Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fleer - Lay me down (single review)

Fleer - Lay me down (single review)
Released - 11/11/2017

Label - Sound-Hub Records

Hailing from Warwickshire, Fleer are a 3 piece alternative rock band. Their newest single Lay me down opens with a crashing distortion leading into a quick pace guitar riff and thudding drums. This is juxtaposed as the band slow down with a steady drum beat and a deep cutting bass line, this style sounds reminiscent of 90's alt metal and it is clear Fleer take inspiration from such bands from that era, especially in Liam Garratt's vocals which softly swoon creating a build up, the pace then picks up speed again, with the band sounding heavy but also very melodic, showing their overt skill as musicians. Where many bands can be anti-climatic after a build up like the ones on Lay me down, Fleer manage to set and create an appropriate tone of slow and somewhat melancholic breaks in the song that are paid off with massive distortion from Garratt's guitar playing complimented by the drums and bass. These fast sections show off Garratt's vocal capacity as he sings the song's title in a pure and emotive manner, as well as this drummer Martyn Nicholson shows off his ability as he thrashes on the drums adding a rawness to the track. While the guitar and drums shine on the songs fast choruses it is bassist Wilem Thomas who stands out on the songs slower sections, with his bass locking in with the drums and building up tension for the songs climatic sections. Thomas' tone is also worth noting, as the low rumble creates a heavy atmosphere for the track. Lay me down is heavy but does not rely on the modern metal conventions of screaming, growls or boring open string breakdowns used by many bands today, instead Fleer create their heaviness through an amazing guitar riff, the right level of distortion and knowing when and when not to play. Garratt for example does not play during the verses, leaving just the bass and drums, this makes the guitar seem even more significant and impactful when it joins during the choruses.

Lay me down is overall an accessible and powerfully raw track that grabs the listeners attention throughout its entirety, not being overly long, boringly simple or overly complicated; Lay me down fits perfectly in the middle. A great alternative rock single by a band who clearly know what they are doing structurally, tonally and musically. Fleer are a band that are worth following as they appear to have a great future ahead of them if they can keep up the same standard in their future releases.

Daniel A. Clarke

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Institutes - You Stole My Baby (single review)

The Institutes - You Stole My Baby (single review)

You Stole My baby is the latest single from Coventry rock band The Institutes. The song follows a similar pattern to their previous single, All I need, however YSMB adds a harmonica to give a 70s classic rock/southern rock vibe to the song that fits nicely. The harmonica drones through setting a strong atmosphere for the song which is quickly complimented by Andrew Ferris' vocals. The melancholic vocals are full and give off a very hard-rock-esque style in their delivery being slightly coarse, Ferris' vocals are a particular highlight of not just this song but The Institutes as a whole, being melancholic but powerful - feeling like something that wouldn't be out of place in a 90's post-grunge band, however do not think The Institutes are a 90s revival band. While clearly having many influences the band are very unique and Ferris vocal work is a huge part of making that.

YSMB sounds professional and has excellent production. The band are clearly impressive musicians, knowing exactly when to or when not to play - a rule that Andy Lowe follows particularly well as for example when the harmonica is wailing at the beginning of the song Lowe plays a
small but noticeable bass riff that fits unbelievable well, while small it is simple things like that that put The Institutes above other underground bands with their impressive musicianship and connection in their playing.

What sells this song so well is Andy Hall's guitar solo that picks up the pace with Ferris screaming "come into me". This makes YSMB a more interesting listen with the sudden change up of tone and pace, especially in the drumming which feels fast paced and aggressive in a way that will psych up any listener; YSMB feeling heavier than anything else I've heard from The Institutes before.

The Institutes have delivered again with another impressive and memorable single, YSMB is catchy and a little more daring then All I need and for that it makes it a huge step up from what was already great in the first place. Incredible work from one of Coventry's best.

By Daniel A. Clarke

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Institutes - All I need (single review)

The Institutes - All I need (single review)

All I need is the newest single by rock band The Institutes. A band that are on a steady rise, as they have played up and down the country, even getting an opening slot for radio-rock superstars The Kings of Leon in the Genting Arena

All I need opens with a melodic guitar riff that is joined by vocalist Andrew Ferris in an equally melodic delivery, flowing through the instrumental in an almost ghostly fashion. It is apparent from the start The Institutes have a radio-rock vibe (that is not an insult, no matter what metal elitists say) that seems accessible with the catchy song structure and emotional delivery in the vocals. The Institutes are a band that understand how to structure a song greatly - not being too repetitive or complicated, meeting in the middle perfectly.

