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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Pierre La Rouge – Men or Machines EP – review

One-man band singer songwriter is a difficult genre to pull off. Many who adopt that particular slice of the music industry end up grating viciously on the nerves or are simply boring, bland and samey. On the other hand, many others attempting a left of field position as a solo male artist pale into obscurity and struggle to get the recognition they deserve. Few manage to achieve the Holy Grail that is a careful balance of widespread recognition and critical acclaim.

So it is refreshing to hear Pierre la Rouge aka Pete Austin’s brand of acoustic indie, laden with metaphoric and meaningful lyrics.

Unsigned and largely an unknown quantity, the three-tracked EP, Men or Machines is his first offering to the music gods and only time can tell whether this is his Jose Gonzalez Veneer-style launch pad. But one thing is for sure, the EP proves he has the calibre to crack it.

Pierre La Rouge's EP sleeve

Pierre La Rouge's EP sleeve

‘Let Love Begin’ is a knowing tale of love missing the mark – an up tempo yet soft track with a mature melody, steady strumming guitars, changing speeds and a hint of electronics in the background. But it is the dulcet vocals of Pierre that are the stand out here and thoroughly convince the listener that he is no bedroom mirror performer – he means to stay.

With an echo of Jeff Buckley about ‘Devil With an Angel’s Smile’, the sound is stripped down to acoustic guitar and artist, so that the silences between the plucked intro which becomes the main riff are punctuated and noticeable. This serves to compliment and emphasise the vocal, leaving lines such as “He’s a lover but a killer to, he did it all but he did it all for you,“ etched in your head.

Finally, a rough cut of ‘Kiss Beneath the Pier’ tells an almost but not quite yet-style story of longing – the guitar riffs really feel like background to the story, as once again melancholic lyrics and vocals become the focus.

This is a really beautiful, heartfelt start, with lyrics that plunge to depths most bubblegum acts in the cutthroat music business can only dream of. Pierre la Rouge’s organic first offering certainly doesn’t leave him red faced.

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Hockey @ Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Friday 25th September 2009

With a bit of imagination, the hazy smoke-machine induced fog that hung over Hockey’s Nottingham Bodega Social Club leg of their tour could have given the gig a touch of Stars In Their Eyes about it. The American four-piece resembled a handful of artists throughout the set, some with frightening, albeit unwitting accuracy.

In reality, whilst Hockey are described as new rave soulsters, they have melting pot of styles and influences which occasionally stray over the lines into the territories of the likes of Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi. But it is only when they stick to their original musical definition that they really hit the musical nail on the head.

This touch of negativity perhaps belies the true story. After all, the band has notched up rave reviews in the music press and even at the Bodega, the crowd seemed to be perfectly happy with the gig, showing approval at their more upbeat disco-infiltrated grooves and soulful melodies with wiggling hips and gentle bops.  

Yet to honest ears, three or four of the tracks ever so slightly whiffed of clichéd American rock, showing that there are a few flies in the Hockey ointment that could do with being picked out.

Main support, Little Comets prepared the way with a fusion of indie pop which brought a smile to everyone’s faces, as did the blue rope suspended across the stage from which their percussion instruments hung

Then Hockey kicked off with ‘Work’, a brooding and soulful track tinged with beats and lyrics which spoke of woe at the daily 9am to 5pm grind. Faint comparisons can and have been drawn with the throb of LCD Soundsystem and The Strokes, because of lead singer, Benjamin Grubin’s American drawled vocals – but don’t let that be the measuring stick, because as yet, that bar is set too high.

Launching into ‘Learn to Lose’ the mood was still up tempo and Hockey’s funk-punk combo with a peppering of “du du du’s”, a catchy guitar solo across the bridge and the sing-a-long chorus of “Oh I’ve got to learn to lose for a while” are inspired – in a roller disco 70s kind of way.

3 am Spanish, Curse This City and Wanna Be Black, were definitely a bit more appealing on the album Mind Chaos, as the subtlety seemed to be lost live. Nevertheless, all had that same lyrical witticism and danceable, likeable quality about them.

