Sunday, 6 December 2015

Scott Weiland: Where the River Goes

On the Third of December 2015 the world lost one of the last great rock and roll front men - Scott Weiland, lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots. Important to note how I have omitted the label of ‘ex-front man.’ Consequently, without Scott Weiland there was no Stone Temple Pilots. 

As it stands a few days later, the evidence currently points to a drug-related death, specifically a cardiac arrest, no doubt accounting to years of previous substance abuse. Tragically what many people had been expecting. Weiland was touring with his new band The Wildabouts, playing small venues and relying heavily on STP material to fill his set. The reception to those gigs had been largely negative with numerous comments on Weiland’s deteriorating health and ability. Over the years his professional reputation had been tarnished, the man who could have had it all, yet threw it all away. The man just desired to play to his fans, regardless of circumstance and a compromise he was forced into when the remaining members of STP dismissed him from the band he started.

Weiland was known as one of the most charismatic front men of all time. He was commonly regarded as genuine rock star and figurehead of the nineties alternative rock scene. Whilst many of his peers relied predominantly on their music, Weiland was a natural showman, an intimidating and flamboyant stage presence and dauntless enough to glam up his appearance when everyone else at the time was clad in jeans and flannel shirts. Not that it ever reduced the impact the music. Stone Temple Pilots were one of the leading bands of the nineties. Core and Purple are still regarded as classic examples of nineties alternative rock. The more experimental Tiny Music... and No. 4 showcased a wider range of inferences whilst Shangri La-Dee-Da is a largely inconsistent output, a hurried pastiche of genres that tried too hard to integrate with the radio Cod-Rock of the noughties. 

Aside from his proficiency at steadily reinventing both his image and vocal delivery, his main talent laid his in often autobiographical and emotive song writing ability. Weiland wore his lyrical heart on his sleeve and was unafraid to document his personal struggles in a musical interpretation. Songs on Core dealt with Weiland’s apparent disillusionment with the world he lived in; Sex Type Thing denounces chauvinistic opinions of women, Sin details an abusive partner, Naked Sunday is an attack on religious fanaticism and Creep deals with feelings of alienation and resentment from societal normality. By his own account drugs were not a significant consideration during his early career, yet like so many of his contemporaries and peers, with the onset and pressures of fame came the addictions.

Weiland attributes Gibby Hayes of Butthole Surfers to introducing him to heroin, something which Hayes denies; regardless by the mid-nineties Weiland was a full blown addict. His lyrics on STP’s second album Purple became increasingly laden with metaphorical references towards addiction. Interstate Love Song describes having to lie to his then wife about maintaining sobriety whilst on tour and Big Empty acts as a cautionary tale about life on the road, the titular 'Big Empty' being the long hours of nothingness in between the tour dates.

“Too much trippin’ and my soles worn thin”

During the recording of their third album Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Giftshop, Weiland was arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin and instantly became something of a media pariah for the excesses and moral corruption of the rock and roll lifestyle. Once the media targets a individual, it never relents and rarely sympathises. They made sure any mention of Weiland was accompanied by some sort of drug-related reference. Just like they did with Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain. To live a life in the spotlight, being constantly judged and having to read about your own personal strife (often exaggerated and glamorised) inevitably took its toll and Weiland was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder, a dangerous infusion considering his now severe dependencies.

Weiland managed to regain enough composure to record STP’s forth album No.4 in 1999, dubiously named after the purest form of heroin. Weiland’s personal turbulence accounted for many of the lyrical themes of the album. The autobiographical Sour Girl describes holding his wife emotionally hostage in their relationship, whilst  I Got You ironically outlines how she was able to fill the figurative void left by his heroin dependency. No.4 revealed a vulnerable side of Weiland, whether it be relationships or drug addiction, both were clearly getting the better of him.

By 2001 Weiland’s personal life overshadowed any musical output. Shangri-La-Dee-Da was largely ignored by the mainstream. Weiland’s erratic behavior and headline captivating existence had done no favours for the bands reputation with his multiple arrests ranging from DUI's to domestic violence.

When STP disbanded in 2003, Weiland fronted Velvet Revolver with the former members of Guns & Roses, yet the whole project felt increasingly like a assemblage of egos rather than a credible music output. When Velvet Revolver disbanded in 2008 the blame was once again placed on Weiland's instability and health issues, claiming he had merely 'fallen back into his old ways.' 

STP reformed later that year and, initially it did seem that Weiland had finally managed to turn his life around. Motivated by a new found appreciation for his own material and reconciliation with his band mates, the group managed to accomplish one of the highest grossing tours of the year and release a new self-titled album in 2010. By this point however, the group was undeservedly considered a nostalgia act. Profiting to an older audience keen to relive their formative years. In many of the tributes I have read following Weiland's death, most refer to how STP only appealed to people in their youth, musical relics of a era gone by. STP appealed to me far into my adulthood as well, their music never sounding as outdated as many seem to be alluding. Weiland was able to formulate a lyrical solution for any problem, their music I consider timeless, an integral part of both my youth and respective maturity. Just as many claim to have lost a piece of their past, I feel like I have lost a piece of my present.

Weiland needed help that he was never able to find. Even following the successful reunion tour, the conflicting egos within the band forced Weiland out. Despite his well documented struggles with varying addictions and a diagnosis of bipolar personality disorder, his band mates were unable to comprehend his vulnerable mental state. And certainly not by preventing him from preforming which was more than likely the one thing keeping him going. Until recently STP had continued to tour and write material with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington replacing Weiland. This incarnation did not even register to me or a large number of the groups fan base. Weiland was the embodiment of the band; Bennington was a cheap impersonator, unashamedly tarnishing the bands legacy.

I am confident Weiland’s creative legacy will overshadow his personal issues if the media allow it. Currently it seems instead of mourning one of the greatest front men of all time, we are too focused on eulogising another rock and roll junkie who was by all accounts living on borrowed time. In closing I am reminded of a quote by famous music journalist Charles Shaar Murray regarding the death of Elvis Presley.

“Stardom kills. One way or another, it wreaks an awful destruction on all but those with the utmost strength and inflexibility and those with the utmost humility and knowledge”

Weiland may now be remembered as another casualty of an era gone by, yet behind the facade was an extremely talented and troubled individual who ultimately paid the price for his art. 

"I wanna be as big as a mountain,
I wanna fly as high as the sun, 
I wanna know what the rent's like in heaven,
I wanna know where the river goes"

RIP Scott Weiland October 27th 1967 - December 3rd 2015


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Driving Rock: The Frontier

(Disclaimer we aren't promoting “driving rock” as a genre or even an acceptable term).

