ALBUM REVIEW: BLINK 182-NEIGHBORHOODS

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In 2009 the words “we’re back” appeared on the Blink 182 website, but several years earlier it was a different set of words that echoed in the minds of many.

 

When Tom Delonge called up band mate Mark Hoppus in 2005 he put an end to Blink 182 with the simple statement “I’m not doing this anymore”. After five studio albums and 27 million plus record sales across a thirteen year period the end came as painfully as a knife to the throat and young people across the western world were left empty. The band had been plagued by fights and creative differences for long enough. It was over.

 

Of course we never gave up. As fans we prayed and we hoped. For many of us the reformation of Blink 182 was something we yearned for completely. It was a dream we never thought would come true.

 

I can’t explain how it felt to see those words in 2009. I was sitting at a computer near the college cafeteria and as I kept reading, “we’re back”, “we’re back”, I felt four years of heartbreak heal in a moment. I cried a little. I think many people did.

 

Getting there was a journey, what with Travis’ near fatal plane crash and the apparent hatred the band felt towards Tom, and the time since hasn’t been easy either, the cancellation of this year’s European tour disappointed fans in a way we didn’t want to feel again, but on Monday the first Blink 182 album since 2003 finally dropped.

 

The arrival of “Neighborhoods” excited me, but it worried me too. I had looked forward to it for so long that the anticipation was almost ingrained into me, and having that come to an end was an unnerving prospect. The worst feeling of all was the one I got when the first track began playing; I felt nothing. I felt the same for the album’s entire duration. I felt the same for a while. Writing this review has changed that for me, but I’ll leave the explaining for later.

 

The release of their self titled album in 2003 marked a change for Blink 182. No longer were the songs filled with toilet humour, jokes about farting, aliens, and masturbation. Instead Mark and Tom were singing about darker, more adult themes like bullying, domestic violence, and relationships gone rotten. The new subject matter heralded the appearance of a “new” Blink 182. It lost them a lot of fans, but it gave them a much needed chance to prove themselves.

 

Of course maturity wasn’t as new a thing to the pop-punk princes as many people thought. It had been there all along in songs like “Stay Together For The Kids” on Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, and Cheshire Cat’s “Cacophony”.

 

The run up to 2011’s Neighborhoods posed many questions; were the band going to return to their roots, or were they going to follow on from the last album with the mature sound that had since filtered into +44 and Angels & Airwaves? Of course with the whole band aged between 35 and 39, and the obstacles that have faced them since them since the breakup in 2005, it seemed a lot more likely that they would plump for catastrophe rather than comedy.

 

And there-in lies the strength and the weakness of Neighborhoods; the darker side of the album works really well with the punky sound that we all love, but at times it swallows it whole.

 

The album opens positively. “Ghost On The Dance Floor”, which led to Travis calling up Tom because it reminded him of how he felt about the death of DJAM, is all about the sadly familiar experience of hearing a song you shared with a loved one that has since passed on. The track marries Blink’s separate gifts well; with Travis’ precise and powerful drumming, Tom’s chainsaw-esque guitar, and Mark’s strong bass sound, all preceded by an 80s style keyboard beginning. This theme continues on “Natives”, a song that includes one of Mark’s best sequences on the whole album; “I’m just a bastard child/ don’t let it go to your head/I’m just a waste of your time/maybe I’m better off dead/You turned us loose in the night/I’m fucking Jekyll and Hyde/we’ll have the time of our lives/although we’re dying inside”.

 

“Up All Night” is the record’s first real problem; it seems over produced, something that a lot of fans disliked about Angels & Airwaves, and this really stands out. At times the song seems unfocused, switching between sounds that don’t quite fit together, and the use of Mark’s vocals only on the chorus seems like a real waste.

 

On the whole the album is mostly positive, only lacking in one or two places, with moments of pure brilliance that really shine through. Earlier on in this review I mentioned that the album sparked no immediate emotions in me, but writing this made me concentrate on it, and experience it fully. I went eight years without a Blink 182 album, receiving this after so long demonstrated, at least to me, that despite my love for the band I don’t really need them anymore.

 

Neighborhoods is a near perfect return for Blink 182, it moulds together all that makes the band great, and god willing that combination will be something we see again and again, in many more albums.

Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/406-blink-182-neighborhoods

 

GIG REVIEW: Live Music @ The Pav Tav, September 29th

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The last week has been a worrying one. With thick blankets of mist creeping through the lands of East Sussex, its evils pulling victims kicking and screaming into the white nothingness within, all signs have been pointing to one thing; WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

As Daily Mail readers retreat into their homes, hiding from the horror of a potential Indian summer (coming into our country, stealing our winter) and blaming the whole thing on the government, the rational, more intelligent ones among us are looking to music to shelter us during these trying times. Last Thursday a group of people took to The Pav Tav to watch Slugger, State Your Name, Tricky Micky, and Rosales entertain them through this apocalyptic nightmare.

