The strains of Helter Skelter were still ringing around my head as I left, drunk on pure adrenaline, the Birmingham Arena having just watched an electric, exciting performance by indie rock icons Catfish and the Bottlemen.
Their walk-on song was the cult Beatles classic, a good start. Van McCann, clad in black shirt and jeans, saluted the crowd by lifting up his guitar, the lights went bright and the crowd went wild. The rest of the band clicked into place, a drop of the lights into darkness speckled by mobile phones (JUST ENJOY THE GIG AND PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!!!) and the word ‘go’…Catfish had begun with ‘Longshot’.
Crazed cheering and whistling was met with thank yous by the band. A group of lads in front were putting their arms around each other’s shoulders and pogoing up and down to ‘Fallout’ as the swaying swamp of sweat sprayed everywhere. It’s a rock concert with iPhones and two-pint plastic cups. There’s gonna be piss and warm dregs all over the place.
‘Homesick’ got me into a foaming frenzy as the band continued in their fine stride. Van was having it large and giving a Joe Strummer-esque performance, all passion and pneumatic drill energy. When I first saw the band’s videos, he looked a bit like a 2007-era Pigeon Detectives fanboy but now he’s transformed into half-Roger Waters, half-Mick Jagger. The only reason I haven’t made a Liam Gallagher comparison is because the only person in a parka, probably, was myself. It’s all about that swagger.
‘Conversation’ had the audience whipped up into a Monday night mania. It shows the strength of the band and their songs that I didn’t see a single person not singing, or, singing the words wrong. Honestly, watch the Glasto footage next year and wait until the camera zooms in on, usually some girl with face-paint on and a flower in her hair on a lad’s shoulders, and they will sing the words COMPLETELY WRONG in front of EVERYONE WATCHING. This was not one of those times, thankfully. It was getting warmer and warmer. The pyrotechnics had been sneaked in and let off so cue a line of security forcing their way through the crowd to apprehend the culprits.
A smoky atmosphere of indie hokey-cokey had reached its heavy crescendo when ‘Pacifier’ came on. I won’t lie, I went mad. I’d been bouncing and singing since the start but once this absolute banger belted out, I was pogoing and jumping with those lads in front of me as we all engaged in a mutual love-in. This was better, man! Twin Atlantic had supported but they were a bit too screechy for my liking. In the land of Brum, drinking rum and throwing myself into a nice, little scrum. Madness. Please, please me.
Van then came out on his own to stumble and bumble his way through ‘Hourglass’, the acoustic love song from their first album. It’s a tune. Trust me. Everyone was giving it full-throttle with throats coarse and croaky. Somewhere, across the universe, Martians were involved in a cuddly huddle with each other while singing: ‘all I really ever want is you…’
This is a band that are only going to get better with time. Apart from the Arctic Monkeys, they’re probably the best British band around- I will not be accepting any arguments about the following: Muse, Biffy or the 1975, so please don’t comment about it- and their confidence was oozing as they cranked the vibe up to eleven with ‘Cocoon’. This is one of them essential Lad Anthems, the kind you play when you’re off to the football or summat.
Of all the gigs in the world to bump into an ex-girlfriend, it had to be this one. I’m sorry about all the Beatles references in this but, I saw her standing there. I really did. Awkward exchanges done, I moved as far as I possibly could to avoid the embarrassment of that. Fortunately, ‘2all’ was next up and the mood was delightful. It was dancing in the moonlight and walking on sunshine. A real sounds-awesome-live song that, well, sounded awesome live. I’d never really been THAT into it from the album but it’s always different when you’re there, doing it, being it, feeling it.
The group ended with ‘7’ and it’s impossibly infectious refrain ‘I don’t think through things, I never get time/and I don’t think things through.’ Memories flooded back of hearing the song for the first time on a trip to Amsterdam. The song is the musical equivalent of a chocolate brownie- it is indulgent and decadent, it is bad for you but makes you happy.
Let it happen. Embrace the helter skelter that is live music and, most importantly, go and see Catfish and the Bottlemen!
Merseyside’s musical mystery tour shows no signs of ever slowing with Clean Cut Kid’s second full-length album hitting the indie radar.
Painwave is a potent and persistent prod at human emotion, the raw and animalistic expression of fear, guilt, love and abandonment. Sounds depressing? It couldn’t be further from it. The poppy and bright melodies of their debut album, Felt, remain intact with the added flesh of muscular guitar riffs as demonstrated in the strong ‘Slow Progress’.
The opening bars to ‘Stay Awake’ are a gorgeous bit of indiedom and, where many of today’s less-mainstream bands do tend to sound a bit Britpop-lite, Clean Cut Kid, with their soft harmonies and emotionally shredding lyrics at the heart, are in a class of their own.
