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Reviews

REVIEW: Imperial Leisure – The Art of Saying Nothing (2008 Universal)

Music can very much be a mood thing. People have songs they listen to when they feel down or ones that remind them of a special time. Another common theme is the going out or getting ready tune, that song you listen to as you leave the drudgery of work behind and head into the weekend. Since first stumbling across them at 2000 Trees in 2009, one band has been the sound track to my descent into debauchery more than any other and that band is Imperial Leisure.

When I caught them at 2000 Trees, it was the middle of the afternoon, they sounded interesting from their description in the program and we settled down in the field to check them out. We weren’t sat down for long; the band’s ska punk offerings had us skanking almost immediately. The tunes were infectious, the lyrics so catchy that you found yourself singing along to choruses of songs you’d never heard before. It was such a lively, energetic and memorable performance that I went looking for their material as soon as I returned home. What I found was the band’s début album The Art Of Saying Nothing, which has recently been added to Spotify.

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Reviews

REVIEW: The Levellers – Subscription Rooms, Stroud 28/11/10

Before embarking on their huge tour next year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album Levelling The Land, The Levellers have been warming up with a grass roots tour of smaller venues in towns away from the normal tour circuit. As such, I found myself at the Subscription Rooms in Stroud on a bitterly cold November evening where it was the crowd who needed to warm up first. Thankfully it wasn’t just me that had braved the cold and icy conditions as there was a lively sell-out crowd filling the venue this evening.

As the lights dim, the stage is bathed in a blue wash and a thumping bass track plays, building with the addition of some pipes as the band take to the stage and the track fades to be replaced with the sound of a fiddle, signalling the opening bars of England My Home, setting the tone for the rest of the evening, with the enthusiastic crowd getting more into the songs from the bands early albums than their more recent offerings.

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News

NEWS: Levellers Add Additional Dates to Levelling the Land Live Tour

As announced recently Levellers are on tour next year with an anniversary show of their seminal album Levelling the Land. Well it would appear that it isn’t just me that’s excited about being reminded of those heady days 20 years ago when the album was first released, as demand for tickets has been so high that 5 extra dates have been added to the tour.

You can now catch Levellers, being supported by the equally effervescent The Wonder Stuff, at Dublin Academy, Liverpool O2 Academy, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Lincoln Engine Shed, and Bournemouth O2 Academy.

I’d suggest getting in quick for your tickets as these shows are bound to be popular as well.

Hit the link for these new dates.

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Playlists

137 Spotisfaction Friday 12/11/10 – Kev Atkinson

Friday, we’ve made it to the weekend. Let us know what your plans are for the next couple of days – where are the places to be this weekend? It’s been a busy few days for Spotisfaction – they took a dislike to Davey P at the 3 Daft Monkey’s gig last night and nearly didn’t let him through the door, but he convinced them in the end. The Mystery Jets and Fenech-Soler were on top form for me over the last two nights; Dave and I will be preping our reviews this weekend.

Now, following my Last.FM playlist on Wednesday, Kev Atkinson has taken up the idea and done his own. This might be a good idea for everyone to pick up on, so lets see an influx of Last.FM based playlists in our inbox soon! It’s a simple idea, so if you’re struggling for playlist inspiration, give this a try! Anyway, here’s Kev’s contribution, so I’ll hand you over to him.

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Features

LIVE: Levellers Present ‘Levelling The Land Live’

Every now and then something happens to remind you that you aren’t as young as you used to be (and I’m not talking about the hangover I had this weekend, here). The first thing that made me feel old was earlier this year when I found out Marathon hadn’t been called Marathon for 20 years! (for younger readers Marathon is the old name for Snickers). The latest thing that reminded me of the passing of the years was Levellers announcing they were on tour again next year. Now, you may ask why such an announcement would make me feel old? Well, the reason is that this tour for Levellers is to mark the 20th anniversary of their album Levelling the Land, and the first ever concert I attended was on the original tour for that album all those years ago.

Levellers, and indeed Levelling the Land, mark a special point in my music growth. Not only was this my first gig, but Levellers were one of the first bands that I introduced to my older brother rather than the other way round. Since then I have, of course, gone on to develop my own music tastes, but this album marked one of the first steps on my journey of musical discovery.

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Reviews

REVIEW: The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns (2010 Saddle Creek)

With a name like The Rural Alberta Advantage and a début album called Hometowns you would be forgiven for expecting a folk/country band singing wistful indie folk tunes about where they grew up. However, although this Toronto-based three piece do sing songs about their home towns whilst playing acoustic instruments, this is not your typical country album.

Though there are some undeniably country influences on the album, what really makes it stand out are the drums. Paul Banwatt’s drumming is incessant and energetic and on many of the songs is at the centre of the mix, leading the songs in a way you don’t often hear.

But it’s not all about the drums, as they are wonderfully arranged alongside quirky synthesizers and twangy acoustic guitar, and these elements superbly accompany the rasping delivery of the heartfelt lyrics by Nils Edenloff.