In a recent article Niall was quite critical of so called Driving Rock. Is this phenomena total commercial nonsense? Or something more? In particular, does sitting behind the wheel of a car actually add to the listening experience? Absurd, surely.

Lets be honest, it probably is absurd. Though music can certainly add to the driving experience. In the same way it can soundtrack the stacking of shelves, dark city streets (I'm thinking Ulver's Perdition City) or the ritual sacrifice of small animals.

It seems only fair however to offer a contrary view. And what better way to do that by discussing an album which tore onto the scene as potentially the best driving album of all time (recommendations welcome).

Because whilst we may be sitting in traffic. We may be shouting at the prick who doesn't know how to use their indicators at the roundabout. Or maybe it’s just raining. Falcon (ex-Circle)’s Frontier is there to give us the belief that we've got the wind in our hair, free as a bird. We are on the adventure of our lives, the open road. Destination 60mph!

Without getting too caught up in the identity of Falcon (ex-Circle) it is certainly worth devoting a few lines to provide an overview, or to the uninitiated an introduction. The part in brackets is a bit of a give away, though not completely helpful. Finland’s Circle, prolific and ever changing and morphing in their style and identity are the culprits behind this release, swapping their name temporarily to Falcon (ex-Circle). The following output from the group was Circle (ex-Falcon). But you feel any confusion you’ll be happy to know they are back to plain Circle. This year’s gem was Pharaoh Overlord, which conveniently shared a release date with their alter-ego band Pharaoh Overlords’ Circle.

Anyhow, 2013s Frontier, is basically an anthemic classic rock album, but for the modern age. It has glam and cheese, but it feels tongue in cheek and is incredible catchy. The fast paced record is a love story. The love of a woman, the open road, and of course Beer and Ribs.

Frontier opens the album and sets the scene. Some seriously retro, but not dated keyboards complement a classic guitar led sound. “Ranger of the frontier, counting down his days”. The lyrics often conjure a quite visual narrative and need to be commended for such. Similarly, the use of synthesizers in a modern way often feels key to setting this album aside to anything comparable. We begin in the wilderness but where we are heading is anyone’s guess.

Beer and Ribs focus on drinking and eating and general frivolity bring us back to more immediate and pressing concerns. The synth here just teases. It feels like they have struck gold. Thematically this track sets up the album in a tradition of simple rock songs, which essentially avoid nuance and drive solely towards “booze, rock and girls”. Fortunately, Circle’s classic motorik rhythm progresses the track, and it’s this groove which hurtles you forward whilst the almost comically overt lyrical topic assures us we haven’t stepped back into the 70s.

The central block of tracks offer feel good, heated escapades of driving, fleeting passion and adventure. Partners in Crime, the reckless abandon. Ace of Hearts, a relationship burning fast and bright. And Bringers of the Dawn, perhaps a moment of much needed reflection.

Leather Seat is perhaps the new driving anthem and key really to my bold proclamation that this is the best driving album of all time. So, instead of offering any sort of review, I’ll offer the lyrics as they provide much more much greater synopsis than I could.

My mother she used to warn me
Someday you will fall asleep
At the wheel and die
That ain’t no lie.

Ride on
This long road is my kingdom
Ride on
My throne is the leather seat
I know
These freeways like my blue veins
I know
The engine gives the key
To my dreams
And that’s the only place where I sit still.

Miami Tits and Seasoned Girl (I’ll Go Crazy) close the album and end our love story. Until the car CD player starts it right back at the beginning and you realise you've moved 5 miles in the past 43 minutes.

Basically if you’re driving and you can’t quite handle the intensity of Sunrise or any other of Circle’s motorik obscenities at 6am, this album is for you. If you are a classic rock fan and you need a fix, this album is for you. If you’re behind the wheel, here is some sustenance.

And at a time when we seem to be driving for longer to get to our jobs which pay less and less and seem more and more pointless, Falcon (ex-Circle) will be there for us.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Not-Driving Rock: 7 Hits of Pure Vehicular Abstinence

What the hell is driving rock?

From my cynical understanding the term is the music industries representation of the way greetings card companies fabricate new days of forced celebration to inspire people to remember they actually care. Your dad probably has several. These compilations consist of predominantly 'adult-orientated' rock, with the occasional song that has some loose reference to cars/driving/speed etc just in case you couldn’t ascertain that this is intended to be played in the car. I'm unsure quite how this is supposed to enhance the driving experience. Most of the compilations could simply be released as a classic rock album instead. 

Admittedly some have managed to compile a decent selection of songs, yet insinuating that you need to be behind the wheel of a car for maximum listening experience seems a strange notion. As a non-driving peasant I guess I'm not supposed to understand. In this article I will describe several reasons for my reluctance to commit to automobile ownership and simultaneously provide you with an inspirational alternative soundtrack. 

Just one example of the diversity of these playlists, although personally I would be more likely to deliberately crash the car than be forced to listen to Phil Oakley.

1. Liberate the legs, enslave the wallet

Buying and running a car would effectively reduce my monthly wage to mere pennies. Petrol costs, road tax, insurance, maintenance. None of which I could comfortably afford. Then most people don’t. Get the car on credit if you are old enough to have accumulated an acceptable credit score or rely on your parents to fund everything. I can reasonably assume that the vast majority of all young or first time drivers contribute next to nothing to the financial implications of driving. Mommy and Daddy bought you the car because you did well in your A Levels, they pay your ludicrously high insurance as you are a significant liability and they give you the money for petrol every week because lets face it, that McDonalds drive-through isn’t going to order itself is it?

Weezer - Surf Wax America

I would totally surf to work, if I lived on a beach... and worked on a different part of the same beach.

2. Driving lessons can be murder

Cars are bad for the environment and I don’t mean in the traditional and perpetually debatable ‘Global Warming’ argument. I mean every time I get behind the wheel of a car, things die. Before you consider me some kind of vehicular maniac, I should specify the only body count I have amassed has come from the local wildlife and not the locals themselves. On my first ever opportunity behind the wheel, I ran over a Cat… on Christmas Eve. Scooping its limp body out of the road was traumatising enough, but a few years later whilst having actual lessons I managed to get more feline blood on the tires. After sitting in the car with the instructor going over all the necessary basics, I pulled off her driveway and rolled straight over her beloved pet who was having a snooze under the rear tire. I never got a second lesson. Fast forward another few years whilst receiving unofficial lessons from a previous girlfriend. Two birds mutually decided to end it all and exploded off the front bumper. The bodies were never recovered. After hastily exiting the car to gaze out at the shower of feathers, I held a moments remembrance, then thoughtfully considered that I clearly posses the same ecological impact as traditional Chinese medicine. 

Jimmy Eat World - Night Drive

It's not about driving the car, it's about having sex in it, which is much more enjoyable... I've heard.