Bringing the night to a start were last minute replacements Slugger who, with a couple of “dancing” friends, didn’t disappoint for a moment. Though vocally quite hard to hear at times the music, with its frequent build up, powerful drumming, and distinctive sound, had a robust edge that was brought to life by solos that wrapped around it. I may sound like a broken record for saying this yet again but Slugger, for the most part, lacked movement. If they had taken advantage of the space on the floor in front of the stage they could have sent a member down there with the sadly meagre crowd. Doing so would have added a touch of excitement to what was an otherwise almost impeccable opening performance.

Getting off to a rather ropey start State Your Name, who had two members armed with Flat Caps, had their performance delayed due to a broken guitar. Luckily after a while, and thanks to the kindness of a member of another band, they soon managed to get hold of a replacement guitar and launched into what turned out to be a really good set. For me the highlight of that set was a cover of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello. State Your Name completely reinvented the song, their rock edge turned into something a lot better, and I would love to hear it again.

Tricky Micky, despite the original expectations of the narrow minded, turned out to be a quality rapper with clever hooks that didn’t just sit back and keep rhyming one syllable, nah. Playing to a crowd that had turned out for a rock show the Brighton MC was at a massive disadvantage, but as people left the room before his eyes his resilience didn’t falter and he carried on. With a gift for ruling the crowd that was obvious despite the small crowd, and a sound that fits into many urban genres, Tricky Micky would be perfect as a club performer; the crowd would lap it up.

A lot of people complain that Hip Hop artists take away beats from other genres and use them to make what is at times quite a juvenile song like “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas become popular. Tricky Micky uses other people’s beats, but instead of just taking, he gives something back too; his cover of “American Boy” which he entitled “English Boy” was very clever, and his reinvented version style stuck to the original beat well.

Though Tricky Micky’s performance carried a karaoke vibe at times he did extremely well for someone playing to an audience that were, sadly, not that interested. I can’t wait to see him play at The Pav Tav’s hip hop night in November.

Last up on stage were Rosales. As they began a sense of relief fell over me as I realised that I was finally seeing a band take advantage of their ability to move around as they play. Though they weren’t that active their doing so added to their sound well.

Rosales played what was obvious old school indie rock inspired by more modern bands like The Libertines that also absorbed elements from bands decades old. With vocals that made them stand out and a musical style that combined the simplistic with the complicated perfectly they were band that more than deserve my recommendation.

Next week at The Pav Tav is Fathoms, From Afar, Thekidisfireworks, and Protect Ya Neck.

Originally published here: http://sqmagazine.co.uk/2011/10/gig-review-live-music-the-pav-tav-september-29th/

Gig Preview: Live Music @ The Pav Tav, September 29th

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For the last Thursday of September some great bands and artists, State Your Name, Rosales and Tricky Micky are heading to The Pav Tav to give summer a send off.

Mainly influenced by gods of perdition Alkaline Trio State Your Name, who are from Lancing, say that their influences include bands like Audioslave and Muse.

Formed back in January of this year Rosales, Este on guitar/vocals, Ben N on guitar/backing vocals, Ben C on bass/backing vocals, and Martin on drums, have been described as being like putting the Clash and The Libertines in a blender mixed up with a squeeze of The Strokes. Thdy play catchy songs with distinct vocals, intricate guitars, and pounding drums.

Stepping in as a last minute replacement Tricky Micky has twice supported Example and collaborated on several songs with Big Brovas creator, Mr Skills. Described by NME Magazine as “a rhymer of wit and skill”, he is not to be missed.

Look out for Fathoms, From Afar, Thekidisfireworks, and Protect Ya Neck next week.

First published here: http://sqmagazine.co.uk/2011/09/gig-preview-live-music-the-pav-tav-september-29th/

GIG REVIEW: Live Music @ The Pav Tav, September 22nd

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Ask a local and they’ll tell you that Brighton is a magical place, a place where you can be yourself without worrying that it’s the wrong thing.

Musically it’s a Mecca, with the famous Brighton Institute of Modern Music, DJs in crowded nightclubs pressing play on their MacBooks, and tone-deaf slags grinding to happy hard-core there really is something for everyone. Fans of rock music, and those revolted by dry ice puking dance floors, can flock to sanctuaries of good taste like The Pav Tav where last week Fly In Fly Out, Dirty Leaves, and Half crown, three bands I’d never heard before, put on one of the best nights of live music I’ve experienced in a very long time.

Beginning with a wailing guitar sound that could have easily alerted all the dogs in the area Fly In Fly Out got the night going. Easily comparable to bands like Cave In they were clearly gifted, at times playing their guitars so intricately that someone only half listening could easily have mistaken the sound for that of a piano, but let themselves down a little by not moving around and communicating with the crowd enough. Fly In Fly Out were very tight, and with a dynamic drumming whose abilities stood out quite clearly they played a set with very few flaws.

