Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Temples/Telegram @ Exeter Phoenix

Under a heady torrent of rain, we trundle to Exeter’s very own Phoenix Arts centre under the blanket of October post-fest-melancholy, optimistically clutching glitter in clammy hands. Accompanied by my friend, a similarly budding punter, we are rural voyeurs to Kettering’s very own ‘Temples’ on the penultimate date of their tour, fresh faced neo-psyching in a 60s retro-prog melange of sparkles and tangles.
James divulges to us whilst shuffling, semi shrouded under an impressive gravity defying contortion of dark ringlets underpinned by an exclamatory streak of signature silver under each eye. He remarks on our own and the seeming cult following of James miniatures in this eves crowd.
‘I nearly didn’t make it tonight, my voice was nearly out’. Honey and lemon? ‘Yeah yeah! You’ve gotta go easy on yourself, don’t burn the candle at both ends’. Not quite the envisaged rock and roll lifestyle Mr. Bagshaw?
Having formed but a ‘year and a bit’ ago the sheer escalation from dingy 100 capacity venues and pubs to headline tour is a progression they themselves don't seem to have anticipated fully. Bagshaw confesses the bands label, Heavenly Recordings (think Charlie Boyer, Stealing Sheep) have Brixton Academy visions of 2014. Happily signed, Temples settled briefly with Columbia records- home to Indie giants Peace, before moving with Heavenly, and Telegram, as they smugly tell us, worked to antithesis infact turning down Heavenly’s offer.
Though modestly introvert, Bagshaw still resides in his parents’ house, having converted his bedroom into the band’s studio. Asking their opinion on NME I receive a pensive pause.
‘To be honest, It’s great to have them backing you, you just want them on your side’ says Telegram bassist Oli Paget-Moon slouched on the door frame as James nonchalantly fondles a floral lighter ‘mate you’ve had that all tour’ he provokes. Here is a band with enough flair to brandish the odd flowery number and uphold an enigmatic stage persona.
Temples wear their influences on their sleeves, the usual comparisons to the Beatles, T Rex, as well as a love for Bowie (of which we had a confirmational discussion as to the subjective pronunciation, I was put straight.) no doubt as a by-product of being the godfather of stage slap.
‘I’m really into MC Hammer..’ he continues followed by the raising of eyebrows to which Oli swiftly interjects with a confessional proclamation of adoration for late 70’s and early 80’s disco to eyebrows nearing hairlines. A disco infused Telegram record then? ‘Well we have one track we haven’t recorded or played live yet that’s quite disco’. This just took a totally unexpected turn.
Yet despite Temples frontman’s initial impression of seeming introversy there’s more to the man than meets sparkling eyes. There is a cynicism, the typical anti-X Factor spiel as well as a disliking to contemporaries- Peace.
'You heard Lovesick?' he says turning his head slightly askew in inquisition. We nod, a mutual distaste owing much to the pressure of large labels in requiring specific categorical songs- disparate from that of early Delicious EP- defining California Daze a mark of raw beauty. Feisty.
‘People need to listen more with their ears than their eyes’ he chirps, curiously if not hypocritical, is the band not the epitome of effortlessly enviable indie? No, I express, it is more melody oriented than all else, it may not be a brawling live affair but there’s more than enough melodic tomfoolery to enthuse you throughout. We probe further, musical collaborations on the horizon? ‘we’ve actually been speaking to Melody’s Echo Chamber (hazy French psych collective) and Tame Impala about doing something together for Record Store Day’ and I sense my colleague stifle a cry of ecstasy.
In a perpetual state of writing but with the album recorded and currently being knitted together deep in the hub of Bagshaw’s boudoir set for release in February 2014, 2013 has certainly been a phenomenal year for Temples. Similarly for Telegram in rising through the ranks of the alternative sphere with debut single only officially released a month ago, no doubt thanks to the backing of Marc Riley on his Radio 6 slot.
It may not have been a riotous performance, but a blissfully enjoyable live show from one of the scene’s most promising bona fide talents and for me, a fourth time lucky as foot-tapping spectator. Reet little cracker.

Tribes: Baby ( another blast from the past )

Debut album 'Baby' from Camden based grunge-rock band Tribes provides a refreshing new breath of guitar music with prominent American guitar influences hinting at that of Nirvana and The Pixies and fronted with the rugged vocals of lead singer Johnny Lloyd.

Tribes themselves formed in early 2010 posting numerous singles free to download via their MySpace and released their debut LP in January 2012. This was shortly followed by the announcement of their big break in supporting Azealia Banks, Metronomy and Two Door Cinema Club on the NME Awards Tour 2012.

The album itself is a passionate teen-grunge collective of nostalgic 90's reminiscent guitar solos alongside the band's hazy nonchalant exterior consisting of hacked off 'thrift-store' t-shirts and unruly black locks sported by band members and fans alike.