3. Conveniently deluded

Life is not meant to be easy and convenient. It is meant to challenge you with obstacles such as distance or the elements, so you both adapt and appreciate the luxuries more. But as humanity we want everything as easy as possible and with the least effort. This is what excessive driving does and subsequently creates this artificial sense of dependency that renders your legs seemingly useless. If your destination is less than two miles away, walk or cycle. You will feel better for it. I envision the technological advancements that will no doubt arrive over the next few years. Robot cars with built in HD televisions and Twitter coming as standard. Soon humanities greatest achievement will involve commuting on a giant smart phone whilst comsuming a mixed grill. 

Pantera - Walk

Just walk on home, boy.

4. Wide Load

One of the worst kinds of people that inhabit this planet is the (admittedly specific)
"I just passed my driving test, but my obvious and rapid weight gain is completely unrelated to it." We live in a morbidly obese culture where moderate exercise such as walking or even cycling is considered unnatural. I experience this first hand where I work. The shopping center has no pedestrian access and so the only way to visit is by car or bus. Consequently, it is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by the type of patrons who have somehow managed to force themselves between the seat and their steering wheel to complete the arduous task of going to Marks and Spencer’s for some posh sausages. They shuffle around the mall, taking numerous seating breaks or hire a mobility scooter in turn creating the most tragic interpretation of Mario Kart possible. I am as unsympathetic to the overweight as they are to whatever they sit on. Walking is good exercise, cycling even more so, yet trying to suggest healthy alternatives is as deluded an idea as the individual who orders a diet coke with their McDonalds.

Nine Pound Hammer - Run Fatboy, Run

Run like your life depends on it, as it probably does.

5. Borrowed Time

People are effectively held hostage by rising petrol prices. We’ve already established that most of society considers themselves one with their wheels, yet they see no alternative to pouring away huge amounts of money at the cost of a slight amount of inconvenience and/or comfort. It’s a well known fact that soon the worlds resource of crude oil will run out. Maybe not in our lifetime, but a bit of forward thinking couldn’t go amiss. Maybe we should consider educating the preceding generations to expect the worst? Except we wont. Oil is big business, as long as huge amounts of money are being made in the present day, those in control of the oil couldn’t give a flying toss about the future. Their cryogenically frozen heads will be counting all their digital cash whilst everyone else tries to remember how to use their legs.

Piebald - Roll On

It's no coincidence that songs about not driving are far more uplifting.

6. Too fast, Too young

Society is adept at convincing its youth how to behave. Currently it seems that learning to drive is being forced upon the younger generations. The youth are impressionable, yet more importantly profitable. They are conditioned to want the fastest, most stylish looking cars, which keeps the insurance companies pockets full and the government gets a tasty slice of your road tax and the subsequent taxation on petrol. As previously stated, the only people that feel the sting are usually the parents. There are now classes that can teach those aged 14-17 to drive. What exactly does a 14 to 17 year old even need a car for? The only driving I cared about when I was that age was on Nintendo. Instead we end up with a very lazy generation, who view going for a drive as a productive pastime. Cars are meant for families and long distance commuters, not teenagers just off down the shops or racing around country lanes at three times the speed limit.  

OPM - Heaven is a Halfpipe

Yeah, why not? Totally not running out of ideas...

7. Not-rushing Hour

Have you seen the roads recently? I personally haven’t as regardless of the time of day, they are consistently gridlocked. The cruel paradox of the ‘rush hour’ is that no one rushes. Bristol was recently awarded the illustrious recognition of ‘Green Capital of Europe.’ We must have some revolutionary recycling going on here as the city is considerably failing in the category of traffic management. My entire cycle commute is spent seamlessly weaving through stationary cars.(For a more detailed description click here) I have colleagues who yet living closer than me, drive to work and I can get there quicker. Just call me Bradley Wiggins. The truth is that the majority of Bristol (and most other large cities I presume) attempt to travel at the same time. The increase in traffic and simultaneous decrease in the national speed limit, will soon make it quicker to walk to work and considering the methodology behind how speed cameras are enforced, the higher powers will soon be issuing speeding tickets for running and charges for remaining stationary for longer than twenty minutes.

System of a Down - Bounce

The world would be a much better place if everyone rode a pogo stick to work.


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Dog Fashion Disco @ The Craufurd Arms 10/09/2015 - Really Talented Americans

There are not many bands I could justify travelling half way across the country to see, especially on a work night and especially not to Milton Keynes. The town is how I imagine purgatory to resemble. Essentially, an expansive shopping and eating destination and not a whole lot else. A place where people go to consume. Regardless, this was the closest date of Dog Fashion Disco’s (Really) Ugly Americans Tour and not even the prospect of having to once again visit Milton Keynes was going to stop me.

Besides perhaps Huddersfield we had chosen the least prolific date of the tour. The Craufurd Arms is more suited for tribute nights and wedding receptions than accommodating one of the most unique bands of the last fifteen years. We knew this was going to be an intimate gig and given its seemingly unremarkable location I can only assume the band had no idea where they were either.

Joining Dog Fashion Disco on the tour were openers Psychostick. Whilst involuntarily getting to know the locals it became apparent that the majority of the audience were here for them. Perhaps years spent attempting to navigate MK’s near labyrinthine layout has left people unable to comprehend anything divergent.

Psychostick are a novelty act. Much in the same manner that Steel Panther pretend to be eighties rockstars and attempt to get underage girls to expose themselves or Five Finger Death Punch pretending to be actual accomplished musicians, Psychostick are a parody of the common associations of rock and metal. Whilst they managed some genuinely entertaining moments such as the ‘slowest mosh pit ever’ it is difficult to see past purely the novelty. Music combined with comedy is like my computer… it doesn’t work very well. Other songs just seem childish. It is music for the Youtube generation, whereby music videos go viral, not because of their accomplished songwriting, but for their ability to distract you from reality for a few minutes and then ultimately forgotten about.

Since being made aware of DFD’s existence nearly twelve years ago, they have not only consistently remained a fixture of my music collection but a catalyst for its general eclecticism. Anarchists of Good Taste is one of those rare albums that I consider timeless, had it not been for its almost accidental discovery all those years ago, I may well have spent the remainder of the decade relying on the ‘genre of the month’ artists force fed by the musical press. Never before had I listened to anything resembling their blend of jazz, psychedelica and the avante-garde. Todd Smith’s darkly captivating lyrics explored themes that admittedly as a naïve teenager I had trouble fully comprehending. For the first time I began actively exploring the words to the music, uncovering creative stories regarding serial killers, cults and occultism.