There’s a common parallel that I have begun to notice at many of the local gig I have been to and that is a lack of movement from both the audience and from the bands. It may be a question of space, or simply one of courage but rigid bands often seem to face rigid crowds, and vice versa. Bands that lead the crowd get what they play for; a moving, jumping crowd full of people having a good time. At the same time an audience like that can encourage a statue-like band. It’s all relative. Both parties need to put the work in to create the spectacle that many people go to gigs for.

Although they at first annoyed me by sound checking atop Girl From Mars, my favourite song by Downpatrick legends Ash, the next band Dirty Leaves impressed me as much as Fly In Fly Out. Though they were not as tight and let themselves down a bit by not entertaining the crowd between sets they were visually stronger. With a thrashing drummer and a vocalist that was clearly putting his all in Dirty Leaves, who played a rather brilliant song from their upcoming EP, had catchy songs and were exciting to watch.

Compared to many other bands that have played at The Pav Tav Half Crown were immediately different. At first what they wasn’t apparent, especially as for a moment they appeared to have their very own version of Bez from the Happy Mondays, but as their first song kicked in what they were became obvious; they were brilliant. Half Crown mixed vocal styles perfectly; their MC was exactly my favourite type of rapper, one with smart rhymes, seemingly boundless energy, and the ability to make what he does seem effortless. In total they had three vocalists, and their harmonies were fantastic. Surprisingly enough for me my highlight of the set was their cover of Pyro by Kings Of Leon. I hate Kings of Leon, I think they are one of the worst bands around at the moment, but by covering that song Half Crown demonstrated that they can effectively cross genres and still add their own edge. The cover of Pyro was, in my opinion, a hundred times better than the original. My only real problem with the band was that at times the rapping was too fast to keep up with. Half Crown are difficult to put in a box, they are one of the best local bands I have heard (proven by the fact the crowd begged for The Pav Tav’s first encore) and easily deserve a whole one.

Next week at The Pav Tav will be Odd Red War Scars, Rosales, Caboose, and State Your Name.

Originally published here: http://sqmagazine.co.uk/2011/09/gig-review-live-music-the-pav-tav-september-22nd/

SINGLE REVIEW: MILES KANE-COME CLOSER

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Miles Kane is best known as the former frontman of indie rock band The Rascals and, along with Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, the co-frontman of The Last Shadow Puppets.

“Come Closer” is the second single from his debut solo album “Colour of The Trap”. Apparently inspired by John Lennon Kane has described the song as being “a good first proper single, because it has all the elements. A bit sexy, sleazy, with cool guitar”.

I wasn’t keen to listen to this track, knowing someone artistically associates with the Arctic Monkeys sets off a few warning bells, but after doing so I can’t help but agree with what Miles Kane said. While it isn’t the best song in the world “Come Closer” has a funky chorus that sits atop a very cool rock sound.

Verdict; Stay away from Alex Turner Miles, you’re better than that.

Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/403-miles-kane-come-closer

SINGLE REVIEW: FRANKMUZIK-NO I.D

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It’s a fact that when something is repeated enough times it becomes habit. Vincent Frank is often praised for his knack of writing decent lyrical hooks, but anyone with any real musical taste would sooner take advice from a cheese sandwich. The ridiculously tedious lyrical hook of this song “No I got no ID, no, no, no. No I got no ID” is repeated so many times that it all quickly becomes a familiar blur, and time ceases to exist. I am confident that after only listening to it once I now know this song just as well as the “artist”. So well in fact that I could probably save them the trouble of performing it live in the future. That way Vincent might be able to spend some time working out how to write a half decent, musically relevant song rather than tripe like this.

Verdict; Die.

Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/402-frankmusic-no-id

SINGLE REVIEW: DAPPY-NO REGRETS

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When Dappy’s new single “No Regrets” finally broke at midnight on September 19th I jumped on it like a hand grenade.

At first glance there’s certainly things wrong with the track; it features Dappy’s trademark “nana nana na”, some of the celebrity name dropping is a little cliché, and, well, it’s Dappy. Yet when you let the song play and actually listen to it something becomes violently apparent; it’s passionate, it’s powerful, and it’s very, very good.

The guy has his faults, it would be pointless to list them, but what the song is is an admission of them, and proof that beneath the hat there’s a brain.

Completely moving away from N-Dubz won’t be easy for the kid from Camden, and it’s going to take a lot for people to start taking him seriously, but work like this proves that there’s a more mature side to his song writing, and hopefully this will get him the credit he clearly deserves.

Verdict; one of my favourite songs of 2011.

First published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/401-dappy-no-regrets