‘Plasticine’ is as catchy and malleable as its name suggests. The lovely rhymes in the chorus and the slow, chugging beat makes for a memorable guitar-rock sound. I’m probably in a minority here but ‘Say Nothin’ sounds very soulful. It’s not like Marvin Gaye or James Brown style soul but it has it’s own self-conscious vibe to it, as if to say nothing would somehow be the perfect thing.
An undoubted stand-out from this album is definitely ‘Emily.’ Anybody with previous knowledge of the band may agree that this song could well be a direct rebuttal to ‘Vitamin C’ from the earlier album. The songs do not sound the same but, thematically at least, the repeated there’s a hole in your heart seems to be Clean Cut Kid’s signature motif.
Which brings us nicely onto ‘Red Green Black’, which from its first chords has a folky, smoky, Dylan-esque sound. The soft crooning and falsetto harmony could have come right out of the late 1960s counterculture movement. The song then moves into a bouncier beat, slightly jumping from the ground and hovering like a colourful dragonfly over a pond of acoustic melody. How can such a lilting and gospel voice come from a face covered in THAT beard, Mike?
What is it with Liverpool and producing such jangly jingles? When I first heard ‘Goodbye’ I could have mistaken CCK for Family of the Year, such was the lush and tranquil experience of the track. That is not to say that Clean Cut Kid are copying the generic formula for indie pop, far from it, they’re breaking new ground and may even be placed into their own genre category. I cannot distinguish whether this is indie-pop, indie-rock, folk-rock, alternative-rock or the sound of Scouse swagger.
There is still loads to explore, this is merely just a slice of the rich and creamy cake that CCK have baked on low until perfect. Listen to it while it’s still hot. I highly recommend Painwave as a remedy to lethargy and apathy.
This is a band on the up, even after the departure of one of their original members, Saul. A group that will never get the airplay of Arianna Grande or the publicity of the Gallagher brothers but are a seriously flying band on the run.
Shut your eyes, put your head back on the pillow and let the new sound swirl around your mind in a hazy, space age atmosphere.
The Arctic Monkeys, standard-bearers of ‘jump around and bounce off the walls’ indie-rock have created a departure likely to divide and delight in equal measure.
It’s like travelling through time and space to the chilled side of the moon, where dust flecks float by fuzzy guitars and in the distance is a grand piano, the shape of Alex Turner sitting comfortably at it composing a lounge-act album of pure melodrama and humour.
It isn’t the first album…or even the second…or Humbug. Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino is a melodic meander to musical maturity. A band back after hiatus to flex its artistic muscle in a way few people could’ve expected.
Four Out of Five is a definite stand-out. An impassioned lyrical waltz of tinkling piano and heartfelt narration. Turner has been channelling Abbey Road era Lennon and McCartney. Where once we had Golden Slumbers, here comes Golden Trunks.
I know what you’re thinking-it doesn’t sound like the Arctic Monkeys- but that’s the beauty of it. It won’t ever please everyone, but the bravery and vision of this album is sure to be a defining moment in their history.
Science fiction plays a major role, they even called a song after it, as the Bowie-influenced weirdness eats its way through the critics. I have to admit, I don’t particularly like the opening track ‘Star Treatment’, but I’m a fan of the project as a whole.
That’s exactly what this is- a project.
It’s a base on the moon where experimental rock and roll meets the old Sheffield tracksuits of time, blending together in a soulful soup of soft-jazz and symbolic joy.
The last song on the album, ‘The Ultracheese’, despite its wince-inducing title is a glorious example of Turner’s craft in writing lyrics. He is a genius of story-telling, a 21st century John Keats mixed with John Lennon. He’s even worn the Beatles glasses on several live appearances.
After AM, it was hard to predict where the band would go. They did their indie album, they did their mean and moody phase, they had their sparkling prime and all four members have matured with varied musical styles to create the most-successful British band since Oasis.
TBHC is not the early-Monkeys. It isn’t the psychedelic riff-heavy Humbug era, it definitely isn’t the credits rolling on their magnificently successful career to date. What it is, simply, is a band moving with the times to doing their own thing. A band in an artistic shift towards the vast openness of outer space and a band moving away from their indie contemporaries (most of whom have fallen by the wayside due to the fact they didn’t-or couldn’t- change their style).
It might take a few listens but, honestly, really get into it. Put the headphones in and let Alex’s voice lift you off onto Tranquillity Base.
It’s the fretwork of John Power meeting melodical Beatles lyrics. ‘Felt’ by Clean Cut Kid is a fine debut album. Yes, it would be easy to make reference to Liverpudlian things…so I will. This album is pure, Scouse sorcery. You go into it with the idea that CCK are an upcoming band, have toured with the indie scene (including The Courteeners) and that they’ll be bog-standard, guitar-jangling fare. You’d be wrong. When I saw them live back in November, I took one look at the lead singer, his beard dripping from his face like a young Gandalf and immediately assumed that this was a band that were gonna be screaming at me, like death metal echoing through the Liverpool Echo. That was until he used the word ‘boss’. That’s when I realised that this was magic. It was like Steven Gerrard with a cat stuck to his chin (or Ross Barkley if the band class as Evertonians).