The unfinished chapter in this story regards my uncertainty of ever being able to witness the live DFD experience. The band has something of a cult status in their homeland America; I presumed chances were slim of them ever considering an international fanbase. Following their enormously successful crowdfunding campaign in 2014, the band announced successive shows in London, having to adjoin additional dates to appease demand. I was as shocked as I can only presume the band was.  

Exploding with Rapist Eyes the band instantly reassure anyone remaining from the Psychostick crowd that, this is not going to be another novelty act, despite the assumptions their name might entail. A few points worth mentioning tonight, is that the horn section lead by Matt Rippentoe, so integral to their sound is noticeably absent on this tour. However, I understand the logistics of bringing an additional member was more than likely not practical for such a small tour. Regular drummer John Ensminger is also absent, as is frequent stand-in Mike Oliver. Drum duties were therefore preformed by a mystery individual. Competent enough but Ensminger’s Jazz influenced accompaniment forms the background to DFD’s sound.

Following heavier numbers, The Sacrifice of Miss Rose Covington sounds as invigorating as it did back in 2006 and Pale Horse showcase the bands more metallic influences with guitarist Jasan Stepp taking his performance into the crowd in effort to encourage movement. Following new track, Ad Nauseam insinuates the band can demonstrate a more accessible side if they so desire, an electro tinged upbeat track that would have sounded even better with the addition of the accompanying saxophone the studio version is blessed with. 

One of the key components in DFD’s music is that, as amiable as the music represents itself, Todd Smith’s lyrics have nearly always been misleadingly morbid as the more melodic Nude in the Wilderness demonstrates. Tastes so Sweet with its almost cabaret style piano, could have been a huge crossover hit for the band, if this cultures seemingly preoccupation with bland musical conformity was not the main hindrance.

100 Suicides is another track that benefits hugely in a live environment to its horn accompaniment, yet the band still improvise enough to ensure a fully successful rendition. More recent material from last years criminally overlooked Sweet Nothings include satirically influenced We Aren’t the World and politically charged War Party, before the band revert back to fan favourites such as Pogo the Clown and The Acid Memoirs.

New track, Only the Haunted from their upcoming album Ad Nauseam reassures that the album is going to be a highlight of the year. The band finish on two tracks from Adultery, Sweet Insanity and Darkest Days. Between myself and the other ten or so long term fans present, there is a certain sense of disappointment that anything from Anarchists of Good Taste was surprisingly overlooked. Not only does that album serve as the quintessential release from the band, it perfectly showcases both their diversity and talent. To have been able to hear Valley Girl Ventriloquist or 9 to 5 at the Morgue would have made the evening not only memorable, but perfect. Second that, seeing them anywhere but Milton Keynes would have made it perfect.


So, whilst the set list could have benefitted from a few alterations, they band still proved they are the sole proprietors of the avante-garde metal scene (as niche as that maybe) For me it was something I had been waiting a long time for, my sentiment gleefully overlooking any minor dissuasions anyone else may have had. The band however, deserves better, better venues, better crowds and better recognition for their efforts.The thought of a supporting band like Psychostick receiving a warmer reaction than Dog Fashion Disco is as incomprehensible as Weird Al Yankovic stealing the show from Johnny Cash.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Audio-Biography - Roxy Music

It is one of the first memories from a musical perspective I have, witnessing Roxy Music perform Ladytron on a VHS recording of The Old Grey Whistle Test. I was not quite sure what to make of it. The whole band clad in what appeared to be fancy dress of some sorts. I vividly remember; Bryan Ferry pouting his way through the entire performance, tarted up in more make-up than I ever saw my mom wearing, an androgynous looking Brian Eno twiddling knobs on a strange machine as if he were conducting some sort of bizarre science experiment, Phil Manzanera resourcefully utilising what appeared to be tea strainers as a replacement visual aid and last but not least Andy Mackay costumed as a clarinet wielding Dr Who villain. Initially, the spectacle appealed to me somewhat more than the music. This was glam rock after all, the age where visuals and aesthetics were often deemed more important than the artists creative output and this was the nineties where the majority looked back at the seventies with a mixture of confusion and ridicule. 

Roxy Music accompanied me through most of my formative years. As one of my dads all time favourite groups, seldom was a weekend or a car journey spent without some kind of art rock inspired soundtrack. Yet, despite my dad’s best efforts, he was not able to convince me of their apparent greatness. In the years beginning my ascent towards secondary school, I could only imagine my peers reaction should I have proudly confessed my appreciation for this old fashioned dad-rock made by men wearing dresses and eyeliner.

I was short on popularity as it stood. I don’t think advertising myself as a Roxy Music fan would have greatly improved my credibility. This was the early 00’s when alternative metal and wrestling reigned supreme in my interests. With the subsequent (and since regrettable) purchases of Kid Rock and Godsmack albums, my dad presumably admitted defeat, his musical legacy nipped at the bud by a rapping redneck who in all actuality was neither a kid, nor could rock.
However, as you age you begin to appreciate your upbringing significantly more. The onset of adulthood makes you develop a retrospective of your childhood. In effect, gazing back to the past especially when the future seems so scary and superfluous. This is exactly what occurred during my inaugural year of university. It was the first time living away from home. Despite the fact I was eighteen, I still retained the mentality of a fifteen year old. I was so gracelessly shy that the mere prospect of making trivial conversation with those I was due to be living with seemed an impossibly daunting task. They all seemed far more mature and enlightened to life’s ways than me. I had bought my entire CD collection along (yet only one pair of socks) with me hoping that I would be able to bond over a mutual admiration of music. I devised a plan and carefully selected a mixture of my more well known albums to play loudly enough to draw in the masses, then I would bring out the lesser known albums once I’d singled out those I had common ground with. Ultimately I found myself discussing more about bands I merely kind of liked (or pretended to) but there was no substance to the discussion. It was just a mutual agreement of appreciation.

It took a chance meeting with a now close friend to make me realise the sentimental power of music. Like myself, my associate had a strong musical influence emanating from his dad. One of the bands he had grown up with was also Roxy Music. And there I was thinking I’d make friends with Killswitch Engage and Bleeding Through. Unlike me, however he had not diluted his preferences with discordant metal and actually appreciated the music. It took some convincing but I reluctantly began to rediscover Roxy Music. I had somehow stored the lyrics away in some distant nostalgia related portion of my brain and still remembered every song. My now musically enlightened understanding was able to fully appreciate the unique instrumentation and song writing. Most importantly however, I remembered the songs reconnected me to memories of my childhood, be it lazy weekends with my dad whilst my mom was working, the excitement of long car journeys to traditional British holiday destinations or making cassette compilations and always requesting the same songs.
The music I was listening to during this time was still too new and fresh in my mind to formulate any higher association from it. With Roxy Music I could effectively recreate the home comforts whilst I struggled to develop my own identity. It was almost therapeutic. What was once strange and un-cool was now enjoyable. It didn’t matter that my peers wouldn’t approve anymore either; we were now all adults free to enjoy and share whatever we pleased. The admiration for Roxy Music has since developed into more than just a sentimental affinity. I can now appreciate how progressive and influential they are. Saxophonist Andy Mackay perfectly addresses their influence with this quote;

"We certainly didn't invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock 'n' roll could accommodate – well, anything really."

