Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Membranes & Friends Live At The Ritz 29th April 2017

After a pre show drink in The Solsbury I ambled over towards The Ritz for this interesting event that has been on my must see list for a while. I arrive inside the venue when the first lot of heads are arriving. A lot of old school punks are already here and the atmosphere is probably one of the friendliest I've seen for a while. A lot of old friends meeting up for a great gig with bands new and old in the line up. First band on are a late addition to the line up and obviously John Robb saw the potential in them. The Empty Page are a treat. I feel like I've been transported back to the early nineties when the likes of the Riot Grrll movement was up and running. They start the evening with Cracks in The Surface which reminds me of an early Manchester I knew called Solar Race. Wardrobe Malfunction comes across with a Hole / Babes In Toyland vibe juggling with Kim Gordon. They only play five songs but totally impress and the brilliant Deeply Unlovable with it's Breeders feel wins over the early punters. A band destined to be big. 
Next up are a band I've been told to keep an eye on due to their incendiary live performances. They hit the stage and belt into Gotta Get Through which has a grungy Doors feel to it. The guitarist manages to break a string straight away which tells you how hard he is playing. 84 reminds me of The Arctic Monkeys for some reason and goes down great with the punters. Ramona Flowers is a cracking tune and brings back the Doors comparisons with it's grungy blues tones. They blast through their set with confidence and stage madness. Their last song Brutus is fucking brilliant. The two guitarists totally assault the drummer with a mass guitar attack which leaves me gobsmacked! Another band with big ambitions.

Dubsex need no introduction. They are that great lost Manchester band fronted by the brilliant Mark Hoyle and do a set for the original fans of the band who followed them back in the day. He howls his way through the tunes with his gesticulating mannerisms mimicking the drum beats and guitar riffs throughout. They have that unique Manc sound off to a tee showing flavours of Joy Division, New Order and A Certain Ratio to their own talent. Their white noise punk sound enthralls the crowd and they end their set with the corking Tripwire to a great applause.
Same goes for the next band The Nightingales. Hailing from Birmingham in the lates seventies they are still as relevant now as they ever were. Fliis the drummer deserves an accolade for her excellent drumming style which is the backbone of the band. Robert Lloyd is funny as fuck. He is like a cross between Elvis Costello and Jarvis Cocker and very entertaining. They have a few belters in their set including Dumb And Drummer which is a standout track. Real Gone Daddy sounds great as does Divorce That Never Was and Too Posh To Push as the closer. Definitely a band I'm glad have reformed and look forward to seeing them again.

Evil Blizzard are not right. They are wrong. They want the crowd to hate them. They really do. But it doesn't work. We actually fucking love them. They come on stage to a massive applause in their weird outfits. You have Blizzpig wielding his machete, Filthy Dirty x 2, Prowler and Side being not normal. Sacrifice kicks off the set with it's menacing punk prog sound hitting you in the face like an evil cult. Stupid People is awesome and the 4 pronged bass machine with the added drum assault sorts your head right out. Early stuff from their debut album is next and just gets the place jumping. Slimy Creatures is brilliant, especially when Filthy Dirty brings out his doll with a theremin in it! Funny as fuck!! They end the set with the amazing Are You Evil which whets everyone's appetites for the last two bands. Evil Blizzard are a unique phenomenon and I'm not surprised they are signed to LTW!

I have always been a massive Fall fan and Brix was on some of their best albums. She comes on stage all glittered up and ready to pack a punch like a 2017 Blondie. Something To Lose marks the set with brilliance and she punches the air like a prize fighter who has just retained the title. Put it one way, I wouldn't like a scrap with her! They air a new song tonight Valentino and it goes down really well with everyone. The Fall stuff gets an air tonight too with US 80's getting the Brix treatment to great effect. Sometimes it's like watching a Fall revival with the best members when they were at their prime. Fair play to Brix for pulling this off and remaining a true talent. A great set to remember and an integral part to the whole event!