Initial track 'Whenever' followed by 'We Were Children' soundtracks the idea of teenage rebellion and youth, their sound again strikingly similar to their musical influences with guitars featuring significantly, back dropped by Lloyd's heavy vocals evoking aggressive passionate memories of juvenile angst. Track 'Sappho's lyrics almost mimic that of The Kinks 'Lola' telling of a transvestite and drunken consequences, the music video seeing Lloyd and his fellow band mates donning similar attire.

The idea of loss of childhood prevails throughout with 'Himalaya' boasting Turner-esque vocals and melody until optimism is stunted at 'Nightdriving', a song they first released online in early 2011 in memory of Charlie Haddon formerly of Ou Est La Swimming Pool who passed away at a young age whilst performing at the Belgian music festival ‘Pukklepop’.

Clearly Charlie's untimely passing struck a chord with Tribes as this mournful contemplative track serves as a chilling reminder to the fragility of life, though unparralled to earlier recordings of the song as the album version somewhat glosses over the raw emotion conveyed in the early vocal.

'Nightdriving' here sees Lloyd adopt a semi-philosophical nature questioning religion and life again continuing the theme of youth due to the inquisitive nature of young people. This solemn air is then curiously pierced by 'When My Day Comes' a driven yet formulaic song telling of youthful positivity and ignorance with memorable empowering chorus and similarly guitar driven. Another influence is made apparent in 'Alone Or With Friends' as the band embrace a slower tempo and a more stripped back production initially opting for acoustic guitar and synthesized vocals suggestive of some late Beatles work and acting as an uplifting reminder to their eclectic musical repertoire and ability.

Having witnessed Tribes' gradual rise to mainstream radio play their work seems to have progressed significantly to a more unpretentious, matured and defined sound contrasting their earlier performances which possessed a slight flared arrogance (having myself attended one of their gigs in late 2010 whilst they were supporting Mystery Jets) they seem more secure in their genre as their album assembles a glorious array of their musical capability.

So for anyone who's a fan of rousing lyrics delivered in a flurry of electric guitar and impressionable teenage passion then Tribes are definitely one to watch. 7.5/10

'A Creature I Don't Know' Album Review, forgive my year 11 informalities, circa 2011.

Laura Marling’s bold venture into the realms of the ‘difficult third album’ territory are proving to be very sound; genre mixing and mingling with the likes of Rock, Blues, Country and Jazz in an eager bid to discard the typecast of the ‘Nu-Folk’ genre she herself established alongside Marcus Mumford, King Charles and Johnny Flynn in her first two albums- ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ and the BRIT award winning ‘I Speak Because I Can’.

‘A Creature, I Don’t Know’ shows much promise, the opening track ‘The Muse’ flaunts a mellow and slightly atonal melody, Marling’s vocals embracing the piano whilst purring lyrics of ‘the beast’; an ongoing theme throughout.

‘I Was Just A Card’, seemingly innocent soon dissolves into a whir of emotions leading into nostalgic medley ‘Don’t Know Why’ and ‘Salinas’, which rolls into a relaxed Blues-y lull towards the end, showcasing Marling’s extraordinary ability to merge genres. This is preceded by bittersweet ‘The Beast’ showing her darker side as the Rock element to the album is exposed, rearing its head at the solid use of electric guitars and drums as she echoes cursings of ‘The Beast’.  

‘Night After Night’ then follows with stripped back murmurs of crazed adoration and lust ‘Darling I loved you, I longed to become you’ as the tone is pierced with the chorus ‘Would you watch my body weaken, my mind drift away?’ heartbroken, this is Marling at her best.

Towards the end of the album ‘Sophia’ finally emerges with a memorable tune spiralling into Blues-y ambience, again, with an upbeat and positive air to it whilst finally coming to rest at ‘All My Rage’ which proves to be uplifting with the air of a sea shanty finishing the record on a light note.

Her live performance is that of a matured and dedicated musician whilst only being 20 years of age, her attitude seems calm and collected yet pleasantly surprised at the attention she receives for her music.

Having seen her myself at the ‘End of the Road’ Festival; located in Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset, the show itself proved to be a highly enticing and captivating performance in a stunningly intimate rural environment buried deep in the heart of Dorset. Overall, a pleasantly refreshing spectacle despite not fully interacting with the audience, she has the crowd hot on her heel and as a spectator it is a truly breathtaking experience.

All in all, ‘A Creature, I Don’t Know’ boasts a broad eclectic range of genres and musical competency from an artist who with no doubt will endeavour to produce more records of equally high quality in years to come, a definite must-listen-to.  9/10

Exeter Cavern Café- 100 Word Review

Furrowed deep under the cultural epicentre of Exeter resides a dormant lodger. Cavern café, the Spiderman of the West country; mung bean favouring vegan café by day, full throttle vivacious punk/rock venue by night. Student prices with toilet facilities one might be excused for mistaking for those off ‘Trainspotting’. Neither can one fail to notice the dwindling light fixtures nor the tentatively clinging residue of human sweat to terracotta ceilings lingering from a previous eve of revelry. Cheap milkshakes, grubby stubble and smear-clean oil cloth surfaces, this inverted werewolf is a comedown Mecca, though affectionately pivotal in social circles. It’s an acquired taste.