This is apparent not just in musical terms either. Bryan Ferry has set the bar unreasonably high for every wannabe suave crooner that has dared challenge his legacy, Eno’s synthesizer wizardry became a staple part of the succeeding decades music, even the risqué imagery on their albums covers, famously depicting whoever Ferry was, to put subtlety, courting at the time has been replicated by many. As the title implies, that’s what progressive music does, it pushes boundaries, be it creatively and/or controversially. For example, I’m sure there were a few eyebrows raised when the choice of album cover for Country Life was decided. On a side note, I remember finding the album as a small child and being unable to comprehend how such a masculine face could have such ample breasts. 

My preferences for more conventional rock have, unfortunately ensured I’ve largely bypassed anything after 1975’s Siren. Not even the pioneers could escape the cultural phenomenon (or travesty) of disco and by 1982’s Avalon it might as well have been a completely different band altogether, a timid collection of radio- friendly ballads owing more to Ferry’s solo career and the onset of the new romantics than a collaborative effort.

Their best and most memorable material derives from 1972’s self titled release, which has since been regarded as something of a classic, Virginia Plain and Ladytron have since become my most significant songs to memory; The former due to my dad’s insistence that it is the greatest single of all time and the latter on account of an occasion whereby I jokingly sang the introduction to a girl who was so besotted by my apparent impassioned vocal delivery that she decided to become my girlfriend the same night. Owe it all to you Bryan.
Of course the main point to take away from this first of many insights into my musical upbringing is to appreciate the past. Paradoxically, disregarding Roxy Music as a child, only heightened their appeal later when they became my correspondence to times gone by. They essentially became something of a stand in for an absent paternal influence, if you will. Coinciding memories to music is now something I actively pursue as it not only adds a greater meaning, but also sentiment. Songs have the magical ability to transport you back to a previous time or even state of mind and Roxy Music have the distinction of being the first band to make me realise this. 


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Ghostfest Review - Bristol Motion 06/09/2015 : Scary in Parts

Nothing punctuates a nice romantic evening with your girlfriend than the unexpected invitation to attend a hardcore music festival. The festival in question was the Bristol date of the annual Ghostfest. The line up consisted of bands I had certainly heard of, but by no means a prolific follower of their music. Regardless a free festival is a free festival and despite the fact that I was slightly overdressed, the three large glasses of wine I had previously consumed urged me forth.

Before we start I can honestly state that I have never been to anything considered a true hardcore gig before. The presumed appeal of donning my most fashionable sportswear and windmilling myself into unconsciousness has somehow been lost to me. Sure, I’ve been to many metalcore gigs where this kind of behaviour occurs, but it is usually from the minority of patrons whilst the rest of the audience spend the longevity of the gig staring at them with a combination of pity and disgust.
My inexperience with these kind of events manifested prematurely. After going through the line-up and planning an itinerary I somehow forgot to realise that this had been an all day event and therefore had subsequently missed the few bands I had actually wanted to see, namely Despised Icon and Turnstile. I had no right to complain though, quite how I thought the organisers would be able to squeeze nine bands into a few short hours is anyone’s guess. 

Upon entering I was surprised by the diversity of the audience. We had the expected conglomerations of hardcore kids; the more conventional metalheads going through their traditional shedding of clothing as the festival progressed, the old school punks presumably there to see a band I missed, the scenesters posing at the back, the guys dressed head to toe in gym apparel possibly keen to make up the cardio day they were missing with some vigorous slam dancing and even a group of skinheads adorned in denim jackets with dubious looking logos and symbols. Aside from the latter, each found unity in a common appreciation for the music.
The first band I witnessed was Crime in Stereo whose only crime was unfortunately to be playing the same time as Emmure. And by witnessed I mean walked past as I went to go watch Emmure.
Emmure are a difficult band to define. They mix the traditional deathcore sound with nu/rap metal elements (Nu-Deathcore?) and surprisingly it works. Frontman Frankie Palmeri reminds me of a deathcore version of the Bloodhound Gang’s Jimmy Pop. I think it’s the baseball cap and pseudo hip-hop gesturing. The band relies heavily on riff-based approach and whilst their songs are often quite similar, the formula they have chosen is competent enough. Solar Flare Homicide could very well be the heaviest Nu Metal track in existence, whilst Children of Cybertron is essentially a two minute long breakdown. Their performance was well received by all but the old school metallers, who were probably left wondering that Limp Bizkit have got a little bit heavier. 

Similarly, the old-schoolers most likely thought that Rage Against the Machine had also taken a drastic change in style when Stray from the Path followed. It is obvious that Rage is SFTP’s main influence (Rap-Metalcore?) From the clear politically influenced lyrics, the Tom Morello-esque guitar twiddling on Badge & a Bullet, right down to Tom Williams’ written message on his guitar. Like Emmure though, the formula works. Both bands have created a modern sound by combining elements from genres past. It just so happens that this genre is mid-nineties Rap-Metal which as refreshing as it is, certainly makes me feel old. 

This was the second time I had seen SFTP this year following their performance at Download Festival and it is apparent they have quite an audience here in England. It is worth noting that the band seemed genuinely humbled by the audience’s response, which is something that has been lacking from recent gigs I have attended. Just as they drew an expansive crowd at Donnington, they achieved the same results at Ghostfest, which is even more impressive considering headliner Hatebreed started midway through their set. 

Hatebreed are simply that… Hatebreed. Their style has rarely deviated from their formation nearly twenty years previous. The admiration derives from understanding that they have settled on a winning style that has placed them as both pioneers and leaders of the genre. As aggressive as their music represents itself, the band do not take themselves as equally serious in their live performances. They leave the music to speak for itself. 

The traditional hardman approach is not adopted by frontman Jamey Jasta. For an American metal band to draw such a crowd in a humble West Country town is an achievement within itself. Hatebreed appreciated the crowd and omitted the stereotypical “kick anyone in the face that isn’t moving” lingo that many similar bands adopt. Not that it stopped anyone, but it was not encouraged. Like most Hatebreed concerts, the venue was left equal parts concert and equal parts combat arena. 