And so it ends but begins. The homecoming show for John Robb's excellent Membranes comeback. Whilst writing this review I've been listening to the excellent boxset and highly recommend it to anyone into the post punk scene. I was too young when they were first around so never discovered them until my late teens. The new album pushes the boundaries in experimentation and live they are a wonder to behold. They come onto the stage and start off with the dynamic The Universe Explodes. The backdrop film is amazing as is the accompanying BIMM Choir who add to the punk sound of John and the band. I can't believe how energetic John is. He is like a dynamo running up and down the stage as if he is still a teenager! Dark Energy is a great tune with hints of Joy Division brewed like a teabag in a Membranes mug. Do The Supernova does the supernova and has everyone moshing at the front. Space Junk is fucking great as is In The Graveyard. The Hum Of The Universe is probably my favourite track off the album and comes across as classic with the choir in full voice and the brilliant backdrop. I've only just started listening to the back catalogue and in all honesty didn't realise that the last song was Myths & Legends! Still brilliant though. Welcome back to a great band who have reinvented themselves for a new audience to enjoy! A great night and I hope this becomes a yearly event to showcase old and new talent as it has tonight.

Cabbage Live At The Academy 2 April 28th.

The Mossley boys are back and have upped their game even more since I last saw them live at Gorilla. The room is packed with new fans and old waiting in anticipation to see where they go next. They certainly don't disappoint entering the stage to mass applause. Lee is cheekily dressed in North Korean uniform which gives me a chuckle and Joe looks the part of the punk rock guitarist he should. They launch the gig with an excellent duo of Uber Capitalist Death Trade and Necroflat In The Palace which immediately gets the room bouncing and I swear the security up front are shitting themselves for a stage invasion. Indispensable Pencil is as excellent as ever and then Lee announces to the audience the introduction of a new song which has a similar vibe to Gibraltor Ape and goes down well. Joe takes over on vocals for the next few songs including the Excellent Dinner Lady and Lee strips of as usual going topless for the rest of the night. It's Grim Up North Korea still remains my favourite Cabbage tune and the crowd sing along loudly. Gibraltor Ape gets the crowd moshing at the front as does Fickle with it's Mondays like rhythm. They calm down a bit with Because You're Worth It then launch into the ever brilliant Kevin for the closer as they don't do encores. They just seem to get better and better every gig. A band that can't be pigeonholed and are still rising. Everyone needs to see Cabbage live at least once in their life to witness a band that seemed to start off as a bunch of yound lads having a laugh but have the potential to become one of THE Manchester bands to join that famous list of greats. Bring on The Ritz!!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Membranes Part 2l

Like a dickhead I forgot to mention that The Membranes are performing a quality gig at The Ritz in two weeks today. Choir on stage, top line up involved including gems of the moment!!  Any proper music fan should be there!!!

John Robb & The Membranes

What can I say about John Robb? I first met him when my band Fruit Tumor sent him a demo tape in the hope he'd produce our first single. The reason I sent him a demo was due to the fact that he was a great journalist with a down to earth roots attitude and would put his name on anything he personally liked. He must have liked our demo because he produced our single which went on to sell about 800 copies!! John was born in Fleetwood in 1961 and was a Blackpool lad with big ambitions. He formed The Membranes in 1977 with Mark Tilton, Martyn Critchley and Martin Kelly. Critchely left early on and they recruited "Coofy Sid" on drums. Their first tune was a flexi disc called The Flexible Membrene in 1980. Their first single was Muscles which got the interest of John Peel and the rest of the music press. They were almost signed to Creation Records (Ride, Oasis, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine to name a few!) but Alan McGee was skint at the time. The band released Spike Milligans Tape Recorder on the Criminal Damage label and received the privilege of reaching number six in John Peel's Festive 50. I don't want to blind you with science (boom boom!) but they went on to release 6 albums but the brilliant Kiss Ass Godhead produced by the legendary Steve Albini was the one for me! Inbetween John released shitloads of albums with his band Goldblade who were described as "punk rock hooligan blues" They had a big following everywhere and were miles away from the Membranes sound but still punk in every way.