Andy Hall's guitar solo is simplistic but has emotion, something that is much more important than 'technical' and needless shredding, his playing style fits the band perfectly and fits on top of the rhythm section. The Institutes are good in playing their part respectively, with Kirk Savage (drums) and Andy Lowe (bass) locking together and forming a strong foundation for the melodic guitars and vocals that when combined connect and build up a solid track and massive sound despite only being four people. Lowe's bass is played in a typical rock fashion, his playing is a bouncy rumble that reinforces and adds to the huge sound of the four piece. Hall's guitar playing is very reminiscent of the 90s alternative sound and it overall corresponds well with Ferris'  mid-range style. Savage's drums, in a similar fashion to Lowe's bass playing, is rock inspired and hard hitting that is made even better with little fills in the song that add to the large scale of the song.
Ferris feels like the star of the show on All I need as his vocals are memorable and unique and build on the songs emotion with a melancholic tone to his singing, Ferris appears to be a vocalist who works incredible well with the equally talented musicians of The Institutes.

There is no convoluted pretentiousness here, just a simple rock track that is a pleasant listen for both rock fans and those of more mainstream tastes, and that is where All I need and The Institutes themselves benefit. The talent of all four members is apparent on All I need as well as their previous single: Million Miles, which feel full and atmospheric. Pounding drums, thudding bass lines, guitars with overdrive and smooth vocals, The Institutes know how to write a modern rock song well which is obvious just from All I Need. The Institutes have amazing potential and will please listeners with their sophomore effort: All I need - being released on August 18th.

by Daniel A. Clarke

First Single (million miles)-

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Blank Expression Issue 3 review

Background - Blank Expression is an online Music Magazine that covers music of the West Midlands as well as music from around the world.
Featuring a wide variety of musical styles from local up and coming artists being covered in interviews, reviews and articles. Blank Expression (which presumably is named after the song by Coventry 2 tone band The Specials) is run by only two people (with the support of a few others) yet is professional in both the presentation of the website and the writing.

Blank Expression currently have 2 zines on their website which feature interesting articles regarding a wide variety of musically related things not just bands, such as record collecting. The formatting from issue 1 to 2 does change but is significantly improved on issue 2. Blank Expression looks like a company made magazine ready for shops, the best thing is it is free to read on the Blank Expression website.

The website states any support from other writers, photographers etc is welcome, Please offer as much support as you can as Blank Expression is trying to help keep the local music scene vibrant and prominent.

Issue 3 -
with another improved style change to the layout the magazine looks great. It is apparent that Blank Expression seems to put a lot of its focus on punk music and alternative, this is a huge positive as those genres are very interesting to read about and discover however many styles are looked at and presented attracting a wide audience

Featuring a live review of Cabbage and a review of Mussel Head's debut EP (I was glad to see they gave Mussel head a positive review!) plus more. several interviews including a great interview with Sealford Mods that was an enjoyable read.
The Issue is written with care and shows a love of the local scene rarely seen today. With added details such as playlist that features a personal favourite: Futumche - Gazing as well as little things such as a cut out and a fashion tips section, an all round varied magazine that is fun to read.

The Magazine is free, this alone is an incentive to check out this great issue. The amount of effort and time put into one issue alone is astonishing, I urge you to check out Blank Expression and take a look into the local music scene that is in heavy need of attention and support for its brilliant artists.

Issue 3 will be released on 12th August and has previously been sold in shops such as HMV.

Check out Blank Expression's website here:

Dan Clarke.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Blink 182 - Barclaycard Area 7/7/17 (Live review)

Blink 182 - Barclaycard Area 7/7/17 (Live review)
Tour - California European tour
 Support - The Front Bottoms, Frank Turner and the Sleeping souls

The lights dimmed, the crowd screamed and the big union jack flag covering the stage with Blink's logo on the front dropped - a flaming "Fuck" illuminated the back of the stage, so hot the audience could feel it on their already dehydrated selves. The band, who are looking on top form, opened the show with Feeling this. The fan favourite gets everyone singing along and created an explosive atmosphere that did not die down. The Rock Show followed, Mark sounded impressive in his vocal delivery. This is a surprise to many as Mark has often sounded flat and monotone at shows of more recent years, however here is an exception. Mark sang well, got the crowd to scream along and most importantly hopped around on stage like a man in his 20s playing his first gig, clearly a man who despite his age (45) moves onstage with more energy than most singers half his age, all whilst playing, albeit simple, bass lines.

Cynical, the opening track off of the bands newest release, and first with new guy Matt Skiba, California goes down very well with the crowd. Blink prove they aren't just an old band who come to play the hits/classics, they've made a new album and they're going to play it. The set list is in fact majority California material featuring 8 tracks off the album.