I conclude that, perhaps I am not the ideal person to fairly review a hardcore gig. To appreciate it fully you need to be amidst the crowd, caught within the momentum of the music, not stood at the back hoping someone doesn’t make you spill your coke down your shirt. The line up certainly gave credence to the phrase ‘music for every generation’ and the bands I did see are a prime example of the ongoing evolution of their genre. If there is a festival next year I’ll likely get more involved although the potential of turning up to work the next day with missing teeth and black eyes may raise more questions than I am capable of answering.

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Tale of Two Bands: The Moonlandingz @ The Picture House Social, Sheffield 29/08/2015

The Moonlandingz are a “cosmic synth, krautobilly” band from Valhalla Dale, just outside Sheffield and headed by narcissistic frontman Johnny Rocket.

Or at least that is who they were, as depicted on The Eccentronic Research Council’s recent record Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan. The album, featuring, and narrated by actress Maxine Peake, documents the tale of J Rockets’ stalker.

Though originating as a fictional band The Moonlandingz, are, in reality a 6 piece consisting of members of The Eccentronic Research Council and Fat White Family.

This weekend they returned to The Picture House Social, having filmed a recent video for Sweet Saturn Mine (Sean Lennon De-Mix) here a few months prior. Despite the credentials of the individual collaborators, it is fair to say it’s impressive that they have sold out all of their gigs on this short tour across the north of England and in London.

Despite being in the room awaiting the presence of the band there was something surreal about the whole affair and an expectation of something great. The atmosphere was electric and kicked off in kind as soon the band exploded onto the stage with opener, Sweet Saturn Mine.

Throughout the show there was an element of mystery and delirious abandon which had clearly set in. Which Moonlandingz exactly were we watching? Are they “The” Moonlandingz or are they The Moonlandingz. Quite frankly I don’t care. The fact that there was such enjoyable confusion was sufficiently unique.

There is time to ponder, as clearly there are plans afoot for continued activity. After Psych Ersatz,  a number of new tracks (aka. Not featured on the mini EP) were included in the set.

Forty Thousand Years had a krauty groove and explosive attitude.  Whereas the succeeding Dirt Red Rose conjured a sort of carnival meets Cash somewhere on a dark Yorkshire road sound. An odd concoction of dizzying country psych.

Constantly hearing both Fat Whites and ERC influences, one got the feeling there was an element of conflict and tension causing the band to burn bright. Another new one Black Hans was cosmic but not spacey. Frenzied and yet somewhat restrained. Everything just bubbling beneath the surface with total assuredness of forthcoming implosion.

Slowling the pace, Lay Your Head Down on the Road returned to a more familiar landscape for those approaching from an ERC narrative. More embedded within the story presented on Johnny Rocket. Oddly however, it felt almost obligatory and disjointed. Were The Moonlandings pretending to be The Moonlandingz?

Final track Man in Me Lyf saw a total blast of into the cosmos causing apparent loss of motor functions in many in attendance; total abandon. And then they were gone.

Taken slightly aback by the full on assault of music and the audience alike (the latter caused me to spill gin all over my face) I was left somewhat reeling physically, whilst my internal monologue was still pondering whether or not I had indeed just been to see a real or imaginary band. This reflected dualism of identity, or relational dissonance as I tried to describe it at the time, was part of the excitement.

Sure we were all physically present. But somewhere within that ineffable space between the physical reality, Johnny Rocket was breaking through from the beyond to reclaim his rightful place on the stage (spoiler, he dies).

(Note: It may (or may not) be revealing that if you misspell the Moonlandingz, Google wants to tell you they are a hoax. Bear it in mind).


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Alvvays @ The Leadmill, Sheffield 31/08/2015

Alvvays return to the UK for their second headline tour since the release of their 2014 self-titled debut; on this particular evening greeted by a packed back room of The Leadmill.

Alvvays enter to the sound of pipes, presumably some famous tune from their Nova Scotian homeland. Opener Your Type feels as though it harnesses the vibe of the traditional entrance theme, the music of the earliest settlers weaving though time to make itself known. Of course in a punchy, alt rock Alvvays style.

I was aware the group were Canadian but only through seeing them live did that identity become so apparent, and clearly crucial to their output. I should perhaps stress, I mean a Nova Scotian identity. I have made the acquaintance of enough proud Newfoundlanders or Quebecans to know not to start throwing around the C word!

Whilst there appeared to be some nerves at the outset of the bands performance, following Adult Diversity both band and audience had found an excitable and relaxed equilibrium and by the end of Next of Kin the grin on the face of lead singer Molly Rankin was contagious as the rest of the band exchanged equally impressed looks.

Crowd pleaser The Agency Group is followed by a new track, giving the crowd a taster of what is to come.

Ones Who Love You and Dives, provide a mellower atmosphere but no less of a crowd response. These are followed by Atop a Cake, which appears to have garnered a certain status among Alvvays fans. That is if the excited looks I saw on a few audience members faces mouthing “Atop a Cake” is anything to go by.

Throughout the show the band remained animated, and exchanges with the audience continued to be consistently amusing.

Underneath Us preceded the epic and spine-tingling Party Police, for me the standout track of the album and of the evening. An emotive track in which it was clear a large majority of the young crowd could relate to.

New Haircut, another new track feels like a teenage anthem. Perhaps their next big hitter. But for the time being the evening ended with the track that started it all, Archie, Marry Me.  

That is until the encore of Red Planet, performed solo by Molly. Whether the lyrics are describing Mars or referencing exotic (to the UK audience at least) and bleak landscapes of Nova Scotia, I’m unsure. I can say however that the crowd loved it.

The rest of the group returned on stage to finish the night with a bang, with a cover of Kirsty MacColl’s He’s on the Beach.

Without presuming too much I’ll take their off the cuff oil related comment from mid-way through the gig as a declaration of intent. Watch out tar sands, there is competition for the title of Canada’s biggest export!


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Review: Me and My Kites – Is It Real, Or Is It Made?

Experiential, optimistic, magical. Three words to describe the sound created by Me and My Kites.

When I first heard the groups debut, Like a Dream Back Then (2013), I felt it went some way to filling that Incredible String Band shaped hole in my life which began to appear after devouring their entire discography. A somewhat bold comparison, but when listening they are able to blend the perfect amount of the personal, philosophical and whimsical as the aforementioned (though perhaps somewhat more secular and less laden with eastern mysticism etc.) without it sounding, well… bad. Fortunately, with the Me and My Kites, this is never even close to the case. Each musician brings a charm and professionalism to the music.

Though a core group of six, Me and My Kites give an impression rather of an inviting community. With many accompanying musicians acknowledged here and on their debut. At the forefront of this are David Svedmyr and Lisa Isaksson who alternate or share vocal responsibilities.

Whereas the debut opener Back When I Came conjured dark shades of purples with its spiralling organs, backward guitar and nods to early Pink Floyd, Psychjuntan is made of brighter oranges, yellows and greens, though laced with melancholy.