  In 2009 The Membranes were asked to reform to play All Tomorrow Parties festival held at Butlins and curated by My Bloody Valentine. The resulting album Dark Matter Dark Energy was a massive return to form and remains one of my new favourite albums. Some of the tracks are pure magic. The opening track The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light is amazing. As is Do The Supernova, Space Junk, In The Graveyard, If You Enter The Arena..., 21st Century Man (an apt song about John?) Hail To The Lovers and more. An album everyone should own. The influences on it are wide open. Punk prog rock, Wire, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Big Black, My Bloody Valentine, The Fall, the list goes on. The band are just oozing with originality that only John can create with his mine of knowledge.
Inner Space / Outer Space ups the game further. The first track is remixed by James Dean Bradfield (Manics) and is totally reworked into something The MS Preachers would be proud to release. The other tracks have been dubbed up, industrialised and reinvented to make an excellent play on the original album. Reverend And The Makers have even turned Space Junk into a dubstep classic!!

Away from this John Robb has been a massive influence in my music adventures. Producing Fruit Tumor, meeting my sons and saying hello at a Sonic Boom Six gig, introducing me to Cabbage and a lot of other bands I would have never discovered without his music magazine / website Louder Than War which makes the NME (who are now the biggest pile of shit I have ever read) look like a second rate Sun. His music and his approachable attitude to all music lovers out there. He deserves some kind of music award for his dedicated hard work and service to music. An inspiration is too low an estimation to this music icon. I could say more about him but you all know how to use Google. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Ian Brown Era

Before I start this piece I will state that I never saw The Stone Roses live. Loved the debut album but my life was different when it was released so never got the chance. Missed Spike Island and all that shit that goes with the monkey walking flare wearing Manc crowd. I did however get back on the scene during the release of My Star which was Ian Browns debut single. The album that followed Unfinished Monkey Business was fuckin brilliant. It was recorded so lo-fi and sounded ace when I first heard it.
It was a big fuck off to John Squire and established Ian as an artist in his own right. He recruited Aziz Ibrahim and Robbie Maddox and proved he was able to go the distance in the Manc music scene. As most Ian fans know he ended up in Strangeways for a bit for a daft offence on a plane which I and many have totally disputed. He wrote a fuckin crackin song  whilst in there for his album Golden Greats which totally upped his game.
After this I got a bit of shock on all scales! My mums sister Shirley died of cancer and I ended up at the funeral as you do with loved ones. I got talking to my cousin Rob (Maxi)  asking how he was doing. He told me he was playing drums for people and me being curious asked who for. When he told me he was drumming for Ian Brown my reaction was "Fuck off Rob" but it was true. What really fucked me off was that he was the drummer for Audioweb before this and I had seen them about three times not realising my cousin was the drummer!! He told me if I ever wanted a guest list for future gigs I was there.
Before I knew Maxi was his drummer I watched Ian at HMV on Market Street in town after my mate queued up for tickets at 5 in the morning. Next stop was Delamere Forest. Me and my mate camped out at a farmhouse 3 miles away and had to walk through the forest which was a great laugh! we got to the gig and met up with my uncle and another cousin Dave. We had backstage passes and sat with Ian's mum before the gig having a few beers. Ian came over and was ace. Considering how big he was he never shown it like some musicians do when they get a bit of credit. The most down to earth person I have ever met backstage. A credit to punters who want to meet their idols and end up meeting a jumped up dickhead!!
I got a copy of this album way before it was out and played it to death. Ian went hip hop on this one but also kept to his indie roots. During this time I was backstage at The Academy, Derby, Blackpool Empress Ballroom, you name it. My son and my partners son have met him and had their pictures taken with him without any fuss. He even started saying "Alright Wayne" after a bit! I've always liked his solo stuff and hope he does something else but The Roses will always be important to the people who were affected and I'm glad he has made it up with John Squire and the rest of the band. A genuinely great bloke who has kept a level head not letting fame affect him!! We salute you Ian!!
A big thank you to Maxi and my uncle Fred for the privilege of meeting this great bloke and music legend!!