There is an intensity and energy present throughout the album, whether it is in the fervent drumming on tracks like The Dethbridge in Lethbridge or in the absorbing, deeply personal, lyrics that regularly touch on the topics of love, loss and the feelings of broken-heartedness. Even when the tempo slows on tracks like The Air or Sleep All Day you can still feel the passion within the music, and in fact perhaps even more so.

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Reviews

REVIEW: A Genuine Freakshow – Oftentimes (Peartree 2010)

Every now and then you come across a band that you think is truly something special, and this is exactly what happened earlier this year when I saw A Genuine Freakshow at the Frog and Fiddle in Cheltenham. It was a quiet night and the small crowd didn’t do justice to the quality of music on offer that evening.

Since then I have managed to see A Genuine Freakshow live once more at 2000 Trees festival, where, for me, they were one of the best acts of the entire weekend. However, as brilliant as they are live, when it comes to studio versions of their music we’ve had to settle with repeatedly listening to the four tracks available from their website. And so it was with bated breath that I awaited the release of A Genuine Freakshow’s début album, Oftentimes.

This seven piece from Reading add cello, violin and trumpet to the more traditional rock four piece and have influences that include Mogwai, Mew and Sigur Ros, all of which could lead you to think that Oftentimes would be a pure post-rock offering. But while these influences do inspire some post-rock tendencies, A Genuine Freakshow have a lot more to offer.

Tim Sutcliffe’s falsetto vocals and melancholy lyrics complement the grandiose feeling to the songs. The inclusion of the ‘classical’ instruments adds layers to create an overall sound of almost epic proportions that is very much at home in the post-rock genre. However, these tendencies are tempered by more technical pop stylings to create some unpredictable song structures and a sound that is fairly unique.

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Reviews

REVIEW: Of Montreal – False Priest (Polyvinyl 2010)

Originally part of the Elephant 6 collective, Of Montreal have been around for many years and now, ten albums in, they still maintain a lot of Elephant 6’s group style with their penchant for musical experimentation and mixing of styles.

False Priest is essentially a very odd album. Even without the heavy psychedelic and funk influences that are obvious on many of the tracks, the album can easily be described as weird, ostentatious and at times hard to listen to.

Recent Of Montreal albums seemed to have themes and concepts that were bubbling to the surface, whereas False Priest would appear to be more of a bizarre mishmash of thoughts and ideas. Because of this, the album, at times, lacks inspiration and is too unconventional for its own good. It’s like lead singer and songwriter Kevin Barnes, and his transsexual alter-ego Georgie Fruit, are being off the wall for the sake of being off the wall. There is a heavy funk influence on this album, and that genre is known for its space imagery, but lyrics like ‘Unicorns eating baby meat, There’s dragon rape if you want one’ on ‘Like A Tourist’ are a bit over the top.

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News

NEWS: Cheltenham Underground This Friday

Yes folks it’s that time again! It’s time for me to bleat on about my local music scene and big up my favourite music promotion team The Cheltenham Underground.

After successfully returning from their summer sabbatical with a tremendous show, The Cheltenham Underground have hardly given us time to get our breath back before presenting their next event. Returning to the Frog and Fiddle on the 8th October, The Cheltenham Underground are promising an evening of upbeat, uplifting, dance-your-socks off music.

On the bill for the evening are Waiting For Kate with their brand of alternative ska rock which never fails to get the crowd moving. Get ready to skank the night away!

Next are Emmett Brown and we aren’t talking about the character from Back to the Future here. A funk rock fuelled explosion of ska-esque reggae this band gives a quite unique live experience.

And finally there is Zen Elephant and apart from having one of the best names for a band that I have heard in a while they create an acoustic-based groove accompanied by passionate vocals, and rhythms which encompass elements of traditional folk, reggae and roots music.

Once again it looks like it’s going to be a great evening and I’ve got my dancing shoes (or at least my skanking boots) ready, so come on down and join me for a fun filled evening.

Doors 8pm, £4 entry/£3 NUS

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News

NEWS: What’s On – Gloucestershire Music Festivals 24-26 Sept

Those of us around the Gloucestershire area have a feast of music to choose from this weekend with two music festivals happening simultaneously.

In Cheltenham, the Frog and Fiddle pub is hosting Frog-Fest. Last year this was a one day event but this year for the first time they’ve decided to make a weekend of it. Starting with an opening gig tonight, the weekend will see two full days of gigs both in the Frog and Fiddle’s barn stage and on a new acoustic stage outside (hopefully the weather will stay away, then). Over the weekend Frog-Fest presents a host of local talent and some bands from a bit further afield, including Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun, Midnight Mile, Rookie/Error, Orchid Fever, Brown Torpedo and Emmett Brown.

Meanwhile, over in Gloucester at the Guildhall there is the Underground Festival. This is a new music festival featuring emerging and unsigned bands from all over the country. Boasting three stages on both Saturday and Sunday the line up includes The Joy Formidable, Pulled Apart By Horses, Morning Parade, Tubelord, The Xcerts, Little Fish and Wild Palms.