“I always hope to get there; I’ll show you when we get there; I’m pretty sure we’ll stay here; I always hope to get there” suggests a search for more mystical realms.

Psychjuntan is the most overtly psychedelic of the tracks on this album, with nods to sixties hippy culture. Lyrical themes of the personal and of reference to the self, self-discovery and journeying through landscapes of the mind, and the pristine landscapes of Gaia, highlight a psychedelic angle throughout. Here it is the closing mantra “Let the long-time sun shine upon you; And the light within you guide you home” which conjures the most explicit reference (See also A Very Cellular Song for a tenuous Incredible String Band reference).

Say It’s Real has a much more 70s proggy folk sound. An unsurprising influence, as the band take their name from Me and My Kite, by 70s British prog band Fuschia (The band also recently recorded a version of Fuschia’s The Band with Tony Durant from the former  released on Fruits der Mer Records).

Eternally optimistic, flute and clapping accompany Lisa’s upbeat insistent “Say that it’s real”. In true communal spirit, the clappers (and in one case cooker) are acknowledged on the back of the album.

Porcelain has a similarly proggy vibe about it, though at times feels like it could be about to mirror the Beatles at their most optimistic and psychedelic. The story of a girl, living in her “dream like mind”, presumably looks something like the video the band created for the track.

Call De San Pedro begins with a more traditional folk instrumentation and balladry. In the same vein as Caravello Parallello from the debut, it follows the theme of travel, freedom and relaxation.

Happy, Then Crying, is a dizzying personal trip, sang by David. Hide Away/Tonight!/Turn With the Tide/Tilbaka Till Psychjuntan sung by David and Lisa seems to follow on from this. It leads from the melancholic though to the positive in a four part piece.

More epic and indulgent than the previous, in the final part of the track Tilbaka Till Psychjuntan the group return to the theme of Psychjuntan, this time however with greater instrumentation and impressionistic flourishes of harp, bass, vocal and mellotron. Though using the listeners mind as the canvas, in a similar vein the Impressionist painters, the world created here and throughout the album, acts as a social commentary only through its absence of explicit social commentary outside of the personal. Of the everyday stresses and pressures of a fast paced lifestyle, of globalisation and greed we hear nothing. Opting for lush pastures of colour, the group paint an idealistic picture of the world; though I suspect it may be a reality for the group when hidden away in the idyllic Swedish countryside.

In Narcissus there is a glimmer of paganistic reverie in its mythological lyricism. Though not by any explicit reference, I was reminded of the cosmogonical musings of Maypole, from the Wicker Man soundtrack. If said film were to be remade on a Swedish island, replacing bad harvest with years of bounty, then Me and My Kites could surely provide the perfect soundtrack.

Closer, Common Life ends the album with a lengthy 10 minute composition, slowly building up to an excellent jam, with multiple peaks and troughs, though ending on a more sombre note.

Through a combination of the groups sound and the albums accompanying imagery, it is difficult not to conjure up a picture of pristine landscapes.

Here on the album the band create a similar space for the listener. Free, from time, stress and pressure, if only for a brief moment. The album provides a pleasant place for consideration and consolidation.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sikth – The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out, Wait For Something Wild: Exactly what we were waiting for

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Like many, this was the feeling I experienced following the dissolution of technical metal pioneers Sikth in 2008. I guess the world was just not ready for their unique blend of… well almost everything. Unfairly, the band was criminally overlooked during their prime years. Only now, with numerous pretenders attempting to usurp their crown do we realise their profound influence and importance. I have always regarded Sikth as being almost pivotal to my transcendence into adulthood and not just because I lost my virginity after one of their concerts (a story for a different blog) but because they were the first band I listened to that was genuinely regarded as experimental. Ultimately one of the first bands that would help define my now eclectic musical preferences.
I remember first hearing the single How May I Help You? in 2002. My naïve and dismissive musical taste at the time was more acclimatised to anything that would justify my ghastly fashion sense. The music was too complex; the songs had no structure, the vocals too weird. Back then I preferred music I could understand, so to speak. Not having any kind of knowledge regarding instrumentation or musical terminology I could not fully appreciate the complexity and therefore difficulty of what I was listening to. The Trees Are Dead... was my subsequent musical enlightenment, after this I could appreciate what I may have previously remarked as ‘noise.’
In 2003 no one was making music like Sikth. Sikth could well have even been the name of the genre; they were unrivalled in their field. Fast forward ten years and suddenly they have helped inspire a whole new sub-genre despite being inactive during the time. Personally, I only see the influence in guitar tone and inventive use of time signatures, Sikth operate on a much higher level of understanding. Their lyrics can be thought-provoking, conscientious, dark, and even humorous at times and their albums showcase a wider range of influences and genre-bending technical prowess
Twelve years ago today, their now landmark album The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out, Wait For Something Wild was released. What follows is a retrospective into one of the most important albums in the history of British metal.

Admit it; we were all waiting for something wild, in the early 2000’s British metal was growing increasingly stale. We had already demonstrated that we could not quite grasp the ludicrously popular Nu Metal trend, forced down our throats by those domineering Americans. We had Hell is for Heroes and Hundred Reasons reclaiming back some credibility for more conventional rock, but our selection of home grown metal was disappointingly sparse. Sikth emerged from London in the early 2000’s. Their first release, Let the Transmitting Begin was merely a taste of what was due. It was a chaotic and brief expression of the bands talent. Mikee Goodman’s schizophrenic vocals somehow fitted perfectly with Justin Hill’s melodic interjections. Guitarists, Dan Weller and Graham Pinney certainly knew their way around a fret board and the accompanying rhythm section of Dan Foord and James Leach took the technical complexity to much higher level than anything we’d heard previous.
The band followed up their debut release with another EP titled How May I Help You? Besides the more, conventionally structured Suffice, the EP demonstrated an increasingly experimental approach including a unique take on Nick Cave’s Tupelo. It was around this time the band first came to my attention with the accompanying video for How May I Help You? The quirky computer generated video somehow complemented the bizarrely structured song inspired by a short story written by Goodman. I had not heard anything resembling music like this before, yet I was curiously drawn to the band, completely intrigued by their approach to song writing and keen for more. In the days following the release of The Trees Are Dead… having had my expectations comprehensively destroyed, I realised I had now discovered one of my all time favourite albums. Not only was it the catalyst in my search for similar sounding music, but it made everything I had previously been listening to seem juvenile. Win, win. 

