Tag Archive: crash and the ‘coots


59575_817453441614511_312049589_n“Songs of Praise at The Victoria, this Thursday, is a bit of a deconstructed, alt-pop, leftfield, difficult to describe…thingy, of a show. Vienna Ditto is a two-piece outfit that veer between mesmerising sci-fi blues and dance-rock riffs with added atmospheric and ambient electronica, a bit like Portishead writing a Tarantino soundtrack. Also on the bill are Super Squarecloud, purveyors of warped pop and strange adventures in time signatures, plus The Clementines a newish musical vehicle driven by a whole bunch of people who used to be called Crash and The (Bandi)Coots.”

 

 

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The chance to write about new Super Squarecloud music is always something I look forward to. Along with Crash and The ‘Coots and Adam Crosland’s myriad art-noise manifestations, they are a band that make you feel good about the local music gene pool. If evolution relies on unexpected and random mutations then the same can be said about music and the fact that the afore-mentioned bands have discarded fashion, rules, perceived wisdom and even occasionally logic, means that musical boundaries shouldn’t get too comfortable about their present locations. Rather than opt for the same progression of nostalgia, revival and formula, Super Squarecloud are true innovators and Stanford Torus is a great calling card.

 

Whilst they have always been wonderfully challenging, recent gigs by Super Squarecloud have shown that they have managed to harness the inherent weirdness and package it up in borderline pop-friendly packages. The best example of this comes as the opening salvo of this three-track offering, Lolly Moon. Okay, humans still don’t have enough limbs to properly dance to the tune but it comes closer to conventional grooves than a lot of their work has. But then again in the live environment most people are too fixated on the band themselves to be bothered about wig flipping and rug cutting. Time changes abound, instruments come and go, world records for simultaneous playing of instruments are attempted, all within the luscious ebbs and flows of the song.

 

And if Lolly Moon finds them coming closest to conforming to the general perception of accessible pop, what follows finds them at their most divergant. Hana B lilts forward in a more conventional but less immediate way, soothing rather than punchy, slowly gaining layers of electronica rather than going for unexpected dynamic effect.

 

Abacus is where the band really turns a corner. One off techno-indulgence or the shape of things to come? Exciting prospect! This instrumental workout seems to push the musical arsenal to its extreme, weaving layers of affected and manipulated sounds with organic percussion.

 

I think what makes Super Squarecloud walk different paths to most bands is their base influences, after all you can only know where you are going if you know where you have come from. Whereas most bands have common backgrounds, blues, soul, America, beat, sex, love, cliché, this seems to come from a more interesting place – art, noise, technology, ideas. Maybe it’s the sound of one possible alternative fantasy future that pop might have had if it had not been born of blues, wooden materials, anger, lust and poverty. What if it had been born of metal, technology, the avant-garde, abstract art, and modern comfort? The music of What If and Why Not?

 

This e.p. marks the first of a series of releases that act as a teaser for a full-blown debut album that is nearing completion. So where do they go from here? Anywhere they damn well choose to!

I bumped into an old friend at a gig the other day. Oddly enough the resulting conversation didn’t revolve around what each other had been doing in the decade since we had last seen each other, but in the quirky way we have, it turned to the subject of mondegreens, or in layman’s terms, misheard lyrics in songs. Such questions were raised as  – did The Stone Roses really “Wanna Be A Door?” Why was Creedance Clearwater Revival telling us “There’s a Bathroom on the Right?” How did The Stranglers get it so wrong when predicting “Never A Frown, With Gordon Brown” and oddest of all, what did Roberta Flack actually mean when she said “Tonight I Sellotape My Glove to You?” Yes, we had been drinking!

 

Talking of confusing lyrics, not to mention more than a few “oh la la la’s”, “shubba-dubbas” the occasional “ha!” and other strange utterances, Crash and The Coots are playing The Victoria tonight. Theirs is a strange and beguiling world of lateral thinking, experimental pop, but one that you all need to visit at least once. Supporting them are Port Erin a band who have swapped some of the early complexities of their music for balance, space and atmosphere and now ably mix pop leanings with mature musicianship. Three Letter Agency get the night started.

 

Blending folk with rock, accessibility with intelligence and kicking into touch the fey, hippyness often associated with her field, Thea Gilmore is blazing a path towards classic status songwriter, catch her at The Arts Centre tonight. Similar folky undercurrents can be found at The Beehive as Ron Trueman-Border brings his band, Perfect Strangers along for some vivid, punchy lyrics and infectious tunes.

 

Staying at The Beehive for Friday and Pignose will be offering up some Old Town Blues for your delectation. This very narrow genre is a blend of gospel, rhythm and blues, country and rock, songs of the south if you like and if it wasn’t for all the road works in that part of town would have probably made a break for the border a long time ago. Offer them a Mint Julep, make them feel at home.