Photo - J. Dempsey
To appease both fans and people who only know the hits, Blink play a trio of classic mainstream Blink material with Anthem pt 2, What's my age again? and First date. All of these songs are well received as everyone in the crowd screamed with all their strength, telling the whole arena "nobody likes you when you're 23" and the relatable nervousness of a first date.

Next up were more California tracks with the phenomenal Bored to Death, a song in which Skiba's vocals shine on and Mark's subtle bass chords are fitting to the whole song's tone. Built this pool followed, a 17 second long comedic song about wanting to "see some naked dudes"
Down was played, the crowd love it but it is only the calm before the storm as the crowd are brought into a joyous frenzy with Miss You. Skiba sounds incredible and truly proves that he is worthy to sing the song in the place of Tom DeLonge. While not a technical masterpiece, the song is truly a milestone in the band's career and their lyrical ability.

Two Enema/TOYPAJ era tracks are played followed by two California tracks, it is clear the earlier works are better received however Kings of the weekend and She's out of her mind are interesting and catchy and certainly not bad, just when compared to classics such as Dumpweed they do appear less enjoyable.

Violence was a highlight of the shows, with Travis Barker's precise and often underappreciated drum work shining through, the man never slowed down during the show, an incredible showman despite being at the back and not saying anything, that shows true talent. Skiba sang the choruses with ease as the adoring crowd sang along, a memorable moment and a performance that proves Blink 182 are not a joke but a talented band who, at times, like to have fun - Violence is the band showing their more serious musicianship and lyricism as a band.

Before Violence Barker was given a brief drum solo, while short it showed the immaculate drumming of a man who is often disregarded for playing for that band "who wrote a song about fucking a dog in the ass". however, like the whole of Blink, Travis should be respected for his musicianship and physical ability, he plays with the energy, power and speed of a man half his age. Travis Barker is the most talented musician of Blink 182, that is undisputable.

The band announced a "special surprise", while some were expecting a new song, instead the band played something better - happy holidays, you bastard! The crowd had the stage lights off and instead had the audience light the room with their phone lights, a short song that created an immense amount of energy within the room that is unchallenged by many other bands. A stupid song that brought a room of thousands of people to stupid grins as everyone yelled "Unless your dad will suck me off" and "and he's always fucking shitting his pants!". Stupid, fun and an unforgettable moment.

Ending the show with another California track, Los Angeles, an anthemic catchy song that is a highlight of both California the album and the show itself.

The lights darkened for a coupe of minutes, the crowd still screamed, they knew an encore was certain and it was one hell of an encore -

All the small things, a somewhat awful song, somehow is infectiously  enjoyable. the crowd sing in unison as "na na na na na na" is chanted over and over. A weak song in the Blink library, yet live it is an enjoyable nostalgia wave that is impossible to not sing along to.

Dammit, the only track to be played off Dude Ranch (which recently had its 20th anniversary), makes the crowd move, The short punk rock blast of teenage aggression about losing a girlfriend still has the same energy being sang by the band who are in their 40s and married, they may be older but they can still perform the songs they wrote as young men convincingly with passion. Flames and gritty distortion ends the shows.....until they band continue with Barker's  son, Landon, on drums and the band played a small minute or so jam that then concluded with Hoppus casually saying "bye, bye Birmingham" - and the show is over.

An incredible experience the band kept the whole audience of mixed ages interested and invested in them and their antics. Each member performed with flawless skill that struck awe into the admiring viewers. An unforgettable show that pleased both causal and hardcore Blink fans.

Daniel A. Clarke

Set -

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Alice's adventures in wonderland - Lewis Carroll (book review)

Alice's adventures in wonderland - Lewis Carroll (book review)
year - 1865

Image result for alice s adventures in wonderlandAlice's adventures in wonderland, or better known by its more commonly movie coined named Alice in wonderland, is a fantasy novel that is often considered  a classic by many, even being one of Queen Victoria's favourite stories.

The story doesn't follow a coherent plot, switching from place to place randomly, at times it follows a pattern but definitely not always. Carroll's writing finds its strengths in the creativity of his imagination, explaining Wonderland but never going into an immense amount of detail, leaving the reader guessing and using their own imagination, however Carroll didn't need to use such detail in his writing as he included 37 illustrations within the novel, while this is a good way to shortcut long drawn out explanations of the weird and wonderful creatures of his novel it can also be problematic, for example many cheaper prints of the book (one I happen to have) do not include the illustrations meaning that without the internet a reader would have no idea what a Mock Turtle is, as a proper description is never given, however this is not a fault of the novel as it was clearly intended to be printed with said illustrations, this is purely a fault of a publisher.