We all need Vitamin C in our bodies to help us digest the necessary nutrients of a balanced diet. What I never thought we needed was to plug it into your ears. The opening song on ‘Felt’ is one of sun-kissed delight. “I’m gonna be your vitamin C”, sings the honeyed harmony of Mersey-born voices. I feel a bit bad that before I went to see Courteeners in the autumn that I hadn’t really looked for their support band’s music. I’ve since reversed this error by happily buying the album and generally plugging it on Twitter as much as I can (I don’t get paid or that by the way, that’s just me being a top bloke).
Anyway, moving through the album, we come to two songs that complement each other brilliantly. The yearning and regretful ‘We Used To Be In Love’ following ‘Make Believe’, a dreamy and streamy journey through the mind of the disbelieving narrator. It is these kind of songs that stand out, not just for the accomplished polish of the music but for the chorus of ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ which is more catchy than a baseball glove.
The album’s title track reminded me a lot of…wait, it didn’t remind me of any other band. Clean Cut Kid are like no other band. Now that’s rare. ‘Felt’ (the song) is that final look back you make to a lost relationship. It is that teary reminiscence of the past. To a time when my heart was broken and blue. I felt it for you. I suppose you could argue that Adele made millions on the back of crying about break-ups. You’d be right. This album has so many surprising musical directions, especially the last minute or so of the title track, when it descends rapidly from heartfelt heartache into frantic acceptance. Very unlike Adele.
‘Brother of Mine’ sounded very much like something Ed Sheeran might claim he wrote. However, this is a band that are not as irritatingly omnipresent and churning out tunes for the sole purpose to hide the fact that he’s got ginger hair and, at my school, would have struggled to make friends, let alone girlfriends. It’s a good song. A nice song. A song that no doubt flashes polaroid pictures of your good friends, your own brother or other family members as they’ve grown up and out. Aww. People less hard-hearted than me would have a lump in their throat.
Depending on whether you listen to the deluxe album or just the regular one, this is something that needs to be digested. Don’t just give it a quick listen on Spotify when you’ve got ten minutes or so. This needs the whole shebang to be ringing through your one-bedroomed flat. Especially if you’ve just experienced a break-up. This is for you. It will cheer you up. It will bring you down. Like any good music, it’ll deffo make you feel, sir.
Oh, yeah and as for ‘Time To Let You Go’, it’s my favourite on the album. The lyrics just washed over me and held me in its arms, safe from the drama and disappointment of the world. Like a crybaby in its mum’s arms, don’t take my word for it. Listen.
The venue: the rainy and wintry November night in Liverpool. The concert: Manchester’s finest underground indie rock group The Courteeners, flanked by local heroes Clean Cut Kid and, in a welcome resurrection of their career, Sheffield stars Milburn.
The Echo Arena is a vast palladium fit for any fast-rising band doing an arena tour. You can’t help but feel that The Courteeners are the sort of band who would be better received playing a smaller, sweatbox of a venue. However, I wish them all the success in the harsh and unforgiving world of music. At four quid a pint, I needed to savour my Strongbow and I positioned myself up the top of the standing area, ready to be pelted with plastic pint pots and god only knows what bodily fluids had been released into them. Clean Cut Kid were good. Have to admit, I’d never heard of them before but what a treat to see the Scouse specials scintillating in their own manor. This was the first time I’d ever seen an audience buzzing for the support acts. They were practically frothing at the gob when Milburn came on. Now, these lot are big guns. They were tipped to achieve more than their Sheffield contemporaries, Arctic Monkeys, and their roster of tunes is as entertaining and delightful as those swaggering Sheffieldanites. Milburn fizzed around on the stage, bouncing off the pure energy and fervour of the throbbing masses. I stormed into a mosh pit as ‘What Will You Do (When The Money Goes)’ rang out into the Merseyside malaise. An elbow to the chin saw me dazzled for a few seconds but I was to be even more star-struck when Liam Fray walked out, flicking his side-parted hair out into the Echo. The Courteeners frontman, a mixture of Mancunian macho and Morrissey, kicked off the whole shebang with ‘Are You in Love With a Notion?’ a belter of a banger from their third album, ANNA.
