30 April 2012

Album Review: Holy State - Electric Picture Palace

Holy State apparently spent three years working on (in their words) the “honest songs” on Electric Picture Palace. Perhaps they got fed up with each other or maybe they ran out of ideas, for despite many recent gigs and a promising 2009 EP, the band announced their split before the album’s release and cut back their tour. That aside, the band have emerged from the currently fertile territory of Leeds with an urgent, unapologetic punk sound - then used it in spades on a series of shouty, concise tracks. The punk ethos is evident as all the tracks clock in under four minutes, giving the album energetic pace throughout.
‘Ride’ and the desolate title track set the tone for the album, driven by frantic drumrolls and chugging guitars. Single ‘Dial M for Monolith’ continues the aggressive style of the first two tracks, mimicking Kurt Cobain on the doomy vocals; the snarling lyrics in the darker yet slightly more tuneful ‘Sultan of Sentiment’ riff on love songs and shallow emotion. ‘Brain Caves’ initially suggests variety with a wailing trumpet note, but soon turns out to be another onslaught – it’s still full-on, but the instrumentation becomes more lively, with heaps of discordance and spiky guitars and brass again at the end.
Halfway through the album (once you’ve turned the LP over - there’s no CD release) ‘Lady Magika’ turns down the noise, with melodic vocals and guitars and sparser percussion, and writing in the style of Arctic Monkeys - “you had a clear vision/vanished like an apparition”. It’s followed by ‘Love Tames The Wild’ which is similarly well-developed. For the remainder of the record, Holy State turn back to punk, apart from the brilliant diversion of ‘The Ego Raiser’, an XX-style instrumental break. These tracks show off the band’s talents to greater effect, but the relative similarity of the other tracks forces Electric Picture Palace into love-or-hate territory.
Originally published at Dale & Co.

27 April 2012

A tribute to Pottermouth

Arsenal's fixture at the Britannia on Saturday reminded me of something I've meant to put together for ages, so here's a few words about one of Stoke's most famous fans, known as "Pottermouth", who produced some amazing tracks in support of the Potters. His first track was Pottermouth's Battle Cry, written in his words "to inspire the squad" as they chased promotion to the top flight. The full story can be found on the BBC Radio Stoke website - but for now, this is is Pottermouth's Battle Cry!


The Potters duly went up and so Pottermouth reflected on the 2007-08 season with his Victory Ballad:


When Stoke began to wobble in their first Premier League season, he was back again with Keep Stoke Up (it worked!):


 And most recently, with this effort for Stoke's 2010 FA Cup campaign:


6 April 2012

Settle-Carlisle Line train tour

This week I took a ride on the Settle-Carlisle Line which is surrounded by the amazing scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, a trip I've wanted to do for years! Took some very amateur photos and finally got round to joining Flickr so the pics are here.

Album Review: Orbital - Wonky

Starting out at 1980s raves in the Home Counties, dance veterans Orbital have survived big beat, the Criminal Justice Bill, several Glastonbury appearances and Ibiza superclubs and they’re still going. In over two decades their sound has evolved but always maintained the free-thinking spirit of their early work; they were also one of the first dance acts to regularly perform live. Now the Hartnoll brothers and their trademark torch glasses have returned with their eighth album after a few years working independently. The title is somewhat naff - but the music merits attention and draws richly on the duo’s past glories.

“Stringy Acid” picks up perfectly from “One Perfect Sunrise”, the final track on the Blue Album released eight years ago - it’s a huge shot of euphoria which will go down brilliantly at the band’s festival appearances this summer. It collapses abruptly into the next track “Beezledub” - here even Orbital aren’t immune from the current dubstep pandemic but it suits as a knowing follow-up to Satan, one of their first and now most famous tracks. However the screeching synths and the percussion breakdown remain in Chemical Brothers or Prodigy territory, rather than Skrillex.

There are weak moments - “Never” sounds pretty at first yet remains frustratingly vague - it lacks the clarity of purpose and sounds like someone impersonating Orbital; and title track “Wonky” is headache-inducing and isn’t helped by the feisty vocal contributions of Lady Leshurr.

“Distractions” is stunning bleepy, spacey techno with lurching synths and lush vocals. The thoughtful New Order-style rhythm underpinning single “New France” complements the soulful vocals by guest Zola Jesus well. Final track “Where Is It Going?” shifts between fluid and harsher, angular techno moods but never loses its way. The familiarity is in fact welcome and despite a few questionable patches, Orbital prove that they still know what they’re doing.

Originally published at Dale & Co.