This is looking like a good little festival with a great line up promoting smaller bands so I hope that it does well and returns next year.

Tickets are still available for both events on a daily basis or for weekend passes. Further details are available, with complete lineups and times, from the websites for each event (just click the links above).

If you’re attending any of them, let us know – a few Spotisfaction staffers will be in attendance at each, so come say hello.

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Reviews

REVIEW: Cheltenham Underground – Slak 17/09/10

The Cheltenham Underground have a reputation for putting on interesting music nights. Not having any preconceptions or limitations as to style or genre, you are never quite sure what to expect on one of their shows except that it will be a good night with some great music.

And so, after a summer break the Cheltenham Underground returned, and where else could they put on the show but their spiritual home of Slak in Cheltenham?

First on to the stage, or at least the area of floor designated as the stage, was Johnny5thWheel. A mixture of traditional folk with more modern stylings, Johnny often plays with his roving band TheCowards but this evening he treated us to a solo set. A quirky sound with an odd lyrical and vocal style – something akin to The Decemberists deciding to play Monty Python songs – led to an interesting if uninspiring set. When the most memorable part of the performance is the singer’s moustache (which was so impressive a Victorian villain would be proud) it’s not a good sign.

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Reviews

REVIEW: Philip Selway – Familial (Bella Union 2010)

Back in 2001, Neil Finn got a group of friends together for a series of charity concerts. The assembled included Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, Tim Finn, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway, and from this series of concerts the album 7 Worlds Collide was spawned. Last year Neil Finn once again assembled his friends for another musical collaboration, using 7 Worlds Collide as the name for the project. Many of the same musicians from the first album returned for the second outing, and this time the result was the album The Sun Came Out. One of the things this album was notable for was the singing debut of Radiohead drummer Phil Selway on the tracks The Ties That Bind Us and Witching Hour.

Obviously encouraged by these recordings, Philip Selway has become the latest Radiohead member to embark on a solo project and has released his debut solo album Familial. Differing from the style of Radiohead and the solo projects of fellow band mates Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, Familial is a more modest, acoustic, sometimes even folky, album.

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News

NEWS: The Cheltenham Underground Returns

After a summer-long hiatus to recharge the batteries, Gloucestershire based music promotion team The Cheltenham Underground return with a new show to tantalise the taste buds.

Returning to their spiritual home of Slak on Friday 17th September, Cheltenham Underground once again present us with an exciting and eclectic mix of music.

The line up for the evening consists of the following:

Johnny5thWheel&TheCowards. With The Ark Magazine describing their music as ‘transporting you to a tavern in the 17th Century with a tankard of ale in hand’, this upbeat folk band sounds like a great way to start the evening.

Next up, Stressechoes. Having played the taverns of Cheltenham as a two-piece performing mainly covers for the last couple of years, they have now expanded into a four piece and are concentrating on producing their own material. The addition of drums and bass has seen Stressechoes go from strength to strength.

Finally, headlining are The Wilderness of Manitoba. This five piece Canadian folk outfit choose not to rely on electric instruments, but rather the strength of their melodies and vocals which include intricately weaved three and four piece harmonies wrapped around traditional folk elements.

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Reviews

REVIEW: The Depreciation Guild – Jericho Tavern 05/09/10

The Depreciation Guild are a four piece electronic, chip-tune, ambient, dream pop, shoegaze, indie rock outfit from Brooklyn, New York embarking on their second tour of the UK. They are a bit of a favourite here at Spotisfaction Towers and having unfortunately missed them on the first tour due to unforeseen circumstances I was glad to have the opportunity to catch them this time around.

Support came in the form of local band Vixens. This up and coming band from Oxford Brookes University play an alternative indie post-rock blend that is at times reminiscent of Joy Division and at others more like Editors. The audience was small and not many seemed interested in the support act, but Vixens performed their set proficiently. The sound wasn’t particularly original but it was good display of dark atmospheric rock. Perhaps, though, the performance was a little uninspired due to the small crowd.

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Reviews

REVIEW: Klaxons – Surfing the Void (Polydor 2010)

I’ll admit to being a big fan of the Klaxons debut release Myths Of The Near Future for two reasons: 1) I’m a sad old lighting tech and I know what they are singing about on the track Golden Skans and 2) it’s an awesome driving album. Many a journey has been shortened by me putting my foot down with the album blaring at full volume.

2007’s Myths Of The Near Future won the band critical acclaim, including a Mercury Prize, with Klaxons touted as the pioneers of New-Rave (or should that be Nu-Rave?). However, the intervening three years has been marred with tales of their record company rejecting entire album submissions, leading people to wonder what the follow up album would sound like. Introduction of producer Ross Robinson to the process has created an album that the record company have agreed to release and has, perhaps, resulted in a slightly different sound to the band itself.