Security were seemingly not too arsed with what was going on in the crowd as several flares were set off, engulfing most of us in the middle in a fug of crimson smoke. This was the perfect atmosphere as ‘Modern Love’ and the anthemic, teen lads bouncing of the walls hit ‘Cavorting’ rattled about the rafters. A succession of supreme songs and shout-alongs sounded stunning, the echo of the Echo a wall of sound. Oh aye. Good stuff. ‘Bide Your Time’ created snarling and smirking in the crowd as the chorus cranked up to eleven. As a song from their newest album ‘Mapping the Rendezvous’, entitled ‘The 17th’ was played out as a precursor to not giving a fuck about the weekend or the way your neighbours look at you funny on the end of a binge-drinking sesh, the band walked off, leaving Liam all alone with a piano and an acoustic. His Middletonian magic continued with a rendition if ‘Please Don’t’, one of the best singles in the Courteeners canon, by the way. As the crowd yelled out ‘its got fuck all to do with you’, the lights reflected the mood as music pinged around the arena like an elastic band flicked at high speed. This was followed by a cover of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’, and anything that merges Jarvis Cocker’s social realism with Liam Fray’s distinctive lingo is good for me, sir.
I got involved in another mosh pit. This time I didn’t leg it like a loon right in the middle, but got caught up in the melee, taking an elbow to the chin. Again. I was seeing stars. Again. Luckily I was pulled away by a burly bruiser of a bloke, lager stains drawing a map on his grey Courteeners t-shirt. And that’s when ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ boomed out. Mate, I know, I’m 23. ‘An older woman and an ever-so-slightly younger man…’, choon of my life, like. To anyone who isn’t aware of this band, be aware of this band. Find them. Enjoy them. Fall in love with the lyrics. I guess if you put Morrissey’s sense of humour with Bob Dylan’s story-telling, shake it up and mix in some downtrodden, heartbroken version of John Lennon and you get something close to what they are. You will not regret that.
‘What Took You So Long?’ was the curtain closer and if there wasn’t a queue at the post office, then there definitely would be trying to give it toes back to Lime Street to catch the last train home. In the end, I ended up having to find a bus back to Crewe and sat next to this wise, old Scouse geezer. He told me to cherish the small things in life and not worry about anything that I can’t change. Strong advice. I got back to my flock embalmed in the glow of someone who has just fallen in love over and over and over again. Music really is the strongest form of magic.
Wednesday the 15th of June, 2016. The third coming. Ian Brown, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield, Jon Squire and Alan ‘Reni’ Wren, the four swaggering blokes behind one of the most famous English bands of all-time- The Stone Roses. They were supported by Public Enemy, as I watched from my vantage point on the beer-soaked boards covering the pitch at the Etihad Stadium. The iconic lemon and Jackson Pollock paint splatters zoomed onto the massive screen that sandwiched the stage, then came in the slow-burning throb of Mani’s bass. ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ jolted the crowd into action as the kings of Manchester indie guitar jangling roared into action. The confident showmanship of Ian Brown for all to say as he sang about not having to sell his soul.
The seminal debut album, self-titled, has become a classic and iconic collection of songs since its release in 1989. The poppy and zippy ‘Sally Cinnamon’ was part of the setlist as the band trotted out their earlies material, ‘Mersey Paradise’ and ‘Waterfall’ also followed. The fist pumping chorus of ‘All For One’ was observed by the swaying, braying mass of fans, arms aloft, flares lit, beer bottles flying around.
And then came ‘Love Spreads’, a song from their second album. The more riff-based, musically muscular ‘Second Coming’ was released in 1994 to mixed receptions, but the meaty fretwork of Squire bouncing around the massive Manchester stadium and into the drizzly night sky was fantastic. The crowd bounced and sang and cheered and adorned their bucket hats in homage to the drummer, Reni.
As the rain began to pour during ‘Waterfall’, the atmosphere refused to let itself fizzle out like a wet firework and the anthemic ‘She Bangs The Drums’ brought yet more zip, zonk and zap to the thumping spectators. The past was yours, but the future’s mine, sang Brown as his Mancunian magic caused the heavens to open just as the fateful words ‘you’re all out of time’ exited his mouth and into the smoky breath of night.
A few more songs from Second Coming kept the mood going and the lengthy yet funky jam of ‘Fools Good’ beat the sodden support into a foaming frenzy as its distinctive melody cranked up the notches. They made the right noises. They made the right moves. They made the right song choices.
The best was, as usual, saved until last as the legendary and arrogant proclamation by Brown of ‘I am the resurrection’ exploded through the film of silvery rain. The crowd jumped, the ground rocked, the frontman shook his tambourines to the delight of the delirious, gurning crowd of adoring fans. I have barely ever witnessed such awe like I saw in the faces of those around me, not caring about the North West rain pouring itself down the necks of everyone in the standing section. They love Ian Brown. He loves them. He is the resurrection.
One of the great bands has been ticked off the list, having now seen Arctic Monkeys and the Roses, I feel blessed.
Albums, films, whatever...anyone wanna do their own then message me.