 

The noisy brigade will find their home out at Riffs Bar for  a gig spearheaded by Severance a band very much in the spirit of the NWOBHM era and making their first visit to the place. And if you thought Stoner Rock had died out in the infamous flannel shirt famine of the mid nineties, then The Ashun might come as a welcome surprise. Optimal Prime is also on the bill.

 

More rock on Saturday this time at The 12 Bar and headed by the metal-grunge hybrid that is Burnthru, with Toadstool filling that space between metal, blues and southern rock: kick arse four, four grooves just like the old days. The Starkers continue their pop-grunge fixation…think Nirvana having a fight with The Libertines.

 

The Rolleston plays host to the one cover band I can handle, Kova Me Badd. What sets them apart from the norm? Their music selection is awful, delivery questionable, professionalism in serious doubt and antics not suitable before the watershed. In short, everything a cover band should be. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it will change your life. Well, one out of three isn’t bad.

 

Something a bit special comes to The Victoria on Sunday. Back on the menu is old school hip-hop from Long Beach underground vigilantes, Ugly Duckling; outsiders who like The Beastie Boys and Run DMC before them take humorous swipes at more commercial elements of their genre. And on into Monday, the names keep coming. Uli Jon Roth(pictured) made his name filling the shoes of guitarist for Michael Schenker in The Scorpions but over the years moved into more experimental pastures and today his style encompasses neo-classical, heavy metal, blues and psychedelic, all of which can be seen, again, at The Victoria on Monday. For something a bit more sedate, middle of the road even, Paul Carrack is at The Wyvern Theatre.

 

Staying at The Victoria for Tuesday, those lo-fi, folk-rock, indie-pop, Celtic-bop, pirates, The Shudders make a welcome return and we round off on Wednesday at The Running Horse. Nick Tann is becoming a bit of a regular fixture and his jazz inflected 12 string tunes and soaring vocals are always welcome. He brings with him Marvin B Naylor a man who blends folk, prog, the surreal and wonderful lyrical drives to create something truly unique.

I think I have worked out my problem with cover bands. Whilst watching the incredible Super Squarecloud last week, a Damascene moment occurred. We live in an age where music seems hell-bent on a nostalgia trip. In a previous column I pointed out that the 60’s had psychedelia, the 70’s had disco and punk, the 80’s hip-hop and the 90’s rave, but since then what? If contemporary music is content to plunder the past to a lesser or greater degree, then cover bands are a pure slice of well worn déjà vu. Fine if you want to live in the past, and we all need to visit our youthful memories from time to time but it doesn’t really further the cause of music. What we need is the opposite …err, avant verrais? Jamais vu? I don’t know, I’m still struggling with English! That is why bands such as Super Squarecloud and Crash and The Coots are so important to the local scene, wonderful slices of forward thinking weirdness that push boundaries and create unique yet accessible music along the way. So it’s vive la difference as they say across the channel and here’s to creativity.

And if you ever thought that everything that could be done with rock music has been, then you need to be at The Victoria tonight. Up from that London, The Manic Shine infuse their music with the influences of their diverse cultural heritage and the result is a glorious blend of punch and panache; classic rock riffs, atmospheric dynamics, driving back beats and a bunch of great songs. Support comes from Ataraxis Vibration, the natural successor to the likes of Hendrix, Cream and Free plus Streetfight Silence’s more pop-punk vibe.

In The Beehive’s continuing quest to become a Canadian colony, yet another of its musical emissaries takes up residence there tonight. David Celia is a frequent visitor to the place and his elegant and humorous brand of songmanship is always well received. The Divine Comedy with maple syrup!

Two options for the loud jumpered, knit your own yoghurt brigade…or folk fans, as they prefer to be called. Folk in the Bar at Riffs is a open mic session, for a more formal experience the Urban Folk Quartet will be mixing British traditional themes with global influences at The Arts Centre.

The big noise for Friday is at The Furnace with their Halloween special, which will be powered by the sound of Swindon’s finest indie rock. Infectious, groove driven pop comes courtesy of Nudybronque, with Secret Lives and The Fixed playing the part of perfect support bands.

The 12 Bar also goes for the younger and brasher end of the musical market, but as usual are not big on information. Whilst I can tell you that headliners Days on Juno are a must for anyone who likes hook laden pop-punk in general and Fall Out Boy in particular, all I can tell you about support band The 39 Steps is that I read John Buchan’s classic novel of the same name many times as a kid. Riffs Bar also opts for the pop-punk with Running From Zombies and All Action Hero but again there is no information on the website. (Come on guys, meet me half way!)

Saturday sees a bonfire party at Riffs Bar with yet another Burlesque show to go alongside rock covers from Chiller. Some of you are too young to remember the days before the by-laws were changed to ensure that at least three burlesque shows were held in the parish each week, I some times miss those days, or as we used to call it…last year.