The plot of Alice's adventures in Wonderland is an odd journey which, when broken down, is just about a girl trying to fit in and figure out who she really is, this obviously being made very clear through Carroll's overt symbolism of literal transformation as the protagonist goes from the size of a mouse to that of a house several times throughout the novel. It's a simple message intertwined into crazy events such as a tea party hosted by a Hatter with his animal friends.
Carroll was clearly not aiming to make a deep fantasy plot that later writers such as Tolkien did as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is clearly a children's fantasy story but is so great in it's light tone and madness that adults enjoy the novel still to this day. Many modern interpretations of this novel take the meaning as more dark and malicious, with Carroll's potential paedophilia and drug addiction and while yes, they are important factors, a reader must remember that this story contains nothing outrageous in its content, the only thing that can be considered particularly immoral is the context of the writer and his personal life, not the book itself. Don't let Tim Burton's gothic interpretation in his recent movie fool you, Lewis Carroll's novel is a children's tale that has stood the test of time and become a phenomenon  in pop culture.

A novel that is not about character development or a detailed plot, instead Carroll created a novel that relies heavily on word play to create its brilliant comedic effects, similarly to how Shakespeare does in Twelfth night through Feste, Carroll has moments where he questions and plays with language, sometimes just throwing a random poem into the story for fun. For a man who's profession was actually a mathematician, Carroll knew how to play with the English language in a way that was witty and dry, reinforcing the traditional style of "English comedy". While not a laugh out loud experience, Alice's adventures in Wonderland is clever in the same way Shakespeare was clever in his writing, obviously Carroll was not on the same level of Shakespeare however he clearly shows a defined and mastered skill of wordplay that Shakespeare popularised and in some cases - created.

An innocent tale that people of all ages can enjoy, those older can pick out the language effects and laugh at that, those younger can laugh at the very idea of a disappearing Cheshire Cat or playing croquet with Flamingos, truly a universal novel being an easy but enjoyable read. An undeniable classic.

Daniel A. Clarke

Friday, 30 June 2017

Futumche! - Gazing into misery (EP review)

Futumche! - Gazing into misery (EP review)

Year - 2017

Futumche! are a 3 piece experimental rock group from Coventry, Gazing into misery is their sophomore release.
Opening with a slowly picked bass line by Jaz Rai, the rest of the band soon join and add to the unique song that is Gazing, the song leaves the listener in a daze as the writing style swaps from a thudding, almost nursery rhyme rhythm to a slow reverb laden sound that switches from dreamy to ferocious in seconds. Futumche! straight away show they are odd but not a gimmick, a sound that they hone into their own, making it their own creation. With Rai, previously of punk band Bad mouth men, and guitarist and co-vocalist Steve Clarke, also of Coventry rock band Superhooch, using their very different styles to create a juxtaposition in tone that leaves a listener intrigued. Gazing ends with a beautiful guitar section that is completely different to the rest of the song's thudding rhythm. The EP's "A side" is opened very strongly.

Misery fires out next with a very punk inspired tone, with gritty distortion, a catchy bass line and Brandon Garrigan's drums holding it together, keeping a steady rhythm as Rai shouts "I can't be happy, you can't be happy now!". The punk inspiration on this track is overtly clear and it sounds great, but Futumche! prove they do not stick to one formulaic style, slowing down into a more gloomy aggression as both Clarke and Rai shout in unison "trapped inside your misery!", all while Garrigan savagely hits his kit. A memorable track, even if it is unconventional from a "catchy song" point of view. The band's weirdness and aggression shines on this track.

The rest of the tracks on the EP are put under "side B", these tracks being recorded in various locations and then being Mastered by Clarke. Laer opens up this "side", a distorted attack of various experimental sounds that is followed by the much more mellow track, Forward, an instrumental track that has an infectiously memorable bass line.
Wait Inside is a strong track, with synth and droning spoken vocals; Wait inside feels like Kid A era Radiohead if Thom York had a deeper voice. possibly the EP's second best track behind Misery, Wait inside is a unique journey that  any fan of  Radiohead would appreciate.
 Futumche! close the EP with Through the mountain, a calm acoustic guitar led instrumental that is very relaxing and ends the EP in the complete opposite to how it starts, showing the broad range of writing talent the 3 piece have.

Gazing into Misery is a surprising and undeniably strong debut that shows that 3 people can make a full sound, with no section of this EP feeling "empty", and Futumche! have made a sound that is their own and no-one else's, splicing together various influences into one EP. Futumche! are unusual but it only adds to why their music is so enjoyable. Futumche! have a promising sound and overall Gazing into Misery is an outstanding sophomore effort.

Daniel A. Clarke