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