The Arts Centre offers up another inspired booking with the bluesy, folk-pop of Lotte Mullan, imagine the delicacy of Janis Ian mixed with the nouse of Joni Mitchell, gorgeous stuff. At the Rolleston “theatrical” cover band The Atomic Rays will be covering the classics and they come with an endorsement from Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman, make of that what you will.

Global journeyman, Renny Field, will be impressing The Beehive on Sunday with his trademark uplifting and lyrically engaging songs for the afternoon session and that evening The Rolleston has the Mason-Dixon line colliding with the M4 corridor to shape the inimitable mix of southern blues, R’n’B and gospel that is Pignose.

Pignose’s Pete Cousins can also be found at The Victoria on Tuesday supporting Grandpa Banana. As guitarist with seminal San Francisco Bay Area folk rockers, The Youngbloods, Banana is rightly considered an icon of California bluegrass and old time rock and roll, to catch him playing a free gig is something not to be missed.

The week rounds off on Wednesday with even more Bluegrass this time in the form of Riffs Bar’s weekly jam and at The Running Horse more acoustic goodness courtesy of Sam Eden and the vocally harmonious Ethemia.

Even if the weather isn’t keeping to it’s part of the seasonal bargain, the Gods of Excellent Music are certainly concerting all their efforts upon our part of the world and the imminent arrival of this years Old Town Festival means another attempt to warp the time-space continuum to try and fit all the information into this weeks column.

Yes, Old Town Festival is upon us with a packed program of entertainment. On Saturday there will be music all day, first at the bandstand with Little Dylans, Dominic French, Talk in Code and Messer’s Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz, being just the tip of the terpsichorean iceberg. In the Bowl, meanwhile, various vocal groups, dance and performing arts schools under the guidance of the Commonweal Performing Arts Academy will be parading their artistic wares. This is followed by an evening of music with such diversity as False Gods to The Frazer Tilley Trio and from Nudy Bronque to The Useless Eaters.

As is only fitting, Sunday follows more sedate lines with a wonderful mix of world dance, classical, orchestral, brass, jazz and choral music. To be honest you could just spend your every waking hour taking in the sights and sounds of the festival, but there are still a host of other options this week.

Back into chronological order and tonight is the regular Bands and Burlesque show at The Victoria. Alongside the glamour and glitz spearheaded by Susie Sequin (and lets face it, with that on your birth certificate it is inevitable you end up on the stage) are the funky grooves and the effortlessly cool lap guitar of Hip Route. A short walk down the hill and you can experience the lush harmonies and smooth folky-jazz vibes of Anglo-Swedish trio, We Ghosts. They play The Beehive.

So, The Ocelot Magazine. You know, the one with all those jokes about Football and Politics that no-one really gets and that rather wonderful music column…ahem!  Anyway, if you have been affected at all by the contents of the magazine they are prepared to make it up to you in the form of a party at The Victoria to celebrate their 6th birthday on Friday. Music comes in the form of the old school, rocksteady and ska beats of The Erin Bardwell Collective, the blistering and switched-on modish pop-punk with all the trimmings of Black Hats, another day out for Hip Route and the name on everybody’s lips, the warped Beck meets Brecht creations of Crash and The ‘Coots. You will notice that recently they have shortened their name to save on space (not to mention law suits) and their bassist has shortened his hair to save on product.

Zen Elephant at The Beehive will be mixing up the gypsy-jazz jive with a roots folk vibe to show just why they are held in such high regard on the underground folk circuit.

The Furnace will be proving that the only way is Essex, not by inviting some orange bimbo or bronzed buffoon to cash in on their fifteen minutes of fame but by inviting Rolleston regular booking Dave McPherson to bring his whole band into town. Melodic alt-metallers, InMe, have just finished supporting The Rasmus (remember them?) across Europe to promote their fifth album, The Pride and you can catch Brentwood’s finest at The Furnace with support from local icons Mortdelamer and the wonderful emo-rave hybrid that is Natural Tendancy.

Competition for the rock audience comes from Riffs Bar with a night of the hard and heavy led by ascending stars of the post hardcore genre, When Words Fail. Burthru, 5 Lives Left and Fist Full of Foozy add to the weight of the night.

Saturday brings another tsunami of metal this time crashing through the doors of the 12 Bar and depositing such bands as Austria’s Give ‘Em Blood, What the Night Brings, Moments Before Oblivion and Wreckoning. I think the band names are almost prophesising what sort of night it is going to be. Not for the faint hearted.

The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive sees the welcome return of The Shudders. Pirate fixated buffoons or deft weavers of folk, lo-fi pop, country rock and various jiggery-punkery? Well, both actually but it’s still good to have you back chaps.