The Trees Are Dead… commences as a misleadingly conventional metal affair. Opener Scent Of The Obscene showcases James Leech's almost funk influenced bass style before leading into the trademark poetry inspired verses of Goodman and the melodic choruses of Hill. The song draws on themes of hypocrisy and behavioural ambiguity, calling out those prepared to subjugate others for their own gain.  
Through intelligent lyrics the theme of addressing a higher cause is continued with Pussyfoot which highlights the monotony and subservience of modern day society. Twelve years on, this song is even more relevant as English culture has transgressed even further into a bland, self obsessed amalgamation of fashion victims and celebrity idolisers. Pussyfoot reminds me of the lyrical themes emphasized by Tools song Ænima, which was itself inspired by the political commentary of Bill Hicks. Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan wrote Ænima in response to his disillusionment regarding the superficiality of Los Angeles. Keenan insists that society has become so complacent that a catastrophic event is the only thing that could elevate humanity to higher understanding, essentially wiping the slate clean and starting over.

Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call L.A.
The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.
Any fucking time. Any fucking day.
Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay.

Pussyfoot is similar both thematically and lyrically,

You see,
You're all the same,
Dirty, fuckers gone insane,
Hope there's an earthquake and it swallows all evil.

However, Goodman focuses more on the role of the mass media in influencing its population, referring to the controlling medium as ‘Fashion Fuckers’ and unlike Ænima there is a small hint of optimism in the lyrics calling for society to become more self aware and to disregard tradition. Ultimately, Pussyfoot is offering you a choice… enlightenment or enslavement.

Hold My Finger tackles the subject of sexuality in a metaphysical sense and argues there can be more to a relationship than just the physical elements. It questions the stereotype that predominantly regards the male as the one who overemphasizes the importance of sex. Here Goodman and Hill embody the stereotypically female preoccupations with feelings and emotion. The characters within the song have their traditional roles reversed. The male desires company and sentimental conversation, whilst the female merely wants sex.

Can we not chill, go to sleep with my arms around you?
But then you scream and your right.
I should be there for you.
So now I try, check my pulse to make sure I'm alive.
Sorry chick I cant get in
That Mood now!

Goodman’s lyrics have thus far challenged the listener to embrace transparency and negate conformity. With Skies Of Millennium Night, the theme is as indisputable as the message.
Skies of Millennium Night is a politically charged technical metal anthem which perfectly defines the duelling vocalist approach the band adopts. Lyrically, the song serves as follow up to Pussyfoot. As previously mentioned Pussyfoot highlights the greed and consumerism from an individual perspective and how combined mass media and laziness can create a culture of materialistic clones. Skies… exemplifies this from a global perspective and ultimately, defames humanities impact on the world from both an ecological and ethical viewpoint.
The song once again references Bill Hicks who was infamous for his politically charged social commentary and outright rejection of consumer culture but also his disgust at humanities ignorance towards its own kind.

Thousands suffer, we sleep, they starve, we eat.
Instead of fighting, why not feed & cloth the poor?

This makes reference to humanities preoccupation with power and the constant, costly wars that occur as a result. In most modern wars nations have engaged in conflict primarily for territory and resources. Ultimately all it condenses to is simply greed. Just as the individual wants more and more, so do ‘The Minds of Power.’
Goodman calls for us to ‘Look at the sky.’ In doing so we can both appreciate the natural world and consequently realise just how insignificant we are. The night sky and its seamless infinity poses more questions than we could ever comprehend, yet instead the majority is more preoccupied with self importance and gain. Dan Weller’s poignant tribute to his friend Emerson (Pt.1) gives you a brief moment to reflect on what you have just heard.

Perhaps the most drastic departure to the albums style is Peep Show. The song is as close to conventional song structure as Sikth get and is notable for being the sole song that Justin Hill serves as lead vocalist. This maybe a controversial opinion amongst long time Sikth fans, but Peep Show has always been my favourite song from the album. For all the previously addressed societal issues, unfortunately there is little we can do as individuals, especially with different opinions and different concerns. Peep Show addresses the biggest change we can make is to ourselves. 

 Let’s get all personal for a moment. In the linear notes Justin Hill explains that Peep Show was written in regards to people who involve themselves in the lives of others. My own interpretation lead me to realise that I was too involved in my own life to even consider the lives of others. As an arrogant and opinionated teenager, I often alienated myself through inconsiderate actions and an elevated sense of superiority. All it took was for a former acquaintance to point out the similarities between the lyrics and my own behaviours to create an overpowering sense of realisation.  It was too late for the relationship but I began the following liaison with a much more considerate approach. And in the end, what’s been achieved? Self discovery. 

Mikee Goodman’s poetic origins begin the increasingly experimental second half of the album. Wait For Something Wild serves as an ode to a failing relationship, the characters within the song seemingly waiting for ‘something wild’ to reignite their connection, when regrettably, it is unlikely to happen. The finality emphasized by Goodman’s Mike Patton-esque vocal breakdown that leads out the song, simultaneously channeling despair, anger and repentance.

Whilst Wait For Something Wild characterises the ending of a relationship, If You Weren’t So Perfect examines the beginnings. Goodman has stated the song is about confusing love with lust and the emotional turmoil it can invariably cause.

Sucked me in.
With Just three words,
These three words.

The three words in question are ‘I love you’ yet, with only alluding to them within the lyrics, the theme of confusion is exaggerated. Love can lead to obsession, hence the titles reference to perfection, but also to paranoia, especially if it is unrequited.

In comparison, love makes no discernible reference within Such The Fool. The song is once again an attack towards the transgressions of societal morality. Featuring lyrics deemed too vulgar to be reprinted within the inlays, Such The Fool details a promiscuous character devoid of any understanding of consequence. Here Goodman displays his ability to proficiently confront serious issues in a humorous manner.

May as well strap an advert to your back saying,
Fuck Me, Free Disease, Stupefied Bitch,
Open Legs, Insert Quick,
Philosophy of a slut.

With Such The Fool we feel no pity for character as they refuse to acknowledge they are doing any wrong. Instead we laugh and wait for the resounding and inevitable told-you-so’s, or at least I do. Maybe due to the alarming number of ‘fools’ I’ve had the displeasure of knowing over the years.

The album ends with the spoken word poetry of Goodman on When Will The Forest Speak…? The poem makes reference to the over-industrialisation of the world and contains numerous metaphorical allusions to nature having a voice, unfortunately, a voice that cannot be heard over humanities.

I had the immense pleasure of being there for Sikth’s reformation concert at Download Festival in 2014. Not only did manage to catch Dan Loord’s drumstick with my face, but like many I realised just how important the band was to me. You could tell by the looks on the bands faces, staring out across the expansive crowd that maybe they didn’t realise how important they were either? Or how much they were missed? The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out, Wait For Something Wild is quite simply one of the greatest British metal albums of all time. Way ahead of its time and highly influential.  The band is back and rejuvenated, now we wait for something wilder…