But when Hockey took off their skates and dropped the funk, they lost their initial charm and started to sound like something else, something less individual. On Four Holy Photos, the image of Benjamin sat on a stool in the middle of the stage with an acoustic guitar, harmonica, country-esque harmonies and half-sung half-talked fast paced lyrics was too Bob Dylan for words. His impression was second to none.

Song Away adopted a cringe worthy Bon Jovi style chorus and the slow ballad of Everyone’s The Same Age went down a similar road.

Luckily they stepped up a few notches with another of the album’s highlights, Too Fake, with that same effortless purr of the drums, guitars and vocals declaring, “Look out, I’ve got too much soul for the world!”

Everything was polished off nicely with Put The Game Down – a tune adding a little more fuel to the fire of comparisons with The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas’ vocals.

Hockey’s Bodega appearance mirrored many a first time experience of seeing a band. At times they impressed, at times they bewildered and down right grated, but nevertheless this was a good gig. It’s what you’d get if you crossed a DJ set from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy with his disco-tinged grooves, a bit of soul from the likes of James Brown, together with husky softer rock vocals. Which is why on the whole it works well; sometimes it’s even inspired, but occasionally it’s a bit too pedestrian and familiar.

Hockey @ Nottingham Bodega

Hockey @ Nottingham Bodega (Apologies for the rubbish pic - rubbish phone camera + smoke = poor photo)

 

Filed under: gig review, , , ,

The Longcut ‘Open Hearts’ – review

The Longcut, Open Hearts

The Longcut, Open Hearts

The Longcut were once tipped to be the next darlings of Manchester. Formed in 2002, the trio leaked a slow trickle of records beginning with Transitions in 2004, which led to significant column inches in the musical press, critical acclaim and enough hype to put them at the top table with big up and coming indie names like The Killers, Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs who all released debuts that year.

Although the band’s follow up EP, A Quiet Life was released in June 2005, there was never enough of The Longcut’s material consistently around at the time to break down the door of the busy music scene. Thus, their brooding tunes never quite reached boiling point in the eyes of the public, nor did they cement any kind of commercial success. And when the debut album A Call And Response eventually landed in June 2006, by then, as good as it was, the wave of widespread recognition they were set to ride on had subsided.

Now, three years on that perhaps wasn’t a bad thing, as Open Hearts serves as an emphatic reminder of just how good The Longcut are. I mean, this is seriously seriously good music.

True to form, messers Stuart Ogilvie, Lee Gale and Jon Fearon took their time with the record and have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with one of the most exciting albums of 2009.

Out At The Roots is a heavy bass guitar laden opener cautioning ‘You cannot say we didn’t warn you, you should have listened when you could’. With shades of UNKLE, it builds into a moody track with measured beats which underline the whole album, setting the scene for this musical diary which documents just what The Longcut have been up to.

There are echoes of The Rapture on Something Inside and Ogilvie’s detached, disinterested sounding vocals fit perfectly, as do the minor notes of the piano. Tell You So is delivered with an equal measure of brilliance and raw edged guitars.

Evil Dance is a menacing, sublime track starting with Muse sounding beats and guitars, but with a depth and quality they could only dream of. The shouted lyrics, “I thought that I was lost and I was scared as hell, I’m happy I was wrong” together with that same mesmerising pulse and scratch make it a highlight.

To be truthful there is not a low point amongst the eleven. You Can Always Have More, Mary Bloody Sunshine and Boom are soaring melodic post-rock sounding offerings, whilst Open Hearts has more than a hint of Stone Roses vocals combined with a soft drum machine. Another gem is Repeated, with its layer upon layer of beats, instruments and guitars which build to a spine tingling crescendo woven with the lyrics “I’ll be by your side”, vouching for the band’s softer side.

The Last Ones Here is the sign off – a track not dissimilar in formula to a Chemical Brothers’ closing offering, starting with soft lyrics and building before the final curtain call.

Open Hearts can best be described as a soundtrack to a drive through pelting rain and wind across the Pennines on the M62 towards Manchester – it is awe inspiring, beautiful and bewildering all at the same time. After all, the album is an atmospheric homecoming of sorts for the Northern trio. And importantly, it is definitive justification for the early prophetics of future brilliance the band received at their outset.

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