Stay out for more great music at The Rolleston that evening  from The Blue Trees, purveyors of stripped back Americana flavoured rock and the flawless, soulful sounds of The Emsworth Duo.

Final shout of the week (before the editor shouts at me for taking up too much space…again!) goes to The Running Horse Sessions on Wednesday, this time showcasing a brace of acoustic duo’s, Ethemia and The Black Feathers.

Maybe writing an article high on the influence of night nurse and paracetamol might not be the best idea, but it is interesting to see what thoughts are allowed through when the normal inner quality control is off its guard. Although my reasons for such a state are fairly mundane (trying to shift a particularly virulent chest infection) it’s interesting to note that Lester Bangs seems to obtain his best insights when wacked out on cough medicine and Shelley was at his most poetically otherworldly when running on sleep deprivation and Laudanum. Not that I would dare to rank myself alongside such literary choirs of angels, but it’s interesting to note none the less.

 

It seems that every time I open Facebook, someone is posting a banner to tell me to Support Live Music, often with a reference to Simon Cowell or some music reality show. Blaming lack of support for live music on Cowell is like attacking Dan Brown for not being Truman Capote. Cowell makes popular entertainment shows that have the veneer of musical trappings but in reality is about ratings, any short-lived music deal with successful contestants is an added bonus. His programs are very addictive to the feebleminded and fashion-fickle, but if you are staying in to watch these programs when you could be out supporting something more worthy, then that says more about you that it does him. If I became addicted to sniffing glue, would I then be justified in blaming my local hobby shop for supplying the stuff in the first place? And if you object to the wave of TV shows that are taking over peoples lives, then the answer is simple, it’s called the “off” button, or at least the remote control that can take you to the Arts channels or BBC4 and the like. TV shows are ratings driven and low ratings are the only thing that they fear. You have the power to induce that fear; you have the power to induce change. You have the power.

 

Facebook – the place that has turned the worthy cause and the political statement into a dichotomised world of like and dislike. Has anyone ever changed their habits or lifestyle because of something that has been suggested on a social media site? I doubt it, so the banner is more about the person posting it than it is about any solidarity amongst music fans. Look at my banner, how worthy am I?

 

But the term “live music” is a phrase weighted by expectation and probably has many different meanings to different people –  classical renditions, original bands, covers, tributes, marching bands, buskers, brass bands, living room jams,  guerrilla gigs, etc…all live music. I suspect that the intention of these banners is to imply that the poster is advocating switching off the TV and going and watching music performed by people with instruments in the traditional format –  a very worthy propositon, but I think it doesn’t go far enough. I suspect many of those posting these instructions spend much of their time reading Q magazine, watching “Later with…” playing old Who albums and watching their mates stodgy cover band run through someone else’s creations and then feel like they have the moral high ground on supporting music.

 

As regular readers may know, I don’t really advocate cover bands or tribute acts. For me music performance is at its best when it is creating something new and original. The performance is a moment in time, a sacred half hour or so where miracles and wonders can be conjured up, a moment of spontaneity, surprise, energy and communication. A half-baked rendition of a song that had its time of originality 30 years ago is selling the moment short. Tribute bands are even worse. Why try to be someone else when you have the opportunity to be something else?

 

I’m going to advocate a new, slightly altered instruction. Support new music. Music that isn’t driven by expected payment or a pre-determined familiarity with the material,  as covers and tributes largely are, rather bands that strive to get noticed through their performance and songs, bands that are genuinely bringing something new to the party is where I advocate your loyalty should lay. And like I say, it’s all about the performance, that interaction between performer and audience, music as art, music as communication. If the cover bands pander to people too content to exist solely within their comfort zone, then maybe those people would benefit from being taken from that bubble and experiencing something totally new to them. Offer them an unexpected and truly unique experience, offer them something that they don’t get from their regular musical experience, after all the best performances are those that offer entertainment and confrontation in equal measures.  Bands like Crash and the ‘Coots and Super Squarecloud, who have the ability to baffle and amuse, sculpt new musical shapes and warp prior expectation or take it further still and you find bands that are truly confrontational such as Mr Hello and His Honesty Club who crucify convention and live on the edge of poetic terrorism. Welcome to the T.O.M.Z. – the Truly Original Music Zone. It’s not a place or even a movement in the conventional sense, more an attitude or state of mind, a backlash against convention and the lack of imagination in the mainstream, a terpsichorean revolution akin to Ontological Anarchy, Situationism, punk ethics but above all original thought.

 

I’m not trying to tell you what to like, I’m just trying to interest you in the idea of true originality. It is when the bands that make up the true original movement are supported that you begin to have a real live musical movement. Try something new, pick a band that you have never heard of and go and check them out. What’s the worst that can happen? You find you don’t like it and you leave, but you may just find something that challenges, fascinates and entertains in equal measure, trust me I have been there and it’s an amazing place.