Ruth's Manuvas


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

The Death Set: Michel Poiccard – album review

The Death Set - Michel Poiccard

The Death Set’s punchy collection of 17-tracks is as much a schizophrenic celebration of musical styles as it is an obituary to a curtailed life.

After losing Beau Velasco to a drugs overdose in September 2009, you might have expected remaining protagonist, Johnny Spiera to lose momentum. Instead, through Michel Poiccard he has reformed The Death Set into a trio, who collectively, have created a dizzying concoction of genres and styles.

I Wanna Take This Tape And Blow Up Ya Fuckin’ Stereo is a five-second mark of intent for the Aussie-rooted America-based band’s 17 tracks. Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap feels like the punk offspring of The Prodigy, but much of the album is deeply rooted in early Beastie Boys’ hardcore, punk-influenced, hip hop sounds. Can You Seen Straight? Illustrates that, but adds a touch of The Go! Team’s double Dutch choruses and garage rock.

A Problem Is A Problem It Don’t Matter Where Your From and Too Much Fun For Regrets, run in that same frenetic vein amongst power pop and electro beats, only showing a tendency for cathartic lyrics.

The whole album is laced with memories for the former band member – We Are Going Anywhere Man is pitched amidst Tokyo Police Club-esque drawling vocals and mellow keyboard riffs. And Velasco’s ghostly, tongue-in-cheek nonsensicals are looped with art-installation instruments on Is That A French Dog?

I Miss You Beau Velasco, one of the best – and notably the longest – tracks of the collection, is a post punk beauty with piercing keyboard loops and echoing vocals. More blissed-out sadness swallowing riffs appear on 7PM Woke Up An Hour Ago, during which SpankRock appears as guest.

Michel Poiccard ranges from jangling memorable indie to metal rock – but the trio aren’t afraid of electronic touches to lift the mood and keep the music more party than circle pit. There are even instances where they teasingly pause at Public Enemy, before jumping back on their more characteristic high octane, hardcore punk, hip hop train.

There’s no doubt things have changed for Spiera since album, Worldwide, was released in 2008. In fact, a lot of the tracks on Michel Poiccard do feel like a cleansing process for him to get over and make sense of what happened, moving on with his new band mates.

What this record lacks in brilliance and cohesion, it makes up for in gusto. But then that’s always been the same for The Death Set. In fact, the album’s chameleon quality ends up being just the thing that makes it so appealing; especially during the pit-of-the-stomach, saddening album closer, Is It The End? In fact, by virtue the last track sitting in such stark, depressive contrast to the rest, Spiera probably accidentally, but definitely effectively, makes you want to skip back to the start – an analogy for the underlying feelings he  gives away over Beau Velasco.


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The Joy Formidable: Leicester O2 Academy 2 – Sunday 13 February


Matt, Ritzy, and Rhydian

With the build up to The Joy Formidable’s debut album and first headline tour lasting longer than the entire shelf life of some bands, this push could’ve been mistimed. But the threesome’s immaculate maelstrom of noise at Leicester’s O2 Academy 2 shows their ‘Big Roar’ hasn’t arrived even a moment too late.

Fairy lights and chimes acted as a clever disguise for The Ever Changing Spectrum of a Lie’s wall of sound that hit. If reactions to this and the other new tracks on debut album, The Big Roar had been muted at first, opinions were overturned after only a few seconds of see-sawing guitars, spat out, diction-perfect lyrics, and rib cage-shaking drums.

Chilling cackles introduced blistering paced, The Magnifying Glass – a track with complexities that exposed how tight the band has become – both musically and personally. The grumbling bass and familiar chorus of “aaahhhh aah ahh”s introduced Austere, which although delivered with polish didn’t spoil the band’s personality, as they reacted to the crowd’s ecstasy with bemused grins.

A clattering typewriter beat introduced the grunge of Chapter 2, softened by sound effects and half-whispered verses, before the force of Ritzy Brian’s chorus almost forced the body to leave its skin.

I Don’t Want to See You Like This encapsulates the essence that makes The Joy Formidable so irresistible – simple melodies that mask the difficulty of making a track that is both instantly memorable, yet good enough to endure. Tightly coiled riffs contrasted with Ritzy’s beautifully soulful repeated pleading of the track title over and over again, her expressions hid beneath the blonde bob.

Rhydian Dafydd’s Mansun-esque voice served Greyhounds in the Slips, during which a pregnant pause prepped the way for shouts to exclaim, “29, 29 equals gone!”, producing a moment you’d like to box up to take home. Perhaps more gloriously, an echoed guitar loop paved the way for drummer, Matt Thomas, to deliver a complex, eye-watering drum roll section that required visual proof to verify it wasn’t delivered by a machine.

Buoy’s haunting guitars paved the way for its metal and doom influenced chords, before crowd favourite, Cradle’s acerbic tones of an ending relationship.

The Joy Formidable showed the value of a pace breaker with 9669, nodding to their softer side. That said, even in their loudest moments the maintained that intimacy by showing how much they enjoy performing on-stage together. The revamped version of Whirring was played at each other, and with cheeky nods to Matt, Rhydian and Ritzy signalled the newly added drum section with metal-inspired double foot pedal rhythms that feel worthy of a stadium.

A Balloon Called Moaning EP’s The Last Drop was the first of the encore – its start-stop rhythms and repeated lyrics an instant crowd pleaser. Saving the best until last, most knew the breathily-delivered lyrics of The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade. It’s initial slow rhythm created suspense before the track’s pleasurable snap into double pace, amongst a room filled with echoes of “Happy for you, happy for you” – a sentiment that The Joy Formidable built so much during the gig that these lyrics appeared to be sung back at them by the crowd as acknowledgement of the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point as a band.

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