolling Stones and Pet Shop Boys, as well as more recent hits from Lily Allen and, er, Duffy (ok, it was ‘Warwick Avenue’ so I guess it works). The medley only comes to a halt when the Eastenders theme tune is played over the speakers, to which Astley asks “are you taking the piss?” He then finishes, of course, with ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, and the Rickroll is complete.

I hadn’t realised that Peter Kay had been away from the live arena for so long, but according to the (overpriced and typo-ridden) programme he hasn’t toured since 2003. I suppose that’s down to all the TV work he’s been doing in between times, but tonight is Peter Kay back doing what he arguably does best – stand-up comedy. As such, this is hardly a sea change for Kay, with the show largely revolving around his northern-skewed, observational, slightly physical comedy – and yes, there are still jokes about his Nan, Uncle Knobhead, and garlic bread, but they’re new jokes rather than just re-hashes so it’s fine. There’s also a hilarious section based around mis-heard song lyrics towards the end of the show that will probably make the inevitable DVD a worthwhile purchase on its own. Overall, it turned out to be a pretty good surprise!

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